Okay, it has been 4 days since we arrived in Houston. So far so good except for the freakin' parking ticket I got yesterday at 4:01 in a no parking after 4:00 zone. I was there before 4:05. That is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous. I could have killed that guy. It's for 50 bucks too!!! Like I have that right now. NO way in hell I'll ever pay it so who cares. Anyway, I need to tell the story about our adventurous drive down here. Well, let's go back a little further than that...last Thursday, the great folks from the Castellino lab people had a going away party for me. It was both fun and sad since I was leaving, but I took some good pictures. One nice thing was that Yuan and Zhong made a nice chinese dinner for me before the party. I keep on telling Yuan that if he wants to score some babes, he just needs to cook for them...I'll tell you the guy is an AWESOME cook. So the party was cool, all the lab gang was there, Mel and her husband and Elliot came too. Elliot even bought me a book as a going away present! It's cool, it's about the Human Genome project. Mel bought me a bottle of Jack and Scott got me a bottle of the Beam(yeah baby!!) so that was cool too. The Jack is still alive but the Beam didn't make it too far:) (later on my dad would buy me a 1.75 of Beam so it worked out)
On Fri. Duane came to South Bend on the South Shore train. It was originally planned that Duane would take the Cavalier to use for a car in Houston, but it turned out it was in the shop and wouldn't be done in time. So instead Duane had to take the Jeep Cherokee (which would later prove to be disasterous). This last minute change of plans came as no surprise to me so I was unphased. Anyway, the Jeep was getting new tires put on it on Fri. so Duane rode the train up. He left home on Thurs. and went to Chi town to hang with some friends and then came on the South Shore on Fri. morning...that brings me back to where I was, the morning after the party. We ate and then went to the lab because I had to give Elliot some disk copies of some important stuff and say good bye to everyone. Oh, and also round up some troops to help load the truck. Then we went to pick the truck's a funny picture...Duane behind the wheel of this huge moving truck. That was pretty funny. He was pretty timid at first but then he got the hang of it. Finally we went back to Yuan's (where I was living at the time) and loaded everything up. That was a real adventure. It took all 6 of us alomost 2hrs. That pretty much sucked, but it was nice to have it over with even though I knew it was the just the beginning of a LONG journey. Ironically, at that moment, I don't think I was even considering the fact that Duane and I would be unloading the truck by ourselves when we got to Houston.

That night we just hung out over at Jaigi and Jaime's place(two new canadian guys in the lab.) and had a few beers since there was still some of the keg left from the party the night before. Duane appreciated that one:)

July 19th, 1998

The next day(sat.) we got up and drove 3 hours back to our hometown in Illinois. Then we loaded up Duane's stuff in the truck and took showers(which we were in desperate need of) and then had dinner with my parents. We had KFC. It was real family moment: Me and my dad went to pick it up and of course we had to stop at the store guessed it, play the lottery (this is only funny if you know my parents). It was good stop though because that's when my Dad hooked me up with a bottle of Beam. Rock on!

After dinner, I went over to Mike's to just have a mellow night drinking a few beers and talking. Jeff was out of town because of work but Ryan came and this chic friend of Mike's was there(Amy Tudor). He's trying to start something with her. She seemed VERY cool though...kind of like one of the guys. We all just hung out and talked and listened and sang some old tunes and had a few brewskies. It was a quality way to end things but I didn't get much sleep(which I would later regret) because Mike took me home at like 1:30, which isn't bad, but we talked in his truck until 3:30. Then I didn't go to bed until 4 and we got up at 7:30. Ouch!

So that brings us to Sun morning, the day of departure. We got up and loaded the last of Duane's things in the Jeep. That took awhile. Heather came over(she was in town for a wedding) and she helped us with the next task...putting the Jeep on the tow dolly. Now that task didn't go very smoothly and it was a somewhat a foreshadow of things to come. Looking back, I should have known. Our plan was to leave between 9 and 10. At about 10:45 we finally got the F#@!& jeep onto the tow dolly and secured. We were pretty pissed. Then Duane and I took showers to cool off because it was already about 90 (little did we know, it would be the last shower for DAYS). We took about a hundred pictures, said good bye to our parents, got gas and hit the road around noon. Duane was driving the truck and I was following in my car. The plan was to drive to Tulsa that night, stay at Katie McClintic's (you'll recall, my GREAT friend from back in Junior high), get up early and continue the rest of the way to Houston. I was VERY pumped because Katie and I hadn't seen each other for a few years.

