Road trippin’: the ultimate freedom

Traveling the countryside for fun not profit has often been the preoccupation of many an American writer from Kerouac to Steinbeck.

There’s no better time to satisfy one’s secret urge for nomadic life than that respite of respites, Spring Break.

In order to road trip, you need to be on the road, and the perfect American road trip wouldn’t be complete without a gas-guzzling automobile chugging along the highways and byways of this beautiful country, filling the air behind you with black, black smoke.

Unfortunately, such automobiles were outlawed in the 1970s, unless you count sport utility vehicles – but those suburban monster trucks just lack the style and sophistication of a 1957 Bel Air.

A recreational vehicle such as Winnebago’s Ultimate Freedom would be ideal, but would most likely break a college student’s bank account. So unless you can marry for money in the next week and a half, expect a smart and economical import from the likes of Toyota or Honda to aid you in your jaunt down the roadway.

If you don’t already own such a beast, and can’t convince a friend or lover or acquaintance to give up theirs, rent one.

Rent-a-Wreck, located on the southeast side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, offers a lowly college student his or her only real option for affordable car rental.

If you are a responsible 20-year-old without a credit card (debit cards don’t count, kids) and a lack of substantial credit, you’re going to have a hard time finding a car rental in Portland, as most of the big rental services won’t touch you.

That’s when Rent-a-Wreck steps in. While they won’t lend you a car for Hunter S. Thompsonesque trail of death and debauchery (you’ll need your own ride for that one), they will help you get up to your Grandma-ma’s in Seattle for a week-long trip of lemonades and bundt cakes.

Michael Dugger of Rent-a-Wreck (and PSU alum) says prospective renters can expect about $120 a week, not including taxes. That includes 100 free miles a day, for a total of 700 miles for that weeklong jaunt to Granny’s.

Of course, you’ll need insurance for a rental-full coverage. No more scraping by on liability alone.

Insurance is available in full or part from Rent-a-Wreck. “You can purchase all of it from me or you can buy some of it from me,” Dugger said.

If you’ve got your own ride, you can have a little more fun. Shoot for the moon. Drive to Vegas, see Wayne Newton.

If you’re going to go on a lengthy trip, you’ll need companionship. The obvious choice is to follow in the footsteps of Kerouac and invite your friend Neal along. If you don’t have a friend Neal, make one. If you can’t find a willing participant named Neal, make a bootleg of your mom’s copy of Heartlight by Neil Diamond. A little bit of Neil will go a long way to warming the hungry soul charging about the countryside looking for something.

Other choice musical options include Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman; German pop sensation Nena’s first release including such hits as “99 Red Balloons” and “Just a Dream”; and anything by Smokey Robinson.

If the friend named Neal plan falls through and your ride doesn’t have a tape deck, consider a dog. Preferably a small black dock named Romeo or Deathray. Pugs are good, as are Weiner dogs, Boston Terriers or any other breed capable of possessing a black coat.

Don’t bother going to tourist traps like the Oregon Vortex in Gold Hill Oregon, where the world is turned upside down before your eyes, unless you plan on taking a camera (all phenomenon can be captured on film).

If you do manage to procure a camera, make sure to pack plenty of slide film, thus ensuring that you can shock and amaze future dinner party guests with the stupendous footage from your ultimate road trip.

Other photo opportunities include Harvey the Rabbit, a gigantic … rabbit standing guard over Aloha, Ore., and Burns Junction’s Giant Bowling Pin, which is a … giant bowling pin.

Canyon City’s Grant County Museum features prominently a stuffed mutant two-headed goat. I’d like to believe its name is Neal, but I’m told otherwise.

If mutant animals and giant things aren’t up your alley, be sure to drop by The Dalles and snap a pic of the Muffmobile, a shockingly titillating car, customized to resemble a, you guessed it, muffler.

Follow these guidelines and even the very dead Jack Kerouac will crack a drunken smile.