The Road to Utopia

17 Oct

# of times I’d heard of “deer corn” in my first ~27 years on Earth: 0.

# of signs I saw for it on the drive to Utopia, Texas: 7

I honestly couldn’t even guess what “deer corn” meant as Caitlin drove us Southwest, through rural Texas’ hill country. I guess I’m revealing how little I know about Texas outside of Austin, because Caitlin seemed pretty familiar with the concept of deer corn. Well, she knew it was corn for deer, but being an animal-loving vegetarian, she assumed it was to feed deer, which I guess is true, but I’ve come to find out it’s mostly for baiting deer when hunting them*. Sad times. At least the stuff seemed really cheap: $10 for 40 pounds? What a deal! Eh, that’s not really that much better than 6 ears for $1 at H.E.B. and that’s human corn. But I digress. I was too wrapped up in “deer corn**” to remember “Cow, I win.” So I lost.

*I actually knew and said this, but I like to forget, anyway, because it makes me sad.

**I’d say, too wrapped up in sports on your iPhone. But who’s counting.

“Cow, I win” is a game Andy (my Festival Crashers partner) taught me. It’s a pretty simple game. When on a long road trip, the first person to spot a cow and audibly say “Cow, I win” wins. You can only play once a day and it can only be cows. I can’t explain how good or bad it feels to win or lose the game. You immediately try to figure out if you’ll still be driving by cows at midnight, so you can get your revenge. Usually I’m more attentive to the game, but it hadn’t crossed my mind at all. I was too fascinated by deer corn, and Caitlin was honed in. She later told me she almost brought the game up at some point, but didn’t want to risk it in case I was zoning out. She’s sneakily competitive like that.

We do have one car game that you can get a re-match in. It’s a Teibloom family tradition to play “The initials game” on car rides. This game is a bit more complicated. One person says the initials of either a famous person or someone both people know personally and the other person has to ask yes or no questions to guess who the person is. For example, I could give Caitlin “R.L.” You run through a series of standard questions: “Famous?” “Yes.” “Man?” “No.” “Entertainment?” “Yes.” “Music?” “No.” “T.V.?” “Yes.” “Is the show still on?” “No.” “Sitcom?” “No.” “Drama?” “No.” “Talk show?” “Yes.” “Ricki Lake?” “Wow, good guess!” We had some solid ones. I had to give her a bunch of clues for Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Chevy Chase and she had me completely stumped on Brittany Murphy. I totally forgot about that girl. I guess I need to watch “Clueless” less sporadically. 

If it were up to me, road trips would be a non-stop game of the initials game, “Cow, I win” and “deer corn” anecdotes, with general talking smattered in between, but Caitlin likes to stop and listen to music for a solid amount of the time. This is a good thing. I’d be an old man listening to sports talk without her in the car. We usually make mixes for road trips. I think this is the first time we didn’t, but this weekend was exhausting at work and we barely had time to sleep, let alone make mixes. We decided to just bring Caitlin’s iPod and plug it into her relatively new car stereo. We started with a few songs by the Antlers, a band Caitlin is really getting into, especially after seeing them at A.C.L., while Andy and I were at Aloe Blacc. I think it was one of those rare festival times when we would both say we made the right decision on who to see and both be right. I do like The Antlers, but they didn’t feel quite right for driving. After a few songs of The Antlers, we put on The Black Keys and went with Attack and Release, since we played the crap out of Brothers in the last year. It was better driving music, but we still didn’t quite make it all the way through. I think we’re ready for El Camino.

LCD Soundsystem’s final album, This is Happening, is the album Caitlin put on when she gave me a ride home the night we met. Of course we listened to the whole thing intently and kept the initials game to a minimum. There’s something about LCD that’s inherently perfect for driving. The same things that Andy would complain about them when he was first being exposed to them live are the things that make them so ideal to drive to: A lot of repetition and being beat heavy makes for a lulling drive, so we powered right through and Caitlin even re-started our song, “I Can Change,” after we pulled out of a Subway to make sure we heard it all in order. 

