Bits Goes to EMA: Day Four - Meteor Crater, Here We Come!
Doogan here. Bill has asked me to chime on in with our official
coverage of EMA Day Four, which is a safe bet for him considering
there's no real coverage of the show going on this day; so the PR
folks with the studios won't be mad that I missed something. This
was the vacation portion of the trip for all three of us - where the
real fun began. Sadly, it was the most tiring day of the whole
trip... but man, was it worth it.
Day Four started out as any day should, with a hearty breakfast. I
decided to take the lead and announce that we were going to a
buffet. I needed a better breakfast than what was available at the
Venetian food court or the Denny's next door. Jahnke said that he
thought he saw a buffet at the nearby Harrah's Hotel and Casino
during his zombie walk the night before. We quickly figured that any
casino built around bringing older people to Vegas HAD to have a
cool buffet... so onward ho! we went. Sure enough, Jahnke was (and
still is) a effin' genius. Harrah's had the greatest breakfast
buffet in all the land. Making it even better, as we stood in line,
a nice Casino lady asked us if we wanted $5 off in exchange for all
our personal information. Hey, it seemed like a fair trade at the
time. I guess we'll see later how wise a move this was, after we see
what kind of mail we get sent to the various Digital
Breakfast was a grand affair: Cheesy eggs, sausage, bacon, french
toast and juice was had by all in repeated servings. After
breakfast, we headed back up to the room to gather our stuff. Then,
after a quick stop off to leave what happened in Vegas in Vegas (if
you know what I'm talkin' about), we jumped on the road and headed
toward a big hole in the middle of Arizona. On a side note, all
during the whole conference experience, I kept asking Bill and
Jahnke if there was a quicker why into our area of the hotel,
because man, was it a hike. They would tell me no, and I would just
mutter; "That just can't be possible. Only one way in?"
Well sure enough, on the way out, Jahnke spied this hidden hallway
that would have shaved like 10 minutes of time off our repeated "to
the room" travel. Figures. Time check: 11:45 AM.
Now, it's important to know that our original Day Four plan, which
we all wholeheartedly signed onto I might add, was to roadtrip to
Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, New Mexico to
see the final resting place of a hero of the three of ours:
the Astrochimp - the first chimp who made it into outer space.
He was the commander of Mercury-Redstone 2, an early NASA mission
that's near and dear to us. After that, we were going to swing by
Roswell to check out the infamous alien crash site and
Museum, and then head back to Nevada for some quick Area 51
touring. I guess we figured we'd maybe get a picture of Jahnke
hitting the famed Black Mailbox with a bat or something. But
thankfully, Sarah's impeccable trip-planners logic (and her good
common sense) prevailed. You see... our original plans would have
called for a trip of something like 27 hours on the road (not
including tour time) and about $250 in gas. So we wisely decided to
scale the trip down a bit and do the
Dam and Meteor
Crater in Arizona instead. It turned out to be a good thing.
As it was, our scaled down trip took something like two-thirds of
that time and money. We soon realized that those extra hours on the
road would have killed us.
Anyway, all good road trips need music, so the three of us each
brought our iPods along. Bill voted me roadtrip DJ, with Jahnke
serving as backseat navigator. I love music. And I seem to have a
story, fact or idea about every single song I own, so I would just
play a song, rattle off a thing - apologize for doing so - and do it
all over again, like a continuous audio commentary. I never realized
I did this as much as I do, until Jahnke and Bill pointed it out
about 3 hours into the trip. Apparently, I need a radio show.
Thankfully, the music would soon take a backseat to the grandeur of
the Hoover Dam.
I'd never been to the Dam before. And honestly, I don't really know
if I was EVER actually there, because the thing about the Hoover Dam
is; you can't see the damn thing. You're on it. So unless you twist
yourself and kinda hang over the side precariously, all you see is a
gift shop, a parking ramp and concrete road surrounded by jagged
canyon rocks. So that was a bit disappointing. But we did get to see
Oskar Hansen's Winged Figures of the Republic and rubbed their toes
for luck. Jahnke pointed out they must not really be all that lucky
or 114 people wouldn't have died making the Dam. That Jahnke is a
true optimist. Of course, we all rubbed the toes anyway, because you
can't be too sure.