Now, I had heard about 30 different answers on how long it takes to get to Tulsa, but from looking at maps I figured it was about a 9-10 hour drive. Of course, I was even taking into consideration that we could not go more than 60 because of the Ryder truck. I thought I was mentally prepared to drive that slow but it was a bit frustrating. When you're traveling such a long distance, you really lose a lot of time when you have to drive so slow. Aside from that everything was going pretty smoothly until we got into Oklahoma. Due to our lack of speed and a few gas stops we were running a little behind schedule. As we were coming out of a toll both in OK, Duane was cut off by a semi-truck. This caused him to drive in the median for a little bit. Of course if he wasn't towing the Jeep this would not have been much of a problem but this caused the jeep to jostle a bunch. So Duane calls me(by the way, the walkie-talkies I bought for the trip was probably one of the best calls EVER) and tells me there's a problem. So we get off at the next exit and it turns out to be a truck stop. So imagine and Duane at a truck stop in OK at 10:00 at night with no one around but about 150 truck drivers and a few gas station attendants that had maybe 6 teeth between them. So we check it out and it turns out one of the straps on one of the wheels that holds the jeep on the tow dolly has come off. Now that's pretty scary. Well, luckily we caught it in time. So we work as fast as we can to reconnect it and get the hell out of there. To tell you the truth I was a little scared...a lot scared. SO, we have been driving for 10 hours, it's getting hotter and hotter and tiredness is setting in because neiter one of slept even 4 hours. I actually heard them say on a radio station as we got back on the road: "Well, today's high was again 104. That's 3 days in a row over 100 and tomorrow and Tues. don't look much better. Right now it's after 10 at night and it's STILL 95. How 'bout that." Make no mistake, that was an astounding but actual fact. I remember wondering what home grown Mike (weatherman in South Bend) would have to say about that. Ten at night and still 95-wow. Being from up north, I wasn't use to such hot humid nights.

Okay, on with the adventure: we got back on the road-we are about 1 hr. from Tulsa.(keep in mind that I told Katie we would be there around 7 or 8 because I thought we would leave sooner and drive faster) So we are trying to just get there so we can rest a little. About 15 min. after leaving the truck stop, Duane calls me again and says there's a problem. This time we pull over to the side of the road and discover that the OTHER strap on the other wheel has now come off. What a piece of shit. So we fix that...luckily I had this trusty little black flashlight that I bought for my old car because it didn't have a dome light. That thing was key on a few occasions as you will soon see. So we get BACK on the road and drive to Katie's.

We finally arrive there at like 11:30. They were planning to eat with us but obviously they couldn't wait THAT long so they saved us some brats and stuff. We didn't really get to enjoy the pool either which sucked but we still ate pretty good and drank TONS of water. It's amazing how much water I had lost. So then we made the plan to sleep for awhile and get up at like 3 to leave. Well, that didn't quite go according to plan. We were all sitting in the basement talking and then Duane fell asleep and I stayed up the whole night talking to Katie. This was the only cool part of the trip. The truth is that I actually forgot about all being hot, tired, and dehydrated for awhile. It blows my mind how even when she and I don't talk for a long time, when we do, it's right back to being old friends. I feel so lucky to have a great friend like her and being there with her, talking all night just reminded me of how great of a person she is. I mean, we were the same as we were back in 8th grade...two great pals, just enjoying each other's company. SO, at about 4 I decided that we better get back on the road and that she should go to bed because she had to work the next morning at 8. I splashed some water on my face figuring that if I can make it until the sun comes up I should be okay. I woke up Duane and we got all set to leave. We go outside to the truck and we discover that the part of the tow dolly where the two front wheels of the jeep rest has somehow rotated like 45 degrees. Now it might be hard to picture but the thing is not suppose to be able to rotate like that. We somehow detached that part from the base and rotated it...oh, I need to back track a little. One minor problem with the jeep was that after we loaded it onto the tow dolly Duane locked the driver side door. Now, the reason that this is a problem is because that particular door CANNOT be unlocked which is something that my mom and dad and him were all aware of. So we have the jeep which is completely FULL of stuff(even the front seats) which can only be opened on the passenger side. This complicates things because the things in the driver's seat were loaded into that side, which makes it not so easy, due to the change in angles, to get that stuff out the other side. SO, that was 15 min. Then, we unhook all the straps and chains and Duane crawls through the passenger side to the driver's side of the jeep(we would eventually become pros at this process of removing the stuff from the front seats and climbing across to the driver's seat) Alrighty, so Duane pulls the Jeep off the tow dolly and we began to examine how in the world we are going to fix this problem. It's now about 4:30. After 15 min of getting no where we finally take the brut force approach and yank the thing back into place. This took me, Duane and Katie to do(yep, she's still up too) and of course we are now sweating like pigs again because it's still pretty warm and humid but atleast the problem was solved. So we get the jeep BACK on the tow dolly, load ALL the stuff back in it, say good bye to Katie and thank her for her help and hospitality. It's 5:15 and we are back on the road...finally...with the worst yet to come.

