A story about four tall guys, a Saturn, some Jelly Bellies and the road.
When we got the call to participate in the Seattle Sketchfest, my comedy troupe, which was six members strong, jumped at the chance and said yes before we could even calculate the money, time and effort that making that trip would entail. After about 20 minutes of deliberating, one of my more adventurous compatriots raised the idea of driving. We lived in Los Angeles at the time, you see, so we were talking about an 18-plus hour drive. My hand shot up immediately. Two other members, after some hemming and hawing (and even more calculating), fell in line to round out the car. Finally, the last two members decided they would gladly pay the extra money to fly.
So then, after subsequent weeks of tireless writing and rehearsal time, we set out on our adventure. We met at my house in Hollywood at 6:30pm. We had decided that to maximize our time in Seattle, instead of leaving at 7am on Thursday morning, which would’ve placed our arrival at our hotel at about 1 a.m. or later on Friday morning, we thought we should embark on Wednesday night, drive straight through and get to the birthplace of Grunge by noon or 1 pm on Thursday. Sounds crazy, I know. But it was the plan that made the most sense timing-wise, so we met, gassed up, snacked up and lined up our mix cd’s on the dash console and at about 8pm we actually got on the road, Burger King firmly in hand and embarked on our epic quest.
The first nighttime shift belonged to Kenny. From about 8 to Midnight-30, he drove as we banged our heads to some great road music, ate Jelly Bellies, drank coffee and laughed our proverbial asses off. If you have never been in a car with comedians, you have no idea what you are missing (unless you’re avoiding it which means you do have an idea and that is acceptable). We all had a notebook handy just in case something was so funny that it was to never be forgotten and that happened more frequently than I had anticipated.
The steam started to run out of the fun around 12:30am. After another roadside snack and gas stop, it was my shift. I happen to enjoy the middle of the night hours. With enough coffee and sugar, I was able to get my sleepy car through the wee hours with no problems.
I had the help of Kenny who had switched into the shotgun seat to be my co-pilot. There was no specific rotation plan but each driver was to do about 5 hours, pay for one tank of gas and pull at least one shift as copilot. The co-pilot’s job was to help keep the driver awake by playing “Would You Rather“, keeping the music good and fast and opening his Starburst for him. Kenny co-piloted admirably and as the sun came up, the landscape changed. No longer were we in the flatlands of mid-Cali, we were now getting into the foothills of the mountainous terrain that we would enjoy for the rest of the drive. The rest of the drive after, of course, we found a Denny’s.
The first Denny’s of any trip is always special mostly due to the fact that we aren’t sick of eating at Denny’s yet. The meal was a blur of giddiness and we were back in the car before we knew it. With coffee, pancakes and omelets coursing through our veins, and a sleepless night punctuating our attitudes, we cheered on Stan as he took the wheel, with Brad accepting the co-piloting duties and Kenny and I drifting in and out of consciousness through fits of laughter in the back seat.
When you have someone with a small bladder in your car and that person is awake and more importantly, driving the vehicle, there is no end to the amount of rest stops you encounter and utilize. This was the case when it was Brad’s turn at the helm. I am throwing him under the bus now as revenge for the countless times we lost our momentum by having to stop and pee. Needless to say, these frequent stops put us behind schedule and Brad rolled us into our Holiday Inn Parking lot in the shadow of the Space Needle at 3:30pm. It was just enough time to check-in, shower, eat and make it to the first 7pm show of the festival. It worked out fine, but that didn’t stop us from making Brad feel like he was a jerk.
The festival went amazingly well. Our second performance on Saturday night may have been our best ever. We ate, drank and laughed for 2 days straight and then it was time to do the drive all over again, but this time, we were starting off even more sleep-deprived than we had been during any part of the trip up.
The mood in the car on the way back was somewhat more subdued, but content. We had just dropped off our other two members at the airport and there was a moment when the rest of us realized that the plane-takers would be home in LA by the time our vehicle even got out of Washington State. But the overall sentiment was “oh well, their loss!” as we pulled in to our first roadside stop of the trip home. It was a secluded gas station up in the mountains with a snack shop. While Brad went in to use the bathroom (of course!), the rest of us bought some snacks and filled the tank. Moments later Brad came running out, white as a ghost and got in the car saying “drive, drive!” Once we were back on the road he told us about the creepy mannequin laying in a bathtub in the bathroom of the secluded gas station and how he had been too scared to actually pee. We laughed so hard I think it made the next 13 hours feel like 2.
On that day, the four of us, crammed into a midsized car, eating Jelly Bellies and listening to Led Zepplin, all agree that, in fact, the journey was just as much fun, (if not even more so) as the destination.