After Bill bought gifts for his family (they're collectors of
National Landmark memorabilia apparently), we decided to get back on
the road. The only thing standing between us and our car were the
Hot Stairs of Death, a four or five flight staircase that led
straight up and back to the car park. We didn't really think much
about these stairs when we came down, but as we started back up, we
all sort of looked at each other and realized we were enduring some
kind of strange torture. We were actually crawling up the stairs,
gasping for breath, and we weren't even halfway up yet. I seriously
don't think we could have made the full climb if there had been even
one more flight of steps. Between the searing 116-degree heat, and
the fact that none of us were used to exerting ourselves in the
higher elevation, we almost didn't make it. We seriously considered
turning around halfway and heading into the gift shop at the bottom
to get some water before attempting it again. Fortunately, and with
great effort, we reached the summit. Jahnke lit up to celebrate the
moment, and Bill and I rushed to the car to replenish some fluids.
Back on the road; I'm still playing DJ. Jahnke is catching some z's
'cause of his late night of being propositioned by hookers, and Bill
is announcing we need gas. Oh, and it's my turn to pay. So I whip
out the trusty debit card, hand it over to Bill and tell him to go
wild. Meanwhile, I head inside to get more supplies for proper
desert road trip hydration. Now, I'm sure I could pull out my
receipt and tell you exactly where this gas station was, but I'm too
tired to do that. But this was a weird gas station. It seemed to be
run by an entire family. Not just a Mom and Pop styled family, but
rather the whole family was there, wearing station vests, filling
shelves and coolers, manning the registers and monitoring the pumps.
No kidding, there was like 13 people in all, some carrying around
babies yet still dressed for work, running around this place. It was
really odd. Jahnke and I discussed the finer points of Cream Soda
while standing outside watching Bill clean the windshield and then
ask us if we needed to use the restroom before heading out again.
Why this guy isn't a Little League dad, I'll never know.
The funny thing about driving from Las Vegas to Arizona is the
terrain changes. One moment you're in a desert - miles of sand and
canyons. Next, you're in an expansive, open plain - grass
everywhere. Then you're in a forest, before it's back to desert,
forest, plain and desert again. It seemed that the separate hours
were marked by the differing environments and it really starts to
mess with your head. You start to worry that, if you're not careful,
you might miss Meteor Crater for thinking it can't possibly be at
the end of this changing wonderland. But there, at the end of this
glorious rainbow, it is. Two things help to tell you that you're
almost there. First, the super flat landscape. You can see forever
here. It's amazing. It's like staring out across the ocean, with no
end in sight. Second, there's the low-power AM radio station that
the signage advises you turn to for information about the crater. We
did, and at first all you hear is static. But slowly, growing
clearer and clearer, the words "Experience the Impact!"
can be heard over and over again as part of a 3-minute looped
recording. By the time we got the the crater, it was screaming at
As we turned off the exit to Meteor Crater, the first thing to jump
out at us were the number of signs reading: Watch for Baby Calves.
We didn't see any, but we want you locals to know that we did indeed
watch. Had we seen any, the calves would have been safe with us. We
also started seeing these big circular signs proclaiming some of the
wonders of the crater, the best of which said: See Movie in Modern
Big Screen Movie Theatre. We ultimately couldn't resist its siren
call, but more on that in a bit.
The Crater itself is magnificent. It really is. It's huge. And
deep. Everything you'd want or need from a giant hole in the ground
in the middle of nowhere. Plus, as we learned from the Crater's
official website (linked above), they even have a Subway sandwich
shop right on the edge of the crater. We'd already made our plan to
Eat Fresh on the way out. But first, the crater called. Outside,
Jahnke, Bill and I stood on the edge of prehistory, and we felt so
small. And wet. Dammit, it was starting to rain... and here I was
with my $3000 video camera in hand. I had to hightail it back into
the building before it really started to come down in buckets. But,
oh no - it's stairs and heat and elevation again. What the hell is
with this? Nothing makes you feel out of shape like nearly having a
frickin' heart attack in the heat, rain and thin air. Bill, of
course, rushed in with me. But by the time we realized that Jahnke
was still outside yelling at God to strike down and light his
cigarette, the Movie in the Modern Big Screen Movie Theater was
about to begin. Both the film (read: video) and the theater are very
dated. Modern not so much. But yes, it was a big screen. Jahnke
unfortunately couldn't get in because the doors close when the show
starts, so as we Experienced the Impact!, he headed into the museum
area. When we finally met up with him afterwards, he was calling for
us to see this super badass photo of these stoic miners standing
around a hunk of meteor they'd just discovered. So we naturally
decided to recreate the photo (you'll find it in our
Gallery), and I think we did a fine job of it too.
