Saturday, November 23, 2013

2 days in the California DMV office

I've just moved from Chicago to California and I needed to change my car's title and registration, as well as get me a California licence. I read online that one has to do this within 20 days of taking residency in the state. My current Illinois plate is valid till Feb next year, and its only October, so I thought to delay my registration work as much as I can. Typical Indian mentality, you know. I try to extract maximum benefit out of everything :)
Considering that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is very busy for any American office establishment, with most of the employees taking vacations and all that, I thought it'd be safe to get these things done just before the holiday season kicks off. So I booked the appointment for 21st Nov 2013, Thursday, a week before Thanksgiving. I picked 3pm as I thought, I'd be in office that day and if I leave around 2pm, I'll beat the traffic. See, not only am I an astute planner, I'm cost effective too. I always look out for ways to save money and time. Important. Great. Booking is done, and I couldn't be more proud of myself. I thanked heavens for bestowing me with intelligence. What'd I've done, if I were a moron!

Its Wednesday, the 20th. I prepared my paper works, looked up online for the list of required documents, arranged them in the order of preferences. My backpack contains my work laptop and a folder of documents. I knew I do not have to give a driving test but I'll need to pass in my written exam. Something that I've been through already, when I moved from Florida to Illinois. I found out the CA driving manual pdf. It was a huge file, as usual. I did started studying seriously first few pages but then soon started to quickly glanced through the pages, hitting 'page down' key after every 5 seconds. What information I read from the initial pages were very ordinary and usual stuff. Like pedestrians have right of way when crossing, bikers and motorcyclists have same rights etc etc. I'm smart enough to know such things already, plus I boast of being a very safe driver. One speeding ticket being an exception, my record is otherwise clean. Plus I'm a very nice guy. I care about pedestrians, bikers and motorcyclists and their interest is always on my mind when I'm driving :) Its a shame to my smartness that I need to study such trivial things. So thats it. I went to sleep.

Its Thursday, the 21st, 2pm. I dropped an email to my team that I'll be out of office rest of the day, and then left. As planned, there was little traffic. At 2:30, I'm in the DMV office. As I went in, I saw a familiar scene. Typical office hustle bustle, loads of people, both old and young. Then there were two lines. One for appointments only, one for without appointments. I smiled at myself and took my place in the appointments only line. I condescendingly looked at the people in the other line, with a mischievous smile. Yeah bitch! I'll be out of here before you even see the service lady at the other side of the desk. My chest automatically taking in few extra ounces of oxygen, the only thing missing was my fist thumping on it. I noticed a placard, "The wait time for non-appointment holders is approx 1hr 50mins". Did somebody say I'm a genius?

The lady at the counter greets me. She checks my papers and tells me to get my car checked by the DMV officer. I drove around the building and at the back, was a lane for vehicle inspection. I had 3 cars in front of me. The second car had two motorbikes in a trailer and it took the DMV officer forever to get that checked out. The officers couldn't have been more confused. There were people going in and out of the building and nobody seemed to know what they were doing. Anyways, the car in front of me was blocking the view. It took 40 minutes before my turn came. The officer was an Indian middle age guy, possibly south Indian as evidenced by his mustache. Or it could have been Movember thing, but I doubt at his age, he has got the appetite for this sort of thing. He followed routine process, check odometer, VIN, licence plate number and registration etc. I think the officers were thrown off their comfort zone when they saw trailer with motorbikes. Like a robot who is programmed for making coffee in a particular machine but gets confused when it sees a different machine. I went in the building with my papers. I went to a corner and filled out my DL forms and noticed that the car verification form that the officer gave me outside, at the bottom was a place for owner's signature. Me being meticulous, I signed and dated it. Took my bunch of papers and the lady at the counter gave me a ticket. F-169. I love a number which has 69!

Currently F-165 was being served. Soon, I heard the magical words. "Now serving F-169 at window 13".
I looked at the tv screen and it said window 18, at the end of the row. I thought may be its a mistake. I went to window 18 and the the lady there was surprised to see me.

"Did I ask your number?" She wasn't expecting anyone as she hurriedly put down her coffee mug.
"Yes. Its F-169 and Window 18 as the screen shows".
"Are you sure? Because I didn't call ..."

Before she could finish, the announcer went off, "Now serving F-169 at window 13". Hmm, what is going on? I looked up at the tv screen, the end of the row now said window 8. I do not believe this. Is this some joke the dmv is playing with me. Is there a hidden camera somewhere? I looked down, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and .....naah, nothing.
I just looked up at the tv screen again and this time, I looked close and found out the problem.

