Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Tumbleweed Halloween Tale

The Tumbleweeds will not be home for Halloween this year.
(If you are a burglar reading this then you should be aware that I don’t always tell the truth and maybe we will be home.  With weapons and booby-traps.  Happy Halloween.)
We will miss all the little creatures knocking on the door and begging for candy, trying to guess what some of them are.  
“Oh, what a cute little hooker you are.”
“I’m a Princess!”

The year I got a King Kong Halloween costume, was my favorite Halloween.  I must have been 9 or 10, a few years after the 1976 remake of the movie King Kong.  The costume came from K-Mart, our go to store for everything, clothes included (nerd alert), and fit my Halloween Costume criteria: it had to be scary and it could not be girly.

Thanks to Cool and Collected for the
picture of the coolest costume

It was one of those cheap-o costumes; hard plastic mask that fit over your head with a string that always popped off after 10 minutes.  A thin, rubbery shirt with King Kong painted on, grabbing planes out of the air amidst lots of flames.  I was gonna scare the bejesus out of those sissy ballerinas and ghosts!  The whole neighborhood would be talking about me for weeks!
I was a hard headed child determined to do things my way, overly macho for a girl, and vehemently against looking weak.  So when my mom suggested I carry a Barbie doll, so it would like King Kong's girlfriend, I rolled my eyes and scoffed at the mere suggestion.  
Mom: But it’s a great idea.  You would look just like King Kong in the movie. Remember when he held Jessica Lange in the palm of his hand and blew her hair dry with his breath?
Me: What if people think I play with Barbies?! 
Mom: You do.
Me:  Well I don’t want anyone to know that! 
Mom: But it would really be cute.  That costume doesn’t even look like King Kong, people might think you’re just a gorilla.
Me:  I don’t want to be cute or blow dry anyone's hair!  No one is ever going to be scared of me if I’m walking around with a Barbie doll, sheesh.  You don’t know anything! 
In my stubborn little heart I knew she was right, it would look cool (not cute!) and if I did have to defend myself from any taunts that I played with a Barbie, I could just beat them up.  A win-win in the scary department.  
In the end though, I just couldn’t do it.  I had declared war against my mother and I wouldn’t back down.  
The mask broke after two houses and I had to hold it up to my face, the rubber shirt was hot and you couldn’t see the graphics in the dark, and more than one person had to ask what I was.  But in my mind I was the airplane destroying monster that everyone feared.  

Here's to Halloween and the delusions of childhood.

A Tumbleweed Jack-O-lantern
made out of some kind of berry
found in Texes and a perfect fit for the truck.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Titillating Tumbleweed Tastes

While shopping for groceries at a Walmart in Hattiesburg, Mississppi I saw this in the snack aisle:

The ingredients list liquid hot sauce.
Doesn't sauce imply it's a liquid?

Yes, a big ol' jar of lips, with the hair still on them.  They were in the snack aisle right next to 743 linear feet of various potato chip choices.

I'm not adverse to trying weird foods, even ones with moustaches, but I was unwilling to buy a whole jar of lips when I think one would do the trick, so I don't know what these taste like.  Also, I'm cheap.

One of the fun things about trucking is the ability to try lots of diverse foods.  Last week in Glenwood Springs Colorado, in a dumpy little Mexican grocery/butcher/gas station, I had really good tacos.  

It was one of those places that we wouldn't go to on purpose; we were in a black hole of eateries and in a time/space/trucking continuum that dictates that the only available food at the moment and space we had is either sandwiches or gas station food.

*Aside.  Sandwiches for dinner make me mad.

So I wasn't really looking forward to dinner at La Glorieta, the little diner attached to the gas station.  I wasn't expecting much from the place so I figured I'd try something different and ordered tacos de lengua.  Yep, beef tongue tacos.  

What a surprise they were!  Nothing like I had imagined, the meat was juicy, tender, flavorful, and it looked like roast beef.  In fact, it looked and tasted so different than what I expected, I thought they were just messing with me, giving the gringo boring old roast beef and calling it tongue, laughing at me behind my back.  (I'm not paranoid.  Why do you ask?  Do you know something I don't??)

I was so paranoid intrigued, I looked up tacos de lengua online and found lots of pictures and recipes that described what I had been served.  But remember; just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.  

I didn't have my camera so I stole
this from Gourmet Magazine, where
you can also find a recipe. You know, for the next
time you have a 3lb beef tongue on hand.

Other foods, in the non-face category, I have tried during our trucking adventures are:

Liver pudding, which I wrote about here.

Snapping turtle, another roast-beefy looking thing but not so tasty, which I wrote about here.

A whole fried quail.  What was weird about this was that it was the whole bird, all bird looking and stuff, but without the bones.  It was in Louisiana. I'm assuming voodoo was involved.

Pickled quail eggs. They were so tiny, like Smurf eggs only not blue. Because Smurfs are mammals, obviously.

Kentucky cornbread, which is not corn bread but a flat corn pancake. They should stick to bourbon.

Velveeta sushi, but not on purpose, which I wrote about here.

