Thursday, April 22, 2010

COLUMN: Missouri Pt. 1

A column subtitled:

Shane's Manly Tales of Extreme Manliness, Chapter 214.

The other day, an amazing event occurred. My girlfriend and I both had the same day off work. That it also landed on the first official Really Nice Day of 2010 was a double bonus. Plans, if you could call them as such, were hastily made. Two people, one car, a full tank of gas, and no rules whatsoever. It was the inaugural spring aimless drive.

We reached my target destination in no time at all: Nauvoo, IL. Not only is Nauvoo a really cool historical town with loads to see and do, but just south of town, the Great River Road runs directly alongside the Mississippi for a beautiful stretch of ten miles or so. As the sun casts its reflection off the rolling river, it's the perfect opportunity for silent meditation. A moment to be thankful for the inherent good of nature. To cast aside material problems and take stock in what truly matters in life. A moment of pure --


Well, I was thinking more esoterically, sure, but maybe life IS like one big tur --


I quickly ascertained that my girlfriend had NOT come down with a sudden case of crazy, but you wouldn't know it by the way she was suddenly screaming and flailing at every passing log.

"There's turtles everywhere! Pull over!"

Greeeeat. Twenty bajillion girls on the planet, and of COURSE I pick the one with a previously undisclosed disposition towards hallucinations. Still, I pulled over to appease her, as her eyes had by now lit up Christmas-morning style. I tried to explain to her that she was probably just seeing rocks along the river bank, but she was too busy dragging me by my sleeve to the river's edge. That's when I, too, realized what I was seeing.

Along the shores of the river, every floating log, branch, and debris pile was COVERED in turtles. Big turtles, little turtles, in-between turtles. HUNDREDS upon HUNDREDS of turtles. And they were all just kinda... hangin' out. Chilling in the spring sunshine with their little turtle necks stretched all the way out. I have seen loads of things in my day, but never before had I seen a turtle block party. Amy took tons of pictures while I wondered if there was ever a "Night of the Living Turtles" movie and whether or not this was how it started.

Eventually, we'd scared half the cute things into the water, so we figured we'd get back on the road and let the turtles get back to their turtling. As we went back into roadtrip mode, it was the perfect time to relax, soak up the sun, and coast along in a bliss of nature and relaxation and --


I would estimate that it took approximately three tenths of a second for me to spin my head to my right to see exactly why Amy was screaming at full volume. It must be noted that in those three tenths of a second, I created the entire plotline for the remainder of the "Night of the Living Turtles" movie (and it did NOT bode well for us, it must be said.) But I did not see a turtle. Instead, I spun in just enough time to Amy flick something off of her neck and directly onto my shirt. It was black. It was about an inch long. It was MOVING. And now, it was on ME.


"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! IT'S ON ME!!!!" I shrieked back.

The car, it must be said at this point, somehow miraculously managed to keep driving itself straight. I certainly had nothing to do with this fact. I was too busy taking a hurried glance at the thing CRAWLING UP MY SHIRT.

These are the facts as I now recall them: It had wings, pinchers, fangs, horns, stingers, claws, a gleaming smile, and a clear and discernable taste for human blood. I did what any macho guy would do - I screamed until my girlfriend flicked it off of my shirt and into the abyss of my car.

We got out and looked, but no sign of our insect intruder. It had VANISHED. We got back in the car. Suddenly my whole body started to itch. The mystery bug was anywhere and everywhere. I felt phantom crawls all over my body.

"It must be dead," said Amy reassuringly.

"Or plotting how to best inject its devil poison straight into our jugulars," I replied.

Still, we kept driving. In the bug panic, I had somehow gotten the car into the wrong lane, crossed the river at Keokuk into Iowa, and next thing I knew, we were in Missouri. Worse yet, a few miles into the Show-Me State, the Great River Road turned into Not-So-Great Road Construction, complete with a weird detour that forced us down a country road so small and winding that my GPS at one point indicated that we were driving through a lake.

Finally, the detour spat us out on a highway headed into Hannibal, home of Mark Twain and riverboat culture. Surely there must be a great restaurant to get some dinner, right? (More on this next week.) Let me just merge on over to make the turnoff. Signal, mirrors, blind spot...

And as I turned to check the blind spot, I was nose-to-nose with Harvey the Death Bug, perched on my left shoulder, one evil antennae in the air as if to say, "Whassup, yo?"

Here is where our stories differentiate. What I believe I said was this: "Say, honey, that pesky insect from before is now on my left shoulder. Could you reach around and flick it off while I navigate this turn?"

What Amy believes I said was this: "OMIGOD-IT'S-ONNNN-MEEEE-GETITOFF-GETITOFF-GETITOFF-I'M-GONNA-DIIEEEEEEEEEE!" Perhaps I must've been choked up on my own brute machismo.

I swerved off the road, threw on the brakes, jumped out of the car, and did a manly dance I like to call the Ewww Shuffle while frisking myself more egregiously than any cop show I've ever seen. The truth was ugly. It was gone... again. It was in the car... again.

It wasn't until an hour after dinner that Amy spotted our stowaway friend crawling up the back seat. This time, we had ample and safe opportunity to pull over, take my shoe off, whallop the thing mercilessly, and throw it and the napkin I smooshed it in right out the door. (Yes, Missouri, I littered and I feel horrible about it. But it was clearly life or death at this point.) And I kid you not, as that napkin hit the ground, I saw that evil bug scutter out, smooshed but breathing, dragging itself rapidly towards the car with its one good claw, its eyes still hell-bent on our destruction. I threw the car into gear and peeled out of there like the wind. From a distance, I'm pretty sure it looked totally manly.

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