Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When The Going Gets Good, I'm Outta Here!

So, what with the weather and the wounds and the general malaise brought on by the realization that yes, this probably is all that there is, I have had no will to write of what I laughingly call "my life" and the things that fray it at the edges.

However, recognizing that my public1 is out there and hungry for more of the goings on and goings off at Stevie World Of Naff2, I shall now relate the events that occurred during the trip Mrs Stevie and I took to Florida sans Stevieling during the last week of January.

And what a treat you are in for, dear reader. An epic crossing3 filled with thrills, chills and books on CD!

Things started promisingly when we set out on the Friday around 10 am (reasoning there was no need to rush into things4) and got as far as the first turning back toward Chateau Stevie, whereupon I discovered I'd left my sunglasses at home and we went back to get them. Normally this would have put a damper on the mood, and today was no exception as I was forced to listen to a litany of the most vile slanders and stuff dragged up from the past that normal people would have forgotten by now. It quite made me yearn for the time I leaned on Troll's muffler.

We set out again And I made a bee-line (assuming we are talking about drunken bees here) for the Southern State parkway despite the muffled cries of the GPS system safely locked in the glove compartment, which had different ideas most likely involving a five hour sojourn in the Manhattan Friday Morning Traffic Jam. Fortunately I know my way from Chateau Stevie onto Interstate 95 south, once having had to drive between Washington DC and Long Island every week, and so was not even remotely tempted to let that demon-infested GPS5 advise me on so much as when to draw breath.

Traffic was heavy to motionless as we merged with the Belt Parkway and only the drone of the CD player as it read from Patricia Cornwell's "Predator", a book so relentlessly awful on every level that it proved impossible to switch off. No sooner did Mrs Stevie opine that surely this was the worst realized character ever to see print or that surely this must be the most unbelievable event ever written than someone even more two dimensional would walk on stage or something ridiculous would happen.

Outside of the self-published rubbish one can find on Amazon for the Kindle reader I can't think of a time I've had a worse experience in the hands of a published writer6, and if I hadn't stopped reading Cornwell's "Scarpetta" books after the one that had the Libyan Terrorists burst in right at the end (on account of she had gone stupid) I would have been disgusted.

This torrent of naff carried us through the Staten Island Roadworks Crawl and the New Jersey Roadworks Stop For A Bit Every Now And Then. We were again well behind schedule as far as the trip was concerned, not as badly as in the summer but bad enough, and Mrs Stevie had put her foot down (on various soft parts of my anatomy) and insisted we would stop overnight in a hotel "at the halfway point" rather than attempt "that hellish drive" again, so I was concerned that the halfway point might actually become the third-of-the-way-there point lest we not be able to find a room for any price.

Eventually the traffic lightened up and the book came to an end. Mrs Stevie and I pondered whether the abridgment was due to editing for time or because the reader simply couldn't take any more of this idiotic story and skipped to the end, but the effect was the same - a blissful silence in the vehicle that obviously needed filling, and so Mrs Stevie fired up another tale - "Dance of Death" by Linda Fairstein.

This story had a lot going for it: decent characters, neat murder plot, but it went all over the place and had so many characters I lost track of who was who. At one point I fell asleep and missed twenty minutes, but it didn't matter because so little had happened that I could pick it up as it went along.

One disturbing fact was that even though were driving South as fast as the State Police would let us, when we stopped for gas the weather was still very windy and bitingly cold, well below freezing, which was worrying. There was no snow, but until you've felt the windchill on temperatures already not funny at all you've never been cold. The Steviemobile had experienced a couple of days in New York when I thought the engine would not turn over, so thick had the oil in the sump become7.

In New York we were seeing the sort of weather they get in Canada and those people put electric heaters in their engines and have electrical supply plug-ins for hotel parking spots to mitigate frozen engine oil. I'd seen a bad winter in Maryland in '96 and had no wish to see whether they'd laid in so much as a bag of sno-melt in the interim (they had not). The Southern States were about to get caught with their collective trousers down by the storm system buggering up life in the Northeast and I had no wish to be in the middle of an object lesson in Civic Thermodynamics.

We decided to stop near the border of South and North Carolina, but had to drive quite a bit longer than we had planned (it worked out to a bit over 13 hours in the end, including the Forgotten Sunglasses Fiasco) and actually drove past the hotel we had settled on, ending up in another.

We checked in, pulled the bags we needed from the pile in the Honda Odyssey 8 and, after arranging the heat to be a little more aggressive, went to bed around midnight.

Saturday dawned and we leaped out of bed, showered, dressed, breakfasted and got back on the road after gassing up the wagon again. It was still cold enough to freeze your tongue to the car if you licked it, so I made a note not to do that again.