Once, in a truck stop in Texas I ordered beef tips over noodles and got what looked like a peice of pterodactyl spinal cord in the sauce.

To really illustrate my adventuresome appetite and show you that I will eat (almost) anything, anywhere, I give you this:


Surprisingly, these murals on the side of a truck stop in New Mexico didn't spoil my appetite.  I ate here despite the "art", titillating though it may be.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tumbleweed in the Tabloids

Douglas, WY
Even the dinosaurs are cowboys.

The cat is out of the bag.  The jig is up.  The chicken has flown the coop. The pearl is in the river.

The secret is out; your humble Tumbleweed has hit the big time✴.

✴ Well, not really big time.  I didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize for Blogging and I haven't written the Great American Novel.  Angelina Jolie is not starring in the movie of my life nor is there a made-for-tv-movie about me in a scandalous affair with Festus, in the works.

Great, now I am depressed.


I am writing a humor column for my local newspaper, The Douglas Budget.  It's a weekly in my hometown of Douglas, Wyoming (population 5,300) and they run my columns about twice a month.  The first one ran at the end of August, but somehow it didn't make it to the online version and I didn't want to say anything here until I could link it, like a *professional* and now it's fixed and did I tell you I was excited???  I am.


The process to get published was long and arduous.  Kind of like Homer's Odyssey but without the cyclops.  *Unfortunately*

About a year ago, I balled up my courage and approached the newspaper to see if they would be interested in me writing a humor column for them.  I won't bore you with the details of how difficult it was for me to build up my nerve to do this; but imagine walking into the grocery store naked and asking the bag-boy to judge your thighs. It felt like that, only scarier.

I went in and asked for the editor, showed him some samples from this blog and a column I had written specifically for the newspaper (never before seen!) and he seemed interested, said he'd look it over, let me know.  Visions of fame and fortune swam before my eyes as I pictured my name in print.  I felt just like Mary Tyler Moore when she flings her hat up in the air.

A few weeks went by and I hadn't heard anything from him.  Nothing happens fast in Wyoming, so I waited.  After a month I sent him an email asking if he was still interested.  He said he was, things were just really busy.  More weeks go by, more follow up from me, etc, etc.  

Finally, I called.

Me: "Look, if you aren't interested or if you think my writing sucks donkey balls, tell me and I'll get off your back, I can handle it. Otherwise, I will just nag you every week with phone calls, emails, and possibly build a shed in your backyard and live in it until you print my columns."

Him: "I'll get to it, I promise.  I'm just busy."


Well dear Readers, months went by like this and nothing happened.  I picked up my Mary Tyler Moore hat and gave up.  Who was I kidding? I knew nothing about building sheds.

Fast forward to July.  My nemesis moved out of state and a new editor came to town.  I picked up my Mary Tyler Moore hat and tried again. Surprisingly, instead of a restraining order, I got an offer and now have an occasional column.  

So far, they have printed 3 (three!).  If you can't tell, I'm pretty effing stoked.  And I'm really glad I don't have to build a shed in anyone's backyard; Wyoming is cold in the winter.

Check out the Douglas on the Road tab at the top of the blog to find the link to the columns.  Or click here.  I'm easy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pining for a Private Privy

Since we began trucking, do you know what my idea of absolute luxury is?

My own bathroom.  All to myself.  Alone.  By myself.

My bathroom at home is the ultimate.  I can walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without getting dressed, combing my hair, or talking to anyone. If there are any cooties in there, they belong to me or Himself and therefore are adorable and harmless.  I don't have to hold it for so long that I qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records for bladder and/or colon control. 

Did I mention I like to be by myself in there?

The next best thing is when we're in a truck stop or rest area where there are more stalls than people and the bathroom is the size of a football field. Although more times than not, even when I pick a stall all the way at the back, in a completely empty room and there are 373 empty stalls to choose from, some sweaty, unwashed woman will pick the stall next to mine and start talking or making heaving lifting noises.

The kind of bathroom that sounds good in theory but sucks in reality is the one-holer.  You know, the kind where you lock the door to the room and get it all to yourself?  This kind of bathroom is usually in the busiest of places, with lines of people waiting for you to finish and knocking on the door every few seconds causing your bowels to turn to concrete and leaving you unable to perform.

You know what is really fun though?  Here's what happened last week.

We are driving in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska and it hits; I gotta go.  Big time.  The next truck stop is 10 miles away, I do the kind of breathing they teach pregnant women.  Panting, the urgency subsides and I think I can make it.  

We pull into the truck stop and I see, right there by the front doors my nemesis: a porta-potty.  I think I’d rather poop out on the open prairie than go inside a cramped, stinky cootie infested porta-potty.  Plus?  It's right next to the front door so that the entire WORLD would walk by as I’m in there taking care of business.  I don't think so.

We get back in the truck and drive to the next truck stop about a mile away.  Himself drops me off in the parking lot and I run inside, bowels cramping and twisting, only to find that the ONE bathroom in the store has a handwritten sign one it that says "Knock first, the door doesn’t lock!!"  The door.  Does.  Not.  Lock.  