Ticket     Window    Ticket     Window
F-169      13            B-132     8
F-169      13            A-65       18

Fuck! Embarrassing. Some dude decided to use two columns. I tried to find a hole big enough for me to hide into. I apologized to window 18 lady and headed straight to window 13, before anyone else could notice what a moron I am. I'm sure the non-appointment queue people were happy. I cannot say 'Fuck' enough times to vent my frustration. As it turned out, the day wasn't done.

So here I am, being serviced at Window 13. Sat behind the desk was a pretty women, I'd say in her mid 30s, probably Latin american, with a cute accent. And she was pretty. She had a very soft voice and sweet smile. Great! Better than some old ladies and older men sitting behind some other windows. We were having small talks, like "I need to see your passport", "Ok. Please sign here and here" etc. And I was pretty involved in trying to make more than small talks with her. I had my reasons. I had seen in the website that the written test can sometimes be waived off only if the dmv officer deems fit. I had in my mind, a plan. A plan to talk my way through it. Enter the smooth and charming me. May be with my charm, and deadly smile, and smooth talks, I'll talk my way around the written test. And it certainly helped my plan to see a beautiful women on the other side. Had it been a dude or granny, I'd have to think hard about it :)
The flirting I tried, didn't help, probably because I wasn't good at flirting. I was occasionally drawing blank coming up with some killer one liners but Ramiaza, as she goes by the name, was in fact giving me opportunities. Fuck again! Smartness but not flirting enough, I'm such a waste. I ain't Joey with 'How you doin?'

R: "Ok. So lets do the registration part first. All the paper work looks good...oh wait. Oh you were not supposed to sign at the bottom of this verification form without me telling you so"

With her fingertips she showed me the section and my signature, and I was thunderstruck. Being too careful cannot be a bad thing, right.

Me: "Oh I'm sorry. I didn't know that. I saw an empty field, and I filled it."
R:  "Oh, so you'll sign wherever you'll see the signature field?" She said with a smile that pierced my heart and thousand more. With her soft voice and a hint of flirt in it, I knew I've salvaged something of mine, even though I'm an idiot for her.
Me: "I'm truly sorry. I didn't know."

She smiled to acknowledge and the dim light of hope lingered on in my mind. Time to kill...
Me: "I was wondering if you could waive the written test for me, please."
R: "Well, I've already waived the driving test for you but I cannot waive off written."

Oh, with the faintest of smile and softest of voice, she declined but it didn't feel like it. In other words, she just said "Look, dude, if I can call you that, but here's the thing. I gave you couple of opportunities to remain permanent in my memory, instead you turned out to be a moron, idiot, confused and boring. Not funny or creative but just like some other guy, may be worse. Please give the written test and don't press your luck too much else I'll put you for driving test too".

I collected my new plates from her and my DL slip. She pointed me another section of the office with two lines, Line C and D, and asked me to be in C for my new DL work.
I get my picture taken, and the granny there handed me the test paper and pointed me to the test area.
The less I speak about the test, the better it is. There were basically three categories of questions in there, for me. Easy, 50-50 and utterly confusing. I ticked off the easy questions first. Speed limit in residential area, I know is 25, because a good 3 mile stretch from my home to office goes through it and my eyes were bored of seeing the signs "Speed Limit 25". Body Alcohol Limit is 0.08 because I've undergone a DUI test once, I was driving too slow at 3 in the morning. The 50-50 questions were something the answer to which were not obvious straightaway. But after carefully going through the options, I could make a reasonable decision. Then there were utterly confusing questions. What to do if a person with cane is starting to cross the road but then he pulls back? I mean, is it a test of how nice of a person you are? And the answer options left me totally clueless. Should I continue driving because he is not ready, should I wait for him to cross? I decided to use my best behavior. I thought what would a nice person like me, a person so caring, gentle and selfless and so intelligent, will do? Of course I'll wait for him to cross first. Just because I've a used car, doesn't mean I'll forget my roots. I used to be a pedestrian too :)
And this was just one example. 36 questions, and 3 categories, with more or less, the same distribution. You do the math. I didn't expect the test to go like this. I thought this would be a piece of cake but it wasn't. While standing in another line, to get my answers checked, I was cursing myself for being lazy and over confident. This was just casual, wasn't it. I am an atheist, but at times like these, I just pray for some supernatural force to get me to the other side.
The same granny checks my answers. Boom, boom, boom, tick, tick, boom, boom....and so on went the sequence. After 3 mistakes on the first page of the test itself, I had given up hope, while she turned over the page and sprinkled salt on my open wound. Total of 7 mistakes and I had already known the verdict long before. I have read online that you fail the test if you get more than 3 wrong so there was no point, isn't it?
And by the way, I am supposed to cross the road because the fucking pedestrian with the fucking cane is not ready to cross. What the fuck! This is the reward for being a nice guy on the road? Failure, a looser. She torn off the right top corner of the test paper and gave it to me along with my other documents. She told me I can retake the test and I need to be in Line D now, however its already 4:30pm and written tests are not allowed now.
Fuck me! As a consolation of my day's effort, I need not take an appointment or stand in the start line again. I can straightaway come and stand in Line D instead. Yeah, thank you for that. Geez...
I left the dmv, head down, and a big 'L' written on my forehead. Miserable. Tomorrow is Friday, and I'll try to come again and get this thing right.

