The Road Less Traveled, California Highway 1
Fast Mikie's Epic Road Trip

Table of Contents

Day  CLICK FOR STORY Description 2006
1 Del Mar, CA Independence Day.   4-Jul
2 Orange, CA Danny K's 5-Jul
3 Morro Bay, CA Corvette Mike, road tunes,  the Rock. 6-Jul
4 Ragged Point, CA Big Sur legendary roads.  7-Jul
5 Mill Valley, CA A Spontaneous Standing Ovation!  8-Jul
6 Eureka, CA Susie and Janet, Stinson Beach 9-Jul
7 Gold Beach, CA Solitude: a room by the river. 10-Jul
8 Portland, OR Molly.  5 hours on the road.  Salmon. 11-Jul
9 Seattle, WA Pretty Girl Pain.  Heavy rain. 12-Jul
10 Whistler, Canada Miraculously avoid disaster. 13-Jul
11 Whistler, Canada The Day Before The Wedding 14-Jul
12 Whistler, Canada The Big Day 15-Jul
13 Whistler, Canada The Day After 16-Jul
14 Vancouver, Canada 1200 mile car wash.  Damages. 17-Jul
15 Seattle, WA Bruce watches.  Windshield damage. 18-Jul
16 Moses Lake, WA Challenge at the Ripple Tavern. 19-Jul
17 Spokane, WA Katie 20-Jul
18 Spokane, WA Winning at pool. Car looking great. 21-Jul
19 Spokane, WA Emergency dental, paying it forward. 22-Jul
20 Sandpoint, ID Playing safe. 23-Jul
21 Sandpoint, ID Where God kisses the earth. 24-Jul
22 Missoula, MT The Palace is a Dungeon 25-Jul
23 Missoula, MT Practice on  University tables 26-Jul
24 Sheridan, WY Just passing through 27-Jul
25 Aurora, CO Road kill, dead bugs, cowboys 28-Jul
26 Aurora, CO Samm 29-Jul
27 Aurora, CO Whole Foods 30-Jul
28 Aurora, CO Learning composure from Samm 31-Jul
29 Aurora, CO Practice, practice, practice 1-Aug
30 Englewood, CO Pho 2-Aug
31 Wheat Ridge, CO The Fat Man and The Mouth 3-Aug
32 Aurora, CO Twitchy.  Four ball combination. 4-Aug
33 Aurora, CO Calgary Dave and Georgia Boy.  5-Aug
34 Aurora, CO Buying lessons from Georgia Boy. 6-Aug
35 Aurora, CO Far, Far Away 7-Aug
36 Denver, CO A day of rest. 8-Aug
37 Longmont, CO Art and Dan. Maserati race. 120mph. 9-Aug
38 Englewood, CO Scott and Sally 10-Aug
39 Denver, CO Yoga 11-Aug
40 Aurora, CO Bank robbery fun! 12-Aug
41 Aurora, CO Practice with Georgia Boy 13-Aug
42 Vail, CO Chisolm and the Diamond 14-Aug
43 Vail, CO Lessons from Chisolm 15-Aug
44 Philadelphia, PA By air for Dad's 91st birthday 16-Aug
45 Philadelphia, PA Family visit 17-Aug
46 Philadelphia, PA Family visit 18-Aug
47 Philadelphia, PA Family visit 19-Aug
48 Philadelphia, PA Family visit 20-Aug
49 Denver, CO Return to the road.  No pool. 21-Aug
50 Aurora, CO Doing things my way. 22-Aug
51 Santa Fe, NM The redhead and the Madness. 23-Aug
52 Santa Fe, NM Slow tables at the Catamount 24-Aug
53 Flagstaff, AZ Route 66. Cheap gas.  Nowhere. 25-Aug
54 Del Mar, CA Home again! 26-Aug
55 Del Mar, CA Best, Worst, Fastest, etc. 27-Aug

Day 01: Del Mar, CA -- Independence Day

Tomorrow morning begins a Great Adventure...

For several months, this idea has been coming together, evolving through stages of development.

Several planets have aligned, and the time is at hand to begin.

I feel like Superman (the movie), when the boy was about to leave home and start his public life as a superhero...  He was standing one last time with his earth-mother who found him as an infant.

She held his hand softly and asked: "Where will you go?"  After an introspective pause, The Man of Steel replied resolutely: "North"

And so too, I will go North.

One reason for going north is to attend the wedding of a good friend. His invitation for me to attend, was harder to decline than all the other invitations to visit his home in Seattle. He has been a guest in my home many times, and we are good buds.  I would say of him the way a friend in Australia says of me:  "You can camp by my fire anytime."

For months I have known the wedding date. I figured I would just hop on a plane to Vancouver, then rental car to the destination.  Simple. Easy.

But, during the waiting period for the wedding, other events have been coming together.

I bought a new car to replace my aging Jaguar XK8 convertible, now over 5.5 years old and out of warranty.  And, although it is in good shape, and a stunningly good looking shape in Pacific blue,
with only 32,500 miles on the clock, I have to admit I was getting bored with it.  After driving the Viper GTS for 5 years, and the Ferrari 550 Maranello, the Jag seemed to be lacking at least 100 horsepower.

I have been looking through the crop of interesting rides, and settled on the Corvette as the best bang-for-the-buck. Then over several weeks studied and searched for a model I could like, with the right color, options, etc.  I thought I wanted a sedate dark blue, with gray interior.  But my last 3 cars have been that color,  so I was open to other thoughts.

And then I saw the Monterey Red color.  In cloudy conditions it reminds me of my second Ferrari.
Burgundy. I love understated beauty.  A beauty so quiet you almost overlook it, and then you discover it waiting humbly for your attention.

In the sun, this burgundy comes alive! It is so brilliant, it could be candy-apple red, and more.  And with the metallic highlights, the slightly shaded shapes retreat to the mellow and retiring burgundy.

What character! I was sold on the color, and chose black for the interior and top to subdue the package even more.

No car existed such as I wanted, not anywhere in the USA, not with the options I wanted, in the color I wanted.  So I had to order it and wait six weeks for delivery.

It did not excape my attention that the possible delivery date of the new car was a couple of weeks before the wedding.

Now, these two events, the wedding of a friend in Canada, and the purchase of a new car, were completely independent, and as serendipity would have it, when they came together in thought, an idea leaped into my mind:

How great it would be to drive the new car along the California coastline, and the Oregon coastline,
and Washington coastline, with the top down...  A great idea for a road trip.

Two planets were now aligned.

While I was loving this new idea, the idea of driving back home was unpleasant.  I hate to retrace my steps.  The road to adventure lies ahead.

And then it hit me: I would take my pool cue, and after the wedding, instead of coming home, I just stay on the road.

The western United States seemed achievable. There are only 11 of them. Granted, they're big, but they're good big.  Lots to see and do. And I know some people in a lot of those places.

How long could I stay out on the road?  I wanted to be in Philly for my father's 91st birthday in the middle of August, so that would leave me about 40 days on the road. That's a serious road trip!

