We arrived in Denver last night, and I was feeling really depressed. I had looked at the schedule for October 7th and it called for 7 hours of driving after a morning breakfast and rally, followed by a one-hour dinner, followed by another hour of driving. I knew that if I left Denver after the rally, there was no way I would make it to Topeka in time to have dinner with the rest of the group.
I’ve also been feeling really isolated from the rest of the group. I keep hearing about soul-bearing sessions between cities. Bonds are being made and friendships forged, but I’m not there. This is my fault, of course, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.
I went to talk with Davina about these issues. Regarding the long drive, she suggested that Dan and I skip the Denver rally and drive straight through to Topeka after breakfast. She also suggested that I let Dan drive some segments without me, so that I could join everyone else on the bus. I think I could stand a few hours on the bus, and I’m going to ride with everyone else on Friday.
After breakfast, various riders spoke of their experiences and why they were making the trip. Anthony spoke of his boyfriend in Mexico whom he could not marry without leaving the country. Davina showed her 1,138 candy heart ‘rights and privileges’ Molly was her usual charming, inspiring self.
When the director of the Center got up to speak, he joked about breakfast “I bet that’s the first fresh fruit you’ve had in a while!” Dan chimed in “We’re married! We’re not supposed to have fresh fruit!” There was a moment of silence, followed by some laughter and shouts of “Off message! Way off message!”
Just before we left, Molly asked for everyone’s attention, and then said “I hate to say this, but we’ve lost a rider. Anthony left his hotel room last night at midnight. He didn’t bring his cell phone or room key, and he hasn’t been seen since. Has anyone seen Anthony?” No one had. It was the first most of us had heard of this. “If he doesn’t turn up, we’ll have to go on without him” said Molly.
Anthony is Roland’s assistant. The two of them are filming a documentary series. Anthony is a cute and slender guy, and I know I wasn’t the only one wondering if he was lying somewhere beaten up.
But there wasn’t much we could do, so Dan and I headed east out of Denver.
About 120 miles east of Denver, we learned that Karen Ocamb, the reporter from PlanetOut, was on her way to the hospital. She had been feeling ill since Reno, and she finally decided that she needed to go to a hospital. Dan started phoning around, and soon arranged for Leslie Ewing to be the replacement blogger for the news site. [Update: After a whole day of tests, Leslie has been released to the care of her doctor.]
The drive was long, but by skipping the Denver rally we had some slack to drive at a comfortable speed and to stop occasionally to stretch. We even stopped for lunch at a Taco John’s somewhere in western Kansas.
Around 2:30 in the afternoon we finally heard that Anthony had been found. Apparently he had been picked up and was in the drunk tank. He couldn’t remember the name of the hotel, so he waited until the police connected his name with Roland’s queries about his missing friend. He and Roland were going to fly into St. Louis tomorrow to join us.
At around 7:30 that night Dan and I finally arrived in Topeka. The rest of the group was very close behind, and arrived 20 minutes or so later. Dinner was at an amazingly good Italian restaurant named Paisanos.
Almost immediately upon arriving, Dan and I had entered the address of Fred Phelps‘ Westboro Baptist Church, a hate-filled family cult based in Topeka. They’re the folks who run the vile godhatesfags.com web site. (Rather than visiting that sewer, go visit the web site of the Landover Baptist Church. Their motto is Unsaved Unwelcome. As Jesus Commanded. Much more entertaining.)
When the bus arrived, Dan and I asked Molly if she would ride with us to take our photo in front of the Westboro Baptist Cult Compound. She told us she was totally into it, and would hate herself if she was in Topeka and didn’t Visit The Filthy Pit Of Vile!
Sometime during dinner, the idea started that others might also wish to visit. This caused incredible amounts of angst amongst the Executive Committee. They told everyone to get onto the bus, then spent almost an hour talking in the restaurant about this. Finally, almost an hour later, they came out and got onto the bus. Molly announced that the executive committee couldn’t reach a decision, and that they were going to allow the bus to vote without discussion. (Several folks tried to ask questions but were quickly suppressed by members of the E.C. yelling “We don’t have time for discussion!”)
A vote was taken. 7 people voted to go, and the rest either abstained or voted to not go. Molly got off the bus to join Dan and I in our car, and Dan grabbed Mike, the photographer from the Chronicle. Then the four of us were off, driving the mile to the Phelps compound.
The Phelps cult is located on a fenced-in block in a residential neighborhood. We had already checked to make sure that they were protesting out-of-town, and the compound was dark except for a big spotlight on a sign reading ‘GodHatesAmerica.com’. Sweet, huh?
Well, we took some photos and then headed off to the hotel in Kansas City, where we joined the rest of the group. Unfortunately, the hotel’s internet access was down, so I spent the next few hours trying to find access in downtown Kansas City, finally finding very expensive access at the Fairmont hotel.
Now it’s 1 am, and I need sleep. We’ve driven 1888 miles since leaving Sausalito, and 599 miles just today. Tomorrow will be another long day, but at least I’ll be riding on the bus tomorrow morning.