12 Hours in the Car with Jesse Mullan and Norm Johnson

Norm and I drove overnight to Sno*Drift a few years back.

Jesse Mullan selling Sno*Drift hats
Jesse Mullan selling Sno*Drift hats

Norm Johnson drags a box of hats
Norm Johnson drags a box of hats

[click] “When I touch the dwarf inside?” -Ween

Jesse: Check check test test. 11:40. we’ve almost reached the witching hour. we’re in Rhinelander Wisconsin right now. Norm Johnson and I, we’re, uh, what? Three, almost four hours into the trip. the adventure.

Jesse: Our?

Norm: ProRally Zone.

Jesse: Into the ProRally Zone. Our punchiness level is- not very high yet.

Norm: Norm’s just preparing to take a little nap, here.

Jesse: Norm’s preparing to take a nap, and I’m prepared to keep him awake with some spirited driving.

Jesse: Uh, let’s see. Look’s like we just got- 9.36e [laughs] gallons of gas, and uh? $13.29 for that.

Jesse: Yeah, it was, fuckin? a dollar fourty-one point nine cents. What’s up with that shit?

Norm: What’s up with that point nine shit?

Jesse: Yeah.

Norm: Why don’t they just charge you an extra penny?

Jesse: Fuck in’ A. Anyway. Shouldn’t have filled up with diesel, but we’ll see

Norm: At least she’ll keep running when we turn the key off.

Jesse: Badowp blap blap blap. Sounds like a diesel now, but at least we’re gonna get great gas mileage. Or diesel mileage. uh… Just saw a black Forester. It was an “L”. Oh yeah, we need to take a left here.

Norm: Go right there. Highway 8.

Jesse: Ah, back to Highway 8.

Norm: Highway 8!

Jesse: Highway 8. CD player is workin’ again, finally, which is a good thing.

Norm: Yeah. Only lasted three quarters through Ween.

Jesse: Only lasted three quarters of the way through Ween, and there’s only, like, six or seven hours of this trip left- of this magical journey. Saw the Northern Lights for the second time in my life, tonight, on the way. If I’d have had the thing- the tape recorder in the car instead of in the trunk, I would have commented on them then. But, gettin’ on to Highway 8 and our journey continues.

[click] “When I burn this place down” -Firewater

Jesse: It’s a quarter to one, and Norm seems like he’s pretty asleep. Uh… I’ve been on the road almost six hours now. Saw a sign that said Goodman. Oop, slowin’ down to a 30 zone here. Earlier I saw the northern lights and I swear a minute ago I saw the moon like an orange testicle hanging low in the sky- an orange testicle on a hot day- you’re not wearing any pants, and you’re- kinda got your legs spread and your feet planted wide apart to balance you against a thrusting blow of a large man… Maybe I’m going into a little bit too much detail there, I dunno. But, uh… Still, the rally- oh there’s the moon! Oh, yeah… It’s like a half moon, like, uh, yeah, a half moon. Except it’s kinda obliquely shaped, like… It’s weird- it’s not a crescent- but- it’s like a half oval, like a half egg shape. Strange. All right, we’re through that town, and uh… Where are we at now? What do we got here on the side of the road? Uh… Looks like Dunbar, Pembine and Norway. I didn’t realize we were so close to Norway. Shoulda asked my grandparents, you know, who our relatives were so we could, uh… oh no, no- wait, that’s a different Norway, isn’t it? That’s kinda the country of Norway. Go figure. Ah, the faint smell of woodsmoke. I smelled it before. Out here in rural areas, I guess that’s what they burn. Well, I’m gonna sign off for now. Jesse out.


Jesse: Rally, or Green Bay? I think the choice is obvious. Rally.

[click] “You don’t eat or sleep or mow the lawn” -Terrance and Philip

Norm: Well. According to the clock it’s now three AM. We’re in Michigan.

Jesse: According to the clock it’s now three AM and we’re in Michigan.