I could just park the car at any Chevrolet dealer, for an oil change and checkup, and I can get a cab to the nearest airport fly to Philly for the birthday party, and fly back to the Corvette, wherever it is, and continue with the road trip.

Will it ever end? Sure. The big focus of the extended road trip is to prepare for the US Amateur championships in late September. I really should be back at least 2 weeks before that.

So at the outside, that's 60 days on the road. Shooting pool. Driving a hot car. Through magnificent territory. Seeking the meaning of Life. A Journey of Self-Realization. Can truth and beauty be found in pool halls?

In quiet moments, this whole thing seems too much. So I tell only very close friends, to judge their reaction, to see if they think that maybe I have completely lost touch with Reality.

I keep thinking of the joke/truth: "If you want to make God laugh, make Plans."

So I don't make too many plans, telling myself that will make it more of an adventure. And more enjoyable without the stress of a schedule.

Insecurity assails me, with thoughts like: "Who do you think you are, to do such a thing?"  I am Fast Mikie, shooter of pool, student of the game.

"Why do you do this?" Because I can. If I could, and did not, you would fault me, and I must be true to my Destiny.  This is a dream since my college pool-shooting days.

"Alone? Won't you get lonely?" Not in the least. I'm a hermit. Duh.  "Won't you miss your Home?" Aye! Now there's the rub. A hermit and his home are not easily parted. Mikie's Fun House is an island of Perfection. A Place I have built to be that way. My refuge by the sea.  But Home is the price of Adventure. And Adventure is the price of Home.

Ah, the wonderful Duality of Reality.

Today is July 4, 2006. Independence Day seems appropriate to launch such a road trip. Although I will leave tomorrow morning, it is Today, with this writing and publishing, I give this Adventure my Commitment. I will sleep fully and awake with Resolve, I will pack my bags and walk out the door. And I will go North.

And yet, it all seems so overpowering. Looking at maps of the Western US, it is a huge territory. So many pool rooms, so many trials. It is too much to deal with all at once. And I am reminded that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. It is only one step at a time, one day at a time, one ball at a time, one breath at a time.

I am reminded of other Great Adventures. They were even more extraordinary. And longer. And they happend just one step at a time.  Breathe in. Breathe out. Smile.

The seconds tick by, the sun sets into the Pacific, night falls, the moon rises, and soon enough the morning will come...  I wonder what will happen next!

Day 02: Orange, CA

I woke like any other day,
and moved through the pre-ordained actions,
which were committed to the day before.
the bags are packed,
all i have to do is take them out to the car.
and then drive north.

such simple actions
with enormous importance.

first stop: Danny K's in the city of Orange.
In Orange County.

tested OnStar, upgraded to concierge service for 64 bucks per month,
and tested to find a vegetarian restaurant who would deliver food to the pool hall.
she actually found one!

tested the nav system,
it's ok, but clunky in the way it does things.
i'm sure i did something wrong because it wanted me to go back home
before i went to orange county.

so i was operating the nav system, the on-star concierge on the phone, cd playing, and in freeway traffic, all at the same time. i am reminded to the busy times flying the biplane where i had to deal with radio communications, weather, airspace, traffic, altitude, heading... you get the idea, it's really busy flying an open cockpit biplane. and the thing that makes it even more stressful is the fact that you can't see much in the direction you are flying because of the wings, and the big engine up front. not being able to see where you are going, and not being able to see other airplanes and where they are going, well, that adds up to some stressful flying. the biplane only flys 100mph, but other traffic can fly 250 down low with me, and that means that traffic can appear very quickly, as if out of nowhere. and that's another thing... that traffic isn't like on the freeways where it's all going in the same direction. in the sky, they can hit you from top/bottom/front/back/sides, you name it. it's very busy in a biplane cockpit.

so i guess i handled the busy corvette cockpit ok.
seems the nav system has difficulties,
but beats nothing.

went direct to the hotel, checked in.
bare bones place.
unpacked some stuff,
headed over to danny k's to stroke a few.
dan s. is walking toward the entrance as i pull into the parking lot.
that man is addicted to pool.
he claimed unspecified intestinal distress to get out of work to shoot pool.
he drives all the way to del mar to shoot pool on my table,
and never once have i made the trip to his table.
hey, what do you expect from a hermit?

i win the first set 7-4.
feeling pretty good about winning the first set of my road trip.
we are about 5-all in the second set when "Sensei" Roy Yamane walks in.
of course we start yakking and i wind up losing 7-5.
it's all about Focus.

Roy is trying to show me how to do a power draw.
I can do this from as far as 4 diamonds away,
but then draw quickly fades, accuracy wanes.

He has me hold my wrist differently to get more snap in the wrist.
And hit more Down on the ball.
And lift my body just before i launch the stroke, but keep delivery still.
Follow through into the cloth.

It makes sense.
It's going to take a lot of practice.

One hundred bucks.

Dan can power draw.
I can't.
That pisses me off.

Dan heads home to appease "she who must be obeyed".

Roy gives me the names of contacts in San Francisco, Portland.

Tournament starts. 12 bucks entry, 450+/- payoff.
They rate me an A2.
That's one step better than A.
They go all the way up to A11.
An A2 must win 8 games.
An A3 must win 9 games.
So if an A2 plays an A3, the A2 get's "one on the wire",
and they play a race to 9.

i played awful.
single elimination.
the first match against Rick (gray hair/beard) was just plain bad pool.
he was missing shots too.
we went hill-hill and i actually found myself wishing i would lose,
so i wouldn't have to play another set
and i could just go home and rest, take a shower, stretch...
anything but endure more bad pool...
mercifully, Rick wins,
and then right before he sinks the easy nine,
he says he resigns, that i win,
and that he doesn't want to play in the tournament any more,
because he's going to play in the league that's going on at the same time as the tournament.

so here i am,
one minute i'm trying to win,
and then i want to lose,
and right when i'm all happy because i think i'm gonna lose,
the guy quits and now i win.
and the worst part is now i gotta play somebody else,
and that set was even more awful than the last one. fact.

7 hours of pool was just too much after the high intensity drive, little sleep.
i bailed back to the cheap hotel for a shower.
worst shower i've had in years.
that's what i'm going to miss the most on this trip: my shower.
i could write poetry about what a great shower i have in Mikie's Fun House,
but maybe later.
a shower is what a good hotel is all about.
thick towels, good soaps and lotions.
heavy water flow,
plenty hot, of course.

but not here at the Extended Stay Hotel.
fortunately, my stay will not extend past morning.

We'll keep connected with email.

I need to get a mouse for this notebook computer.
This finger pad is less than optimum.

i'm totally beat, need sleep.

Day 03: Morro Bay, CA

Another thing i'm gonna miss badly is the morning cup of starbucks gold coast,
fresh brewed by me, for me, my way way, when i want it,
without having to go out into the world and stand in line...

and that reminds me,
one good reason why i had such low energy yesterday afternoon/evening
is because i didn't have my afternoon cup of starbucks.

my whole routine was off.
i didn't do my prematch routine
because dan was there waiting for me.
i was a mess.
must resolve to always follow the routine, regardless.

while in anaheim, i want to stop by and visit Corvette Mike.