Its Friday, the 22st, 2:15pm. I leave the office again, this time without dropping any emails. I'm already carrying a looser tag around my neck. I used to feel sarcastic for friends who fail dmv written and now I'm one of them too. What goes around, comes around, with some extra baggage of humiliation :)
At the dmv, I went straight to Line D and the Asian lady does my paperwork. While standing in the line for my written test, I was feeling confident I'll crack it this time. I had gone over the test questions of yesterday and have memorized the ones that I got wrong. As soon as I get the paper, I'll tick the boxes and get done with it, since I already know the questions. My turn came.
"Ok. so this is your second attempt, take this and go to the test area", said the granny while handing me the test paper.It was a different set of questions. What the hell is wrong with me? How can I be so stupid to think that the dmv is so stupid that they will use the same questions for every attempt? I felt like I never left the dmv yesterday. I'm back to where it all started. And my self-pride and (over) confidence had prohibited me to study the manual pdf.
I took my time. Almost 45 minutes. I targeted the easy ones first, for the ones which I was confident I couldn't go wrong. Then the 50-50s with making some reasonable logic. The came the confused questions part. After much head scratching, knuckle cracking moments, I finished all questions. Then while standing in line, I thought I'll use my smartphone to look up one question that was really confusing. Confining myself between the person ahead and behind me, and keeping my hands closer to my chest, I did a google search, and as it turned out, I was incorrect. Oh my God! And I am an atheist. Fuck! Whatever little of confidence was left, deserted me. I came out of the line, and back to the testing area. I corrected my answer, but know I wanted to know more. Since I've already spent nearly an hour on this, I didn't have time to look over all the questions. So I marked the ones that were utterly confusing, and started looking them up in my phone browser. Smartphones are amazing, aren't they. And they definitely suggest the person using it is smart too. Boom, another revelation, another incorrect answer. Change it quickly. Scratch off the old tick and replace with a new tick mark in a new box. I moved my cube few times, kept an eye out, to not attract attention. Another query, another search, another incorrect answer. Fuck!
After the painful exercise, I finally corrected my confused answers. Stood in line then handed over my paper to the granny. My chest automatically swelling....but wait....what!!!!
Boom...boom...boom..tick..tick...Boom.. went the sequence again. What the fuck! And this time, not the confusing questions, but my confident questions were wrong answers. Fuck me! I cannot be this bad. This is horrendous. Just bury me here. Kill me now, kill me!
First page, 4 incorrect answers. While she turned over the page, I readied my backpack, checked that I've got my wallet, car keys and house keys. I knew I've failed again so lets just grab my papers and get going. I'll come again on Monday, or may be never. May be I'll never drive again. Just take cab or stay home.
Second page, 2 incorrect. Granny draws a circle over -6 and then below it, a circle over -P. Hmm, what happened here? She handed my papers back and told me to stand in line D. I asked her if I passed but she kept yelling LineD, LineD. Alright, alright. I'll move grandma. Keep calm.
There was a dude in front of me and I wanted to know whats going on. I asked him how much did he miss. He had missed 3. There was a circle over -3 and -P in his paper. I knew there, that I've passed. Oh you beauty. What a smart guy am I? Brilliant. Genius. Cracked the dmv test on 2 attempts and by the skin of my teeth, had failed in one and passed in another. As I found out later, the pass limit was 6 incorrect answers.
Phew....job well done, isn't it...

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

US Route66- Day 6, Sept 22, 2013 Sunday. Petrified forest national park, Meteor crater.

