Photo Credit: nicole_cipri
“Holy shit, it looks like ManBearPig,” I said, upon seeing the alarmingly swollen luggage at baggage claim. And so, ManBearPig it became, the object of curses and exhortations when hauling it into or out of the trunk of our rental car, the butt of our jokes and the cause of several confused looks when we tried to explain our humor to anyone else.
So it goes with road trips. Spend five days sharing a rented Chevy Cruze (quickly renamed the Gay Cruze) with another person, and you create a subculture of two.
There’s a mania that comes with travel, a hyperactive clarity of thought that fades and fuzzes once you’re back in the real world. I feel like being on the move makes me a better version of myself: weirder, funnier, happier. Less productive. Less stressed. More part of something, though I have trouble defining what. I don’t care if strangers have opinions on my unshaved legs, I don’t check Twitter and a perfect morning involves multiple cups of tea and singing Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” at the top of our lungs. In my memory, our travels happen in a series of snapshots, focused in on a shared joke, the light on a body of water, the anticipation before a shared meal.
Kate and I have taken four road trips together in our two and a half years of friendship. The first three were in Middle America, places where a former coastal dweller like myself would never think to go: La Crosse and the House on the Rock in Wisconsin; Graceland in Memphis and the CityMuseum in St. Louis; circumnavigating Lake Michigan. This latest one, though, was on my turf. I spent four years living in Olympia, Washington, making frequent trips into Oregon to visit friends in Portland and on the coast. I’d convinced Kate to come out with me with promises of the Oregon coast’s beauty and the penis-shaped donuts at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland. (They’re covered in chocolate frosting and, of course, filled with creme.)
Travel–you may have picked this up from some previous columns–makes me hungry. Movement equals appetite. How else to explain this most recent trip, where my first major purchase was lunch at a sushi restaurant where the food went around on a conveyor belt, and my second was a giant jar of Nutella and a bottle of Dickel Tennessee Whisky? Would I have crossed three lines of traffic (two for cars, one for bikes) for a huddle of food trucks if I weren’t traveling? Probably, but food carts barely exist in Chicago and sushi restaurants with conveyor belts definitely don’t. (I’ve looked. Apparently, they’re in the suburbs, but not the city itself. Ugh.)
This, among other reasons, might be why Kate and I are such good travel partners. We’re hungry in the same way, and we let our stomachs lead us. We always have room for dessert.
For example: our last day in Oregon, after awkwardly walking up to the Goonies House in Astoria for a few photos, we wandered over to Geno’s Pizza and Burgers. The joint looked like it was preserved from 1990, with red vinyl booths and newspaper clippings featuring local sports teams (Go Astoria Fishermen!) on the walls. Kate and I were starving, and shoveled cheesy bread and sodas and burgers down our throats with abandon. I was deliberating on desert–Kate had already chosen to get the hot cookie sundae, but I was contemplating ordering a slice of merionberry pie as well. It’s just as well that I didn’t; the cookie was baked fresh in its own five-inch pan, three scoops of ice cream melting on top. The waitress–one of those lifers in food-service–joked with us as she set it down. Kate and I were both groaning in delight and pain as we finished it off.
“Done,” I agreed. We’d been having this conversation for most of the day, and driving away, back towards Portland and the airport–and by extension, the Midwest, our lives, obligations, apartments, cats, bills, jobs, overdue library books–we made vague early retirement plans involving houseboats and banjos.
We didn’t get to Voodoo Doughnuts until late that evening, just as the sun was setting in Portland, and we didn’t eat them until later that night, in our slightly creepy motel room by the airport. Kate put on some energetic bluegrass to repack to while I unwrapped the pink box. I hate being photographed but insisted that Kate take multiple snaps of me eating a penis-shaped donut, giggling through the shots and barely managing to eat a few of its well-endowed inches.
It’s too much, I kept insisting to Kate. It’s too big. You have eat at least one of the testicles. There were raunchy jokes and terrible puns and banjos playing in the background, and the last few sips from the bottle of Dickel. It was all too much for one person, the trip and the cock-shaped donut both; they were things that were meant to be shared.
Or, as Kate put it: Love means never having to eat your cock-n-balls donut alone.