I couldn’t sleep by midnight and decided now would be an appropriate time to rebuild my team’s TF2 servers, while on my treadmill. I had created a new master copy that the updated servers would be based on and now I just had to overwrite a few thousand files and re-apply the tweaks that made each server unique. This took another four hours and another eight miles. Once the servers were updated, the peripheral services had to be updated and this took another two hours and four more miles.

I took a nap, met someone for breakfast in Philly and walked around the Pennsylvania Convention Center. After that, I dropped off my car to be serviced, walked to the AMC Neshaminy to buy tickets, and then walked to Red Robin to meet some friends for lunch before seeing Skyfall. It was 2pm and I had put 30,000 steps on my pedometer.

Between my current commute largely consisting of driving to a train station and heavy walking days like this, there are streaks of days where I walk more than I drive. I smiled at this until I got the bill to get Wanda serviced. Maybe I should drive more.

I left Pat’s house at around 3am and made it home by a little after 8am shaving a full two hours off of the Google estimated drive time. During the drive I listed to “Automate This” an unremarkable book on the importance of algorithms in the modern world. The periodic asides into the personalities involved didn’t justify it’s length and often the author sounded like he was waving a magic wand labeled “computers”.

This trip represented my last lark, my last time when I’d just kind of take a trip for the hell of it, at least for a bit. The money-time equation has tilted back toward time being the valuable resource.

Rarely does one get a chance to re-enact one’s childhood. The simple pleasure of staring out the side window of a car for minutes as the country passes you is something I get to experience rarely but as we fly from Wichita to Oklahoma City my gaze drifts from copse to copse of trees punctuated with overpasses, hay bales, and a car from the 1950s or 1960s abandoned in a well-tended field.

El Dorado lake has its surface crested by logs and other pylons that make it look like the last resting place of a collection of decapitated Ents.

There are tiny gifts of friendship that in my life I have come to value greatly. Being able to cross the landscape and safely daydream is one of them.

Brad and I got to bed around 2am and he didn’t have classes until 11am today which I thought gave me plenty of time to sleep. This calculus failed to consider that he had three other housemates all on different schedules and the first rev of the burr grinder occurred at around 7:30am. Whoops. I formally woke at 10am, showered, changed, and chatted with one of Brad’s house mates until near 11am when I was supposed to pick up Suzie. I thanked Brad again, offered fudge, and was off.

Outside Suzie’s house I shot her a text message that I had arrived and I was invited to park in the driveway. The garage door opened and I was invited in. I have known Suzie for a little over two years and we’ve covered about 20,000 miles together. We’ve shared a lot of the same spaces but never before did this include one of her parents. Suzie is much younger than I and there are moments where this surfaces above lake Friendship and never has this been more apparent than when I came face to face with her father. He was a visage of shriveled sternness. I was waiting for a “be careful with my daughter” line but his reserve didn’t allow for such an obvious display of feeling. This was a man that would never let me know how many rounds were in his revolver forcing me to keep track. He stared at me, reached to shake my hand and it was soft leather. He warned us of rain and I commented that I was only worried about dust storms or prairie fires. He bid his daughter goodbye as a part nod and part dismissal. I don’t know if it would have been more affectionate in my absence but “reserved” seems an appropriate description.

I hadn’t seen Suzie in seven weeks which despite an almost exactly 600 mile gap has come to feel like a while. My standard conversational paralysis set in and we exchanged short sentences until the front left tire of my car blew out spectacularly. I’ve had four flats in my life and both that occurred in Wanda have been within 30 minutes of Suzie’s house with her in the car. The side wall had gone out completely around the tire and there was a pile of tread shrapnel when I finally got the tire off. The tire was very hot to the touch and after an illegal turn we headed to Walmart to have it changed. This explosion proved the catalyst we needed and conversation picked up.

We met up with a friend of Suzie’s in St. Louis and then continued on to Columbia, MO to meet up with John and Zane. The stretch from St. Louis to Columbia is one I’ve tread before and the Jew Flinger seemed to be intact.

We rose at 10:30, packed, left, and had breakfast at a local diner. We settled up accounts for the weekend in such a way that at one point we had created some sort of CDO or credit derivative and then parted our separate ways.

Traffic on the way back to PA was hell and Mike and I lost two to three hours over optimum time during the return. Mike mostly slept and I mostly listened to things. Each of us was doing what we needed to.