Another day on the road. Same usual story to the start of the day. Checked out of the hotel around 9am after grabbing some breakfast and headed straight to Petrified Forest national park. Pranay, my friend in Chicago suggested me to include one state or national park and drive through it because it would be really cool. I agree and I had already done so.
I went into the visitor center, got myself a map and brochure of other details and headed straight to the scenic drive through the park. Paid $10 for the entrance and headed in. It was all very nice. There were some scenic points where I stopped occasionally and took pictures. I could see the flat out desert, and the petrified rocks on the hills. The rocks have been petrified for the past million years and its an art in a way. It was aesthetically pleasing to the eye. There were scattered clouds in the sky. The sun was playing hide and seek and the clouds were proudly leaving their shadows on the rocks. The rocks were bright red or orange. Very beautiful. It was a particularly windy today. It was slightly difficult to stand still and once in a while there will be heavy gusts which would just swing you sideways if you are not holding firm on your ground.


Things were looking perfectly setup for a pleasing day but it wasn't meant to be. I've hardly covered a third of the whole scenic drive when I heard a heavy rough sliding noise from the back of the car. I thought it must be because of the road being rough. After having driven 5 days on the highways I've noticed that such noise do occur because not the whole stretch of the highway is brand new and smooth. There are rough gravel rough roads, stretches with cracks and holes, big or small but it must be because the road is rough. So I kept on driving. After 5 mins, I smelled something burning. It was as if a rubber is burning. I immediately stopped on the road side, put my parking lights on and came out. There was a car behind me with an old couple, who also stopped. I saw the damage. The passenger side rear wheel, it was gone. The rubber had worn off completely with may be a thin strip left sticking with the drum. The old man came out of his car and stood beside me.
"Yeah, we saw smoke coming out of the rear for quite some time but we just couldn't catch up with you", said he with very slow pace, all the time his body was little bit shaking.
"Oh. Ok. I thought its the road so I kept driving. This is shit."
"Yeah..ha ha.. it is. Do you have a spare tire?"
"Yeah, I do. I've got my luggage in the trunk which I've to take out first then get on with the spare donut."
"We would have loved to help you out but unfortunately we have an appointment at an art center further east."
"No. no. Please do not worry. I can take care of this. Please go ahead. I'll call the visitor center and sort this thing out. Please carry on, and thank you for stopping."

They left while I made a call to the visitor center and explained them the situation. She got the park sheriff on his way to help me out who soon arrived at the scene. Before the sheriff arrived, I had taken out my luggage out of the trunk and chugged them, some on the back seat, some under the passenger seat. I thought I might need to take out the spare wheel so better to keep the trunk clean. The sheriff arrived and assessed the damage. He inquired about the car, owner, insurance and licence and I duly obliged. He took my DL and went back to his car. I do not understand what would he do with the licence. Its not like I was breaking traffic laws or similar. I guess my DL record states I had a burnt tire on so an so date. Utterly useless.
"Do you have a spare tire?" asked the sheriff.
"Yes I do but I'm not sure I want to go ahead with it. I'm carrying some heavy luggage in the car and I don't know the spare would be able to hold it. It might again blow up few miles further. Its a risk."
"Ok. So do you want to tow it then?"
"Yes. I'd like that."
"Do you have AAA or similar?"
"I've roadside assistance from my insurance, Geico. I think I can use that. Do you know any towing service?"
"Sure. I can call them up and whoever next is available will be on its way. Do you want me to do that?"
"Yes please. That would be great. Thankyou."

He went to his car and made some calls. He told me the nearest town is Holbrook, AZ and a towing car is on its way from there. It will be here in 45 minutes.
I thanked him for his service. I later realized that I should have called up Geico and asked them to send me a tow car but at that time, I thought, lets just do this any which way I can and later on I'll reimburse the expenses from Geico. Anyways, atleast I didn't have to explain my location to the tow company, the sheriff did it all. All I had to do was to wait. I saw people passing by me, some were very kind to stop by and ask if everything was okay with my car and if I need any help. I was happy to see such kindness. All kinds of people, whether old or young, stopped to inquire what happened and if I'm waiting for some help. This is one great thing about this country. People are kind and helpful.
After an hour, the tow truck came. He pulled my car up, tied with chains, secured the locks and off we went to Holbrook. This is a very awkward moment for me. Driving with a stranger for a while and you know you have to keep the conversation going. There is a lot of pressure on both parties I guess, more so on me because English isn't my first language, not even second. Add to that, I am not that funny like some people are. I breathe a sigh of relief if the other person is a talker. Some girls I have been with are like this. For people who talk a lot, I just need to feed them questions regularly and just sit back and let them tell their stories, advises, thoughts whatever. Just inject small questions about their work, make them go into the details, ask them about their family and household problems etc. I pretend to listen intently and with my detail oriented questions, the other person feels the same too, but in most cases, I couldn't care less.
The tow guy wasn't much of a talker, neither shy so it wasn't too bad. Plus I had topics to talk about. I started off with questions related to towing charges and how my insurance can come in, then ask him about his business and economy, then his family and weather and Holbrook weather. Then I shared my reasons for being in this place and by the time I was out of topics to talk about, we were in the service center. The mechanic took a look and told me to replace other tires as well because they were showing signs of wearing off. I knew it is a common ploy to extract money off me but I had two things to help make up my mind. First was that I'm in this huge road trip and still close to 1000 miles away from my destination. Add to that I'm carrying extra load. It may be safe to put all new tires and buy some peace of mind. It would be a shitty feeling to drive in the fear of some other tire popping out or worse, its coming true. Secondly, my new company, VMware, is paying a decent amount of money towards my relocation and I'd still be left with  a big chunk of money if I spend 350 quids on new tires. I agreed and within minutes I was on my way again.

