Sunday, May 27, 2001... Greetings from Hartsdale, New York, where a six-inch pile of mail awaited me upon my return home. I won't be on the road again until...this Saturday, when I head to Cooperstown to begin working through nine months of arcane research queries.

Worst-named Website, spotted on a billboard in central California: Not an escort service -- it's a process server. And I bet no woman named Susan has ever even applied for a job there...

The last day of the trip peaked early - -about 10 minutes into the drive south, when I stopped to photograph Bakersfield's shoe-shaped shoe repair store. Deschwanden's Shoe Repair, Bakersfield, CA I had a list of similar structures in and around Los Angeles, and planned to spend an hour or so running 'em down...but when I crossed the mountains into the San Fernando Valley, I descended into fog and light drizzle that ruined the day for photography. Since Los Angeles in the rain and fog is like hell with an auxiliary furnace lit, I headed right to the airport.

The rental car return went fine -- Hertz didn't even blink at the mileage on the car, which had nearly doubled in the nine days I had it. My bill came to 4.2 cents/mile, not counting the full tank of gas I'd purchased. Somehow I still haven't been blacklisted by rental-car companies which have come to learn my expansive definition of "unlimited mileage"...though to be fair, this car, unlike the one victimized on last summer's Oregon Trail trip, nearly always stayed on paved roads.

With time to kill and an airline meal to look forward to, I stopped in a Chili's Restaurant 20 yards from my gate. My flight was to board at 12:30; I was seated at 11:45. Plenty of time, right? Ha. Even though the place was less than half full, it took 15 minutes for the waiter to take my order, another 15-20 for him to bring my food, and judging from the looks at other tables, I wasn't the only one out of patience. Imagine that -- people eating in an airport restaurant located past the security checkpoint might be in some kind of hurry!

Had I known where I'd be seated on the plane, I might have lingered long enough to miss the flight. I was crammed into the tiniest row on the plane, wedged between a bulkhead row with about 2' of legroom and an exit row with about 2-1/2' of legroom. I had about 6" of legroom...and for good measure, because I was in front of an emergency exit the seat wouldn't recline. To complete the experience, the next seat was occupied by a 60ish Hispanic woman who knew about 50 words of English, and whose first act upon arrival was to apply a particularly fragrant hand cream.

But I'm home and more or less unpacked...though also more or less on Pacific time, which could be a real problem Tuesday. The next "real" road trip will come the week before, or the week of, Labor Day. Prospective routes include the Pacific Northwest or Atlantic Canada...but not US 99, which, at least in California, is a spring-only trip. (The Central Valley was 95 degrees late yesterday afternoon -- no way will I venture through there in August.)

And I will try to get a photo gallery/Web site up and running before then. Watch your e-mail for announcements.


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