Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

I brought a big box of CDs along on our three-day road trip last week so we would never be out of fresh songs to listen to. Turned out we reserved the only damned car in the DOT fleet that didn’t have a CD player.

But good luck was with us: Each of us had lots of our favorite songs saved on our phones, and the car was a late model with a stereo that would connect to our phones so we could play our music loud.

The most amazing thing about long road trips? How easy it is to get someone to sing along with Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ when you’ve been trapped in a car staring out the window at endless miles of concrete for hours and hours.

songs for the road | 6:30 am CST
Category: business travel, entertainment, music, work
Comments Off on songs for the road

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

I drove more than 800 miles last week to make sure that DMV employees in offices all over the state are doing the very best job they possibly can for the Wisconsin taxpayer by auditing their procedures. I’m happy to report they are. (The best part about the trip was that the employees were so nice to me even as I was auditing them. Not that they aren’t nice to me anywhere else; they are. It’s just that it’s always such a pleasant surprise.) It worked out to about 18 hours of driving over three days. That’s a lot of windshield time.

The first leg of our trip took us from Madison to Ladysmith, a distance the Google tells me is 252 miles and takes 3 hours 45 minutes. The mileage is accurate as far as I can tell, but it took us five hours, not just under four. My best guess as to how that happened: Google doesn’t include slowdowns for construction and stops to pee in their calculations. I’m sure the first one is almost impossible to account for, but I would suggest they could ask how old you are to get a more accurate figure for the second one: Over fifty and they add fifteen minutes to each hour of travel. Bonus points if they put a star at exits where you can find a public restroom.

From Ladysmith to Ashland we went another 104 miles and took us about two hours. When I climbed out of our car in Ashland the feeling of using my legs to walk was so unfamiliar I had to slowly unbend myself from a sitting position with each step. A time-lapse photo of me would’ve looked like that drawing of the ascent of man, a crouching ape to a hunched-over Neanderthal to a fully erect modern human. I did a few deep knee bends every time I was out of eyeshot, just to keep the circulation in my legs going.

We stayed in Ashland overnight and drove from Ashland to Hurley in the morning, just 38 miles down the road. The skies were clear to the east so the sun shone through, making it a very pleasant drive. We passed through the town of Saxon on the way; one of the women who lives there and works at the Hurley DMV told us she saw some snow flying that morning. So glad I wasn’t there to see it.

Our next stop that day was the Iron River DMV, back the way we came. Skies in the west were cloud-covered and dark as cast iron, so the drive was a bit more somber. We stopped in Ashland for an early lunch at The Black Cat coffee house (I recommend their egg sandwich). Hurley to Iron River is 65 miles, most of it along the coast of Lake Superior, the first time I’ve seen the big lake since I was in college when I went hiking in the Upper Peninsula.

Our last stop that day was Superior, which is 38 miles from Iron River, making Wednesday the day we spent the shortest time at the wheel, about three hours. I spent the rest of the day looking out the window of my hotel room, which perversely faced traffic racing past on the highway, while I worked at the desk to complete the paperwork of the offices I audited.

Fun Bit O’ Trivia: The hotel where we stayed in Superior is just off the highway that feeds traffic to the bridge across the Mississippi River into Duluth. I missed the exit and we had to drive across the bridge into Minnesota to turn around. That’s the second time I’ve done that while we’ve been auditing; the first time was in Prairie du Chien, at the extreme southern end of the state.

The last day was our longest behind the wheel when we drove two-hundred thirty-some miles from Superior to Madison in an almost uninterrupted shot. We stopped about every ninety minutes to switch drivers, get some fresh air, stretch our legs, use the rest room, and we pulled off the highway in Eau Claire to enjoy lunch at a sit-down restaurant, but altogether we were driving for about seven and a half hours.
I have never been so grateful to get out of a car.

milage | 10:24 am CST
Category: business travel, work
Comments Off on milage

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

I have to travel to do my job. Not always. In fact, not more than a few months out of the year, and that’s a very good thing because if I had to do this year-round I think I’d blow my brains out with a bazooka. Driving hundreds of miles a day, waking up in hotels, and eating complimentary “breakfasts” is not my thing. I don’t know whose thing it is, but if it’s yours, you can have it all to yourself. I will stay here in my cozy little town while you drive drive drive.

Let’s talk about those complimentary “breakfasts.” First, the eggs. What is the spongy substance those eggs made of? I would venture to guess it’s the same stuff actual kitchen sponges are made of. It holds water just like a sponge and it has no taste at all. But they wouldn’t offer actual kitchen sponges for breakfast, would they? Seems to me that might leave them open for some kind of lawsuit. So if it’s not an actual sponge, what is it? Any ideas? Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be an egg-like substance at all, other than it has a vaguely egg-like color. Why can’t they just make them out of, you know, eggs? Is it so hard to find people who know how to crack an egg into a frying pan? I guess it must be.

And then there are those sausages, the kind that look like they were extruded from the end of a grease gun. They seem to be standard issue at all hotels everywhere, same as the spongy eggs. If the same corporation makes both the egg-like substance and the grease-gun sausages, we could put an end to complimentary “breakfasts” once and for all by nuking it from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure). Full disclosure: I kind of like grease-gun sausages. But I can’t eat more than two links at a sitting or I’ll shit my brains out. I have a theory they make those sausages super-greasy so hotel guests don’t get constipated eating eggs made of kitchen sponge. These are the things you think about when you’re on the road a lot.

The only other item on the complimentary “breakfast” menu I willingly eat is toast. I used to eat the waffles, but I can’t stomach the mucilage they call syrup, and I won’t eat them dry. I suppose I could drown them in melted margarine, but it would take forever to wait for the semifrozen tabs of margarine to melt, and I’m already grumpy enough in the morning without adding that kind of frustration to my day.

road trip FOREVER | 9:47 am CST
Category: business travel, food & drink, soylent green, work
Comments Off on road trip FOREVER

One of the best things about waking up at home instead of a hotel? The coffee doesn’t suck.

I don’t know how many hotels I’ve stayed in while I’ve been away on business trips these past three months — getting close to a dozen, I would think — but I can say without hesitation that the coffee they served at almost every one of them (except the Best Western in Hudson; good job, Hudson) was not coffee anybody should be proud of serving to the customers, even if it was free. And in particular, somebody ought to be hung for the coffee I tried to drink from the urn in the lobby at the Microtel in Rice Lake. I don’t know how you screw up coffee so badly it tastes like water used to rinse underwear & socks, other than actually using water you soaked socks & underwear in.

On the plus side, I’ve been to quite a few very nice little coffee shops in towns all over the state. I thought we here in Madison were spoiled for choices of cozy mom & pop coffee shops, but really they seem to be everywhere, and thank goodness for them because I don’t know how I would have survived these trips without them.

road trip FOREVER | 8:41 am CST
Category: business travel, coffee, food & drink, work
Comments Off on road trip FOREVER