In March of 2007, my friends and I took the long drive from Pullman to Sacramento. I don't think I need to tell you why. The trip started at about 6:30 p.m., as I had worked that day. We loaded up on energy drinks and set off through Central Oregon and Northern California.
The first few hours of the drive were pretty uneventful, as darkness took over and we chewed up mileage on US 97. The real hiccups came as we tried to find open gas stations. There aren't many in the dead of night in a state that requires someone else to pump your gas.
By the time we hit the I-5 interchange in Weed, California, the hours of consuming energy drinks were starting to kick in. We were stopping on just about every exit on I-5. I was paranoid and convinced that a blood clot was forming in my right leg and making its way to my brain (we were driving a 2003 Kia Rio, not much room for a 6'5 guy).
One of those bathroom stops came in the woods near Mount Shasta. The gas station was a bit run-down. It had a real backwoods look, complete with a rotting and rusted exterior.
Our car was painted up, and there were flags flying from the windows. The gentleman at the register saw that, put his hand on the shotgun behind the counter, and asked my friend if we were "a bunch of foreigners."
In just a few moments, it would start to feel like a different country.
I made my way to the back of the building towards the restroom, to an out-of-place room that may have been a lounge area for the employees. There were plenty of dead animal heads mounted, as well as an entire wall covered in newspapers from the Second World War.
All of this was strange for a gas station off the interstate, but none of it was enough for me to decide to get back in the car and head for the next rest stop. That didn't come until I reached the bathroom.
A mannequin greeted me as I opened the door. It was fully dressed in Victorian attire, and holding a saucer and tea cup. It was seated in an antique clawfoot bathtub.
The energy drinks dictated that I press on and use the toilet, which was thankfully in fine working order. As I relieved myself I faced a completely open window with no shades, peering out to the brush behind the building. I suddenly did not feel alone, and there was most certainly someone else on the other side of the screen. I looked to the side and felt the mannequin peering into my soul.
After I finished, I zipped up and hurried back to the front of the store. My friends asked if I had found the bathroom. I suggested we get back in the car and move along.
The old man behind the counter was locked on our conversation with a pointed stare, and that confirmed my decision. We hopped back in the Rio, and continued on our way to Sacramento.