Sweet Jesus, I thought as I rubbed the dust out of my eyes at the Best Western in Hays, Kansas at 6am. Why do I do this to myself? (Short answer here, because this is complicated and deserves deeper exploration at a later date, I must hate myself, or love to hate myself, rather.)
The free breakfast at the BW was betrayed by its price way before visual inspection commenced at 6:15am. Despite such low expectations, I was still disappointed by the spread of anemic fruit in light corn syrup, assorted single-serving Kellogg products, DIY batter-burning (or 'waffle') station, and de rigeur sweat-flavored instant coffee. Being generally tetchy , I opted for an orange juice and a cup of Activia, figuring a healthy dose of bifidus regularis might be a good counter-measure to the typically constipating force of road trip cuisine.
By 6:30am we were rolling again, edging up over 80 and settling into the familiar groove of the day before.
By 6:32am, I was stopped on the shoulder with the state of Kansas' finest processing my license and registration.
You see, the western speed limits of 75mph dip down to 70mph in Kansas for no
obvious reason other than that Kansas may be hurting for revenue and the largest touch point they have with the broader GDP is I-70 itself. The traffic stream is the revenue stream. This particular cop was so eager to get his quota filled that he whipped across the grass-ditch median from the west-bound lane in a daring, Dukes of Hazzard high-speed U-turn, and nabbed me going east after a mile and half slow-speed chase. Allegedly, I was doing 81 mph and was handed a $128 ticket.
In my relatively light criminal experience, there are few things as chastenin
g as a speeding ticket, especially since it had been almost 5 years since I'd gotten one and in the interest of my insurance payments I wanted to keep it that way. So, I took the rest of Kansas like an 80-year old Sunday driver and counted no-less than a dozen more patrol cars either in the act of issuing tickets or waiting to pounce.
The sight of Kansas City, springing up on the opposite shore of the Missouri River was a welcome, as we'd find considerably less police presence in Missouri and were able to make good time crossing the state.
We stopped somewhere in the nameless middle of the state for my first taste of Sonic, so effectively advertised on the West Coast yet, sadly, few and far between. Since Sonics lack restrooms (part of the cost-minimizing business plan that let's them focus on high-concept food ideals like chili-cheese maximization), we had to retire to the McDonald's across the street and order kiddie-cones as a justification for using the john. After that we bought fireworks at one of the ubiquitious, road-side 'Pyro City' stands and were safely in St. Louis by 3pm, where we indulged in much-needed naps at Blake's friend Katie's house.
Katie roused as around 5:3o with pizza, salad and the peculiarly delicious St. Louis tradition of deep-fried ravioli. After that we drank Budweiser products (what else?) outside of Busch Stadium before going in and watching a pitching duel between the Cardinals and Giants from excellent seats along the 3rd base line courtesy of Katie's family. (Thanks Again!)
After the game we followed everyone in St. Louis out to the burbs for a little frozen custard at the world-famous Ted Drewes. At Ted Drewes it doesn't matter what you do, because you will be sucked in by the undertow of St. Louisians' surging around the place, and then serviced so quickly by the horde of teenagers in yellow t-shirts working behind the bar that you don't really remember deciding on something, let alone ordering. But it doesn't matter, you'll come out happy with something called 'concrete' that is thick enough to be served to you upside-down and resembles the high-minded, pure-bred precedesor of the Dairy Queen Blizzard (sort of the ice cream Athens to our United States, if you swap in the evolution of democracy as a allegorical trope).
Bellies full on brats, beer and frozen custard, and comfortable in the hospitality of St. Louis, we slept soundly on the second night of our journey with visions of Nashville dancing in our heads.