On The Road

We took the 405 north to the 118 east to the 210 east to the 15 north. Thatís what passes for travel here in SoCal: drive by the numbers. This route took us from Van Nuys through the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, through the trailing eastern edges of the sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles, through San Bernardino -- land of ZZ Top and redneck cool -- and on into Barstow, where we broke for breakfast.

The miles rolled by smoothly as Steve and I talked and got to know each other. We talked about our wives and daughters, comparing notes and sharing experiences. We talked about aviation, how I dream of flying and how Steve already does. We talked about online journalers, who we each read and why, what we think of this one and that, how we write our own journals. We talked about a lot of things, so many I canít remember them all, and I was pleased to find the conversation never dragged.

Steve says he did all the talking, but I donít remember it that way. It may be true, since I tend to be more a listener than a talker, but Iím sure I did my share. And if I wasnít hoarse by the end of the day as Steve was, well, thatís just because I get paid to talk these days so I get way too much practice.

Steve was the musical director for the trip, so he spun the plattas that mattah while we talked, and I liked everything he played: Junior Brown, a jazz collection, Stevie Ray Vaughn (a favorite of mine), other good stuff I canít remember. In Barstow we stumbled across "Historic Route 66," and Steve lamented not bringing The Manhattan Transferís rendition of "Route 66." I silently thanked God that he hadnít. It would have been a distinctly sour note amid the rest of his fine musical selections.

Time passed, miles passed, and almost before we knew it we found ourselves in Barstow, where we decided to stop for breakfast. We debated where to stop for about 10 seconds, then settled on what was, to me, the obvious choice: Dennyís. Saying this speaks far too strongly of my white trash background, but Dennyís is one of my favorite restaurants and I eat there whenever I can. It is credit to Steveís open-mindedness that he agreed to eat there with me.

An ill portent crossed our path as we maneuvered through the RV jungle that blocked our way to the parking lot: an 18-wheeler with Batesville Caskets emblazoned on the side. Now, a truck hauling caskets is bad enough, but for a company called Batesville? Named after, one has to assume, Norman Bates of Psycho fame? Bad mojo, baby. I was about ready to pack it in right there, but Steve insisted we press on. We had a duty to perform, not to mention breakfast to eat.

We felt better about it once we got inside the Dennyís. We realized then that the casket truck wasnít an omen after all; it was just going where the business was.

The Dennyís, you see, was Deathís Waiting Room.


Death's Waiting Room



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