Jesse: According to reality it’s only still only two AM, cause we just crossed the timezone border thing, and uh, so I set the clock ahead an hour. I think that was right. It was right, wasn’t it, Norm?

Jesse: Okay. Um. Not much else has changed. It’s still dark.

Jesse: The moon’s a little higher and a little whiter.

Norm: The moon’s a little higher, a little whiter. It’s not sulfur colored anymore because we, uhhh, passed the sulfur cloud on the border. I don’t know if that was actually Wisconsin- drove into Michigan.

Jesse: Yeah, we had just drove into Michigan, but I don’t know if it was actually Michigan, or if it was Wisconsin just dumping their sulfur smell as far into Michigan as they possibly could, so they wouldn’t have to smell it themselves- it’s probably just bad cheese is what it was. Really.

Jesse: But, uh, hey! Junction 69 is coming up here… Um, hopefully we’re drawing near to Escanaba, or Escanada, or Estanudo, Estrada, I don’t know what the hell it’s called. Uh, it’s this place, it’s like on the lake.

Jesse: Escanabba. Escanabba! Anyway, ‘cause I really have to pee. I don’t know about Norm, but I really have to pee. Now, I imagine Norm could help me out with this with a little suction, but uh, I don’t think he’s really gonna be up for that.

Jesse: But I don’t know if I would be up for that either, when you really get down to the nuts and bolts of it- so to speak. Um. Well that’s about it. Jesse out.

[Click] “Well Well well?” -R.L. Burnside

Jesse: Woo!

Norm: That’s an old Paul Billary bit.

Jesse: What’s a Paul Billary bit?

Norm: Uh, blues bar. There’s always some old black guy in the back row goin’: “Yes yes! Sing it! Man oh man, she done you wrong! Jackson!” [laughter]

Jesse: [laughter] I really gotta take a leak.

[click] “Well I went down to the local arena/Asked to see the manager man/He came from his office, said, ‘Son can I help you’?/I looked at him and said, ‘Yes you can…’” -Gear Daddies

Jesse: Escanabba. Esca nads?

Norm: Escanabba, Michigan.

Jesse: Escanabba, Michigan! What a beautiful place. Actually, the first thing I’m noticing is that it’s kinda dark. Maybe that’s cause it’s freakin’ three AM! Holy fuck! What am I still doing awake? And not even playing Gran Turismo. I’m not even playing Gran Turismo, and I’m awake. This is just wrong.

ches] Oh, that was good. Woo!

Norm: I found the CDs!

Jesse: Ah, Norm found the CDs. Good. Now we have more of his CDs to listen to now. It’s just not my crappy scratched up ones, we will have his crappy burnt ones. Anyway, I think Norm’s gonna go pee, and I’m going to go after him in a little bit, so…

Doz in there. [into the car]

Jesse: Oh yeah. Throw out the NoDoz. All right. Out.

[click] “I want to Drive the Zamboni… hey/I want to Drive the Zamboni…Yes I do!” -Gear Daddies

Jesse: [singing] On the road again… [belches] Can’t wait to get back on the road again… Somethin’ somethin’ somethin’… somethin’ all my friends… I can’t wait to get back on the road again- what? That was a left turn only lane wasn’t it?

Jesse: I don’t care either, that much, I mean, but if there was a cop there they probably would have pulled me over. Oh crap! This is permanently recorded! It can be used as evidence against me in a court of law!

Norm: Gooey!

Jesse: Gooey cheese!

[click] “Now ever since I was young it’s been my dream/That I might drive a Zamboni machine/I’d get the ice just as slick as could be/And all the kids would look up to me” -Gear Daddies

right, we are still in Escanabba, and Norm says…

Norm: That this used to be the place where they held POR [Press On Regardless] for about three or four years. In the late eighties- early nineties.

Jesse: Interesting. Very interesting. It’s about three thirty now. Two thirty real time. So uh, we’ve been at it since seven. That’s seven hours?

Jesse: Seven and a half?

Norm: Yep.

