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Twilight Zone with a Popeye’s Chicken

February 20, 2013

I recently visited a friend in Oregon old style, crunching the 700 miles in 23 hours.  And that included two hours going 20 miles per hour on a ship.  I headed out on the 6:15 a.m. ferry off Quadra to catch the 10:45 ferry from Nainaimo,then slouched toward the border with the usual misgivings.

Jude and I have had numerous problems at the border.  After an hour-long crawl to the kiosks,I was asked by the guard about the apples Jude had thoughtfully provided for me.  He told me to report to the Agricultural Window in the admin building.

Another guard told me where to park.  As I got out of the car, he asked me where I was going.  “To Oregon to see an old friend,” I carefully replied.

“Do you have an address?”

“I have it written down, but I’ve got her phone number near.”

“Is she rich?”

“No.”  They like to throw you curves like that.

“Are you carrying more than $10,000 cash?”

“No.  I have $60 Canadian in my wallet, $100 U.S. in my left sock and my VA check in my right sock.”  That seemed to amuse him so I pressed the advantage.  “I get disability for PTSD from my time in the Marines.”

I don’t like to exploit or even mention that, but an international border is a very strange place where the regular rules don’t apply quite so much.

“Thank you for your service,” he said.

“You’re welcome,” I judiciously responded.  I chose not to review the folly of the Vietnam War.

He told me to leave the keys in the ignition and continue to the ag window.  The clerk there was quite pleasant and I was quickly cleared because the apples had “grown in B.C.” stickers on them.  I returned to the car to find that it had been thoroughly tossed, even beyond the typical trashing I do myself on a long road trip.

I started it.  The air conditioning came on full blast.  My best guest is that the guard was checking for pot smoke.  I crept toward freedom.  The guard at the gate looked sternly at my paperwork and said “have a nice day” brusquely as he raised the bar.  I rolled into and quickly through Baline, Washington.

I stopped for some cheap American gas in Burlington because I knew from internet research that it was my first chance at Popeye’s chicken.  I ate a few pieces in the car and decided to call Jude.

I then entered the Twilight Zone.  For 90 minutes I tried to reach her.  Problem was, my cell phone couldn’t call Canada, nor could the phone cards I’d bought during my May trip to Kansas.  I searched a mall for a pay phone.  Problem there was, it had been designed by the same humans who design casinos, so its layout was disorienting, even with several “You Are Here” maps.

I finally found THE phone and my frustrations continued.  At one point I was talking to the most incompetent person in Mumbai.  There are 20 million people in the metro Mumbai area, and I connected with the dumbest one.  I gave up and got the hell out of Burlington.

I reached Seattle at the start of rush hour.  To avoid the gridlock of the city centre, I took the I-405 bypass, which goes past Microsoft headquarters.  It’s huge.  I thought it was downtown Seattle.  There were at least five skyscrapers.  I couldn’t accurately count and safely drive.

As soon as traffic let up, I tried to call Jude again and got through.  Buoyed by my sweetie’s voice, I relaxed and assessed the situation.  There was no way I was going to get to the hostel in Eugene where I had a reservation by 10 p.m., its closing time.  I let go of my original plan and decided to have a leisurely out-of-the-car meal.  My Popeye’s, including the sublime red beans and rice, was long gone.

There was a place near the pay phone I used named “Country Cuzzins”.  I reasoned that such an eatery would be ethically bound to offer a chicken-fried steak.  It did, and it was delicious.  It was even worth tolerating the recording of a rooster crowing every time the main door opened.

With my poultry-related dietary needs met and traffic thinning, I got to some serious driving. I cruised the FM and AM radio stations available to get the flavour of the area, settling on a blend of classic rock, new pop, country, jazz, blues, Christian rock, Christian commentary and hip hop.  Mostly classic rock, not so much the last three.

I averaged 45 miles per gallon in our hybrid, so I didn’t need gas until Cottage Grove.  It was about 2 a.m. and I needed a diversion.  I checked out the downtown area.   It’s where the parade scene of Animal House was filmed.

It all came back to me: the marching band in the dead end alley . . . the 10,000 marbles Flounder flung . . . Kevin Bacon’s character getting trampled . .  a faux Playboy bunny flying through a bedroom window . . . “Ramming Speed!”

Thus refreshed, I drove on to the last rest stop before Grants Pass, where my friend lives, and snuggled into a sleeping bag.

More on the trip soon.

  1. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2013 11:44 am

    Sounds like a fun trip – excitment, challenges, beauty along the way – AND POPEYE’S CHICKEN!!! I’m fortunate to have one here in Monticello; just had some last night, as a matter of fact! Your trip so far reminds me of an old Twilight Zone adventure – enjoy it, and bring back some more travel stories, please!! And drive safe, by the way; a lot of nuts out on the road now!

    • February 20, 2013 12:26 pm

      Was it the episode where a traveling couple couldn’t seem to get out of a town and took advice from one of those mini-juke boxes at a restaurant booth? Shards of that flashed through my mind.

  2. February 20, 2013 12:04 pm

    The canadian side gave you problems while leaving? That’s kind of funny! As in odd ..

    • February 20, 2013 12:29 pm

      It was the first time I’d had trouble going into the states. All our griefs had been getting into Canada. I played it smart on the way back and went through at 3 a.m. The one guard on duty was only concerned about my crumpled-up sleeping bag.

  3. February 22, 2013 7:39 pm

    Oh Allen what a wonderful if not twilight zoned adventure. I cannot wait to hear the rest of the story.

    • February 25, 2013 12:06 pm

      Thank you, Beth. It’s nice to hear from you again.

  4. wkmtca permalink
    February 22, 2013 8:05 pm

    what kind of hybrid?? i am looking at getting a ford hybrid. my brother works for ford and i have not owned any car not made in america (mostly) ever.. the ‘a’ plan is nothing to sneeze at either. i am looking at the c-max or a fusion. aren’t government people scary. and not so nice most of the time. ugg.

    • February 25, 2013 12:20 pm

      Jude and I have a 2003 Honda Civic, and it’s run like a champ all ten years. We’ve never had a repair beyond the usual replacement and maintenance, except $1000 for the damage we did to the undercarriage driving through
      snow we should have avoided our first winter here. The big battery under the trunk that makes it a hybrid crapped out about a month before its warranty expired, saving us $1000, so I guess we broke even there. We average 45 mpg, and that includes a lot of driving on curvy, hilly roads behind school buses, road graders and logging trucks. Please let us know what you chose. I don’t mind the border guards doing their job, I just wish so many weren’t so mean doing it.

  5. Gordon permalink
    February 25, 2013 10:53 am

    And didn’t that John Belushi character wind up in the U.S. Senate. Hmmm. He may be here now. Come to DC to see the Animal House revival tour. Sequestration floats just churning their way through streets of federal programs.

    On another topic, you mentioned having your poultry-related dietary needs met at Country Cuzzins with a good chicken-fried steak. In the Northwest, does chicken frying beef qualify it as poultry? Vegetarian minds want to know (and will move to the Northwest if so).

    • February 25, 2013 12:45 pm

      Not only did Bluto become a Senator, a 2003 “Double Secret Probation” DVD edition of the film reveals that he was then elected POTUS, a proud day for all Alcoholic-Americans. That would partially explain the Beltway gridlock. As to the chicken-fried thing, I believe beef is the most common center. That’s what was in mine. May I suggest you check one out at a TA Truck Stop? The nearest one to you is at Exit 41A on I-95 near Jessup, Maryland. Be sure to ask for their wine list. Showers are available.

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