This was an unplanned delay in my trip. Going back to Petrified forest was foolish as then I'd miss the meteor tour because it closes at 5pm. It is 2pm now. So with a little bit of grudge and a tiny bit unsatisfactory feeling, I moved on to Meteor crater.
The crater is around 7miles off the highway, to the south of it. And its a private property. I don't know how it came to be private. I believe initially all the desert land was federal property but then some private firm bought the land. I bought the ticket and went in. I had thought that the crater formed sometime recently, like past 50 years but I was surprised to know its 50,000 years old. And it was a huge crater. A whole city, like Chicago or San Francisco could fit inside the crater and it was so very deep that there were telescopes installed at the top to see some models that had been placed at the bottom of it. I liked it very much. In fact, if I can be so bold, I'd say this was the best attraction of my whole 66 trip. I was glad I decided to include this one. Inside the building was a rock put in a glass box and it said the crater was created by a similar size rock. It would have been nice to see the actual guilty rock but since its 50,000yrs old, people shouldn't even be looking for it. The rock wasn't big, definitely not the size that you'd think would create such a huge crater but the power of gravity is massive, isn't it. You get a sense of it when you see the size of rock and the crater behind it. You'd think no way this rock can make a hole like this but its true. Bigger size space ships burn out before they even cross the atmosphere because of the gravity pull and the friction. If indeed a rock which has managed to cross the atmosphere, it should be given respect.

I wonder what other damage the impact would have made. Did it cause a minor earth quake, did it disrupt a lake/sea which was at this place, did it destroy a forest and living life forms? I cannot imagine what would happen if it were to impact now. I wish it to fall in the ocean but then the kind of tsunami it would cause can only kill loads of people. Anyways, I think its better that it has not happened now or will not happen anytime soon.

I left the crater, thoroughly pleased. The only attraction left was Elmer's bottle tree ranch before my 66 trip comes to end at Santa Monica but that was too far away and it will get dark in couple of hours. I decided to stay the night in Kingman, AZ. There is a bit of excitement that I am feeling at this time, because I know tomorrow is my last day on the road, atleast for sometime. I checked into a motel, I don't remember the name. But it wasn't good. It was owned by an Indian couple, who were in their 50s. While the wife was watching Television, the husband got me the room key. I went into the room and smelled a strong alcoholic odor, whisky I'd say. It was so strong, the smell, that I got a headache. The carpet felt soggy a bit and I thought may be the previous occupant spilled all the booze in the carpet. I was not sure if I should try to change the room. I didn't want to be rude and besides the room was dirt cheap and I said to myself this is what you get for the money you pay. I didn't know the wi-fi password, nor was there any pamphlet for it. I went back to the front desk and asked for password and took the opportunity to ask if I can get a different room. I explained to the guy about the reason and invited him to check the condition himself. I came back to the room and repacked my stuff hoping that the owner will swing by soon and if possible, give me another room.
He did arrive 10minutes later and came into the room. As a typical owner, he tried to defend the room but I kept insisting that how can he not smell the strong stench of alcohol in here. Half halfheartedly he gave me the keys to another room and it was definitely better. Atleast it smelled like a normal room. Nothing shitty. I took a shower and went to bed straightaway.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

US Route66- Day 5, Sept 21, 2013 Saturday. Cadillac Ranch, Midpoint Cafe, Mesalands and Auto Museum