Anyway, we were told by the ranger dude (who was on hand to give
tours and information) that the Crater was some 50,000 years old. I
asked how that was possible, since God made the Earth only 6,000
years ago. He just looked at me and said, "Oh..." and
walked away. Good times.
After a couple of rounds of watching Jahnke figure out ways to
destroy the Earth with falling debris using a software simulator
called (surprise) Impact!, we decided that it was high time to grab
our souvenirs and hit the Subway for those sandwiches. I was
thinking of getting one toasted, because it seemed appropriate for
Crater sub milieu, but alas... the sandwich gods had other plans.
You see, Meteor Crater closes at 7 PM. And it was already 6:50. As
we purchased our trinkets in the gift shop, we confirmed with the
very chatty gift lady that the sandwiches were available until
closing. Too bad we didn't ask the sandwich guy, though, because
he'd already shut down by the time we got there. We walked up to the
counter and he looked at us and said, "Sorry fellas, we close
at 7." To which Bill replied, "Yeah, but it's only 6:50."
Jahnke and I nodded in agreement. The Subway guy would have none of
this. "Well, I have 6:55," he said. To which Bill cocked
his head and responded, "Okay... it's 6:55. That's still not 7."
Finally (and best of all), the sandwich guy closed with, "Yeah...
well, we're out of ice. So all I can sell you is chips or a cookie."
And with that, we were done with Meteor Crater.
On the way out, we heard ranger radio chatter about the town of
Winslow, which lies a short distance away from Meteor Crater,
experiencing a complete washout due to all the heavy rainage.
Indeed, the clouds on the horizon were ominous looking and lit up by
huge flashes of lightning. You could see tons of rain falling from
them in various places all around. So that seemed to us like as good
a time as any to get our picture taken in the middle of all of it,
better still under the only vertical metal object we could find.
Thus, we hurried back to the See Movie in Modern Big Screen Movie
Theatre sign and snapped our picture in the electric air. We never
said we were smart. Witty, yes. But not smart.
But as we headed West down Interstate 40, back the way we'd come
originally, hunger pangs started setting in thanks to our snub at
Subway. Luckily, I remembered seeing the back of a place called
Black Bart's Steak House or something along the road on the way in.
We kept our eyes opened for signage, intending to stop for dinner,
but saw nothing. So I decided to call 411 on my cell to get
directions (or be told that I was imagining the place). Sure enough,
the kindly operator confirmed Black Bart's existence... and that
we'd passed it about 30 minutes back. I wanted to turn around, Bill
was on the fence and Jahnke said no, pointing out that 30 minutes
back was really an hour added to our schedule which, admittedly, was
a good point. So I said to our faithful navigator: "Find the
next city on the map, tell me what it's called and I'll call 411 to
see if there are any good steak houses." Jahnke quickly came
back with Kingman, Arizona. Cool. I made the call and was speedily
informed of two good steak places right off the same exit on I-40.
Now... it should be noted that Jahnke, though a genius in many ways,
can't really read a map very well. Because a short time later, we
passed a road sign helpfully informing us that Kingman was, in fact,
still some 300 miles ahead of where we were at that moment. You do
the math on that. 75 or 80 miles an hour for 300 miles is, what? A
little under 4 hours, best case? Time check: 7:45 PM. We wouldn't
reach Kingman until 11 PM or so. And in our experience, not a lot of
steak places stay open past 11 PM. Naturally, we made fun of Jahnke
for so long on that, that we didn't even think to look for (and
call) a closer city. Instead, we continued on to Kingman, hoping and
praying that we'd make it before closing time. Bill really did
wonders behind the wheel of the Magnum, driving safe but fast, and
we made it to Kingman just under the wire at 10:50 PM.
Unfortunately, it was all for naught, as both steak joints closed at
10 PM. Our remaining options were a Whataburger and Chili's. We
chose Chili's and ordered the best steaks on the menu. They were
pretty damn great for Chili's steaks, we all had to admit. We salute
the fine cooks at the Kingman Chili's. You guys rock.
