Wednesday, May 09, 2007

American Quilt, Part 2- Getting There

(in stupid blog style- part one is beneath this post, so scroll down if you haven't read it)

Because I am a member of Mensa, I get a significant discount on car rentals. I'm not sure exactly how this relationship works, but I'll take it. Mount Princeton is a good two and a half hour drive from Boulder and I didn't want to leave my significant other without a car for the weekend.

I arrived at the Millennium Harvest House Hotel, eager to pick up my car. There is something exhilarating about renting a car. It is one small way a person like myself, who would spend $20,000 on film stock before buying a new car, can participate in the excitement of American consumerism. For a mere $40, I get an entire weekend of "owning" a new car, with all of its smells and none of its monthly payments. To boot, they even gave me an American car! A red one with a remote control to lock the doors, beep the horn and flash the lights!

But before I got my car, I got a little sidetracked at the hotel. The signage for the car rental company led me to a dead end. I had to make my way back to the front lobby. I suddenly found myself at the annual regional sewage conference (ahem, I mean water and wastewater plant operations conference). As if this wasn't funny enough in and of itself, it just so happened that I had helped design their web site just a month prior. While it was tempting to sit in on "Why Chlorine?" "Biosolids," "Advanced Activated Sludge," and the other tantalizing classes I had fantasized about while updating their web content, I had a date with a swanky hot spring resort and didn't want to sully it with memories of sewage (for those who have never been to a hot spring, most of them smell like sulfur).

I eventually found the car rental booth, and before I could say "limited liability," I was on the road. I made a brief stop at a local Target to buy an adapter for my MP3 player (the radio doesn't work very well in the mountains), fully intending to exchange it for a set of knives upon my return. "It didn't work," I'd lie, "but I do need a new set of kitchen knives."

About 15 minutes into my trip, I sadly realized that I would not have to lie. It didn't work. It worked better than the radio, but it wasn't the experience I had been hoping for. Without the music to drown out my voice, it became painfully obvious to me that I knew very few of the lyrics to Beck's new album. "When the in-for-mation comes you'll know from the bacon!" is most likely not what he's singing.

This was not the road trip of my dreams. It wasn't even as pleasant as the road trips of my past. My bag of chips exploded due to the change in altitude, causing me to scream and swerve before realizing that I had neither a flat tire nor a gunman in the back seat (but pathetically, this almost ALWAYS happens to me on road trips- someday I will learn to open all of the bags before ascending). Despite the slick sexiness of my brand new car, I never seemed to be going fast enough to satisfy the other drivers on the road. Junk food and cans of Red Bull were flying through my car with every dangerous mountain turn, but my fellow drivers were still passing me left and right. There must be some unknown law of Physics that I do not grasp. Or maybe they were just using cup holders.

One thing was certain: they all had big cars. Vacationers like myself stuck out like a sore thumb here in rancher country. We were all driving cars, minivans or VW buses. The locals had SUVs and trucks. "Heavy duty" and "super duty" were two silver decals I saw passing me on many occasions. Saying "super duty" out loud always makes me giggle and consider proposing a new course for the wastewater conference. But I'd never tell them that...

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