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six days of scandal
the great american tour
by heather m. millen

Here in the wee hours of the morning, I find myself with what must be an unhealthy amount of energy. The car is loaded, I've got keys in one hand, coffee in the other, and a groggy-but-so-be-it best friend Emily at my side. Hugs to the parents, and though I always pictured tears would flow here they fail to come. My eyes are already turned toward the open road and my heart is soaring thousands of miles away. California, here we come!

We tear up the road with a great vengeance and make the first 12 hours in what seems like no time. First stop on our cross-country tour, New Orleans! As we pull into town, it's muggy as all hell and we're ready to get to the drinking. But first we have to find our accommodations for the night. Now, in efforts to make this trip more cost-efficient, I've taken the liberty of prebooking us a hostel, which we find... in the 'hood. Our room? An outdoor shack over a make-shift lagoon. It used to house alligators, we are told, but, oddly enough, they have since passed away.

Liquor is looking more appealing by the second. Not to worry, soon we're in the French quarter enjoying the true bawdy nature that N'Awlins has come to represent. Last trip I saw two different couples having sex on the street, but that was Mardi Gras, right? One stroll down Bourbon Street leads me to conclude that Mardi Gras is not a space in time, but rather a state of mind here.

"When in Rome..." we say, and find our scandalous pursuit in the form of a male strip club that unsuspectingly turns out to be gay. But what do we care? Hot guy is hot guy is hot guy. However, we decided to pass on the clothing optional foam party.

So a few dollar bills and slew of Hurricanes later, we're taxi-ing back. Emmy, being a first timer to the city, got some beads. I got shrimp etouffe. All in all, a N'Awlins success... now if we just survive the hostel.

Perhaps from fear that there are small rodents sharing our humblest of abodes, we're up-and-at-'em by 8 a.m. Back on the road, we shoot up Louisiana - headed for a friend's place in Texas.

What we quickly learn is that once you get past the novelty, there ain't dink to see in Louisiana.

Ten hours later, we're pulling into Nowhere, Texas. We've requested our friend Ryan show us a hearty Texas time, but our hopes are dashed when he tells us this is a dry county. Alas, just one town over, we find our niche at a little sports bar, and it's KARAOKE NIGHT! Hot damn, what luck! Soon we've befriended a group of good-'ol-boys who are convinced North Carolinians are Yankees and Texas was the reason God created Earth. And boy do they love to karaoke. Soon we're crooning right along with them. God bless Texas, even if they do insist on putting their flag on every damn thing down there.

Up again at the crack of dawn, thinking we really got a hold on this, we're aiming for Albuquerque, New Mexico, because tomorrow we want to haul into the Grand Canyon. The day is beautiful and we're just taking in the scenery, soaking up the sun, singing along to the radio, one foot curled up on the seat and the other on the gas.

I have this jolt of exhilaration, because even in the long stretches of highway, we're watching America roll by, and it's the greatest feeling of free spirit. However, somewhere in New Mexico, our supreme sense of being is met with the harsh reality of an overheating car. There we are, right smack dab in the middle of all that freakin' Americana, waiting for a tow truck in a town called Clive's Corner. We do make it to Albuquerque that night - by the good graces of Hank's towing.

Spending the day in Albuquerque (no offense to the "land of enchantment," but this place blows - or maybe it's just the 8 hours in a mechanic's office). The town is now forever tarnished by circumstance. When we can finally leave, we rip out there as if Lucifer himself were fast at our heels.

Entering Arizona we pass miles and miles of desolation and wonder who lives here. Em and I and our damned sunny disposition enjoy the ride into the next watering hole, Flagstaff, where we find a shady little locals bar, or saloon, as they call it. By the end of the night, we're knocking back shots with the bartender. Stumble back to the hotel. Tomorrow: Grand Canyon!

Another early start. We take the ride up to Grand Canyon, and really - it was gorgeous. We decide to take a short 3 mile hike before heading back to the road, so we pack up a picnic lunch complete with wine and cheese. All the way down we remark how beautiful it is, and we're on our cross-country high again. We stop for lunch, enjoy the views, and down the wine. We're elated.

Of course, in about half an hour we'll be trudging back up the trail praying to God and wondering if it's possible to have cardiac arrest at the age of 24. Remember happy hikers, what goes down, must come back up!

Soon we're back on the road, and since we lost time in Hell - I mean Albuquerque, we plan on just cruising the 6 remaining hours of the trip into Los Angeles.

It took no more than a sign announcing "Las Vegas 110 miles" to jerk that car northward for one last hurrah.

Vegas, baby!

I'm not a gambler, so I've never had a huge attraction to Vegas. What could it have for me? Em digs up an old friend in town who's quick to help me answer that question. Next thing I know we're in an exclusive party at a rooftop bar overlooking the Strip where liquor flows like water and half of the San Diego Chargers football team are scoping us out from the corner. Stumble on back down to the strip and we're off to club the night away. Five a.m. has never come so early.

God, I love this town!

Okay, I must be on crack, because I'm up and loading, no, dragging Emily to the car at eight in the morning. Granted, Vegas may have been the breaking point (as even water has started tasting suspiciously like vodka), but I'm so close now. The trip has been an amazing experience, and I feel a sense of pride crossing that California line.

I'm here. I've wanted to move here for as long as I can remember, and now here I am, sitting in LA traffic, trying to figure out which damn highway to take while Emily throws up out the passenger door.

God bless America. Honey, I'm home.


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


who moved my chi?
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topic: general
published: 4.23.08

kiss my karma!
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by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 1.17.03


tracey kelley
5.17.02 @ 10:37a

there ain't dink to see in Louisiana.

Swamp, baby. Swamp.

Envy is what I feel for you right now. ;)

trey askew
5.17.02 @ 11:32a

As the one who suggested the hostel, all I can say is...my bad!

matt morin
5.17.02 @ 12:02p

When I was 10, I spent 3 months driving around America with my family. I never want to see another KOA campground in my life.

adam kraemer
5.17.02 @ 12:22p

When I was in Israel, we stayed at a campground right by the Dead Sea one night, which would have been fine, but in that Israel requires things like border patrols, we were awakened every hour or so by two F-14s streaking by at what seemed like about 500 yards away. I've had more relaxing experiences in nature.

sloan bayles
5.18.02 @ 10:25p

"ain't dink to see in Louisiana"

ain't dink to do there either sweetie, 'cept what you saw two couples doing on the streets of N'Awlins. Welcome to the deep South.

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