Road Trip Day 2 – Indianapolis and Memphis

Mark and I left Jill’s at about 11:30 after a relaxing morning and some good conversation. We continued west on 70 and made our way to Indianapolis.

Welcome to Illinois
Welcome to Illinois

As we were pulling into Indianapolis, we stumbled on Long’s Bakery. Mark, a speed draw with Yelp, found that locals liked the place so we decided to stop in for a donut. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would become a bit of a recurring theme throughout the trip.

Long’s Bakery & Donuts
Mmm Donuts – at Long’s Bakery

The Pennsylvania Dutchman in me couldn’t resist – I went for the Apple Cinnamon glazed and Mark had the Cinnamon Glazed.

They were, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, delicious.

Once we’d finished sating our sweet teeth, we headed a short distance over to the IMS or Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A torqued shot of Mark at the Speedway
A torqued shot of Mark at the Speedway

It’s kinda a funny stop for us since neither of us are much into racing, but we were looking for something quintessentially Illinois / Indianapolis to do, and honestly, we couldn’t think of anything more appropriate. Sadly, we were not able to go round the track which is a service they offer for just a few bucks. They sold out shortly before we arrived. We did manage to spend some time browsing the museum.

I found the older cars of far more interest for their style and form. They will almost certainly (as I explained to Mark) show up as reference for some sort of pulp fiction sci-fi image from me in the future.

The Antique Racers at the IMS Museum
The Antique Racers at the IMS Museum

Once we felt we had a solid sense of the Speedway and the museum there, we continued down the road. Before long, we made a pit stop to get some White Castle.

Mark Has His First White Castle
Mark Has His First White Castle

Yeah. White Castle. Just call us Harold and Kumar. The truth is that Mark had never had White Castle from a brick and mortar shop before, and since we were in an area that had them, I kinda coaxed him into it. Why not? Randomness is good the road trips.

While I drove, Mark did some planning for the Memphis portion of our trip. We knew we were going to visit Graceland (I’d been once, a while back but Mark had never been) but we didn’t have much more than that figured out.

This arrangement, of course, played to our strengths. I drive for my job. The long hours I put in there make me capable of doing very long stretches – even on boring midwestern highways like route 70 and route 57 without suffering terribly. Mark, on the other hand, is much better at figuring out where the best places to go and/or see are. As long as he was able to keep a cellular connection up, he did some digging. He’d occasionally call out a couple of different ideas and we’d weigh the options, but mostly, he did a lot of filtering out bad options while I kept my eyes on the road. It worked very well indeed.

We listened to music after The Memphis Plan was decided on.

We talked briefly to Mark’s wife Moriah once The Plan had been pieced together. Just hearing parts of their conversation reinforced my opinion that they’re both remarkable people who are deeply supportive of one another. It’s enough to give a guy hope for the future.

The View from Our Window Reminds Me of a Batman Movie
The View from Our Window Reminds Me of a Batman Movie

We landed in Memphis at about 11pm. We ditched the car and our gear in the local DoubleTree hotel. I’d purchased our two night stay with membership points. Having been someone who lived out of hotels for five years straight does have its advantages. With our stuff secured, we walked down to Beale Street, which was a bit of a shock to me.

Beale Street at Night
Beale Street at Night

I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly, but Beale Street reminded me of Bourbon Street. It was closed off and had a bit of a block party vibe to the whole thing. That’s kinda funny since it was a Tuesday night and there weren’t many folks out and about. It gave you the sense that you arrived at the party after the fact – the red cups are all used, and the keg’s tapped. Should have arrived sooner, dude.

We were on a mission, though. Mark had a very clear mental picture of what he was looking for: A Memphis bar with a lone musician on stage. They’re plucking at their guitar and feeling the music more than they are playing it. That music would drift out of the place and draw us in like the floating cartoon characters following the scent of their favorite foods. The lights are low, and people are dancing to the blues. Something up tempo, but still blues. He’d find some willing partner and they’d have one really good, really connected dance, and we’d go.

My thoughts for the mission? Pretty much the same, but add me at a corner booth sipping on a nice cold whiskey.

That’s not exactly what we found. What we found was cover bands and desperate prostitutes just trying to find some work in the empty street.

