O'Fallon, Missouri to Hinton, Oklahoma! - 569 Miles
We were supposed to head out early, around 10am. There was a problem with packing and moving everything. We had decided against a moving truck, or towing-hitch rental, instead opting to put everything we own into The Cerulean Justicar (herein CJ) and send the rest via USPS. The Postal Service would also provide much of the soundtrack for the trip as it turned out. After a brief afternoon nap, we made our final rounds to say goodbye to those we loved and would miss. We set out to visit everyone we knew. Some of the Ruinists, Gramma, Kay, Annaliese, and of course my mother.
Our final goodbye was most dear to me, however. Our initial travels pushed us east to St. Louis Proper to divert us to Interstate 44, we made a single, final stop in Webster Groves to say goodbye to a life long friend. We went to Imos Pizza, and following toasted ravioli, we climbed into the car, with the largest pepperoni-mushroom pizza available to us, and at 10pm, we started driving.
Our plan was to make a journey a little over three days in length. Our first day integer had us traveling from St. Louis to Albuquerque, a stunning 1049 miles away. It quickly became apparent to us that only an inhuman driving-monster would be able to drive a thousand miles in a day, especially after our long day of getting around to leaving. We committed to going as far as we could before the risk of dying was greater than the risk of sleeping somewhere terrible. Our only rule was that we were not, under any circumstances, to stop in the state of Texas for any reason whatsoever. We had considered driving west to Kansas City before going south, if for no other reason than to kick in Cody's door with waterguns in hand, and lay waste to his family, RC3-style. Unfortunately, it would have then required me to drive past Witchita, via the Kansas Turnpike, my ancient adversary. We resolved to take Interstate 44 southwest to Oklahoma! City, and then Interstate 40 as far as Arizona.
The first leg was slow. It was late at night, there were barely any other cars on the road. We weren't even out of Missouri, and we were already tired. Nonetheless, we pressed forward. We came to Rolla around midnight, and thought about stopping to visit friends there, but given the late hour and amount of driving ahead of us, we figured that if we did, we'd just fall asleep and maybe turn around in the morning. We had to get to a point of no return quickly, and that was pretty much the Southwest. We drove on.
After narrowly avoiding Springfield, a city renowned for it's zealots and inhuman mutants, we came to Lebanon, where I had lived when I was two years old prior to moving to St. Louis. I decided to stop. I don't remember anything from my childhood there, except sitting on a very hot concrete porch, with it's gritty texture, and watching a HUGE orange-circle sun setting with my mom in a sun dress. It was a horrible place now, at night. The porch had infected the entire city with grittiness, apparently, and that had made the townsfolk unhappy. We pulled into a gas station built out of an old barn. It was cold, and damp, and lit by a single flickering fluorescent lamp. An awful white person sat behind the counter. Now, I'm not racist or anything; Some of my friends are white. But this wasn't just a white person, this was a honkey. I'm sorry if that sounds shocking to anyone, but she was. Besides, I'm white. I think it's okay if I say it. Oh, let me tell you how she glared at us. Neither Phin, being Phin, nor my blue-haired self were alleviating the situation at all. The silence in which she watched as we selected our terrible snacks and bevies was, of course, deafening. We paid her, she tendered our change, quietly, and we crept out of the building, letting the screen door slam behind us.
Things had taken a turn for the mediocre, and were quickly descending towards below-average. Not ten minutes after setting back on the road, a brown demon leaped into the street ahead of us. I didn't notice until it was too late to stop, and by some miracle, with no action from myself, the deer passed across our entire front without impact. We may have clipped the fluff of it's tail. Had I been driving in the right lane where I was supposed to be, or slightly faster, we would surely be dead today. This had an unsettling and daunting effect on us. It was not that we had narrowly avoided death that struck us as important, rather the understand that we were now targets. The first assassination attempt was a failure, but the buck would not stop here.