We don’t even own a T.V. anymore, but I still see enough commercials to know that it’s “Anytober” at Subway this month. What a ridiculous ad campaign. The five. Five dollar. Five dollar footlong thing was effective enough. We don’t need to make up fake month names. Are they considering having kosher sandwich deals in the seventh month of the year?* Anway, I’m pretty sure the veggie sub is always $5, but it’s the only thing Caitlin eats at Subway, so we split one with a bag of BBQ chips and Dr. Pepper. Caitlin noted that the small town employees looked very sad with life. We ate pretty quickly, Caitlin laughed at me for putting chips on my sandwich and we headed back on the road (after peeking into the bakery next door to make sure there wasn’t something that looked too tasty to pass up.)

*He means Jew-ly. He had to tell me this before I got it.

After James took us “Home,” we went with O.K. Go for the home stretch. I would have liked to start on track two, “All Things Must Pass,” but Caitlin’s a big fan of opening track “WTF,” and skipping things isn’t really her bag, so we started with the beginning. Phone service was non-existant for the last part of the drive, so we were lucky Utopia Fest* had such specific directions like, “Stay right when at the Y. You will cross two other cattle guards before taking a left at the third.” We found the cattle guard and made it in with not one single detour. This is worth noting for any road trip I’m apart of.

*Sorry, UTOPiAfest. Zack is against exclamation points, odd spelling, funky capitalization and parades. He doesn’t capitalize tUnE-YarDs the right way, either.

While we were driving through Hondo, I was thinking a lot about my friend Brittany, who is from there. The place reminded me a lot of Leavenworth, Kansas, where much of my family lives. Particularly familiar (and super creepy) were signs along the road that said, “DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS — prison area nearby.” Message received, signs.

When we passed two Dairy Queens on the way to Utopia, Caitlin insisted we stop if they were open on the way home. I may not have grown up with deer corn, but Dairy Queens were everywhere in the Chicago suburbs and in Wisconsin where I went to overnight camp and Indiana where I went to school and … pretty much everywhere I’ve been has Dairy Queen. That’s why “DQ- That’s what I like about Texas” has always made me laugh. Either way, we were kind of sad we couldn’t stay and camp, but I had to be at work at 6 a.m. and we weren’t going to make it home until almost midnight, even leaving the fest super early (two songs into The Wheeler Brothers.) I got a vanilla cone dipped in chocolate which hit the spot and Caitlin managed her Cookie Dough blizzard while driving, which was all the more impressive.

Zack was a fantastic travel partner. I find that when I’m driving with him, trips go by far more quickly than I expect. We pass the time playing the games he described, and getting to know each other even better. There were a few more events of note that Zack didn’t mention in his recap — first, as we were leaving the festival and retracing our driving path in the dark, I almost ran into a giant black horse because I couldn’t figure out what it was. It was off to the side of the road, and it took Zack yelling out, “Look out for that horse!” for me to be snapped into consciousness. We also narrowly missed  a tiny adorable bunny* that was trying to hop across the road, but I can proudly say that there were no deaths caused by our journey that night.

*We have kind of bad luck with animals on our drives back from festivals. In June, Caitlin narrowly missed hitting a deer on the way back from Free Press Summer Fest. I sadly saw it get run over by a truck as I turned my head as it passed. I have no idea what this gigantic black horse was doing next to the road. 



The other part of the trip that I got to experience happened while Zack was in the car, waiting for me to use the restroom at a gas station. As I was washing my hands, I looked at a shiny object sitting on the sink, all innocent-like. It was a gold bullet, and I ran out to the car afterward and told Zack about it. Between escaped inmate hitchhikers and a bullet in a bathroom, it was quite the adventurous trip we shared into Utopia. We spent the car ride home singing along at the top of our lungs (quite impressively, if I do say so myself) to Vampire Weekend, Phoenix and Regina Spektor. It was a grand adventure with my favorite partner. I’m excited for the next one!


One Response to “The Road to Utopia”


  1. Utopia Fest is a true Utopia | Festival Crashers - October 18, 2011

    […] The Drive to Utopia […]

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