July 20th, 1998

So we are about 8 hrs. from Houston at this point and 4hrs. from Dallas. Here we are thinking the end is near----UH no!

Now, there are only 2 real "cities" in between Tulsa and Dallas so we have to stop and get gas at one of them. I was starting to fade and I wanted to refresh when we were only an hour outside of Tulsa. So we stop and get gas and some drinks because it's still pretty warm. You can imagine how hot and dirty we are at this point because of working with that tow dolly and the jeep we are laying on the ground and getting our hands all dirty and greasy. Not to mention we have been traveling for about 19 hours. On the lighter side of things the sun is coming up and I've been up for almost 24 hours straight and 45 out of the last 48.

We leave the station and I'm determined to make it to Dallas. I figured we could park there somewhere and sleep for like an hour before finishing out the trip. Well, about a half hour after leaving the gas station, I get a call from Duane--again another problem. The truck is making a strange clicking sound. So I drop back behind him to check it out..nothing but it's so loud I can hear it too. We are like a quarter mile from a toll booth and there is a rest stop just before it so I say pull over at the rest stop. Well, for some reason that is still unknown to me, the exit to the rest stop was on the left so we couldn't get over fast enough. So we went all the way to the toll booth just a few hundred meters down. I pay the toll and I hear this noise like tires screeching. Then Duane pays too and I realize the noise is coming from the jeep. Duane gets to the other side of the toll booth and we discover that the back wheels of the Jeep have stopped rolling. So again, we take ALL that shit out of the front seats and try to figure out the problem. After about a half hour of trying different things and analyzing the problem we decide that we won't figure it out so we decide to call my dad. Well, remember, the toll plaza is like a quarter mile back AND we already went through the toll booth so I don't want to walk, but I don't want to pay the stupid toll two more times either especially since it was a $1.50. So I walk back up to the booth and tell the person on both sides what is going on and they agree to let me go back through to call home. So, Duane stays with the stuff and I go back and call my dad. After a not so brief conversation he has a few suggestions but is not even remotely sure what the problem is. So, I go BACK to the car where Duane has been waiting for like a half hour(hey more sleep for him) and we work on it some more with no luck. My dad said he would try to get a hold of a mechanic in the mean time that might know what the problem is so I have to go and call him again if we can't fix it. Well, we couldn't, so I went BACK through to toll booth again. Well, THAT did not go so smoothly because the shift changed and new people came. So again, I had to go through the whole thing with the attendants for BOTH directions and after a short argument was allowed to pass through AGAIN. SO, I call my dad and he has no suggestions for me so we begin to run through potential scenarios involving calling a mechanic, or calling Ryder for a flat bed tow thing and what is cheaper, possible and faster. We decide to call a mechanic to tow the Jeep to a shop, and then decide if it was worth fixing later. Don't forget, we are in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. I know that as soon as the mechanic sees two stranded brothas, he knows he can charge us ANYTHING he wants because we have no choice. I'm also not too excited about sitting around in a hick town while the Jeep(if it can be fixed promptly) is being fixed and the idea of driving 7 hrs one way to come back for it isn't too appealing either. So, I go back through the toll to where Duane is waiting to explain the situation to him but of course that means, I have to come BACK through the toll booth yet again to use the phone afterwards. So, not only did I have to go ask the toll booth chic to let me through again, but I needed her to give me the phone # of a close mechanic. After that transaction, I go back to the phone and call the mechanic. Well, since it's only a quarter to 8 at this point there is obviously no answer at the mechanic. So I walk over to the gas station and ask a chic over there. She gives me a different # and I call this other guy. So we have been stranded for about 2 hrs now trying to figure out this stupid problem. I call the mechanic and after explaining to him that we are towing a car and the back wheels won't roll the conversation goes like this:

"What kind of car is it?"
"A cherokee."
"Four whell drive?"
"How long have you been towing it?"
"About 700 miles."
"Oh, well there's the problem, the drive line fell down."