Packed out of the Extended Stay and headed over to good friend Mike Vietro's "Corvette Mike" dealership and a quick lunch at a local deli. Prices for old Corvettes are going through the roof. he recently sold a 67 convertible for $275,000. That means that in 40 years mine will be worth 6 million. I think I'll go out and buy a few more of these things and stick 'em in a garage somewhere and just sit and watch them for 40 years. Nah, probably not. Mike is a pretty cool guy. Has dealerships in Anaheim, Chicago, and Boston. Does a great business!

After a quick lunch, I was itching to get on the road and penetrate thru the LA basin during the mid-day to avoid the heavy traffic. My timing was spot-on because except for a few minor slowdowns, I slipped thru LA like poop thru a goose. Got from Anaheim Stadium to Morro Bay in under 4.5 hours.

I was amazed to be getting 26 miles per gallon on the trip.
The range left on the current gas is calculated and is available as one of the many items that can be displayed. I keep that one displayed as a default. When the range gets to less than about 25 or so, the display changes to "Low Fuel", with no specific remaining miles left to guide you. This is a serious programming error. The Jag would tell you all the way down to 1 mile left in the tank. I know this for a fact. To go to "Low Fuel" at 25 is just wrong.

On such a long drive (258 miles), it's important to keep comfortable. I slipped of my shoes, and put down a terry cloth towel between me and the hot leather seats. For music I played the sound track from "Out of Africa", the music I would always play on the drive to the airport, to go flying.
It's very soothing, perfect to calm the LA traffic challenge.

Still discovering the idiosyncracies of the Nav system. It shows signs of being programmed by a committee.
OnStar Consierge service is doing a good job.

and now,
it's night, and there's a welcome wet chill in the air,
the persistent fog horn in the distance is muffled by the light fog.
what a great sound, mixed with the surf, to put me to sleep.

morro bay is all about tourists who come to see the big rock in the water. they call it morro rock. it's big. personally i don't see what the big fuss is all about. it's a big rock, so what. can we move on? and that's exactly what i'm going to do tomorrow: move on. to Ragged Point, one of my favorite secret places in a most spectacular coastline.

stayed at the Ascot Suites, all rooms with a view of the big rock.
also very interesting toilet paper roll-end origami.

visited the Morro bay home of Annie, a french-born, diminutive fire bomber pilot stationed nearby at Paso Robles. she works six months flying heavily overloaded twin engined bombers into fires at low level and delivering the load with precision, with mountains all around you. Annie is one of the more extraordinary people i have met. We go back about 13 years. She is an excellent pilot and I have taken her on several rides in my open cockpit biplane. We have much in common.

no pool today.
reading about pool is what takes the place of playing pool.
i brought two pool books with me:
The Pro Book, and
The Advanced Pro Book,
both by Bob Henning.

I read the chapters on the mental game while
enjoying excellent sushi and saki at hamada's, with view of big rock.

Day 04: Ragged Point, CA

a spectacular spot at the south end of
a great road run to Big Sur.

at The Ragged Point Inn
rooms have no phones.
shower head exits the wall at sternum height.

but nothing can detract from the fact that
my room is 20' from the edge of a 300' drop to the surf.
the fog slips slowly, silently through the trees.

hermit heaven!

Day 05: Mill Valley, CA

spectacularly clear morning at Ragged Point.
the air was still cold as i pulled into Route 1 and headed north again.
i was only a few miles into the drive when it hit me:
what the heck am i doing with the convertible top UP?
so i pulled over instantly and dropped the top
and from that moment on the picture was complete.

the coast road is full of twists and turns and ups and downs,
pure roller coaster.
although there were several stretches of road being repaired,
it is saturday, and the workers were off, so
i slpped through with no delays whatsoever.

bright sun, wisps of fog, high speed, top down..
pulling G's all over the amazing geography.

i had just rounded a fast turn, downshifting,
and stuffing my foot into it,
and on the left side of the road there were about
50 teeny-boppers on a class trip, probably,
they were all checking out the view,
but they heard, then saw, this candy apple red Vette
with the top down and kickin' asphalt,
and they all, as one, turned and cheered,
applauded, and waved,
as i passed and disappeared around the next bend.

all i could think: "Yeah, kids, I know what you mean!"
i'll remember that for a while...

lunch at Ventana, then back on the road.
blasted straight through to Mill Valley,
just on the north end of the Golden Gat Bridge,
for a visit with one of my most favorite people.
Susie Higgins has been a not so secret crush
for 20+ years, but circumstances, either hers or mine,
conspired to keep us just friends.
she is now living in the midst of redwoods
so thick it was dark at her door in the middle of the day.
what a paradise!

she had a great surprise for me,
another good friend Janet was visiting Susie,
so we all had a great reunion and a great dinner at Poggio's in Sausalito,
where we were joined by Susie's Glenn who just won a surf contest,
so we just kept celebrating, even back at Susie/Glenn's place in the trees.

My face hurt from smiling so much...

Day 06: Eureka, CA

the room at Mountain Home was small but excellent.
the view was forever, over the tops of redwoods,
and quiet as a church, big deck off the room,
huge door opens to the deck,
which i kept wide open all night
to breathe deeply of the freshest of air.
it was cold, but with no wind whatsoever.
and wonderfully, absolutely, quiet.

the very thoughtfully designed shower looks out
through a shuttered window to the endless view
and fresh air. i really enjoyed the showers!

another round with Susie and Janet, for breakfast
in Stinson Beach, a surf village at the bottom
of Tamalpais mountain.
It's a place I could live,
except the the abundance of fog might be too depressing.
There is such a thing as too much fog.

After the hyperactivity of the previous evening,
and the encore performance this morning,
I was ready to get back on the road for some peace and quiet.
Ah, the sweet serenity of solitude!

I don't know why, but I turned on to 101 North, instead of Highway 1.
Maybe I sensed that Sunday drivers would aggravate the beach road,
and I could make better time on the inland route.
Maybe it was that motorhome on the exit ramp for 101.
But whatever it was, I headed for 101,
and was rewarded with a drive through the redwoods.
(That's what we need in SoCal, more trees like redwoods.)

It was almost certainly all the partying the night before,
because I was really getting sleepy at the wheel.
Not a good thing at high speed and curvy roads,
so I skipped eating lunch and hoped hunger would keep me awake.
All it did was make me hungry AND sleepy.
So I stopped for a very tasty "Hippie Burger" in Legget.
But that didn't help with the sleepy,
so I decided to call it a day after about 240 miles,
and pull in at Eureka.
OnStar got me booked at the only 4-star place in town, the Hotel Carter.

the local pool hall is Ragg's Rack Room.
13 empty tables.
it was totally dead except for two guys playing one-pocket, poorly.

eureka was hosting a blues concert,
very near to the hotel,
so i just followed the noise and walked
to an excellent vantage point to catch a few numbers,
but it was to cold and fog-wet to endure for long.

some very gingerbread architecture in this town.
check out the imolen (?) club.

first room very noisy,
so changed to another.
jesse the belman is very helpful,
and inquired into the fun house t-shirt.

