Courtney's Journal

Friday, August 22nd, 1997

We woke up and got ready. I jogged over to Wal-Mart's for authentic wranglers. We left around 10:30am and drove to Kansas City and stopped by Benchmark Express, the furniture store and warehouse of Bob and Mimi Davidow. Their showroom is packed with recliners, sofas, rugs, carpets, lamps, and any other home furnishing item you could desire. They have stock in the connected warehouse, and can ship in a day. There also is an extensive AV room, studio/set for shooting commercials, and computer terminals for people to surf the internet. In fact, they will give free internet access to anyone who wants it -- no purchase necessary! They also have another store several miles away that is for more middle to high end goods.

Meeting Mimi Davidow

The warehouse

Inside the AV studio

The winner in the Worst Bad Tie Contest

Mr. Davidow showing us the goods.

The Commercial making studio. They make 3 a week here!

Webstyles kiosk

Mr. Davidow generously gave us t-shirts, water bottles for the road, and me a "Republic of Tea" baseball cap. He extentened his hopspitality by offering to take us to The Mechanic Shed for lunch. "Lunch" sputs it mildly. We had huge platters. Chicken Pot Pies around the table, appetizers of bar-b-qued spare rib tips, fried onion rings, and hot turkey sandwiches. The wait staff clad in denim overalls with red small gingham shirts, and Mechanic Shed caps, filled out the country-family style-farm motif restaurant.

We finally got the call from Laura Evenson, a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle, who was interested in interviewing us for a possible story. Greg, Paul, and I spoke with her as others chowed and spoke with Emily, Bob and Mimi's daughter, on his cell phone. Emily is a good personal friend of some of ours, known for her online division of Benchmark -- BeHome, her cozy settings for the World Wide Web Artists Consortium's Interface and Design SIG, her work with NetObjects, and just being an all-around wonderful, bubbly, charming, witty, smart person! :)

After lunch, Mr. Davidow didn't let us leave without buying us caps, t-shirts, and 3 huge cinnamon rolls. We went back to Benchmark Express while Greg picked up our AirMedia units from FedEx, and we charted our plan for the rest of today and tomorrow.

Driving through Kansas....

Into the sunset...

We drove several 100 miles more till we needed gas at about Ellworth, KS. We pulled into a Stuckey's, and after filling tanks and ordering lite fried food dinners, Greg exclaimed: "It's Friday night! We have a chat with AOL in 1/2 hour."

Justin set to work immediately and we all helped getting our gear out and trying to get online. This truly was a show of how to test technology on the road and how to get it to work for you in a pinch. First Greg and Justin tried using the Acoustic Coupler to the payphone and dial out. Extension cord duct taped around the door, Japanese phone card/fortune telling machine droning in the background, they attempted dialing in this way several times. It was obvious there was a problem with the coupler, or the phone, or something.....

So Greg took the setup outside to his bike. Using various setup situations he dialed out several times using his cellphone and cellmodem. We connected a few times, but got kicked off from his local ISP and AOL a few times. Finally we decided to see if the Stuckey's management would let us use their phone line. They allowed us to use it, but after they close at 10:00 pm for a short bit. Fine with us!

Dave was talking with a young woman, Janell Duryee who worked there (filling in for a friend) who's attending school nearby. She created her library's website and was interested in helping out.

Alex Elsworth, (not related to founders of town) was also working that night. He is a Junior in High School and is hoping to attend the University of Kansas, possibly as ROTC, to study Aviation Mechanics.

10:00pm swung around and we logged into AOL with Greg's machine, using the phone cord near the cash register. We explained where we were and that we couldn't stay long. Besides, chili hot dogs, Dairy Queen blizzards, fries, and a pecan roll were sitting in our tummies grumbling....

We pushed off again around 11pm to a small town called Ellis, home of Walter Chrysler. We stayed at another classic rundown motel called Fisher's motel. Run by an elderly woman who is trying to sell it, we were charmed by its "this is real America" non-glamourous, white trash essence. Cora elaborated and told me about her daughters, grandchildren, and sons-in-law (some of them no-goods), and her struggles to sell the motel. Perched nearby were little boxes with Reeses Peanut Butter cups and Twix bars for sale. "All candy $0.35" and a folder scotch taped to the wall with menu's for Arthur's Mexican Food. Our proprietess told me of the Doll museum nearby as well.

Meanwhile, the other teams were busy bringing our bags downstairs into the perfect accomodations of 5 beds in one room!!!!! The camp-like feeling only increaed as Paul and I had fun scaring each other with horror stories of gurgling sounds from above.... I said, "hey. what if she (the owner)..." and Paul cut me off with "DON"T GO THERE!" Everybody laughed, but Paul and I inched our creaky, lumpy mattresses resting on coil bed springs closer as we still tossed back thoughts of boiling formelehyde, ax murders, and other chain saw massacres.