America is a really large country. You’re not aware of that so much when you fly from coast to coast. But when you’re, oh, say, driving from New York to Los Angeles, you can’t help but notice.
I’ve been alternating days of brutal, endless driving with days of rest. On Wednesday I drove 14 hours from New York to Bluffton, Ohio, where my good buddy Tobias Buckell lives. On Thursday I hung around Toby’s house during the day and slept, then in the evening we went out to Mexican food and The Wedding Crashers (which was much funnier than I was expecting). On Friday I set out at 6:00 a.m. and drove 15.5 hours to Lawrence, Kansas. (You might ask: Is it really necessary to mention that last measly 0.5 hours? But believe me, when you’ve been driving for 15 hours, there’s nothing measly about that last 0.5, so I’m mentioning it. Try to stop me.)
As I entered Kansas City, I was set upon by the mother of all electrical storms. A continuous curtain of rain pounded my windshield and ran off onto the highway where passing tractor trailers helpfully splashed it back onto my windshield. Visibility was zilch. Lightning was striking all around. The water was so thick I was plowing through it, creating a wake like a tugboat. Having driven for 15 hours, I decided I was too tired for this crap, and pulled off onto the shoulder to let the rain abate. I got out of my car and climbed up under an overpass. Since everyone else was still driving at 80 miles an hour without their headlights while weaving without signaling, I was really worried that someone was going to careen into my parked car, but at least I wouldn’t be in it. I also had a strong feeling that I was going to be joined by another guy taking shelter from the storm who would turn out to be an escaped mental patient. (I mean really, who else are you going to meet beneath a highway overpass?) The storm went right overhead. The thunder was loud enough to make you jump. I saw lightning strike the highway a quarter mile away, and hit a couple of the surrounding buildings for good measure. One building lost power. Finally, after half an hour, the rain lessened significantly, and the only lightning I saw was back the way I’d come, so I returned to my car and continued on my way.
I spent last night and today at the house of my friends Thomas Seay and Lane Robins. Activities have included sleeping, sleeping, more sleeping, and going out to Mongolian barbecue. Mmmm. Mongolian barbecue.
It’s still raining pretty hard. I’m hoping it clears before I set off tomorrow for Colorado. Now I know how those Oregon Trail settlers felt. This is just like that. Except with an air-conditioned car, audiobooks, and no dysentary (at least, not yet — fingers crossed). Speaking of audiobooks, Wednesday I listened to all of Orson Scott Card’s new novel Magic Street, then yesterday I listened to all of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.