The Carter House restaurant is the best so far.
Fresh, wild Oregon salmon, goat cheese mashed potatoes,
spinach, great wine, desert...
I won't need to eat again for a week.

Day 07: Gold Beach, OR

big scare this morning in Eureka:
i can't find the keys for the Corvette.
i look everywhere, twice,
every pocket, every bag,
and then i look in the car.

Eureka!! (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun)

the keys are sitting on the seat!
the car is parked on the street,
right in front of the hotel.
overnight the fog left a layer of droplets
all over the car, including the windows of course,
and that's why the keys could not be seen.
if it wasn't for the fog, that car would have been gone!

i drive to the local starbucks for my morning fix,
and reflect on the fact that it should be illegal
to drive in the morning without having coffee first.
my brain is working at half speed without caffeine.

continuing to drive 101, the Redwood Highway,
sometimes with magnificent views of the surf,
and sometimes through cathedrals of redwoods.
part 2 lane 55mph, part 4 lane divided 65mph highway.
i keep to the speed limit plus a few,
but when i get stuck behind a motor home,
and the road ahead is open,
i get to unload bottomless buckets of horsepower,
and it's easy to get into triple digits of speed.

passed through one small town with
"Cowgirl Mud Wrestling" on the theater marquee.
maybe I'll catch it on video...

also passed on the opportunity to see
the "Drive Thru Tree"
and the "One Log House"
and the "Original Tree House"

after much hassle with OnStar,
(bad reception, dropped calls, etc)
they announce that there are no rooms,
of any star rating,
available in Gold Beach,
or anywhere around it.
I'm thinking I might have to go all the way
to Coos Bay to find a bed,
but then the miracle happens.

lucky is my middle name.
i got the last room available in Gold Beach.
brand new very small hotel on the Rogue River.
The Rogue River Lodge at Snag Patch
just opened 3 weeks ago,
not listed in the books yet,
referred here by one of the places that was full.

exceptional place.
about 10 rooms,
each one with a name.
the name of my room is "Solitude".
i am definitely in the right place!

running out of clean clothes.
laundry is always a challenge on an extended road trip.

long way to go to canada,
only a couple of days to do it.

Day 08: Portland, OR

morning on the Rogue river came gently.
rivers are magical beings
and have deep philosophical thought
given over to their properties.

I want to spend more time with rivers.
After the wedding,
when I head inland, away from the ocean,
I'll probably chart courses that follow rivers.

what little time i shared with the river,
gave me the feeling that it was
sublimely unconcerned with everything
except with being a river.

while it might be only a river,
it was fully a river.

it seemed to be running fast,
but not overly so.
maybe it sensed that the sea was close by,
and picked up its pace to get there sooner.

the breakfast was brought by Molly,
a lovely blonde maybe-twenty cherub.
a croissant, jam, fruit, yogurt.
fit for a king.

no starbucks nearby,
no more in-room coffee,
and i'm up before the office opens to get more,
so i re-use the day old grounds,
and it's surprisingly good...

goodbye Molly,
goodbye river, i'm outta here.

the Oregon coast is magnificent.
the huge off-shore boulders are the best.
they give such character to the coast,
rugged, eternal.
and they play with the light
especially from the moving car.

after about 50 miles of north,
i had to head inland to pick up I-5.
needed to make quicker time.
following convoys of motorhomes is
an exercise in frustration,
with few moments of ecstacy when
i can flog the monster under the hood
and pass a string of land-yachts
while making Detroit v-8 sounds
at triple digit speeds,
probably scaring the bejeezus out of
the nice old couple from Kansas.

my back was killing me yesterday,
but after extensive yoga and Advil,
and relaxation, and more stretching,
the pain subsided and i started feeling normal.

i was prepared for the worst this morning,
but no problems, and even after almost
5 hours at the wheel,
my back is feeling surprisingly ok.

the only 4-star hotel with a room
is in downtown Portland,
(Fifth Avenue Suites)
a dirty old city center
filled with drifters and grifters,
many of whom i passed on my way to starbucks
for my late afternoon hit.

The Rialto is the pool hall around the corner,
but tobacco smoking in public places
has not been outlawed here yet,
so this billiard parlor is a pit of noxious fumes.

nice tables, and i was looking forward to
playing some pool there
(all Gold Crown tables)
but I'll never play in smoke, period.

called ahead to the Canada hotel concierge
to arrange for a full detail on the car
as soon as i check in.
after 1000 miles of road dirt and bugs,
the red is looking neglected.

before dinner i hit the exercise room,
and ripped off a few sets of free weights,
the first since leaving the Fun House.

you can get some seriously good salmon in this area.
one of the great joys of being a hermit on the road
is room service, where you can eat the best food
with complete disregard for manners.
i think we were meant to make noises when we eat,
especially if it is good food.
i like to get enthusiastic about good food.
(it is said that a person eats like they make love)

as much as possible i order OFF the menu,
or at the very least, with subsitutions galore.
the salmon from this entree,
but with the au Grating potatoes from this other entree,
and the spinach from a third...
it's always about MY way, isn't it?

and when it comes to pool,
it is definitely about my way.
the whole idea is to create the situation
so that the outcome is pre-ordained,
that the result is "I win".
it is assumed, expected, a given.
the opponent is simply there as a spectator.
the opponent is irrelevant.

i must think only of the game,
my game, my shots, my stroke, my strategy.

Day 09: Seattle, WA

Great night's sleep,
but I must have been a bit groggy
because on the way out the front door of the hotel
in search of Starbucks,
I was checking out a pretty girl in the lobby,
and smacked the bejeezus out of my head, on the other door.

They should not let pretty girls sit in lobbies
while there are people around who have not had their
morning coffee.

It was raining lightly, and then got worse,
and stayed generally yucky all the way to Seattle.
No leaks around the convertible top,
and the car handled superbly in the rain,
at speed,
on all different road surfaces.

The drive was not easy, what with the rain,
and a ton of 18-wheelers kicking up the wet roads.
To make it worse, I was on the phone with OnStar
trying to figure out why they keep losing my account info.

Maybe it's my TeleMagic karma coming back to haunt me.

Totally stressful drive, but it is good to be at rest now,
with the peace that comes from having driven from San Diego
to Seattle, the USA bottom to top,
and within striking distance of my destination in Canada.

Once I get through the wedding,
the true adventure begins...

Fun facts: 65mph = 1400rpm (only!)
If the the redline is 6500rpm
that means I could do 301mph.
But that's not going to happen,
so why does the math say it will?

Corvette Computer error:
push, and hold, the seat 1 memory button
and the navigation/stereo system reboots.
That gets your attention the first time or two.

