Wow. There really is nothing like New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I kept something of a journal, although I don't know how much of it will go up here. Let's start with the first few hours...

18FEB04 - Well, we’re H+6 hours into our mini-invasion of the Deep South, and my Drill Commander just sent me his love in a bottle of Amber Brock, which I haven’t had in about 6 months. A new medication, at least new to me, has made this possible, and seems to have done a real job on my symptoms. Our chartered Drill Bus is unfortunately equipped with TV screens and loud speakers, which are playing “Gladiator” for anyone who cares. And anyone who doesn’t - goddammit those things are loud. I would cut the wires to the two that they’ve installed over my particular seat, but that kind of destruction is generally frowned upon with rented property. This whole experience is already several steps up on our last competition road trip, where we were stuffed like tinned crab meat into a couple of industrial vans.

We’re passing baseball stadiums with fameous names and outlet strip malls that perfectly mimic the shopping arenas common to every city in America - my sincere hope is that I will wake up at the end of our journey in a place which is recognisably different than the one I left.

H+12 hours - Passing trucks give me the impression that we're surrounded by ghosts. We're finally done with movie time, so the bus is dark except for one or two reading lights, and the glow-screens of various music devices. The rest of the world narrows to a spotted tunnel of cream-coloured lights and asphalt until another American city looms in the distance, flanked by the requisite Waffle Houses and Rent-A-Cube self-storage depots. Ye Gods - did that billboard change it's message just to suit my taste in music? It's happening on a road near you - Believe It. The Golden Age of Marketing is at hand, when all the businesses you patronise are owned by a central Parent with access to your spending habits and credit history. They will know where you live, what kind of coffee you brew, and when you like to turn on the morning news to ingest along with your Malt-O-Meal.

That rotten vending machine could only dispense caffine, so I'm awake in Nashville for the driver change-off. This version will be an upgrade, a Beast with raven hair and the sick ability to pilot our vessel through the mad straits of the Bible Belt all the way to the anus of the Mighty Mississip' at the Gulf of Mehico, where we make our beds tomorrow night.

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