Tag Archives: Adventure

Driving Sucks: The Boredom of Traveling

My sister had her gallbladder removed last week. It’s not a major surgery as far as surgeries go but it is removing a fucking organ so it’s kind of a big deal. Anyways, she’s off work because UPS (Yes, she also works at UPS. My dad worked at UPS. My cousin worked at UPS. My wife worked at UPS.) doesn’t want her working a week after having an organ removed. As I won’t shut up about this week, I’m on vacation. She always visits us so why not return the favor and visit her for once?

Davenport, Iowa is exactly two hours away from Rockford. My family likes to take I-39 to I-80 but if you look at a map this takes you unnecessarily south from the straight line distance. It’s wasteful and the highway is boring. I plotted a new route that is both shorter distance-wise, the same time-wise, has no tolls, and is half winding country roads and half interstate. I might be blowing this out of proportion but this route — my route because I ‘invented’ it — is the perfect way to drive from Rockford to Davenport.

I present to you Illinois Route 2 to Dixon and then to Davenport via I-88. Circle the quad cities to the north via I-80 and you’re there. The optimal route.

Don’t be fooled, “Best Route” is really like 1 hr 55.

About 20 minutes into the two-hour trip I was already pissed off. I hate driving. It’s boring. It takes too much attention but it’s not mind-challenging attention. It’s driving. You follow the lane. It’s just enough to keep you occupied but not enough to keep you entertained. Cruise control takes a bit of the bullshit out of driving but you still gotta follow those fucking lane lines! I imaged owning a Tesla and letting it drive you wherever you tell it to. I wouldn’t sleep but it would be nice to sit and think, enjoy the scenery and the music, and just exist without the distraction of having to constantly stay in your lane.

Illinois 2 is a beautiful road. It follows the Rock River southwest, and by following the river I mean it hugs it for major portions of the road. It’s windy, it’s wooded, and it’s picturesque. It’s a fun road to drive on. It’s not a mindless interstate filled with trucks and jackass drivers. It didn’t matter. Even 20 minutes of Il. Rte. 2 had me bored and this only became worse on the interstate.

60 mph is a good speed because it means you drive a mile every minute. It turns the road distance signs into time. 72 miles to Moline? 72 minutes: 1 hour 12 minutes. Sure we were going 75 mph, but the math is still close. 72 miles is nearly an hour. An hour on the flat, straight interstate surrounded by endless corn fields.

I remember my North Carolina friend and his recent trip back to Rockford. 15 hours, right? Something like that, it doesn’t matter. Once you’ve driven for 4 or 5 hours nothing really matters anymore. You’re zoned out and exist in some realm outside of everyone else. Just the road, traffic, and the sun slowly making its way across the sky. He drove this in a single shot and took four 15-minute naps when he stopped for gas. Fuck that. Fuck everything about that, it sounds awful. This is a scenario I image to be similar to hell. “Sit here tired and sleep deprived and follow the lane lines. For how long? For forever!” My North Carolina friend is apparently built differently than myself.

Music is nice and we listened to Green Day’s Dookie (one of the best albums of all time) and Insomniac. Even this wasn’t perfect as you gotta focus on the road and traffic! Music is best when you can listen to it without distractions; anyone who writes knows you can’t really listen to music without it turning into background noise. Even this minor pleasure was stolen from me as my Bluetooth thingy (it plugs into the 12 Volt outlet and broadcasts a radio signal to your car) kept fucking randomly cutting out. I eventually unplugged it and tossed it violently into the backseat when it cut out in the middle of London Calling.

The radio station was on some right-wing talk news channel when the Bluetooth shit out and I tried to listen to it for shits and giggles. Nope, it was infuriating. They were talking about aborted fetuses and how they’re used for scientific experiments and the condescending moral overtones to the whole thing made me uneasy. I vaguely understood how someone listening to that for a few hours each day would become radicalized and that was all the insight I needed to change the station. What did I change it to you might ask? Static. I listened to static because it was better than talk radio. After a few minutes my wife was sick of my radio static and found a proper radio station that was playing Somebody to Love by Queen. Thank God! I belted out the final verse or whatever and noted silently that Queen kinda sucks to listen to in the car. Freddy Mercury has such an intense and badass/beautiful/bombastic voice that you cannot sing along to their songs. You just can’t. It ruins the song. Queen forces you to sit there and listen to Freddy while you feel like shit at your own (lack of) singing abilities.

Green Day. Gun’s and Roses. Metallica. AC/DC. And so on. You know the deal.

My wife drove on the way back and being a passenger was nice for the first half hour, but then I was bored with that. Following those damn lane lines earlier was a pain, but at least it was something to do. As a passenger you just sit there and while it was nice to look around at the scenery we do live in Illinois; what the fuck is there to actually look at? It was also night so that didn’t help. I looked at the stars but as an astronomy nut I’m not too excited by stars anymore. I wanna see SpaceX satellites, the space station, galaxies and nebulae. I’ve seen the fucking big dipper plenty of times. Did you know the big dipper is next to the constellation/zodiac sign Leo? Yeah, after the car ride I was aware of it.

To wrap this all together, America is a huge country. If you look at our route from Davenport to Rockford you’ll notice it’s nothing compared to the country itself. It’s a tiny fragment of coast to coast. Two hours of mindless driving to go nowhere at all. California, Florida, Washington, so fucking far away. And it’s not even the entire US either, think of the entire planet; Earth is a big fucking place. 75 mph feels fast when you’re in a car but it is painfully slow.