Day 10: Canada!

I made it!

Long drive.
Got pulled over by border control going into Canada.
I didn't have my proof of insurance,
and they aren't used to the idea of cars without license plates,
even if they are brand new.
I showed them my proof of insurance for the Jag,
and told them the insurance company didn't have time
to mail me the proof of insurance before
I left for this trip.

After half an hour, they let me go.
It could have been a lot worse.

Checked in, went immediately to see George,
friend for 20 years,
and meet his new bride Barbie.
She is terrific, of course, radiant and joyful.
George is the only guy I know of the 40 or so guests,
so I meet lots of people.
It's kinda cold for an outdoor barbeque,
and then it starts to rain,
so I'm outta there...
Gotta save myself for the bachelor party tomorrow.

In the very short drive from his home to my hotel,
only a few blocks,
an event occurred which has still got my head spinning.
When I think of what could have happened,
and what should have happened,
and what actually did happen,
I am completely unable to speak of it.

I was so totally unalterably headed for disaster,
when it seems that the context changed as if by magic,
and life continued as if nothing had happened.

A religious man might call it a miracle.
I would prefer calling it a Magical Event.

I will continue to think about this deeply...

Meanwhile, I gotta do some laundry,
which takes only Canadian dollar coins
(how quaint!)
and get the hotel to print out
my proof of insurance certificate for the car.
I might need it to get back in the USA.
Laundry takes time.
And multiple interruptions.
But it feels good to have a fresh supply of clean clothes.

This will be the first wash/dry shrink test of the
new Mikie's Fun House t-shirt,
just off the press a few days before I set out.

These mundane thoughts, and many others are
rattling around in my mind,
and all the while
I want to be thinking about the Magical Event.

And so now, with my administrivia behind me,
I will meditate deeply on the
Meaning, or Message, if any.

Day 11: Canada, The Day Before

Today is the day before the wedding.

For me, it is a day of rest, and preparation.
An absolute must is to get my suit pressed.
It has been getting uglified
in the travel abuse and cramped quarters of the Vet.
Also need some shirts and pants laundered.
(PLEASE don't put a crease in the pants!)
You can put this all you want in the special instructions
but it will be futile if the launderers do/can not read.
And that's usually the case.
One can only hope...

For the other guests, the day is a litany of "activities"
planned by George to maximize everyone's enjoyment.
I avoid all of these opportunities,
and do yoga, stretching, exercise, meditation, and rest
in the excellent confines of my room, by the fire,
as the rain continues...
Just as you would expect from any good hermit.

I tend to avoid all group activities.
Even good friends' group activities.
Except that, every 5 or 10 years or so,
I throw a party.
This gets all of my groupiness out in one fell swoop,
and I can go back to life without all that busyness.

In news from back home,
Sean reports that he is getting strong positive feedback
on the new Mikie's Fun House t-shirt he has been wearing.

This is the first day since I have owned it,
that I have not driven the car.
And considering the events of last evening,
I'm not going to miss it.

There's not much need for a car here in Whistler.
And that's by design, of course,
because Whistler was the first purpose-built ski resort.
It is also the site of the Winter Olympics 2010.
That explains why there is so much construction
on the road between Vancouver and Whistler.
They are moving mountains for the event!

Tonight will be the first night since July 4
that I will sleep in the same bed as the night before.
I got greedy for that feeling
and took a long nap this afternoon,
with a fire going, and raining outside.

Day 12: Canada, The Big Day

The bachelor party last night
went according to a script written eons ago.
We all know about these things,
so it is not necessary, or prudent,
to recap them here.

The only question I remember,
and I'm sure I remember very little of it,
was how to get the donkey through the lobby,
and up to the room,
without attracting the attention of the
hotel management.

Complete details of the party
will be available on an as-needed basis,
because "what happens in Whistler, stays in Whistler".
From everything I have seen so far,
Whistler is THE party capital of Canada,
and the residents seem very OK with that.

After being given every good reason, excuse,
and opportunity to flee his impending fate,
George remained resolute.
Or, maybe he was just so wrecked as to
appear resolute.
In any case, he did not flee,
and in fact he was seen this morning
carrying on with the plan to marry
in just a few hours.
The die has been cast.
He is gone...

And so, in the fullness of time,
the rains came to an end,
the sun burst through the clouds,
and George and Barbie were married,
in a simple ceremony at the edge of a lake,
at the foot of Olympic mountains.

Then the partying commenced anew.
After some significant folderol,
people began talking with the aid of a microphone,
recounting stories of George or Barbie,
but mostly it was about Barbie
(who I had not met until 2 days ago).

To say that the bride is an extraordinary woman,
would be an understatement.
She is a full-on medical doctor, an OB/GYN surgeon.
That would be pretty impressive in itself,
but wait, there's more...
Barbie is also an MBA and a JD (law degree).
At the reception she stunned the crowd
by singing two beautiful songs, one to George,
and one to George's daughter Kelcie.
She is also a vegan and yogini.
And she drew people from Australia
to Houston to be with her on her big day.

So, Barbie is definitely an extraordinary woman,
by any measure,
and she chose my friend George to be her man.
Who is George to be so lucky?
His website Speaking From Experience
will tell you only some of his credentials
as a nationally acclaimed speaker
(in the Speakers Hall of Fame!)
an author of several books, etc...
But more importantly he is a great father,
who put his career on hold to raise his young daughter alone.
And he did a great job of it!
He hitchhiked around the world many times,
and loves getting off the beaten path
in faraway places.
George is an extraordinary man,
so it seems to be a good match from that perspective.

In fact, virtually everyone I met at that party
was someone who had distinguished themself in a major way.
Many are authors and speakers. Here are a few:
Dan Burrus, Futurist, Speaker, Author
Scott Friedman, Humorist/Motivator
W. Mitchell, Motivational Speaker
(click the names to go to their websites)
well, I could go on and on, but it would take too much space.
If you do nothing else, check W. Mitchell's story.
I have seldom been in a place with so much talent.
It could almost get me feeling humble...

Enough, already!
Only one more party tomorrow morning,
and then I can get out of here Monday, and

Day 13: Whistler, Canada, The Day After

What was intended to be a brief brunch party,
to celebrate the morning after,
lasted into the early evening,
and included paddling a canoe on a
pristine lake in an idyllic setting,
with perfectly clear skies.

While out on the lake, we slipped the canoe
within 15' of a wild blue heron,
and we studied each other closely for 10 minutes,
before we slipped back away from this great bird.
Later in the day, we saw a bear cub walking
across the street in the town of Whistler.
Barbie says she sees full-grown bears in the morning
on her bike ride to the gym.
This place is truly unspoiled.

The newlyweds are still clearly smitten
by the Madness that is Romantic Love.

But this part of my adventure is now fully over.
Tomorrow morning I leave this place
for a place unknown.
I will pack my bags in the morning,
load them into the car,
and go looking for pool.

I don't know where I will be sleeping tomorrow.
I'll make that decision on the road.