By the way, if anyone has a review of Black Bart's, please let us
know. We looked
online and saw that the wait staff there offers a "nightly
musical revue of old time favorites." Once we learned that,
Bill and I ended up feeling like we'd missed the steak opportunity
of a lifetime. Anyway,
us a line if you've been there and share the fun with us
Not a whole lot happened after we hit the road post Chili's. Jahnke
and I fell in and out of sleep but every once in a while, out of the
corner of my eye, I'd see Bill pushed up against the wheel and
windshield staring at the sky. In a moment of clarity, I asked what
the hell he was doing, and he said he was looking at the stars. Sure
enough, the sky was beautiful. Living in the big city for so many
years as we all have, you kind of forget what it was like back when
you were a kid visiting the country, just lying on your back and
looking up at the night sky. Remember all those stars? Multiply that
by a thousand, and that's what we saw on this night. You could
actually see the edge of the Milky Way the sky was so clear. At one
point, Bill pulled off onto a side road so we could all get a better
look. It wasn't exactly a quiet place - there were semi trucks
pulled over everywhere with their engines running, presumably so
their drivers could catch some shuteye. I took advantage of a
port-o-potty in the middle of two dumpsters in which someone had
apparently dumped medical waste judging by the smell. Bill and
Jahnke, coming from North Dakota and Montana as they do, just
whipped it out and peed on the tumbleweeds. I guess I'm more of a
gentleman (if that's what Jahnke meant by calling me a pussy - thank
you, Jahnke). But after the peeing bit, it was all star watching for
a while and it was pretty damn cool. We eventually decided to get
back on the road after another truck suddenly pulled up nearby with
its headlights pointed at us and the driver just sort of staring at
us in a creepy way. Earlier, I'd made up the legend of the Roadside
Rapist as a joke to kill time... but suddenly it seemed like an all
too real possibility, so that was that. We hastily jumped back in
the car and headed down the I-40 quick.
By the way, the biggest danger when driving on the Interstate in
the middle of the night? Tired truckers. Most are fine people I'm
sure, but twice we were almost run off the road by 18-wheelers that
drifted into our lane. Thankfully, Bill has superior cat-like
reflexes and saved us from certain death each time. I don't know if
I'd be so lucky behind the wheel at 2 AM. I'd hate to end up a
highway casualty like that.
Speaking of which... after we descended out of the mountains and
made our way into the L.A. area, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4
AM, traffic totally jammed up behind a CHiP car that was swerving in
front of traffic to slow us all down. Jahnke was in the back seat
and muttered, "Oh no." I was all like, "What?"
And Bill said, "That's a traffic break, dude. Standard
procedure after a fatal freeway crash." Sure enough, after
about an hour stopped in traffic, we were finally able to creep up
past the wreck. There, lying dead in the middle of the road, was an
unfortunate biker in the shape of a lower case letter 'q' covered by
a yellow tarp. Fifty yards up ahead, his crotch rocket was perfectly
wedged under the front of some poor guy's car. The driver of said
car was standing next to a cop with his head down, weeping. We felt
awfully bad for both the driver and the dead guy. Although, probably
owing to the lack of sleep, I did call the following out my window
at one point at about the 30 minute mark during our wait: "Someone
better be dead up there!" Yeah, not my best moment. I'm
apparently not a very nice guy. Witty, yes. But not a nice guy.
We eventually made it to Jahnke's place and we dropped him off. We
all hugged and cried and whatnot, and then Bill and I jumped back in
the car for the last hour of our trip back to The O.C. where Bill
and Sarah live. We arrived at their house at 5:43 AM, just as the
sun was rising, bringing the entire day's journey - what with all
the touring, rancid rest stopping and hellacious driving - to a
grand total of 18 action-packed hours. Our hero, Ham the Astrochimp,
will have to wait for another trip.
As we unpacked the car, Bill's wife Sarah came running out all
excited. She'd been up the whole night taking pictures of two
families of raccoons that apparently live in their neighborhood and
started showing up in their backyard a few days prior. It must be
some kind of gift from the Universe to have a family of raccoons
magically appear at the house of a professional animal photographer.
[Editor's note: Or it might have something to
do with the food she leaves out for them...] Anyway, the
pictures she took are incredible, so hopefully Bill posted a few at
the bottom of this report.
In the end, Day Four was literally a day and a half. It was
super-great fun to just hang out, keeping it level with Jahnke and
Bill, my two brothers from other mothers. There's just something
about driving, talkin' smack and experiencing the kinds of things
that only happen a few times in your life, that I was really happy
to share with them. Good times.
The whole Vegas adventure was exhausting but worth every minute.
Thanks to everyone at HTF,
TV Shows on DVD, EMA, the
studios and all the participants who made it an unforgettable