We were approached three times. We politely turned them away three times. One even rubbed on my belly like I was the Buddha before I could make it clear that I was not interested in what she had to offer.

My paranoia sufficiently stoked into overdrive, I confirmed that my wallet was still securely in place as we made our way back up the street until we found ourselves at the Blues City Cafe for a little snack.

Mark at the Blues City Cafe
Mark at the Blues City Cafe

Mark got the stew, and I got the gumbo. Both were quite tasty. When we were done, we left the money on the table. Our server seemed overly busy with his other tables, so we just let him know the money was on the table as we headed back out.

We poked our head inside BB King’s Blues Club and found that the cover band who had been playing James Brown tunes earlier in the evening had wrapped and were packing up. So, we decided to do the same and walked back to our hotel for the night.

This post is part of a series describing the Road Trip west I took with my best friend. To read about our travels on the previous day, click <<<here. To read about our travels on the following day, click here>>>(Coming Soon).

Road Trip Day 1 – It Has Begun

My heterosexual life partner Mark is doing this crazy thing. He’s moving in with his wife. It’s a long story, but they’ve been bicoastal for a while thanks to school and career complications. That’s okay in the big picture because both of them are the kinds of supportive individuals who somehow manage something like that where it would break most of us. Impressive folks, my people.

Still, it will be wonderful for them to actually be able to have the same address finally.

So Mark has to get from the East Coast to the West, and we figured a road trip was in order. Sure, he could have shipped the last of his stuff and flown west, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the sense of adventure?!

I’ve always admired Mark’s ability to take the mundane and ordinary and tweak it here or modify it there and build it into a grand adventure. Business trips start to sound like something James Bond would be jealous of. Need groceries? By the time he’s done with the trek, you’ll have a story you’re telling your grand kids. That’s really not an exaggeration.

Today we started that road trip. But before we could get on the road, we had some work to do.

Moriah and Mark have a ketubah of sorts. They’re not Jewish and it’s not exactly a traditional ketubah, but they both like much of the idea behind such a document and they decided that they wanted something like that as a part of their marriage. It’s a fairly large circular design at something like 42 inches in diameter. It’s mounted, and protected by glass. This caused some troubles with the way that Mark originally planned on getting it cross country – by shipping it.

After a consultation with a (thankfully) very honest UPS employee, we knew that he couldn’t ship the piece and expect it to arrive whole. That meant that we would have to bring it with us, but with the glass, and the car packed with our personal gear, we were worried about damaging it ourselves.

So we did a crazy thing to transport the piece of art across the country. We built a table – in the car.

“Don’t Worry People – We Have A Plan!”

It was a bit more chaotic a start than we hoped for, but in hindsight, it makes for great story fodder. It’s just the sort of thing that I was talking about earlier – about things bending towards adventure around Mark.

The interesting part of the whole table building process was the improvisation it required. Mark had limited tools and supplies since most of his possessions had long ago been shipped to the West Coast. My apartment and my (admittedly limited) supplies were over an hour away.

Thankfully, Home Depot will make some cuts in your plywood and shorten your 4×4 ‘table legs’ upon request. They also rent drills by the hour, so will some mental math and some determination, we wound up with something which worked quite nicely.

No sandpaper? Try your nearest pavement!

The ketubah protected, we got our gear packed back into the car, returned the rented drill, and got on the road.

We did as we did way back on our motorcycle trek – we got out of Dodge as fast as possible. When you’re leaving home on a road trip, you don’t want to look around and see familiar sights. You want to be in the New Place – The Wild Blue Yonder. So we put the pedal down and headed west via routes 76 and 70.

Sadly, that meant that there wasn’t much exciting about the travel portion of that first day, but we made some decent time, and the day ended in the best possible way – with friends. We landed in Columbus OH to stay with our dear friend Jill and her husband Greg. We somehow convinced Jill to be our friend all the way back in high school, and she’s been stuck with us ever since.

Good people make for good times.

I also renewed my friendship with another friend. Meet Lille Lort (which translates to “Lil’ Shit” in Danish. He seems to think I’m alright. He’s one of a couple cats that won the feline lottery when they got Jill as their vet/mom.

He also seems rather fond of Mark’s shoes.

This post is part of a series describing the Road Trip west I took with my best friend. To read about our travels on the following day, click here.