What fresh hell is this?
I run out of the store and back to the truck, just as Himself is backing in to park. I look up into his eyes and whimper, the door doesn’t lock.
Himself cannot be rattled.  Calmly, he tells me to get in, he’ll drive me in front a McDonald’s that we passed earlier and drop me off while he circles the block.  I concentrate every bit of willpower I can muster and direct it to my insides, praying that I can make it.  I run like Forrest Gump into the McDonald’s, my eyes focus like laser beams to the rear of the store and lock onto the target and I make it just in time.  

That’s all I have to say about that.

My intestines are twisting up, just writing about it and while I’m sure it’s not healthy to hold it for so long, I have to say my colon is pretty awesome. 

Batman kind of awesome.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wildlife Facts and Western Beauty

If you've ever driven through a mountainous area, you've probably seen those truck escape ramps built on steep downgrades, to be used in case of brake failure.  They usually go straight up the side of the mountain and are covered in a deep bed of gravel or sand, to help slow you down or rocket off the mountain, whichever comes first.

Well, in Utah and other big game states, they have wildlife escape ramps. These are designed to give animals like deer, elk and wombats (presumably) a safe place to escape the highway if they find themselves on the wrong side of the fence. This lowers the chance of hitting one of these creatures with your car and totally ruining your day. And your underpants.

We saw these in southern Utah on I-15 at a rest area.  I thought it was a pretty good idea to put them so close the the vending machines.  Do you have any idea how fidgety and paranoid an elk can get once they're hepped up on Snickers™??

Jas doing an impersonation of a hepped up elk.
It's not pretty, people.

The Tumbleweeds have been out west a lot lately and I love it.  The sky is bigger, there are less people and even the dirt is pretty.  In Wyoming we have yellow, pink, orange and even purple dirt.

There's just something about the western half of the United States that draws me in. The land itself is a force to be reckoned with; it makes its presence known all around in the form of canyons, mountains, rock formations and outcroppings, and rushing rivers.  Not buildings.

I love the scenery out here so much I'm going to shut up and leave you with the views out of my office window this week in Wyoming and Utah.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Joys of Customer Service! Or How to Drive a Tumbleweed Insane

Without satellite radio this trucking thing would be a lot harder.  So it's probably not a good idea that I harass the people at SiriusXM Radio with annoying emails but I can't help it.  They won't bend to my will and admit that I'm right and I just won't let it go.  A gal's got to have principles.

Satellite radio is a real boon to those of us who crisscross the country on a daily basis.  There are a gazillion music channels, 3 (three!!) NPR channels, the BBC, talky and comedy channels and a trucking specific channel.  When we got into trucking 10 years ago, we started without it and that well and truly sucked.  Searching for a radio signal every fifteen minutes and losing the station just when you start getting into the song or show was supremely frustrating.

What I'm saying is that I like it and don't want it to go away, but at the same time I want them to admit that I am not crazy.


Here's the problem:

There is a show that comes on the weekend at a certain time on the trucking channel.  Sometimes we can hear it and sometimes we can't. When we can't, the channel plays a recording that says that channel is scheduled to be off the air at this time.

This is a pure lie.

The SiriusXM Radio website channel lists the show.  The shows website lists the show and I have called the show while it was on (when we can't hear it) and the producer said that the trucking channel gets preempted for football or whatever stupid sport is being played at any given moment.  The stupid sport stuff is sucking up bandwidth or some such.

So I write a harmless little email to lodge my complaint.

I once wrote a letter to a company demanding my money back because by my math they owed me some, but in reality they did not.  That little incident made me gun-shy about letter writing but this one has no math, so I feel pretty safe.

Anyway.  They responded to my complaint with a form letter telling me how much they appreciate my input! and that I should check their website for the latest information and program line-up.  Because I'm paranoid and think everything is my fault, I check online (again) to see if indeed all the information I could ever want is right there on the screen, if only I was smart enough to find it.  And again, I see that the program is listed at the time and on the channel that I think it is.

What really gets me though, even more than the fact that they do not address the problem, is that at the bottom of each of their responses is this:

Status: Resolved

It's like they're just trying to provoke me.

So I write back.  Each time.  After about the fifth time, I sent them the following.  (I'm sure they are going to give me a lifetime subscription now!) 

Dear Elma,  (there has also been a Pamelle and Americk. Note the obvious robot names)

Are you trying to drive me insane?

Is it SiriusXM Radio's policy to make a simple question seem the most difficult, rocket-surgery complex thing on the planet?

As of this moment, 6:13 pm eastern time your website says that ATBS Business and Beyond on channel 106 is on NOW.

Also at this very moment, some geek in a recording on channel 106 states that this channel is scheduled to be off the air.

How can both be true at the same time?

Is this like quantum physics or string theory, because I don't understand those things either.

You know what really gets me, Elma?? That every response from SiriusXM has a status as resolved and yet it is not.

Perhaps the company is being run by robots and not humans and that is why I keep getting responses that don't come close to answering my question. It is the only logical answer. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up!

A computer won on Jeopardy! and I feel certain you can do something as simple as answer my question.

Ever Hopeful,
Ms P.

A lone tumbleweed blows across the desert,
yearning for customer service support.