Woke up at the usual time, i.e when I wanted to get up. The sun was out. I think it was around 8. Packed up my clothes again, showered, then left the motel after grabbing some breakfast. I couldn't find my sun glasses in the room so I thought it must be in the car. Checked the car but didn't find it. Got a bit tensed because I liked the shades even though I got it for free.
It was Maui Jim, pretty expensive one, around $180. And it was free! Well, between December'12 and Apr'13 I had been to San Diego at least 4-5 times, every time for 2-3 weeks and sometime even 4 weeks. This was because BlackBerry was developing QChat for NII and Qualcomm was providing the chip-set. One developer has to make trips to Qualcomm office in San Diego for integration purpose. Every 2 weeks Qualcomm will release their part of code and BlackBerry would release theirs and a BlackBerry developer and Qualcomm developer would sit together to integrate both sides' code. Since barring Apurv and myself, everyone else in the team had family so they couldn't be out of Chicago for a week or two. And since Apurv had just joined, it was down to me to do most of the travelling and integration and train Apurv too. I had no complaints. I thoroughly enjoyed my trips. It was a way to get out of the cold Chicago winter for one, enjoy San Diego for two, and then its all on the company's expenses, flight tickets down to daily lunch/dinner etc. And every time I visited San Diego, I stayed in Hilton. I had signed up for Hilton Honors program of theirs and was accumulating points for my every nights stay. Soon I had so much points that I ordered a Maui Jim sun glasses through their rewards store and I still have close to 150000 points left.

I went back to the room to check for the shades once again. Didn't find it. I resigned myself to the thought of spending the rest of the road trip without it. I thought of all the pictures of mine without my sun glasses, and now there was no strong reason to put on my contacts too because I want to protect my eyes from direct sunlight. Sunlight is a major contributor to my poor eye sight, according to my eye doctor back in India. That is why I wear photo chromatic lenses which go dark in sunlight then back to normal inside home or in shades. I left my contact number and sun glasses details at the hotel reception with a faint hope that if they happen to find it, they can send it to me.
On my way to the car, all the time I was thinking of the places where the shades could have been. I'm ususaly very careful with things like this and I was pretty convinced that the glasses must be around somewhere with me, either in the car, or in my luggage but just hidden. I remembered that I usually leave my shades on top of the big kitchen box that was on my passenger seat so there is a possibility that it must have slipped under the seat when I applied brakes. I looked under the seat and there it was. Bingo! Everything is normal again. The world order is restored. I quickly went to the reception and let them know that I've found my glasses and I was on my way.

The first stop was Cadillac Ranch. A typical 66 attraction, much like the Blue Whale but I liked this one far more than the Whale. The Whale was devoid of any artistic touch or feeling. Here it was a huge ranch with bunch of Cadillacs half buried in the ground, slanted vertically a bit and all sorts of graffiti drawn on them. There were few spray cans lying around. People can help themselves to leave their mark on the cars, anyway they want. I took few pictures. It was a bright sunny day which is good for pictures. There was a couple with bunch of kids who were making graffiti on the cars. There were two ladies, one of whom I approached if she can take a picture of mine. Because I wanted  the sun on my face while she would have her back to it when taking the picture I asked if she would walk with me to one end of the row and she happily obliged. She was nice. She was on her way to LA with her friend to meet with her parents. She was from Virginia, West I think.I told her this was going to be my Facebook cover picture and that she shouldn't mess it up. She laughed. I offered to take her picture if she wanted. I was happy to snap few of for her. Then we parted ways.

Next stop was the Midpoint cafe. Its the mid point between Chicago and LA. The place was barren except for the cafe. I went in and ordered a salad. The inside of the Cafe was an attempt to make something out of the location. There were pictures and buttons pinned to the walls and some travelers thought its cool to take snaps of those. While gazing through the walls from my seat, I noticed that I've carried a bit of mud underneath my sandals from the outside. I remembered a muddy patch that I walked over to the Cafe, just outside. Ah Damn! Embarrassing. I tried not to move my legs much and whatever mud had come off the sandal, I tried to swipe them under the table. The salad was okay. I have faint hopes of such a business running for a long time with profit. Look at the location. Sometime in the past, granted, it was a place to be but now I don't think many people would fancy a stop over at this place. The server was the owner and he had recently purchased this place. I didn't speak much to save him some awkward questions. Outside, I met two British middle aged ladies who were doing the 66 on their motor bikes. I asked them to take a picture of mine. All my drive, I've been listening to Ricky Gervais podcasts and I told them how huge a fan am I of him. They weren't. They think of him and his sense of humor a bit weird. I wished them luck and drove on.

Then came Tucumcari, NM. I wanted to see the Dinosaur museum there. I went in there but it wasn't like the usual huge museums generally are. It was a small place, more like a mid size Trader Joe's, or a fancy restaurant with some models thrown in here and there. Most of the samples weren't the originals but plaster or paris or metal casts of the original. I like to come to a museum to see authentic stuff, not duplicates. When I see a genuine dinosaur tooth I appreciate the time span the planet has lived through, I believe in the existence of them creatures and imagine their size. When I see a cast, it takes away that feeling from me. Sure, I can admire the minute details the technician put in to make it but thats it. It was a $5 entry fee which wasn't much so I didn't mind. It would have been ridiculous to charge $20 for this.