Jesse: Basically a full day for me. I’m about ready to- [snores] Oh God! The tree! Oh- wait, no, it was a bridge. Never mind. Uh… Good night sweet prince.

ow the manager said, “Son, I know it looks keen/But that right there is one expensive machine/And I’ve got Smokey who’s been driving for years.”/About that time I broke down in tears./Cause I want to drive the Zamboni…hey/I want to drive the Zamboni…Yes I do!” -Gear Daddies

okay, we’re listening to Gear Daddys now, um…

Norm: Billy’s Live Bait.

Jesse: Billy’s Live Bait is the album. I’m Jesse Mullan and-

Norm: Johnson!

Jesse: And you’re listening to K N O D O Z radio. The time is 3:35, and we’re glad you’re with us. Uh, today we listened to- uh, what have we listened to today? We’ve listened to…..

Jesse: Big George Jackson last.

Norm: Yes.

Jesse: Before that it was the Repo Man soundtrack?

Norm: Repo Man soundtrack, correct.

Jesse: No, before that it was Descendants.

Norm: Oh yeah, you’re right.

Jesse: And then before that was the Repo Man soundtrack.

Norm: Mm-hmm.

Jesse: Before that was Firewater, which my CD player had a brain aneurysm and couldn’t play. And before that we were listening to Ween, which we got about three quarters of the way through and my CD player had a brain aneurysm and wouldn’t play. And… was that, that was the first CD we listened to tonight. was the very first one, yeah.

Jesse: And before that we listened to a tape of the Poster Children and a tape of the soundtrack-

Norm: To South Park!

Jesse: To South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut. Which was a pretty thrilling experience for me, having only heard it several thousand times before in this very same car. And to share it with someone who is such a good, close friend to me as Norm Johnson is…

Norm: [weeping] I feel so special man. It’s just so fucking cool you did that for me, man.

Jesse: Norm’s- Norm has burst into tears. He’s weeping openly.

[crying noises]

Jesse: And I’m weavin’ a little bit here. Woo!

Norm: n the job, white boy!

Jesse: See, since I filled up that right front tire it’s not pulling to the right anymore so now I am overcorrecting to the left. At least that’s what I’m gonna tell myself. at guy doesn’t pull you over there.

Jesse: Oh yeah, uh, maybe I should reduce the speed a little bit- there’s red flashing lights up ahead. Uh, he’s waitin’ for me actually. He gunned me about two miles back and he went about 200 miles an hour to get up to that spot so that he’d be ready for me. ‘Kay, is that, uh, are we looking over a lake here, Lake Michigan? higan.

Jesse: All right, so this is pretty exciting for me, uh, I’ve seen Lake Michigan before, but you know, I always enjoy seeing large bodies of water, or just plain large bodies, really, uh, um? But uh?

Norm: Hey, I resemble that remark.

Jesse: Uh, Norm resembles that remark, apparently. Holy crap! What lane is this guy in? I think he’s- uh, okay, there’s a cop, and he’s got- ’s rolled over.

Jesse: A car that’s rolled over? No, it’s a pickup truck with a four wheeler in the back, and it looks like it’s stuck.

Jesse: It looks like it’s stuck ‘cause the guy’s an idiot and tried to drive in the median or some crap. a moron was he?

Jesse: I dunno, but uh, um. Gotta set the cruise control again, and uh, we’re movin’ on up/to the East Side/to a deluxe apartment in the sky.

Norm: fish doesn’t fry in the kitchen and beans don’t burn on the grill.

Jesse: Uh, apparently we just entered Gladstone, and Norm knows the lyrics to the Jefferson’s theme song a little better than I do.

Norm: Yeah.

Jesse: Or these damn flashing lights. I don’t really understand them. They confuse me. Partly because it’s now 3:38 in the morning. Um, hopefully I don’t use up the whole tape tonight. Uh, but that is a distinct possibility.

Jesse: Since we’ll- what?

Norm: Very true.

Jesse: Very true, Norm says. Very true. Uh?

Norm: Yes, you are correct, sir.

