Road Trip 2008: Day 14, Vonnegut and the Vikings


“Always rise to an early meal, but eat your fill before a feast.
If you’re hungry you have no time to talk at the table.”
Odin from the Hávamál”

By the time we reached Malcolm’s, the sweat from the concert had dried, yet we decided to go to bed, stinky and all.  I fell asleep instantly, completely worn out from the evening of ultra-violence.

The next morning we went out for our last breakfast at a place called “Twisters”, kind of a poor man’s “Chipotle” (yes, we were going for breakfast burritos).  Paul and Malcolm relished their last tortilla based meal together, talking about their college days and even a little about how underrated Tom Arnold is as a comedic actor.

“Dude, we could bring back the Tom Arnold Schwarzenegger connection! You can be the tough Arnold character, and I’ll be the funny sidekick.”

Outside we said our goodbyes and thanked Malcolm for his hospitality and returned to the road.  Our days of rest at Beorn’s had refueled us, heading back out on our adventure in search of strange music and exotic brews.

The Next Tom Arnold Schwarzenegger Connection

We headed into downtown Denver and decided to check out Wax Trax, a record store nestled amidst the ghetto.  We found it by accident the night before while searching for Bush and Bull Pub.  The ratty outside appearance intrigued both of us.  The inside was much homier than the exterior with posters and CDs lining the walls.  As Paul began his meticulous scouring, I roamed the used CD section and discovered Dinosaur Jr’s “Where You Been” for five bucks, a CD my brother owned over a decade ago.  I listened to the disc endlessly, enjoying J. Mascis and his boistrous guitar while playing Madden 95 on Super Nintendo. The songs on that album still conjure up images of a pixilated Cris Carter running for a touchdown.

I ended up buying some more CDs, and Paul made his visit quick, only picking up another five or so albums.  On our way back to the car we passed a quaint little bookstore and decided to take a quick look.  Inside I found myself entranced by the selection of Kurt Vonnegut books, the majority of them being in original hardback, mint condition. It had been almost a year since I had read any Vonnegut, so you can imagine how tempted I was to purchase an original hardback version of Blackbeard, a book my friend Eric recommended to me.  As I pondered spending more money (I had already spent 50 dollars at Wax Trax), Paul approached the counter with a handful of books by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

The clerk said to Paul, ” So you’re a Philip K. Dick fan?”

“Yeah, I love Dick,” Paul responded. I wasn’t sure if he said this on purpose, but I held my laughter down to a snicker from behind the Vonnegut shelf.  Once the “Dick-Lover” paid for his purchases, I decided Bluebeard could wait and followed Paul to the door.  As I passed the counter I caught a glimpse of a t-shirt with a picture of a trout on the front and the words “Kilgore Used Book’s and Comics”.

Two steps out the door I made the connection.  Kilgore….Trout….Kilgore….Trout…. “KILGORE TROUT!”

Paul turned to me, “What?”

“Kilgore Trout! That’s the name of a recurring character in Vonnegut’s books. Dude, they named their store after Kilgore Trout!” Before Paul could respond, I was heading back into the store on a mission: get a Kilgore Trout t-shirt.  I approached the counter blurting out, “Is your store named after the Vonnegut character?”

A smile grew on the clerk’s acne covered face, as he nodded and said, “A ha, you got it.  Most people don’t.  I take it you’re a Vonnegut fan?”

I went on to gush about the late great author for a few minutes, and then threw a t-shirt up on the counter for purchase. That day, my “Kilgore Trout” t-shirt officially took the top spot of my coolest t-shirt roster, closely squeaking past my “ELC Midget Special Olympics” t-shirt (my high school mascot was a Midget).

What's cooler? An obscure reference to a Vonnegut character or an unintentionally humorous take on the Midget Special Olympics?

After paying for my new shirt, Paul and I returned to the Element and drove north towards Boulder through Denver’s afternoon traffic.  Paul thought we should hang out in Boulder for the afternoon, and then hit a couple breweries before camping for the night.  We arrived in downtown Boulder and parked on a side street so we could roam Pearl Street that sunny afternoon. We didn’t have any purpose set other than to enjoy the hippie atmosphere and admire the college women sauntering about.  We hadn’t been a part of civilization for a few weeks, so upon first sight of a few attractive girls, we began behaving like Encino Man, stalking and sniffing the civilized females around us.

"Life's about greasing the 'do back, buddy, and wheezin' on the buff-fest, man."

As we meander through the street performers, hippies with petitions for Darfur, and street stands selling tie-dye shirts, Paul would turn to me occasionally and say, “Dude, did you see that chick?”

And each time, I would turn to him in confusion and ask, “Which chick?” I would then turn around to see the backside of a ratty haired hippie chick wearing one of those earth child, renaissance, nature dresses.  I knew I hadn’t lost my radar for attractive women over the duration of our trip. In fact, my sensors were on high-alert due to the lack of women over the duration of the trip.  As our walk continued, I made sure to take better notice of the women that passed.