50 miles further was Auto museum, the Route66 Auto museum. The name of the place isn't original. 'Auto museum' describes the place and Route66 is, well, perhaps helps with the directions.Another auto museum for me. Its one thing gazing at cars and admiring the evolution the auto industry has gone through but another thing to drive one of these oldies.It had similar cars which I had already seen in the Country Classic cars museum back in IL. It was 4:30 in the afternoon when I was done with it. It was a small place but lots of cars cramped in it. It didn't take me long to have a tour of my own.

I had not anticipated I'd be done by my day's attractions this early. But it was good. Now I could decide where to crash for the night. My next attraction was Petrified forest national park and I had definitely not planned to do it towards the end of the day. This is the kind of attractions that are best seen first thing in the morning. I decided to stay the night in Gallup, NM. Small town, just the way I like it. I was once asked if I prefer to stay in a big town or a small town and I was happy with my answer. I said while I'm young, like in my 20-30s I wanna stay in a big town, like Chicago or NY. I like big town just because of the the people. The crowd, all the beautiful women window shopping, restaurants lined by the streets, parks and beaches and women sunbathing. Wonderful. However when I'm old, like 50-60s, I might like to stay in a small town. Its quiet, cheap and I'd be happy minding my own business. When I'm old, I won't have energy left to bungee jump or skydive so I'd be taking care of my backyard. Sigh.

I went into Super8 again, in Gallup. It was decent. After dinner in a nearby restaurant, I just came back and slept. I was very tired and dropped the idea of hitting any bars. I was one more day closer to my destination which made me little happy even though I've been enjoying myself so far. Petrified forest and Meteor crater were on the cards for the next day and the day wasn't restricted to sightseeing only. Unaware of what lies ahead of me, I slept peacefully.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

US Route66- Day 4, Sept 20, 2013 Friday. Oklahoma City and Big Texan Steak Ranch

I woke up around 5 but didn't really wanted to get out yet. I raised the thermostat settings hoping to make the room warmer but it was only 10 minutes when I woke up to burning smell. I turned off the AC right away. Soon, the fire alarm went off. Fuck!
My first task was to put on a trouser. I like to sleep in minimal clothing. Then I took bunch of papers that were lying on the table and tried to clear the air around the smoke alarm. Then opened the main door. The alarm went silent. Phew! But the room was filled with burning smell, plastic burn smell and it was burning my head as well. I went out for a while, leaving the door wide open. I thought to put the dumbbells back in the car as I'm up anyways. I can't go back to sleep in that room. Few rooms further, a dude was loitering outside. He would go in and out of his room, sometimes smoking, sometimes on a phone call. I didn't want to bring out dumbbells from the room and load in the car while he is overlooking. He would think I'm crazy, some fitness freak that I carry my dumbbells around. I waited for him to go in his room when I'd quickly transfer the weights. By this time the stench had subsided a bit. So I took a dump, brushed my teeths, showered and packed my bags. I left the motel around 8am with a fear that I might be charged for the AC problem, I cursed myself to have used my credit card when I could've used cash to pay. Although they'd have asked for my credit card for security purpose as is common with other hotels.
Alright. First stop was Oklahoma City. The national cowboy and western heritage museum was the one on my list before I started for 66. Went in there after couple hours of driving. I had trouble finding parking spot which was strange to me, considering this was Friday morning and that too, its a museum! The museum was okay. There were some cowboys stories, models, paintings etc none of them interested me that much. It was a huge place. I don't know if we have too much of cowboy stuff to occupy this huge place. I didn't learn much from here. It was a decent stopover, for my restroom needs.

It was lunch time when I came out of the museum. I found out a decent mexican restaurant in the heart of Oklahoma city downtown and went there. After lunch I took a wee bit of stroll in the downtown area. One of the best things I liked in Chicago was taking a walk down Michigan Ave. The 2mi stretch from the loop to the Oak street beach is the pulse of Chicago. Such a vibrant street, full of life. Always bustling with people. After Times Sq in NY, this is definitely my favorite place when it comes to taking a stroll. The best thing of living in a city like Chicago is that you get to walk a stretch and feel the beauty of the place. There never goes a day when I've not regretted living in the heart of Chicago. It was only during the weekends that I'd visit the City, stay in Ritesh's place, and explore. Chicago can never get boring for me, even if I had to walk down that stretch of Michigan Ave everyday. Its a new feeling everytime. I can't really explain whats so amazing about that street. Is it the loads of stores lining up on both sides of it, is it the skyscrapers gracing over it or is it the thousands of people, young and old, beautiful and more beautiful, who walk on the sidewalks, tourists and citizens alike, all sorts of fashion, summer fall winter or spring or may be its everything together. Ah beauty.