Day 14: Vancouver, Canada

Today is the first day of the rest of my trip.

Bloated and groggy from days of
Gluttony and Drunkeness,
(all for the very good purpose
of celebrating the wedding of a friend),
I set out this morning with resolve
that such excessive behavior will not
occur again until after the US Amateur championships
(in November).

I must be clear headed and in good shape.
Each day I will study, practice, meditate,
exercise, visualize, and affirm.
I will do whatever it takes to improve my game.

This will be an interesting challenge,
as I have not picked up a cue in almost 2 weeks.
Never in the last 2 and a half years have I gone
so long without shooting some pool.

Checked out and got on the road by noon.
First stop was to get the car washed,
the first in 1200 miles, and it showed!
But coming down the Sea to Sky highway (99)
from Whistler to Vancouver,
I got hit with a torrent of debris
thrown from a speeding semi.
Stones, dirt, and who knows what-all
smashed into my brand new car with
startling force.
I haven't had the courage to check the damages.

I decided to make Vancouver my first stop,
just to check out the place.
Got a room with a monster view of the harbor,
with a dozen floatplanes taking off and landing
right in front of the hotel.
But I'm here to shoot pool,
so after checking in I took a taxi to
Commodore Lanes and Billiards.
Beat up tables, but with new cloth.

Members (people who pay $25/mo) get the good tables.
Yesterday was the big tournament.
Nothing going on today. Bummer.

My first few racks were not pretty.
I kept miscueing, even on simple shots.
The chalk looked like Master but it was Jupiter.
So I switched to my own blue Master chalk,
and that solved the miscue problem.

The place was dead, except for waves of Asian teens
who came in groups to play for maybe half an hour,
then leave. Other than that, it was dead.
I practiced for about 4 hours,
and started to feel like maybe
I could regain my touch soon.

But my back was killing me.
I needed some stretching and Advil.
Today was just the start.
I'll work on consistent practice first,
then expand the hours.
I know my game will get better
as the party toxins start to leave my body.

I was thinking I'd be here a couple of days,
but I'll probably move on tomorrow.
Vancouver ain't showin' me nuthin...

Day 15: Seattle, WA

Vancover was dead, so I split.
Only one direction to go: South.
That means Seattle.
But where in Seattle?

That question was answered by Steve Lingelbach,
the publisher of On The Wire, a pool magazine
that covers the Northwest USA.
One call to him and he clued me in to the
pool halls where all the "players" hang.

First on the list is Dr. Cue Billiards in Shorline, WA
just a bit north of Seattle.
What a great pool hall!
Probably the nicest pool hall I have ever visited.
Squeaky clean, Gold Crown III tables that play perfect:
fast and level.

And I got lucky.
Tuesday is tournament night.
Race to three, double elimination,
NO HANDICAP, which means I'm going up against
some tough competition.

A good friend, Bruce M., lives in Seattle,
and I called him earlier in the day,
and he returned my call while I was getting some practice,
and when he heard I was going to be in a tournament,
he just had to stop by to catch the action.
I tried to discourage him, but he didn't get it.
I would much rather play without a fan club
hanging around asking questions and taking me
out of my game.

The first match went my way, 3-1.
I guess it didn't show that I was shakin' in my boots!
Bruce stayed quiet, and that helped.
There was about an hour before the next match,
and Bruce and I started reminiscing about
the good old days,
and of course that didn't help my focus any.

I was getting my butt kicked in the next match,
and Bruce figured it would be time for him to leave,
but it didn't change my luck any and I lost the set.

The third set I played a lot better, and won 3-0
and I was thinking I might finish up in the money,
but the 4th set was a killer.

I only picked up my cue two times in the last set.
The first time was to push, and then he made a
great shot on the one ball, and caromed to sink the 9.
His next rack he made an easy carom off the 2 into the 9.
The third rack he ran 2 balls, then left me safe.
That was the last time I got to the table
because he just ran out after I missed the kick.

Wow! What a trip!
Two strokes of my cue, and no clear shot.
Talk about controlling the table!
He was good.

So that was it for me,
but I felt as if I was playing pretty good.
And I took out a couple of good players.
With a bit more practice, and the proper
pre-match preparation,
I think I can do a lot better.

And there's another tournament tomorrow!

Closer inspection of the car reveals
extensive windshield damage from the
debris torrent spewed forth from the trucks
when I was coming down from Whistler.
Did not find any severe body damage.
I guess it could have been worse.

Day 16: Moses Lake, WA

I woke in the middle of the night,
still undecided about where to go next,
and dreaming of spiders and a buddy in Australia.
What the heck is that all about?

East or South?
I couldn't make up my mind
whether to go to Portland,
where there surely is pool,
or Spokane, where there is pool,
but from what I hear, there is a
WPBA qualifier going on this weekend.

I decided at the last minute, of course,
and set my nav system for east.

After crawling through Seattle freeway traffic,
we finally found clear road and perfect skies
on I-90, where we climbed up, up, up through
trees and lakes and mountains of great beauty.
Finally cresting the Cascades (?),
the trees disappeared, and all around was a
great hardscrabble desert plateau.

The beauty came in the form of asphalt,
an unending ribbon of the stuff,
smooth and begging to be surfed at speed.
Several times I hit triple digits,
but then, it is so easy to do.

A little squeeze on the go-pedal
and it shifts down one gear.
Squeeze a bit more, and another gear down.
It seems to have no limit,
until you flog the beast to test it,
and it makes big noises and slams you into the seat,
and like a slingshot you are launched with great force.
What a beast!

I decided to hang out in Moses Lake,
where there is a lake, to be sure,
and a rather nice one, but I'm sure
Moses is long gone.

This is a laundry stop,
about halfway to Spokane,
where I may be able to bunk down
at a good friend's place.

I'll bet Moses Lake has a pool table...

After extensive research,
pool tables in Moses Lake were found
at the Ripple Tavern.
There are three of them,
one nine-footer and 2 coin-ops.
Five bucks an hour for the big one.

I took my playing cue, just in case,
but left it in the trunk of the car.
I didn't want to walk in with a case full of gear,
looking like I could play.

The tables were empty, so I started shooting
on the nine-foot table, but no interest
was shown by the sparse crowd of locals,
a rough-looking collection of overweights,
whites and Latinos.
The men drinking pitchers of beer,
sad and lonely women with mixed drinks,
laughing too loud to attract attention,
everyone a smoker, in a smoke free bar.

No matter how badly I shot,
nobody came up to challenge me,
so after a couple of hours I called it quits.
As I was cashing in, a swarthy Latino
wearing a wife-beater t-shirt sidled up to me
and told me he was going to challenge me
to play for $100, one handed.
I asked him why he didn't, and he said
he didn't think I had the hundred bucks.

Yeah, right.

Day 17: Spokane, WA

The Car
The road from Moses Lake to Spokane is
a high speed straight shot along I-90.
The road surface is smooth and clean,
and just begging for high speed running.
The mid-day temperatures were hitting 98 degrees,
so I kept the top up and the AC full blast.