Back home, I unpacked, found that my dad had given Max the appropriate pills in my absence and prepared Mike and I dinner. We chatted; the Mike and Terry addendum to yesterday’s man-talk; and Mike left.

The weekend scratched a weird combinations of nerves. My original mental plan was for Joe, Pat and I to go camping as a farewell to Pat before he left for Rochester. This time, I was saying “good bye” to Pat and “hello” to Spinrad as this was the first weekend the latter and I had spent in any social capacity. I didn’t mind Spinrad’s company but I found it jarring how little I knew about him despite how present he seemed at some point in life. Maybe it was the goatee.

I drove 10 hours for the opportunity to pull into someone’s garage. I couldn’t be happier.

I went to a party this evening with a fusillade of fireworks. These were all store-bought but in sufficient quantity even these can impress.

[flickr album=72157631509822174 num=5 size=Thumbnail]

Photographing fireworks is an exercise in timing and framing. I have a few nice shots of starbursts but without some sort of reference, they look flat. I have a few incredibly sharp pictures of flower pots, but the sky looks like a field of blue-black ink when adjusted to be bright. The camera’s autofocus wasn’t fast enough to contend with the explosions so I pegged it to infinity and backed off a little. Photography is one of the few places where I can refer to something as “close enough to infinity” and I smile at that.

I collapsed that evening in a too hot room and slept very very well.

Departing proved easy and we rolled out before noon.  The drive back was very long and at one point we got stuck in traffic on an on-ramp.  I recommended we drive back down the on-ramp.  Kelly was uncomfortable with this, so I did it.  Shortly thereafter, several other vehicles followed.  Trendsetter.

I also learned that Randy was dickbot from the TWiT Network show “Frame Rate”.  This means nothing to almost all of you but once I found this out, I very quickly made rapid fire sequence of calls telling friends that I knew dickbot.

We left Chicago after breakfast and headed South through an area with a lot of wind turbines which seemed out of place. When we got out for lunch and were nearly blown away, the windmills suddenly made sense. We had stopped at a Dairy Queen in no-place-special America and I felt there should have been a sign saying “you must have at least four tattoos to operate the deep fryer” somewhere. I tried the items from their local menu and learned that veal cutlet when deep-fried tastes similar to pork cutlet and that fried cheese curds are essentially mozzarella sticks but in sphere form.

I dropped of the last person at around 5 PM and for the dozenth time in my life braced to get home from Cincinnati at 2 AM.

Suzie and I wanted to meet Mike and Kacey in Orlando for dinner but the roads were moving slower than we wished so where I could I drove quickly.  About 110 miles out, I was pulled over for speeding.

Officer: Why were you going so fast?
Me: We’re trying to make a friend’s Masters dissertation in Orlando this evening.
Officer: Where are you from?
Me: PA.
Officer: And you’re driving?
Me: Yes.
Officer: *pause* *returns to police car* *returns to my car* Sir, please get out of the car.
*We walk to behind my car*
Officer: She yours?
Me: Mine?
Officer: Yours.
Me: Sure?
Officer: Ok, please drive slower.  You want to make it to Florida in one piece.

We made Orlando in time to take a night time tour of a cemetery.  The guide mentioned that it was the only cemetery in Orlando County and then did so again every five sentences.  The tour ended, thankfully, and we returned to the hotel for a proper night’s rest.

Dallas and I had a 10-hour followed by a 6-hour drive from Feasterville to Florence to St. Louis for TI: St. Louis.    We left around midnight and began into the West as I’ve done a dozen times before.  He and I took turns driving and I found myself largely unable to sleep because of a curious dilemma: For Dallas to stay awake, the car radio had to be set at a level above what I could sleep through.  I drifted to sleep around 3 only to wake up at 3:32 AM in a metal scrapper’s parking lot with my partner saying “I need you to drive, now”.  So I did.

This was far from the first time I had taken a long trip in my car with someone and not even the first time with someone I didn’t know well but a part of my amygdala was triggered by having a not entirely known man next to me in a car, my car.  There are different ways drivers declare their space from the arrangement of items in a cup holder to how one adjusts the seats and each of these became a challenge to my right to rule my vehicle.  By the time I unwound this thread Dallas was asleep, I had my items arranged in my cupholder and I had won a fight that never happened with a foe that didn’t exist.

On to Kentucky.