Escaping Missouri gained importance after that, allowing no further stops. As if to simultaneously insult and amuse us as we crossed the border just past Joplin, we saw FAG Industries. I would later find out that FAG is short for "Fischers Aktien-Gesellschaft"; they make ball bearings. At the time, all we could do was giggle endlessly at the idea of all their employees wear gloves and hats and tshirts with FAG boldly emblazoned in happy scarlet letters across them, and no one else taking them seriously.
We survived Missouri, and now had to deal with Oklahoma!. There was no wind to be felt. There was a exotic petting zoo, but we neglected to stop and break in after the deer incident. We made up a story that I had been spitten upon by a dromedarius, and that he had been bitten by a lemuriform of some kind, which we told ourselves for amusement.
We drove on. Now I have mentioned, in brief, my hatred of the Kansas Turnpike. That day, I met his older, more bastardly brother: The Oklahoma! Turnpike. It veered us away from Tulsa, while slowly bleeding us. Thirty cents here, eighty there. No rhyme nor reason existed to justify these tolls. It was suggested that once we ran out of change, it would begin extracting fluids. At one point, we saw lights swirling around the sky. We were in the middle of nowhere, so the chances of it being a spotlight were small. Given the unusual clouds at the time, we assumed it was an alien spacecraft. To our dismay, we were not abducted from the damned Turnpike however, or if we were, they put us back on it, and can therefore go to hell anyway. Phin's eyes were bleeding a bit. I'm not sure to this day if it was residual from our abduction, or if we had just ran out of coins.
When we finally escaped the Turnpike, we came to face Oklahoma! City. The place was Hell. Terrible, terrible hell. Filthy streets, twisting and curving, sprawl as far as the eye could see, with horrible buildings everywhere, none over two stories tall. It was a suburban tumor on the awful rural landscape. The state of the place led me to believe that, had no one been listening when the Federal Building was bombed a decade ago, I wasn't sure anyone would have even noticed it had happened.
We drove and drove and drove in circles looking for decent food and lodging. We would only find one. We stopped at a gas station, and as Phineas surveyed a half dozen hotels in the area for prices, I went to a gas station to ask an Okie where to eat. I was half expecting her to tell me that food didn't grow in Oklahoma! anymore, and that I'd have to travel west, to California to find any work. It was worse. She told me there were no restaurants in the area opening within four hours except one: a little fast food place she called Water Burger. Let me tell you how unappealing that sounded at four in the morning. Phin called me delusional, and accused me of making the whole thing up.
Hesitantly, we followed the gas-slave's directions, and as we turned the corner, Phin's eyes lit up. There, before us, was an A-Frame building with a long, disused drive-in awning. It was like an IHOP and an A&W had gotten drunk together, and this was their unholy foetal alcohol syndrome-laden orange and white child. A friendly sign read WHATABURGER. Apparently, these are big in the southern greater-nowhere portion of the United States, and he insisted that we eat there. There was little choice, so with hesitation, I agreed.
Now, I'm not a big fan of ketchup. In fact, I loathe to eat it. However, the place makes their own, and it is apparently good enough that my companion had once taken several dozen packets of the stuff to his friend during a road trip. I begrudgingly tasted it. It was fantastic. I must have consumed seven or eight of those little souffle cups worth of the stuff before someone stopped me. It was on the fries, the burger, my clothes. I think some may have made it into my root beer. I was a fiend. Satiated, and finding no hotels of use to us, we wandered the labyrinthine streets until we found Interstate 40, and escaped Oklahoma! City.
With Texas rapidly approaching, the sun rising, and knowing that we'd have to sleep before crossing the border or in New Mexico, we grew desperate. Morning rush was on, and the denizens were unruly. A state trooper tried to force us off the road with his own vehicle. As the intolerability of day traffic became clear, we pulled into a little hamlet called Hinton around 7am, and quickly found clean and cheap lodging that smelled of air conditioning. The accommodations were accommodating, and after being awake nearly twenty hours, nine of them on the road, we slept.