Cold, the tires are at about 30 psi,
but on the hot road, they get as high as 37 psi,
making for a rough ride... but I ain't complaining!

I was surprised that I have put on over 2300 miles
so far on this trip, so it look like I'll need to get
some service done, maybe in Denver.
I'm thinking I might leave the car at a Chevy dealer
while I zip out to Philly to visit my father on his 91st birthday.
That's about as much planning as I want to do!

The People
Hung out with my good friend Katie,
who I haven't seen for way too long.
She and I played frisbee on the beach
for many years, so we are very close,
even though I have not visited her since
she moved to Spokane.

Before dinner, I slipped over to Far West Billiards
and shot a few racks solo,
then decided to practice my draw shot,
which seems to be just one of the many
weak points in my game.

I tried a few of the pointers that Roy Yamane gave me
on Day 2 of this trip.
I must have tried the same shot 100 times today,
and after about 30-40 shots, a dim light came on.
After about 80 attempts at the exact same shot,
it almost seemed as if I might be able to draw.
I could feel my focus getting clearer the more I shot it.

What an interesting concept!
I might try more of that stuff...

The shot?
Object ball at 2nd diamond away from the head rail,
a chalk width off the side rail.
Cue ball 3-4 diamonds away from the object ball,
same distance off the side rail.
Pocket the object ball in the corner,
and draw the cue ball back to the foot rail.

Day 18: Spokane, WA

The People

Katie and her husband Richard are artists
who met at Art Center in LA about 20 years ago.
Richard is an absolute genius, and has
distinguished himself with work on movies (Alladin)
and comuter games (Riven) and much more
than I could list here.

Katie is currently doing work on the TV animation
series Squirrel Boy and has also done Duckman.
One of my most prized possessions is a t-shirt
and a painting of a frisbee flying over the beach,
an original, which she made for me many years ago.

Their daughter Helen, only 15, has her own radio show!

Last night, Richard prepared a fabulous meal,
salmon, mashed potatoes, asparagus,
all done to the highest level of perfection of his artistry.
I think I have never had a tastier meal!

It was a great time, with lots of stories by/about
all the guests and family.
It seems that the planets aligned to bring us together.
Katie's sister Maggie was visiting with her daughter,
and Richard's brother Tom and new bride were here for a visit
on their way to a tour of the USA on his Harley
which he shipped over from his home in Hawai'i.

The Car

This morning it had it's first real personal attention
in 2500 miles, tended to by the guys at
Gentle Touch Hand Wash, just a few blocks from the hotel.
With all the road-schmutz removed, I noticed a few more
of the dings from the debris torrent we suffered in Canada.
The windshield is definitely screwed with pits galore.
But, after a thorough cleaning, it looks WOW!!
I am not going to get tired of that color.
In the sun, it really comes alive with highlights!

The Pool

Checked out the action at McQ's Billiards and Sports Bar,
and the women's qualifier for the WPBA tour.
Watched them for an hour or two,
and I could see them make some of the mistakes I make.
Sure is a lot easier watching than competing!

Then I got into a set with Sean,
the guy who beat me at the Jillian's Seattle tournament.
(He was here with his wife Susie who was in the qualifier.)
I was really looking forward to playing Sean again,
to show him, and me, that I could shoot better than I did.
He started off good, and I was slow to get going,
and soon Sean had me down several games in a race to 7,
but I hung in there and won the set 7-5.
Needless to say, I was feeling great about that.

One of Sean's friends, Dan, was waiting for winners,
so I played him a race to 5 and won that set too.
Fast Mikie rules the day!

But then I started being Mr. Nice Guy,
socializing with Sean and Dan,
and you know what happens when I start talking:
I lose focus, and start missing shots.
By the way, Sean Gray is a tobacco chewing
Ph.D. in biochemistry, working on a cure for AIDS.

But, hey, let's remember the bright spot of the day...
I got even with Sean, in a hard-fought come-from-behind victory,
and then beat his buddy, who is the same speed as Sean,
both A-level players.

I really couldn't ask for more than that!

The temperature at 6:30PM was 103 degrees. Ouch!
The pool hall was the perfect place to be today.

Tonight, when it cools down,
I'll celebrate with another great meal
in the company of friends.
Life is good.

Day 19: Spokane, WA

Pay It Forward

It was a morning like any other,
doing all the morning things,
shower, coffee, breakfast, floss...
oops! pop goes a tooth crown!
And here I am 1500 miles from my dentist.

I can click the crown back in place,
and there is no pain, yet,
but I'm thinking it could easily come off
when I'm eating, and I could swallow the tooth,
and that could lead to all sorts of complications
not the least of which would be the need to
poke around in my own excrement to find it.
And, if I did find it, do I really want it back in my mouth?

A call to my home dentist is returned right away (Sunday!)
and as always, he is a calming influence,
saying that he would gladly see me tomorrow if
I jumped on a plane to get to his office, (which I would gladly do)
but advises that a local dentist could deal with a temp glue-job
that could last until I get back to home base.
More calls to local good friend Kate for number
of her family dentist, then messages to his home,
but he is on the road, on the way home,
so now it's just a waiting game.

It's always interesting to see how life can change
in an instant, and based on the smallest of details.
I am reminded of this ancient children's rhyme:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Within the hour, Dr. House, the Spokane dentist,
called me at the hotel, and offered to see me at his office
in half an hour... on Sunday! Wow!
And in no time at all, I was all fixed up.
We were walking out to the parking lot,
when I was struck by the fact that
he had not even mentioned payment for his services,
so I asked him: "How much?" and he simply smiled and said:
"Pay It Forward".
How incredible is that!?

I have seen the movie, and
I subscribe to the principle in my life,
and extend the same terms to those people I mentor,
but I was completely surprised to meet someone else
who lived by the "Pay It Forward" philosophy.

At a time when the world seems to be coming apart at the seams,
there are rays of hope that we may be intrinsically good enough
to save ourselves.
If it were possible to have a critical mass of people
committed to the Pay It Forward principle,
we just may survive, and prosper.

What can YOU do to Pay It Forward?

The Pool

The finals of the WPBA qualifier were extraordinary.
The winner, Canadian Joanne Ashton, was being crushed 5-0
and yet won the next 5 games to bring the score even,
and continued with a knock-down, drag-out match
and eventually won 9-8.
She played very smart pool, and I learned a few things
which I'm sure will help my game.
Congrats Joanne!

Sean and Susie didn't show up today,
probably already left for the long drive home to Seattle,
so I didn't get the chance to play him again.
I shot a few racks after the women's final was over,
but didn't get a game.

Tonight I treat Katie, Richard, Maggie and Evie
to a first class meal at the Luna Restaurant
(absolutely excellent, by the way)
for having taken such good care of me
for the last few days. I'll miss them.

Riding solo from the restaurant back to the hotel,
I dropped the top and luxuriated in the 82 degree
evening air, cruising slowly along thru curvy streets
still wet from sprinkler runoff.
It was one of those perfect summer car-times.
It could have been any car, and I could have been 18 again.
It felt great!

