One Pack. No Turning Back.

Number of miles driven today: 116

Total miles driven on road trip: 3,030

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Starbucks. Yawn.

Number of days on trip won by Starbucks: 14 out of 14

Cheapest gas I saw today: $2.39

Number of states visited overall: 5

Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 3 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma)

Number of blue states visited overall: 2 (California, New Mexico)

Percentage of incidents in the Elk City police blotter relating to animals: 30

Type of lettuce available at the Home Cookin' Cafe attached to the Econo Lodge in Elk City: Iceberg only




For the first time on the trip, I found myself firmly in iceberg lettuce country today.


What is iceberg lettuce country? It's where the default lettuce in every salad is iceberg. Usually this also means that your side of green beans is coming straight out of a can, the smallest size steak is 10 ounces, and the vegetarian menu consists of parsley. Ethnic diversity consists of blonde, dirty blonde, and strawberry blonde. I turn heads walking into every restaurant and store, my tar-black thick head of hair and half Filipino complexion a jarring departure from the usual amber waves of the heartland.


This is western, rural Oklahoma, where cattle, oil, and wheat rule supreme. This is also where Don Carman (see his high school senior year portrait from his mom's house above), card # 7 in the pack and also my favorite player growing up (so I have a clear and unequivocal bias in writing about him that I'm not ashamed to admit), spent his childhood. I won't get to see Carman until next week in Naples, Florida, but his upbringing in nowhere Oklahoma was so distinct and so different from some of the other guys in the pack (think Al Cowens growing up in Compton) that it merited a complete detour on this trip. Taking a different route with the 3,030 miles I've driven so far, I could already have made it from Oakland to my hometown of Greenville, Rhode Island. Instead, I drove due west today and am only in Oklahoma. But the wax pack is calling the shots here.


I can't imagine the grind of  a Major League baseball season. They play 162 games, 30 spring training games, plus up to 20 postseason games over a nine-month span. Pulling my Honda Accord into the Econo Lodge parking lot in Elk City after only two weeks on the road, I barely had the energy to turn off the ignition. I wanted to just slump over in the driver's seat and face-plant into my Toto CD. 


Now let me say up front that I am not delusional in writing about my problems here. I know, beyond a shadow of any doubt, that my issues are entirely and unequivocally first-world. I am not living in Syria or Sierra Leone. I have clothes on my back, food on my plate, and a roof over my head. I am lucky to have been born into the situation I was born into, and have tried to always make the most of that and not take it for granted. So when I talk about my struggles, it's with full recognition that I'm spoiled.


But goddamn I'm tired. I shuffled into my room and was instantly hit by the dissonant odor of dirty socks mixed with cherries. The maroon carpet showed the scars of many beer binges and highway trysts. I threw my bags down and jumped into the bed, wrapping myself in the sheets. I didn't care that they felt clammy against my skin. I longed for my bedroom back in Oakland, surrounded by comforting images of the Iron Sheik and Star Wars figures on the wall. Instead all I had to look at was a reprint of a reprint of some generic prairie, yellowed and dank.


Like I said, #firstworldproblems.


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Day 14: Oklahoma City, OK to Elk City, OK, 7.2.15

WAX PACK