“What’s the lure? Smoked meat and poutine?”
He points me to the Rental Car Rally site. I squeal like a piggie in mud. “I’m in,” I reply, my bad-idea bone piqued: In the RCR teams rent cars, then slalom through fog-shrouded country roads to Montreal. Liquor-soaked festivities ensue. Then hangovers are packed and teams motor home—all in 36 hours.
“Can we consume jerky and crazily caffeinated beverages?” I ask.
Despite astronomic gas costs and carbon-footprint guilt, I’m a sucker for stupid road trips. Last summer I traveled across Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan’s bumpy wilds, collecting yak teeth and chomping camel kebabs. The Montreal trek would be similarly bizarre, with fewer rifle-wielding nomads.
We corral a leather sedan with a thumping sound system. Our team is rounded out by Meat-Purveyor Dave, Crazy Chris and Scientist Aaron. We dub ourselves the USA(holes), buy presidential masks and dress like Point Break’s bank-robbing criminals, except with short shorts cut to our butt cheeks.
“I’m Dick, baby,” I tell my girlfriend, modeling my smirking Cheney mask and abbreviated blue shorts.
“Please don’t get arrested or killed,” she says, sighing.
“Want to see my presidential aspirations?”
“Uh, no. Now remove your mask so I can kiss you good-bye.” I do. “Remember: I’m not bailing you out.”
“No worries, I’m an adult.”
“We’ll see,” she says, planting another peck on my pucker.
At midnight on the anointed day, our five-man team departs Queens in a hail of honking. Following behind are teams in minivans, a flame-painted jalopy and even a bumblebee-yellow Corvette. We aim north to Montreal, guided by dulcet-toned GPS instructions. Hours pass. Switchback roads are conquered. Deer are avoided. Men snore. Cops question us (“We’re on vacation!”). Hunger hits. It’s 6 a.m. at a sleepy Amsterdam, New York gas station. I bypass energy beverages like the syrupy Venom and glistening hot dogs in favor of pizza topped with yellow clumps and brown crumbles.
“What is that?” I query the cashier, flashing my bare-thigh assets.
“Breakfast pizza,” she says. “It’s got bacon, cheese, eggs and sausage—all the good things in life.”
“And people eat it?”
“This is our third pie today.”
“It’s 6 a.m.”
I grab a slice—only $1.93—and bite. The omelet-like toppings relent to a thick, pillowy crust. Sausage and bacon play a greasy symphony on my tongue, before thudding into my belly like a cholesterol bomb.
“It tastes like a heart attack,” Scientist Aaron says, as we pile back into the car. Hours—and countless burps—later, baby-faced border guards welcome us into Canada. We speed to Montreal, eager to feed several kinds of hunger.
“It’s time for legs and eggs,” Dave says upon reaching a blackened-window bunker topped by a satellite dish: the diner christened Les Princesses Super Sexy. We discover upon removing our masks and entering that privacy is most important, because the waitresses wear birthday suits. I won’t reveal where pens and pads are stored.
“Gotta love topless waitresses and bottomless cups of coffee,” Chris quips, as we settle into a plastic-protected table and peruse egg-heavy menus. Nothing costs more than $10. Pro wrestling plays on TV. Bristly men solve crosswords and sip coffee, poured by semi-nude servers carefully keeping hot pots from delicate parts.
“Burns must be a serious job hazard,” I whisper to Chris, as our waitress—a brunette with chunky glasses, pierced lip and frilly, flimsy skirt—fills cups with steaming caffeine. It’s a restaurant scene repeated millions of times daily, just with less attire.
“Am I supposed to ogle?” he asks, his eyes cemented to the menu. The room, much to patrons’ delight, is nicely air conditioned.
“Maybe a little bit,” I say, ordering le camionneur. “The trucker” contains bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes, French toast, toast and three eggs.
“Over easy?” the weary waitress asks in French-accented English.
Does she mean herself or the eggs? I nod, perplexed. Les Princesses exists in limbo between irony and sincerity, a joke lacking a punch line. Is the focus on novelty? Cuisine? Cutting down on dry-cleaning bills?
It’s definitely not cuisine, we deduce, as our greasy breakfasts are delivered with a jiggly flourish. Fatty bacon, pinkie-size sausages, limp ham and shriveled potatoes join eggs far stiffer than anything in our pants. We dine in silence, enveloped by the awkward hush that descends upon sober men when faced with bare flesh. Without alcohol’s aid, we’re meek, confused mice.
“I was 13 years old the last time I was this perplexed by breasts,” I declare, as we depart the foreign eatery in search of bad ideas we can better comprehend.