Don't Even Go There—Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

Even if the world is your oyster, you can still chip a tooth on its shell. While travel magazines feature exotic locales of breathtaking beauty, we expose sites so depressing that no traveler this side of Edgar Allan Poe would venture there without a tub-load of tranquilizers. Take Las Vegas (please) and the $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffet line at Sam’s Town. That's the world we explore at Don’t Even Go There.

On this site, we tell of places we’ve visited but wish we hadn’t. We reveal vacation plans gone awry and relate horror stories from the road best abandoned. These true stories reflect where we’ve chosen to go. We only have ourselves to blame. We rarely needed to exaggerate—the truth really is stranger than a Dan Brown novel.

Don’t Even Go There: travel tips for those of us who aren’t escorted by security guards, pampered by wealthy benefactors, or provided a generous per diem. This blog is for seasoned travelers and armchair tourists who want the real world first-hand and head-on, with all its drama, horror, and humor. You’ll laugh at us, cry with us, and decide to stay home more often.

06 June 2009

Why We Left California

We used to live in Southern California, where we’d ride our motorcycles everywhere, all the time. Temperatures rarely sank below 50°F, and the only rain we ever got came in early January. We were surprised everyone didn’t ride. Well, this story made us appreciate the price for that kind of freedom. If you ride a bike long enough, you get to see some strange things. Assuming you survive, as we did, you get to write them down, in an effort to exorcise the demons and work though the emotional scar tissue. Don’t let this happen to you. —MB & JS

California: the Land of Fruits and Nuts. This true story couldn’t have happened anywhere else. While most of the state is motorcycle-friendly, every once in a while, you find pockets of weirdness that even Hunter S. Thompson would have avoided. But unlike Thompson and his vials of illicit chemicals, all we had to help us through this experience was a bottle of cheap wine.

During a week-long motorcycle trip around the state, we landed at a trailer park outside Sacramento, the state capital. As anyone who rides will tell you, camping is the only way to do such a tour. Hotels cost too much, and after a day-long ride, believe us, you can sleep anywhere. So there we were, after a hard day’s ride over the hills and winding roads of Central California, kicking back and lighting up (cigarettes, that is). All we wanted was peace, quiet, and a plot of shaded grass to roll out our sleeping bags.

Before the campground and the cheap wine, there was a rest stop and a bottle of water. We had no idea what we were in for.

As we opened our well-earned bottle of wine, a girl appeared out of the dust to bum a smoke. She was slim and kind of Goth-looking. Straight black hair. Tattoos. Piercings. How could we refuse? While puffing away, she told us that her RV compressor was stolen the night before. Bad luck, we agreed; shit happens.

Then she claimed to have hired some thugs to shoot the place up.

As if on cue, a sheriff’s patrol car roared to stop in front of us. Then two more pulled up. As two officers approached, a third stood back, pointing his drawn firearm in our general direction. We froze. We would have crapped in our chaps, except our sphincters were clenched so tight, anything that escaped would have been turned into diamonds.

If you’ve never had a loaded gun aimed at you, let us tell you how it felt. Our brains stems short-circuited, overloaded with the possibilities of the next few moments. A single hiccup, a badly timed mosquito bite, or a sudden sneeze . . . and our lives were over. That meant—we realized in horror—no blog, no book deal, no movie, nothing. We kept as still as possible.

The lead officer immediately asked for identification, then demanded to know if we were armed. We weren’t, although we did surrender a pocketknife. The officer searched our gear anyway. Finding nothing, he asked where we came from. We began the story of our adventurous tour around the state.

The officer interrupted us. “Is this going to take long?”

“Well yes, as a matter of fact.”

He sized us up. “How did you two end up at the wrong place at the wrong time?”

“A waiter from the diner up the road said this was a nice spot to camp.”

The cop handed back our pocketknife. “You must not have tipped him very well.” Then he asked the girl if she had anything in her purse.

“No, not really,” she said.

“Then give me your crack-pipe.”

We were awed. How did he know she had one? Was the sheriff’s department armed with mind-readers? Do California cops have x-ray vision? Did the officer know the girl from a previous arrest? Or did every local in Sacramento carry a crack-pipe? That would go a long way to explaining how the state was run.

But no, it turned out the sharp-eyed officer had spotted the pipe during our conversation. It all depends on your perspective; we hadn’t noticed at all. The officer accepted the pipe and stomped the glass tube into the ground. Turning back to us, he said, “Sleep it off, y’hear? Then get out of town.”

Maybe it was his deadpan delivery. Maybe it was the mirrored sunglasses that hid his eyes. Whatever the reason, we decided to heed his advice. We haven’t been back since, and we recommend the same for you.

Little Known Fact: When Arnold Schwarzenegger became the state’s governor, he erected a huge tent behind the Governor’s Mansion, full of phones, faxes, and filings. The tent, which he paid for privately, allowed him to legally smoke his beloved cigars. The Mansion, you see, is a public building, and therefore by state law, smoking is prohibited inside it.

Lessons Learned: Every motorcycle trip—in fact, every trip into the unknown—is fraught with danger. We do our best to prepare, but sometimes events arise faster than we can say “To serve and protect,” which in this instance at least referred to our collective asses. We’re still here, so we must have done something right.
How We Saw It
Blight-Seeing: 1
Communication Breakdown: 4
Customer Dis-service: 5
Discomfort Level: 5
Grunge Factor: 4
Inactivity Guide: 3
Rent-Attainment: 2
Spontaneous Consumption: 2
Fun Fraction: 1/5
Vibe-Rating: 2

If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: Sacramento International Airport
Native Population: 467,343 (city only)
Normal Attractions: ARCO Arena (home of the Sacramento Kings), museums, music, history, the State Capitol Building, and nearby Sutter’s Mill, which started the Gold Rush of 1848.
Final Point of Interest: Sacramento hosts the annual Trash Film Orgy, a summer festival celebrating absurd, horror, monster, exploitation, and other B-movies. We missed it.


California Trailer Parks said...

In california many parks will not allow you to rent in their park so you may need to move the trailer or mobile home. This may still be well worth it if and much affordable.

Mark Bloom and Jason Scholder said...

Dear California Trailer Parks:

Thank you for your somewhat informative comment. (We're sure there's some valuable insight in there somewhere.) However, we don't think you understand the purpose of this blog. If you did, you'd have written something like this:

"In California, many parks are privately owned, meaning that you can be arrested just for possessing a crack pipe."

Where we now live, in scenic Western North Carolina, possessing a crack pipe merely informs the authorities that you aren't a meth addict. That's a good thing.