"Will you drive first?" demanded Mrs Stevie.

"Yuthsp" I replied.

The day drew on with the weather only beginning to get reasonable for the geography after about another five hours, well into Georgia, where we celebrated the end of "Dance of Death" by stopping for lunch. Traffic was not heavy, and the Southern States had taken the rather radical step of not ripping up large tracts of the Interstate to slow things down so we had made good progress as the story reached the bit where bleep and bleep grabbed bleep but were bleep before bleep could bleep his bleep9. The food was good too. Things were looking up, which should have been the clue that trouble was brewing.

Fortunately the anti-vacation demons were impatient and so rather than infesting the vehicle and disabling it in some expensive and maddening way they decided to nerf our in-car entertainment and make us choose as our next book "The 8th Confession" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Now this was an interesting tale, nominally by a famous action/adventure writer of some stature but actually by some woman whose name was printed in small print in the same color as the big "8" on which it was overlaid - at least, large parts of it were by her as I find it hard to credit that James Patterson would obsess over clothes and yo-yo between extremes of feeling about men so much as happens to the female lead character in this pile of bleep, and I didn't hear one word about ammo or calibres or anything remotely manly from any of the male characters.

This story went to the polar opposite of the Cornwell disaster, and characters were so richly detailed neither of us could keep track of them. It didn't help that they were annoying.

In fact, annoyance was the ambiance of this audio book too, as it was read by a lady who had seemingly been a Marine Corps Drill Sergeant in a former life and who bellowed out the first few words of each new chapter in the same manner R. Lee Ermey used whenever addressing Vincent D'Onofrio in "Full Metal Jacket". She also used this technique when a new character hoved into view which prevented sleep at the wheel. On the downside, it prevented sleep in the passenger seat too. I could have used a small bout of sleep to escape this tedious and loud book.

We pulled into Orange Lake Country Club at around five pm, whereupon a young fellow smilingly invited us to check out his special offers on tickets to here, there and everywhere. He flirted with Mrs Stevie which meant I didn't have to, which cheered me up initially. It was all going swimmingly until he casually mentioned that to receive this bounty all we would have to do would be to attend an hour's presentation on the new timeshare in Pennsylvania - at which point I flatly refused to have anything to do with it.

He was nonplussed10 and asked how we could be sure we wouldn't be buying another timeshare.

"I'm sure! I snarled. "Look at us; I'm nearly sixty and she's a hundred and four! Of course we aren’t going to buy a timeshare in Pennsylvania. I'm broke and she's got one foot in the grave!"

I was saved any further argument with this idiot by Mrs Stevie having one of her irrational rages. While it got us away from the dratted salesdrone I felt it was a bit strong that she should blame me for the annoying sales pitch and that chasing me around the clubhouse threatening to insert a beach umbrella into me was a trifle undignified.

We made our way to the villa we hadn't seen for over a decade and discovered that the orange tree that had given us so many delicious juicy oranges the last time we were there was now some sort of ornate bush from Mexico that produced flies. I'd also forgotten that the parking space for this villa was not in front of it (because of the tree-come-bush) so we'd be relying on the neighbors 'getting' that and leaving space for us, which they didn't. I don't know why they felt it important to make us walk further through the weather when their own cars could be parked in front of their villas and still leave space for us, but there you go.

One guy was so incensed by the situation that we went out later that night to find an Escalade parked so close we couldn't open the driver side doors and he couldn't open his passenger side doors either. He must have had to unload his passengers and then re-park in annoyance mode to pull that one off. We countered this ploy by not rising with the dawn. He was a family man and had dates with Disney calling for early starts. Our time was ours.

It was refreshing to see that some people could hold onto their gittism even in the teeth of a good time though.

  1. Now assessed as a badger named Stripey Bill living in a set somewhere in the New Forest, though I suspect my Google Analytics Evaluation Purposes Only Edition account may have been hacked and this is in fact a bored teenager named Stripey Bill
  2. A working title
  3. More accurately, since we were driving South, then North: downing and upping, but that sounded too rude to put in the body of the text
  4. An error matched only by that made when Napoleon said "Let's go get those Russian bastards lads. No need to take your coats, this'll be a doddle"
  5. uk: SatNaff
  6. A lie: The Seventh Seal by I Had A Pre-Emptive Stroke After Reading His Daft Book And Forgot His Name Forever Thank Azathoth was exquisitely dreadful
  7. Oil gets thicker with cold, thinner with heat. Multigrade oils are a way of having oil that is thin enough to start a cold engine but that stays thick enough to work when the engine is boiling hot
  8. Me: one, Mrs Stevie: Four
  9. No spoilers!
  10. I'd always wondered what that looked like

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