Cross-country road trip, resurrected (#3)

*This post originally appeared on theday.com on July 12th, 2007.

On Heat and Meat

I promised myself I wouldn’t blog about the heat until Louisiana, or Texas. But it is an animal, even here in the upper south. It feeds on our flesh and sucks at our innards.

At a St. Louis Cardinals game the other day I literally watched Will’s arms bake. My arms burned and his arms baked.

I could hear the heat ringing in the metal bleachers around Busch Stadium.[i] And I could hear Will’s arms sizzle.

We contemplated turning around, so we could cook slightly more rotisserie style. Instead, only the topsides of our arms got scorched.

“I look like an action figure,” Will said after the game. “Like my arms have been artificially attached.”

I might be offending baseball purists here, but they shouldn’t allow day games in the Midwest. It was almost too hot to drink beer.

We’ve come up with some creative ways to beat the heat. Will has started to bathe in water fountains. I’m still holding out. We spent yesterday in a cave, a huge one in the Onondaga State Park in Missouri. Apparently Missouri is the “cave state.” They’re everywhere, and they’re all about a dreamy 57 degrees Fahrenheit, the mean temperature above ground. We stayed cool as amphibians and we learned a lot too. I might start basing our route more around caves.

That afternoon I experienced the heat of the south in a life-changing way. For some reason Will and I decided that since we were in the south we might as well start dipping tobacco. Bad idea. I’m not used to it. I don’t know how anyone is. It’s horrible.

I stumbled, sweaty and dizzy, out of our car into a convenience store in Southern Missouri to get some bread. I couldn’t think straight. But the air-conditioning of the store soothed me. I spent ten minutes in there clearing my head and cooling my bones.

When I exited the door the heat hit me like a mack truck. It slammed my face and squeezed my lungs. The world spun. Somewhere to my left I caught a glimpse of one of the whitest, fattest, greasiest bellies I’ve ever seen in my life. It sat in a rusty pick up truck.

A powerful urge to vomit overtook me. I hung over a garbage can for a while. I’m not sure how I held it in.

I don’t mean this as a criticism of the south or overweight people in general. I don’t know if there are more overweight people down here, but there are certainly more shirtless overweight people. The man should have had a shirt on, but maybe he knows more about the heat than I ever will.

A while after this we ran into a rainstorm. It cut the temperature in half.

We picked up one of Will’s friends, Pimp (I’ll explain later), in Little Rock and headed off to the Riverfest Amphitheatre, one of the most accessible and beautiful concert venues I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending, to watch a Widespread Panic show. If you don’t know them they’re a great southern rock band—a little folk, a little blues, and a lot of jam. Maybe too much for a lot of people. A lot of ex-Phish followers.

We are in a hole in the wall joint called the Poet’s Café in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Will just ordered a one-dollar chili-dog. We’ve eaten a lot of chili-dogs so far. The best, hands down, came in Eastern Kentucky. The chili was homemade and we cooked the “smokehouse” dogs over an open fire.

Will just said the dog was “amazing.”

“Each one gets better.”


[i] Our original plan was to catch Bonds’ record-breaking home run ball, and then maybe retire. We mis-timed it slightly. And we ended up with two extra tickets that we couldn’t even give away. So we’re now eighty bucks poorer.

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