The long haul


When I got into the pinball hobby about three years ago, there was one machine that leapt to the top of my wishlist: Frontier, a 1980 Bally machine themed around hunting and the old west, prominently featuring a weatherbeaten frontiersman who resembles Grizzly Adams by way of Bob Seger.

For the better part of three years, I’ve had an eye peeled for this machine, but it isn’t easy to come by. Fewer than 2,000 were made nearly 40 years ago, and the lion’s share of those are probably providing affordable housing for families of possums in landfills across the country.

However, right before Christmas, a Frontier popped up for sale in Louisville, Kentucky. It looked good and the price was right, so I messaged the guy, put down a deposit, and told him I would come pick it up on Saturday, Dec. 28.

At 5 a.m. that morning, my good friend William and I left my house, and I proceeded to drive to Louisville and back in a single day.

Here is a list of observations made while driving 900 miles over the course of 16 hours.

-I can’t tell you how many times I thanked my friend William for keeping me company on the trip, although I’m still no closer to understanding why he agreed to spend an entire day in a car with me. I assume he’s a masochist.

-If you take Interstate 64 through West Virginia, you will pass through three toll booths each costing four dollars. This means I paid a total of $24 just for the privilege of driving through West Virginia. No disrespect to The Mountain State, but I’ve had way more fun for much less money.

-When you’re on a mission that’s going to take all day, there’s no time for detours. This was especially painful when I passed the turn for Point Pleasant, WV, home of the Mothman. One of these days…

– Lincolnton, West Virginia features a place known as the “Big Ugly Wildlife Management Area.” Fun fact: That’s also the name of the security checkpoint at a Kid Rock show.

-The West Virginia state capitol building in Charleston is so enormous, beautiful and opulent that it looks like it was designed by an architect who had heard one too many West Virginia hillbilly jokes.

-When you enter Kentucky via I-64, the very first thing you see on your left is the Catlettsburg Refinery, a 650-acre oil refinery. This is probably why the Kentucky Tourism Department created their famous slogan, “Kentucky: Look, we realize the first thing you see when you enter our state is a nightmare image from a dystopian sci-fi movie, but trust us, keep driving, you’ll see some horses and stuff.”

-I asked the guy who sold me the pinball machine if he could suggest a good place to grab lunch in his neck of Louisville, and he pointed us to a taco truck where I got the best chicken quesadilla I’ve ever had in my life. I made sure to mention this in his seller review on the pinball forum.

-When I was about 10 years old, I broke my tailbone in a skiing accident (for clarification, I went to Wintergreen with a friend, took a free skiing class, realized pretty quickly that I was never going to learn how to ski, and then while I was walking to the lodge to get a cup of hot chocolate, I slipped on a metal grate and landed wrong). This old injury very rarely bothers unless I have to sit for an extended period of time. By the end of the Louisville trip, I became convinced that the moment I finally stepped out of my car my posterior was going to simply fall off.

-I love my vehicle, but the one complaint it routinely receives is that it has massive blindspots. This usually isn’t a problem, but when your view through the rearview mirror is completely obstructed by a pinball machine, it becomes an issue. Every time I merged into the right lane on the interstate, I felt the same surge of adrenaline that I assume a bungee jumper experiences.

-When you have spent an entire day making a 900-mile round trip to pick up a pinball machine, there is exactly one thing you do not feel like doing when you arrive back home, and that is unloading a pinball machine from your car.



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