Wednesday, April 22, 2009


After a week spent driving California's highways and byways I can confidently say the following things with absolute certainty:

1. California is HUGE and mostly empty. 

2. It has more Applebees than people . 

3. It is the nation's leader in Drive-Thru trees. 

Driving through a tree isn't all it's cracked up to be. But I challenge anyone not to follow a road sign that says, "Humbolt County's Largest Drive Thru Tree Next Exit." You gotta do it. And when you get to the drive-thru tree and find out it costs 5 dollars to drive through a drive-thru still feel compelled to drive through the tree. Of course, having spent five dollars to drive through a tree you pretend it was a bigger experience that it actually was. Afterwards, people gather in the parking lot and swap stories about how amazing it was to drive through that tree. And then, feeling slightly silly, you disperse and get on the road again only to discover there's another drive-thru tree only five miles ahead. Thinking that perhaps you missed something in the experience of driving through that first tree, you take the exit to this newer drive-thru tree hoping to feel that sense of wonder and accomplishment that surely must come from driving through a tree. Only this tree costs 6 dollars. But by this time you've worked yourself into such a spiritual panic that you'd gladly pay 20 dollars to understand what the big deal is. So you drive through the tree and as you slowly pull forward you realize that paying to drive through a drive-thru tree is just stupid...only you can't admit that so you start saying things out loud to convince yourself that what you've just done was tantamount to curing cancer. "My goodness! Look at the rings! Why this tree must have been around when Lincoln was president! Can you imagine that! If Lincoln had come here, he'd have seen this very tree. Just think. Hmmm. Well, who's hungry? I see an Applebees over there."

4. Driving along the coast on some portions of CA1 makes 9-year-old girls throw up. 

And don't think that fancy motion-sickness medicine the pediatrician gave you (the one with the nice grape flavor) is going to work. It's not. Plus, when 9-year-old girls finally get around to telling you they are getting motion sickness and you give them the fancy medicine with that nice grape flavor, the nice grape flavor isn't so grapey and nice and makes them yack on the spot. 

5. The roadside location where 9 year-old-girls decide to throw up is always incredibly inappropriate...such as directly in front of the pampered clientele of the 'Sea View Gentle Breeze Day Spa'. Something tells me the women getting oatmeal facials at the 'Sea View Gentle Breeze Day Spa' never imagined that view would include my daughter losing her lunch and that the breeze would carry the aroma of half-digested Ruffles.  (On a side note, I found it interesting that even after soaking in stomach juices for a over an hour, Ruffles retain their ridges.) 

6. When traveling more than five hours in a car, audio books are an absolute necessity (and should therefor be considered tax-deductible.) When not throwing up, my daughter was always pleasantly engaged in The Secret Garden. We were, too, but I must admit there were 30 to 40 mile stretches where I totally zoned-out. Luckily not a lot happens in the book so I could pick up pretty much were I had started to zone-out.

7. Spending time with family is great.


  1. 1. Nah. Nevada is kinda big and mostly empty. I guess Alaska wins though.

    2. Strange. I don't remember ever having an Applebee's near me in California. In fact, I never saw an Applebee's until I visited my brother in Georgia (where, incidentally, there are more Waffle Houses than people; I think they grow faster than kudzu). There aren't any Applebee's in Santa Cruz County, and the only one in Santa Clara County as far as I know is in Gilroy, unless the one in Fremont is within the county limits.

    3. Undisputed! But there's never an order window like at other drive-throughs.

    4. Ah yes, you see, the child-yack-proofing medicine should be taken in advance. And not by you.

    5. I was expecting a comment about how it looked rather like what was on the faces of the clientele...

    6. Last time I was on a long car trip (not counting the long truck trip when moving to Reno, when the snow was enough to keep my interest) from Southern California to Northern California, instead of an audio book, we had the Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" radio play. It was fun to hear it all unfold in real time, the very way that people had panicked to it.

    7. Even through the yack. All together now: Awwww...

  2. Re #6:

    I have found that Mercury Radio Theater's "The Hitchhiker" to be the perfect road trip companion (because nothing beats getting creeped out by a story about a ghostly hitchhiker following you across country...while in a car.)

    Actually, I have found Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, Burns & Allen, et al. do the trick as well.

  3. Eric O. Costello (for Michael Mink)April 22, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    By coincidence, I got the annual report for DineEquity, Inc., the parent company of IHOP and Applebee's. (Did you know IHOP was founded in Toluca Lake, CA?)

    There are 2,004 Applebee's restaurants world-wide, as of 12/31/08. 1,875 of these are in the US, and California has 123, the most of any state. (Florida has 109 and New York 100.)

    There are 1,396 IHOPs. 1,380 of which are in the US. California has 224, by far the most of any state.

  4. There are more Star Bucks than people per capita in the USA.

    When I was a kid I threw up a hot dog and the weenie was in 3 perfect slices as if I had gummed it down like a duck! It wasn't gross, it was SCIENCE!