Paul continued his occasional exclamation of, “Did you see her?!” and with each girl he pointed out, I began to come to a realization.  Every one of these “attractive” women he pointed out were wearing the same style hippie, moo-moo dress.  I didn’t say anything to him, but began searching out girls who looked like they raided Mother Earth’s closet. Lo and behold, my theory rang true. Each time a girl with unshaved armpits walked by in one of these dresses, Paul would turn to me and profess her hotness.

It's totally hot in a "I bought this material on clearance at JoAnn's Fabrics" kind of way.

As we neared the end of the street a tall Asian girl in her hippie gear approached us.  Her face was a disaster area, with her wide nose, flared nostrils, beady eyes, and a drive-in movie theater forehead all disproportionately placed upon her greasy face, flat as a frying pan.  I began to grin, knowing she was the true litmus test for my theory that Paul responded to hippie dresses like Pavlov’s dog.  As hypothesized, once the monster passed, Paul turned to me saying, “Tell me you saw that hotty.”

“Seriously?! She was nasty!” I answered.

“Are you kidding?” he said in shock.

“Sorry, but I have this weird attraction to faces.”

“You’re crazy; she was gorgeous,” he said, dismissing my opinion.

“Dude, you would be attracted to a turd if it was wearing a hippie dress.”  He didn’t like this assertion, and decided my hormones must have somehow evaporated in the mountains, turning me into some type of balding androgynous freak.

By the time we got back to the car, Paul was acting grumpy, probably due to my ribbing.  Once inside the car I asked, “So you want to go to that Meadery outside of town?”

“Eh,” he noncommittally answered.  He seemed unenthused. I didn’t care; we were going to the meadery. I’d never tasted the ancient wine that I imagined that Beowulf and the Vikings chugged while playing Mead Pong in some ancient temple basement.

When we pulled into the mini-mall where the Redstone Meadery was located, Paul mentioned that he might stay in the car and take a nap.  My response? “You have to come in.  It’s mead, dude; fucking mead!”

Much to his chagrin, Paul joined me.  Inside we were greeted by a waif of a man, asking us in an effeminate voice, “Would you gentlemen like to sample some of our mead?”  It’s not often that you get such a proposition, so we both bellied up to the taster’s bar.

After giving us a brief history of the honey based wine, he began leading us through the gauntlet of mead: meads that tasted like wines ranging from the pinot to the red; meads that tasted like beer from the amber to the hoppy; meads that tasted like candy from the Bit O’ Honey to the Shock Tarts, meads that tasted like preserves from the raspberry to the boysenberry.   By the time we had finished, we’d tasted 15 different varieties of mead, and as you can imagine, we were feeling pretty good. Paul’s grumpy attitude, just like the mead, was a thing of the past.

We both bought a bottle of the nectar of the God’s and returned to the car, feeling both slightly buzzed.  Giddy from our trip down meadery lane, we giggled the entire drive north to Longmont where we planned to visit Left Hand Brewing Company.  I’d tasted a few Left Hand brews over the years and always enjoyed what they had to offer.

Paul and his loyal left hand.

Once we located the bar, we made our way inside, where we found a rustic atmosphere and a large crowd of drinkers.  We plopped down at a table and began sampling the beers on tap, one after another.  At that point, I don’t recall any beer being better than the other, but I distinctly remember enjoying every pint that came to our table (even the ginger beer Paul ordered).

With the combination of mead and Left Hand beer pumping through our blood, we rambled like school girls about our past fuck-ups and laughed about the idiocy that was created when the two of us joined forces with Tony back in college.  We lost track of time, and two hours later the Left Hand brews were going down easily.  By the time we stumbled out of the brewery, the sun had set and we were faced with the task of finding a place to set up camp in the dark.  Fortunately, we were feeling too good to care about the difficult task ahead.

We drove the winding road north toward Estes, and came upon a hiking trail, where we parked the car.  We filled our packs quickly by dome light, and began hiking up a path we could barely see in the moonlight.  15 minutes into our drunken hike, we came upon a camping area.  We found a flat spot hidden by trees and set up camp by flashlight.  We had little trouble assembling the tent; at that point in the trip we could have done it blindfolded.  Since we hadn’t eaten since our breakfast burritos with Malcolm, we needed to get a fire going, so we could enjoy a late night soup.  Paul searched for rocks while I gathered wood. When I had enough wood, I grabbed a rock and completed our rock circle for the blaze. Soon, we had ourselves a crackling fire to cook our soup upon.

Guess which rock I grabbed...

Still both feeling pretty good, we continued giggling through the night, talking about our trip that was coming to an end in a few days.  When thinking about that afternoon, Paul mentioned, “That mead was amazing! That might be my favorite stop yet. We gotta go to another meadery tomorrow; I think there’s one in Denver.”

I smiled as I looked into the flames, nodded my head, and said, “I told you dude: mead; fucking mead.”

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