Road Trips: When The Brain Makes Something Out Of Nothing
Super Ultra Mega Getting married is a rite of passage. Rites of passages usually signify a transition from one life stage to another. But, not always. Jim may have grown older but has defined growing up his own way. He’s been a toy-tech, the voice of Optimus Prime and Cobra Commander and has played more video games than that spoiled cousin you had growing up.
Last week, I went out west for a pretty awesome trip. And, for the first time in almost a decade, it wasn’t to San Diego Comic-Con.
Celebrating 25 years together since high school, my wife and I took a week to visit the Grand Canyon and make a few stops along the way.
But while the destinations themselves are great, it’s the 2118 miles there and back that can get kind of miserable. You see, there’s a whole lot of nothing on the road between Texas and Arizona, just like in the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons. Around the time I came to this comparative conclusion, I saw a real coyote sniffing the ground just off the road. In my head, I saw this coyote walking bipedal, wearing an Acme Bat Suit. I laughed to myself and shared this incredibly hilarious thought with Karin, who thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard.
Okay, that was a lie. But she did chuckle. A bit.
Now that we’re back home, I realize that this thought process is the only thing that kept me from going absolutely apenuts in the car for 30 hours. Without consciously trying, I kept turning everything I saw into some sort of goofy sci-fi/pop culture head trip.
For example, there’s a big but not-too-big conical mass of rocks just outside of Tucumcari, New Mexico. It’s almost as if the boulders had been placed there with the mindless, programmed accuracy of an ant colony. Deep under the red clay, a massive swarm of these giant insects hide, coming out only at night to feast on deer and the occasional unlucky traveler who pulls off the road to rest. This horrifying death doesn’t happen all at once, of course. Six-foot long mandibles tear apart the steel vehicle frames and pull the screaming passengers from the twisted metal husks. The weary victims are carried back to the mound to be eaten with the colony… alive. *POOF* Oh, look, there went 25 miles!
That’s not all. In a particularly twisty stretch of interstate that wove its way between a bundle of mesas, the low angle of the sun gave the landscape a warm amber glow, making me feel like I was driving in every Michael Bay transitional scene ever. In my head, I could see the camera whipping around my car, stopping only on the Nissan badge for a good product plug.
Along historic Route 66, there were decrepit abandoned gas stations and roadside attractions that housed either radioactive cannibals or the government’s super-secret spy headquarters.
A field of spindly electric windmills razed the ground with their blades in unison, becoming the army of Martian tripods that H.G. Wells warned us about. Actually they were tri-armed unipods. Whatever. You know what I mean.
What else? Oh yeah… I drove through the opening credits of Knight Rider, got gas at the convenience store from Tremors before being eaten by Graboids, escaped a colossal lava flow seeping out of the New Mexican desert and visualized an entire heist at one of the casinos outside of Albuquerque. The list goes on.
And when we finally made it to the park, it turned out that the fleet of tour helicopters soaring out from behind the trees were actually trying to prevent us from reaching a UFO landing site deep within the Grand Canyon.