I leave Spokane tomorrow morning,
and have no idea where I'll go next.
Probably east, maybe south.
Another scorcher today, with temps over 105 degrees.

Day 20: Sandpoint, ID

Beutiful territory around here.
A giant lake where you would never expect it.
And I got the last room right ON THE BEACH,
so I feel right at home.

I'm visiting with friends Heather and Bruce & 3 great kids.
Bruce and Heather operate
which is an extraordinary and original concept
with a huge following.
Check it out and join the party!
That's just one of many hats they wear.
Also into other online businesses, plus real estate, plus...
Another claim to fame is that they vacationed in Paris
with their friend Mark Furhman,
the perjured detective in the OJ Simpson case.

Tonight I shot some pool on small bar tables with Bruce,
and got challenged by a young guy, Sean,
who was a good shot, but was missing the strategy of
safety in 8-ball.
We only played one game, and I coached Bruce to play
safe with 7 balls, with clusters, until he finally won.
Sean was appreciative for the opportunity to learn.

I remember when, not too long ago,
I had very little knowledge of safety play,
especially using safeties as an offensive strategy.
Thanks to the brilliance of Tony "El Maestro" Sorto,
and his unlimited patience in teaching a pig (me) to sing,
I'm starting to get the idea, and see the opportunities.

Sean and I will probably play again tomorrow night.
After that, I'm outta here,
and will most likely head to Missoula, Montana
for some serious pool on regulation tables.

Day 21: Sandpoint, ID

Sandpoint is described as the place where
God wakes up each morning and kisses the earth.

I'm sure there are at least two arguable points
in that hypothesis, but it's poetic anyway.

Today was a simple day with simple pleasures,
enjoying the lake, the beach, and the company
of Heather and her extraordinary children.
Early this morning Bruce went to San Francisco on biz.

It was a no-pool day, as I could not bring myself
to play on the small bar tables at Slates restaurant.
There is not even a listing in the phone book for Billiards.

So it's back on the road in the morning, south and east,
to Missoula, Montana, and some serious pool.

Three weeks on the road so far,
far from home,
and this evening I am feeling it.

Day 22: Missoula, MT

The speed limit is 75 on the road to Missoula,
and that let's me get my right foot into it a bit more.
I didn't see any police cars for the entire 3+ hour trip.
This is real boondocks territory.
But the road is great, with lots of long sweeping curves
winding through majestic conifer covered mountains
guarding picturesque meandering valley streams.
I could live here if it weren't for the winters.

I planned to hit Missoula early in the afternoon
to deal with a board of directors meeting by phone
and that lasted more than 3 hours.
I checked out the Yellow Pages under Billiards
to find the place I've been planning to play,
but there was no "Cue Ball's" listed.
I checked the story I read about the place online,
and noticed that it was dated 2001, so it seems
that the place went out of business.
The only other place for pool I saw in the book
was called The Palace, so I called and felt lucky
to learn that there was going to be a tournament tonight.

When I got there, The Palace is really a Dungeon.
It's in the basement of an old building.
Narrow stairs off the sidewalk lead down to
a low-ceiling cave that smelled of stale tobacco smoke.
The tables were covered with treadbare cloth, but
I would have played on them anyway, except for the smoke.
I made the commitment a couple of years ago to never
play where they allow smoking.
These people may be suicidal, but not me!

So it was back to the hotel, and I was ready to move on,
but I checked the Yellow Pages one more time,
(the book seemed newer than the last one I checked)
and found an ad for the Univ. of Montana's Game Room
with 15 brand new Gold Crown IV tables (plus ping pong)!

Long story short, I was there...
Played the guy who manages the place,
and out of about a dozen games of 9 and 8 ball,
I won all but two.
It wasn't fair, really, because his girfriend arrived
in the middle of the set and he lost his focus.
She's a hottie, so I missed a shot or two as well,
but then I got back into it.

Tonight was a first.
First time I played on black cloth.
Didn't seem to make any difference.

Day 23: Missoula, MT

Only 58 days left before the US Amateur Championships.
Gotta pick up the pace with more focused practice.
So it's back to school today (Univ. of Montana)
and those beautiful 15 Gold Crown IV tables.

Yesterday's table was "Reserved",
so I took one of the others which are all
covered in nappy stuff.
While they look slow, they aren't that much slower
than the table with the black smooth cloth.

The place was deserted,
so I started into my practice routine:
1. Two dozen long draw shots
2. Two dozen short draw precision position shots.
3. Sorto string till I do it. (I did in 7 tries.)
4. Alternate Rail position with 6 balls. (10 reps)

After 100 minutes I needed a break.
Would you believe table time was only 4 bucks?

I'm going back tonight for competition...

Well, the competition didn't happen.
Adam, the guy who I played last night,
and who I was intending to play again tonight,
called to say his buddy got arrested,
and he had to deal with that.
I guess if you're going to get arrested,
the time to do it is while you're still in college.

So I just did some more focused practice for 3 hours.
This time I worked on the tough shots.
Table length, cue ball frozen on the head rail,
with the object ball frozen to the side rail.
My success percentage was pretty low until I
focused on three things:
1. exaggerated follow through
2. disciplined pre-shot routine
3. take a good, full stroke (not soft)
With these working for me, my success ratio soared.

The follow through helped somewhat,
but it was the pre-shot routine that helped most.
I remember Samm Diep's pre-shot routine and how
absolutely focused she is, and I tried to model her
and it was a big help.
Thanks, Samm!

Samm won the BCA 9-ball women's championship!
I played her last year when I was in Denver,
and I'm looking forward to playing her again
when I get there on this trip.

Even with cheap table time and great tables,
I'm burning out on this place.
I need some serious competition, not just practice.
The road is calling my name...

Day 24: Sheridan, WY

I was thinking I'd head out to Bozeman, MT
but when I got there I was feeling good,
so I stretched it to Billings, MT
and then figured I'd had just about enough of Montana,
and went all the way into Wyoming.

Right at the state line going into Wyoming
the road turns red. Red asphalt!
Further down the road, the sky turned red-ish
because of smoke from a wildfire a long way off.
Red road, red sky, red car... it looked like I was
driving straight into HELL!

Today's run was the longest leg so far,
and the road was straight through some of the
best looking geography so far.
We crossed the continental divide at 6,393' elevation
between Missoula and Bozeman,
and it was all downhill since then (mostly).

This is the land of Little Big Horn
where Custer got his butt kicked (terminally),
and there is nothing but meat on the menu.
Cowboys don't eat no veggies.

I looked in the Yellow Pages for Billiard Parlors,
found only one listed,
and asked the hotel front desk clerk
to direct me to the place,
and she told me it was about three hours down the road.
It was just a small Yellow Pages, but included
a major hunk of Wyoming, the least populous state.
I won't be shooting pool there tonight.

I'm feeling kinda grumpy without some competition,
but I sense it might be close.