I took a walk in the city downtown. Skyscrapers, parks, traffic, alleys, hotels, banks. Mom called me while I was enjoying the city. I got into a little bit of heated argument with her. She kept asking me about any marriage proposals and if the girl I'm currently talking to is a cheat and probably wants my money so I need to be careful. The argument didn't end well. Mom is very suspicious of everyone while I give people the benefit of doubt first until they do or say something that breaks trust. After the call, I thought to swing by a nearby Bank of America ATM to get some cash on my hand. Almost all of the places I use the card but just to be safe, I like to keep some cash around especially during travelling when there are chances of toll roads.

Next stop was The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX. It was another 3-4hrs of drive with nothing in between. I filled up the gas, stocked myself with some water bottles and gatorades, some nuts and snacks etc and started the drive. Again the weather was excellent. Cloudy. Just the way I want for a long drive.During driving, I'd manage to take some pictures. I had two cameras on me. A Samsung digicam which I bought when I worked in Samsung, back in 2007. Its 7.2MPixel which was enough for me for general purpose stuff. I'm not much of a photographer, I manage to take shots as and when I see a nice view without much care about the lighting, angle, zoom etc. The second camera was from my smartphone, again Samsung Galaxy, 13mpixel. Taking pictures from the phone while driving was not comfortable and not safe at all. I have to keep one hand on the steering wheel and take the picture with the other hand. The tap button in the phone camera is at the bottom and it was tricky to tap the screen while holding the phone. Only if I had few more fingers, additional thumbs, it would've helped. With that regard, the Samsung digicam was handy. I could take snaps with one hand as the way to hold the camera allowed me to press the click button which is at the top.

I reached Amarillo around 5pm. I could've driven few more miles but looking at my plans I decided to stay the night here. Many of my next attractions were nearby and it was getting dark. I don't think they would have looked pretty in dark so thought to stay the night and visit them the following day. For dinner, the Steak Ranch was obvious choice. Talk to two birds in one stone. I stayed in Super8 again after my first night experience. No more experiments staying new places. Took a shower, browsed the internet a bit and then headed to the Texan Steak Ranch.

It was a mixed crowd there. Young and old. I took a seat in the bar and the serving lady passed me the menu. She was very very pretty. Caucasian, clear skin, not a single mark. Blonde with blue eyes and blood red lips. She was a beauty and with that southern accent, she was killing me. This the thing about accents though. Florida has a bit of accent but I didn't like it much when I was there. But talk about the Southern accent, it gets me. My favorite accent is British by the way. I can't explain but I have an affinity for it. If there is a damsel who speaks British, I can just listen to her talk all day without getting bored for a moment. The British variant accent like Irish or Scottish accents are pleasing to my ears too. After these definitely comes the Southern accent. Of the accents I don't fancy would be Russian or Spanish people speaking English. The English is barely understandable and the words are heavy with accents. Indian or African accent is average category, at least they pronounce the English words stressing the 'R' and 'T' or 'D' etc so the words sound a bit clear hence its better understandable. The Australian/New Zealand/South African accent would come net after Southern, which gets me. Beautiful women, and with an accent, that's a perfect life, isn't it.

I just ogled at the serving lady while eating my dinner. I lend her all my ears whenever she talked with any customers. I appreciate beauty and women are the epitome of beauty. I finished my dinner and thought to strike a conversation with someone but all around me were old people. Also, no one took the Steak eating challenge while I was there. This was the specialty of this place. If you could eat the 72oz steak in an hour, you can have it for free. I didn't know how much it would cost otherwise. I should have checked the price in the menu but I guess I was just distracted by the beauty at the other side of the bar.

Came out of the Ranch and thought to visit a local bar. I don't remember the name. I went in there. The place was alright. Not much crowded but not barren as well. There were four ladies serving. Two were behind the bar while the other two were roaming around lounge and pool area taking orders. They'd come to the bar, ask for so and so drink, pay at the bar to the lady there, then take the drink to the person who ordered. That person would pay her then. I thought this was a nice system. The older lady in the bar did indeed looked like a Big Boss figure. She would hand out the drink and take the money from other ladies, and the other ladies, which looked much younger than her, indeed looked like serving the Big Boss. Paying her the money meekly.

I took a picture with the Big Boss, had a few small talk with other ladies, then left. Time to call it a day. So far the trip has been going good.

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