I can’t help but think of the American pioneers covering the same land I was traveling, only they did it with wagons and horses. That had to be hell. What were they thinking? Or people that sailed across oceans on boats slightly bigger than our Honda Civic. What were they thinking? You also can’t forget the Native Americans and how they walked across the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago and populated both North and South America, all from walking. Sure they didn’t do this in a single lifetime and it was more of mass migration over centuries, but still they fucking walked the whole way. And here I am bitching about being stuck in a car for two hours complaining about how my Bluetooth thingy didn’t work right. I suppose it’s all about perspective. And these guys probably weren’t traveling for the sake of traveling, they were on an adventure with a greater purpose. And maybe adventures are more exciting than boring trips on an interstate. It’s not about the mileage and distance, it’s about the unknown. And driving cross-country in the US is not unknown at all. It’s mindless driving to places that people have already pioneered and built roads to. There is no adventure. I fucking hate driving.

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Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

Streak Day #14 Sucks (and some stuff about writing and The Wheel of Time)

Two weeks. Two weeks I’ve been at this shit and I’m almost starting to regret it. Things are great if you have something to write, but I’ve been in a funk the past few days. The writer’s block is getting especially bad and while I can still churn out a daily post I can’t for the life of me think of anything to write regarding any of those fictional stories I’m supposedly working on.

One thing to note: I’ve started reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I was weary to begin because apparently it’s a massive thirteen-book series, so had only purchased the first two books months ago. The first one is like 700 pages long too. By starting on a fucking thirteen-book series each with a conservate 500 pages means I could be committing myself to reading a massive 6,500 pages at least. Did I really want to get myself into this project? It’ll take like a year.

People say that creativity comes from branching out and trying new things. Reading Hunter S. Thompson nonstop sure helps get the honest, no bullsit, and vulgar tone down in your writings, but it doesn’t help you branch out very much. I hope by delving into some high fantasy stuff that I’m not used to maybe the creative juices will start flowing again. But I don’t know.

The problem with what I write is it shirks the entire idea of high fantasy and stories in general. I think it’s my bleak mindset on life shining through. If I believe that life is not a big and grand adventure and that we’re all looking for some big grand adventure to add meaning to life this is certain to leak into my stories. What I seem to write about is the pointlessness of everyday life, as bleak as that sounds. I don’t even want this to sound edgy or anything; this is what I seem to write about. Strangely I notice I also write about those magical moments in life where things do make perfect sense and everything is wonderful. Little bursts of light here and there in the total bleakness of the grand story (which doesn’t exist) itself.

I read 100 pages of the first book last night. It was great. I was absorbed into the world and the plot, while slow for the first two chapters, quickly took off. I was hooked. The tension that the plot was about to devolve into a shitstorm was palpable. As one chapter ended I found myself eager to start the next chapter, just waiting for some mild break in the story to finally quit and finally fall asleep. I think I finally passed out around 5:30 a.m. Holy hell.

One thing I despise about reading intense fiction stories is the shock that I receive when I stop reading and come back to the bleakness of the Real World. It’s shocking and I’ve noticed this feeling before while watching movies. I clearly remember seeing Apollo 13 in the theater as a kid and the shock I felt walking back to the car on a bright and sunny day realizing that, yes, it was just a movie and I was back in Reality was terrible. I’d have to go to school later and I’d have to do homework and I’d have to grow up and I’d have to get a job and I’d have to grow old. Consider the harrowing adventure Jim Lovell and crew had to contend with over a few weeks as they whipped around the moon not sure if they’d survive in the dark inhospitable environment of space. It’s a fucking Adventure. And it was engrossing and exhilarating and it was a shock walking into the parking lot and realizing that in a way it was all a dream to you.

The same thing happened yesterday when I stopped reading The Wheel of Time. Mind totally blown and fixed on the greater themes in the story. The Light. The Wheel of Time. The impossibility of stopping past events from repeating themselves in the future. The grand battle against The Dark One. The promise that every character in the book has a purpose, some key role they’re going to play in the Grand Tale. I put the book down, blew out the candle, and walked upstairs to eat peanut butter on crackers along with a glass of milk. Only wearing my underwear. I looked out the window and the sky was turning a dull greyish color. Thanks Daylight Savings Time. I slept until 1 p.m., dragged myself out of the bed, and made some coffee. Now I’m writing a blog post. This is my Grand Adventure. Yay.

Not that the characters are on grand adventures all the time. I’m sure they had to deal with the same mundane bullshit I have to deal with, but this doesn’t bother them in the story. It isn’t even discussed really and only appears in vague ways. Wanting to leave the comfy town in order to “see the world” or to “go on an adventure.” But they seem happy enough and you can’t help but feel bad for the everyday person being caught up in the shitstorm. Tam, one character in the story, can’t wait to get back to his farm and tend to his sheep, even if things are going to hell around him. He likes the quiet life. If they are like me though, maybe the want the world to fall apart in some huge crisis between Light and Dark just so they have some reason to break away from the pointlessness of everything else. To be a part of something greater than themselves.

Sometimes I do think I’m on the brink of my own Great Adventure, kinda waiting around to the world or myself to totally snap in some way to set me out on it. Maybe I am a future best-selling author? Maybe these stupid posts are all the hard work I need to do to get to that point? I doubt it. This fragment of hope exists as a tiny and miniscule glow tucked deep in the back of my mind. I’m not writing because I think it’s a step on the path to greatness, no. I’m writing because there isn’t jackshit else to do and I need to kill another hour before I sulk my way to work. Another day in my fourteen-year career at UPS. Another post in my fourteen-day streak on WordPress. Jesus Christ.

I really think these tiny glimmer of hopes for a better future are what keeps people from going insane. The tiny glow of possible being an author is what keeps the darkness at bay. I know it’s likely bullshit, but if I really gave up hope, what else would I do? I think if everyone gave up hope there’d be no other choice but to string a rope from the ceiling and end it all.