Now I didn't know what that meant but I guess I was happy that he knew but pissed at the same time because he knew in like two seconds what we couldn't seem to figure out in 2 hours. If I would have just called this guy in the first place we might have solved this problem a long time ago. So, he tells me he'll send a guy out. So again, I return to Duane and explain the situation and the guy told be that he can just disconnect the transmission and we can tow the car again. Of course, it will need to be fixed when we get there but atleast we could continue on our oh-so-fun journey.

About a half hour later the guy shows up. It takes him another half hour to disconnect the transmission. He then charges us Eighty freakin' dollars. But that's not the best had to be credit card, no checks. Well, we only had about $50 in cash between us becuase hey, you don't want to travel with a ton of cash. So the guy's like "you have to go to an ATM I guess. I'll follow you." So you know what that means...that's right BACK through the freakin' toll booth AGAIN AAAAARRRRHHHHHH. Well, it's almost a funny joke to the toll both chic by now so that goes over just fine. So we go to the rest stop there and--you guessed it--no ATM. What kind of rest stop doesn't have an ATM. There's like a McDonald's and a huge gas station and no ATM. Unbelievable! So the guy calls his boss and then proceeds to tell us that we have to follow him to the closest town...15min. to the north(opposite the direction we are traveling) to go to the freaking ATM. SO, we drive all the way back to Henrietta, Oklahoma and find an ATM and give the grease ball his $80. Then, we drive back to the truck(going through the toll, AGAIN!!!! ARRRRRGGHH) and get ready to roll again. It is now 10:30. I'm like great, I've slept three hours in the last 48, it's 2000 degrees out, I'm dehydrated, dirty as hell,I haven't eaten for like 9 hrs, and we've gone about 70 miles in 5.5 hours. Things are going just perfectly.

So we get back to truck(say hi to the toll booth chic AGAIN) and get rolling again. I'm now dead tired but determined. We get about 5 min down the road and I get another call from Duane. There is something wrong. We pull to the side of the road and realize that the friction of the back tires not rolling and Duane pulling the jeep had caused that part of the tow dolly that the front wheels rest on to rotate again. Of course, we've fixed that before and it's not to big of a deal but then again, that was when the jeep had a transmission and we could still drive it. So now, here we are, needing to pull the jeep off and put it back on again but we can't because there is no transmission. We must find another way. So, we take all the shit out the front seats AGAIN and go to work. We decide that if we can turn the jeep steering wheel it may shift the wheels and the tow dolly at the same time enough so we can continue. So, this amount of force requires both of us to turn the jeep steering wheel at the same easy task if you can open the driver side door...which we can't do. So, I some how get my footing on the tow dolly and reach through the window to pull on the wheel while Duane turns it from the inside the car. We were pretty lucky because it worked. We checked the straps and got back on the road.

When we got to the next small town I couldn't go anymore so I got some subway and slept for an hour in a wal-mart parking lot. That was fun. Between that town and Dallas, the strap fell of the wheel two more times but we cruised along just fine otherwise...Until we got about half way between Houston and Dallas.

When we pulled over for gas at that point we realized that not only had one of the straps come off the wheel but it somehow had worked it's way to be trapped under the wheel. Now again, this wouldn't be a problem if we could just start the jeep, roll it off, move the strap, and then drive it back on. No transmission puts a stop to that plan. So, we have a 1000 pound jeep on top of a strap that we must get out. After several plans and about an hour, the brut force approach came through again as we managed to rock the jeep and pull the strap out at the same time. We got back on the road and proceeded to our destination with no further hassles.

We got to Houston around 9:00, 33 hours after the journey began.

Now that's a hell of a story. Believe it or not, we somehow found the strength to unload the entire truck that very same night, which if you remember, it took 6 of us 2 hours to pack it. I've never felt so hot and dirty in my life. Alas, the final joke of the trip would be that I couldn't take a shower because being a new apartment-there were no shower curtains. A perfect end to the journey.


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