The High and the Low: Road Rules
Why a great road trip is often all about the right pit stops
I should begin (with apologies to Robert Frost) with the roads—and the road trips—that should not have been taken. The great majority of these were embarked upon during my college career in Washington, D.C., almost always in the company of my roommate Anne Flaherty, and invariably featured inappropriate departure times, insufficient funds, improper nourishment, and absolutely no preparation (not to mention the occasional substance or two that might prevent either one of us from ever running for public office if we inexplicably got the urge). Anne is one of those deceptively “nice” Irish Catholic girls from Boston who was eager to head South, where she had never been. I had learned to drive on the back roads of the Mississippi Delta at age twelve and had a fast car with five speeds and a sunroof. Together, we were an accident that—astonishingly—never happened.
We went home, for example, to my parents’ house for Christmas in a blizzard, having set off after dark armed only with a bottle of sherry, a can of smoked almonds, seven dollars, and Anne’s father’s Amoco credit card. We went to Kentucky to get a friend out of jail, a trip notable for the discovery of the Hardee’s breakfast biscuit, then in its infancy, and the fact that I had ingested enough of something or other to be convinced that the denizens of the West Virginia town where we stopped for beer and a bathroom had only one eye, in the center of their foreheads. “It’s really true what they say about these people,” I kept saying over and over to my already freaked-out traveling companions. “It must be what happens with all that inbreeding.”
Or not. It is, in fact, what happens to adolescents who grow up subscribing to the Rolling Stone of the Hunter Thompson era. To us, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was not a cautionary tale or even simply a screamingly funny read, but a guidebook we could not wait to get old enough to follow. If we had known how in the world to get our hands on some ether, a Thompson favorite, I feel sure we would have brought that too.