I get up early to change the oil, but I’m quiet so Chantelle can sleep for a little while longer. We’ve been on the road for over a week and this is the first time we’ve been apart.
I have déjà vu about the hotel, but the memory doesn’t line up perfectly. There wasn’t a Denny’s out front the last time I wasn’t here.
It’s a drizzly, grey, morning but it’s not uncomfortable. I sit in the lobby of some speedy oil-change shop down the street from the hotel and read magazines. I pour myself a complimentary cup of coffee and nurse it grudgingly.
When the service is done, I make my way back up the street past the tiny sushi place we ate the night before, past the grocery store we rummaged around in only minutes before closing, and back to the hotel. It’s a Best Western, or a Howard Johnson, or a Super 8. We’ve been on the road for eight days and the rooms are starting to run together.
A lot of comedians complain about this lifestyle but I find it exhilarating. Each night, I lug suitcases and camera bags up to the room. I run to the car for beers from the cooler or a bag of chips from the trunk. In the morning, I lug it all back and finesse it all back together. I load the cooler with ice, I double check our documents, our maps, our game plans.
The rain has stopped while we pack the car and check out. As we cross the Lion’s Gate Bridge, the clouds dissipate and the sun starts shining. Chantelle wants to take out more American money before we cross into Washington state, so I let her out at a bank and circle the block a few times, eventually idling on a side street alongside some taxis.
The drive to the border is scenic. We weave our way back east and south across the city’s network of surface streets, visiting neighbourhoods that are both exciting and mundane. Places we’d appreciate but never bother to visit.
The traffic is bad to cross into Washington. It’s the day before the Sasquatch Music Festival, and hordes of Canadians and presumably ex-pats are crossing over with us. The line crawls, but the sun is shining and we have plenty of snacks, and for the first time on this trip, I get to read a magazine while driving. It won’t be the last time either, not by a long shot.
We can see the ocean, or what looks like it might be the ocean.
The border guard is easy on us. She asks if we have any drugs, and we say no, and she believes us and sends us onward without hesitation. I pull off immediately into the main street drag of a nothing town that is within sight of the crossing. There’s a Subway and we get lunch before pressing on. This is the season that American’s love avocados, so my sub is loaded with guacamole.
Across the border, the ground feels different.
At some point we pull off the highway to re-supply our snacks at Wal-Mart. We love American Wal-Mart, each state presents increasingly weird products and services and people. The one we visit stands like an obelisk in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by thick brush and pick-up trucks. Old sallow men wearing obligatory suspenders. This is the kind of Wal-Mart that supplies the surrounding area with guns, booze, and cigarettes. The cashier tells me that she likes my hair and that most guys don’t take the time to style their hair so nicely.
Before getting back on the highway we stop at Hardee’s, an objective completed in my quest to eat at every single fast food chain in America. There are old men talking about God and demanding Obama’s birth certificate loudly.
We get to Seattle in the early afternoon despite our meandering. As usual, we check in to our room and haul everything remotely valuable from the car.