Jesse: Uh, I don’t really want to record over the other side, because it has some ancient recordings we that did in the Food-N-Fuel featuring stories of Bob. I may have to just go to the other side and listen to those later because they’re highly, highly amusing to me. Not to Norm- Norm will be bored- he’ll fall back asleep. But uh, anyway, I’m gonna sign off for a little bit now. I’ll probably be talking on this thing again much too soon. That’s just the way it’s working tonight.

Norm: Goodnight, Jesse.


Jesse: It just turned 4 AM. we’re pretty close to the lake and the fog’s gettin kinda thick. That’s really about all I had to say.

Jesse: Things are getting tense. No, actually I’m just manufacturing that for a little human interest. Never mind.

Jesse: I’m getting pretty good at driving with my knee again. Norm is teaching me how to shift with my ass, so, uh, I’m just about set actually.

Norm: Yeehah!

Jesse: Yeehah! [laughter]


Jesse: Michigan roads- this road in particular, are some of the dullest on the planet. I- I- I- I- I have to say that some of the roads by Houghton were quite excellent, but this road has been very very very very straight and boring. I feel like we’re Nebraska, except there’s this vague sense of going downhill. Oh! Whoa! Wait a minute, there’s a curve. Oh. Lord, we must have changed directions here at least two or three degrees. Hello! Heavy fog. Dippin’ to the low beams. This could get dicey. Well, what am I saying? There are no turns! Anyway, fog. Norm’s singing along to the Gear Daddies. Things are deteriorating. That big meat is coming back to me, uh, it’s coming back up a little bit- maybe I should have some more Pepto. Cool. Lots of fog. Fog’s pretty cool lookin’. Especially if you’re not driving through the forest. I dunno, something about driving down forest roads just freaks me out, you know, when there’s heavy fog like this, but, uh, on this incredibly boring road it’s kind of an interesting distraction. Anyway, I’m starting to feel a little self conscious with Norm completely ignoring me and singing along to this song. Uh, more later.

Jesse: windshield. Can’t get it clean. I spray it with the fluid, the fluid freezes, I run the wipers, and Norm sleeps, and if he wakes up he just laughs at me anyway. Uh, I’ve already had the giggles once. cow!

Jesse: I’ll have ‘em again, I think. Norm just said holy cow for some reason. I don’t know why. Why did you say holy cow, Norm?

Norm: he way to the bridge?

Jesse: we’re at the bridge? What bridge?

Norm: Oh, it’s not here yet, never mind.

Jesse: Um- just- we’re passing an enormous Shell station. I mean it’s bi-

Norm: at the construction-

Jesse: Big as fuck. It’s got like a playland? uh… There’s a Big Boy restaurant coming up in a mile? Comfort Inn? Some other stuff? Um? You know, it’s just sort of a groovy groovy night. That’s what it’s coming down to. I’m having a good time. I think Norm’s having a good time when he’s awake.

Jesse: Norm says he’s having a great time. I just wish [deleted] were here so we could laugh at him- no! Uh, wait, no, I didn’t say that. Um? Yes I did. Yeah, little gay boy- I mean, uh, little rally- guy.

Norm: eh.

Jesse: Um?

Norm: Fag!

Jesse: Rallyfag- No! I mean, that’s unfair to real homosexuals, to lump [deleted] in there. Oh. Man? Okay? I was going to play this tape for him, uh, just to see how uncomfortable I could make him. And actually, going- going at it from that- from that direction it really makes sense to play this tape for him, even with the whole gay thing in there. I mean, hell it’s 4:25 Eastern time. I think we have the right to be a little bit punchy and crude? I mean it’s 3:25- I’ve been awake since ten this morning? [laughs hysterically] I only overslept about two hours- uh… well anyway?

Norm: since six… thirty?

Jesse: Norm- Norm’s been awake since six thirty, uh, which means basically I’m better prepared for this drive than he is- I’m not sure for how long. I’m a little- a little bit punchy? A little bit of voice- voice slurring? Difficulty with, uh, thoughts? But- I am a little bit drifty on the road. But I think all in all it’s- it’s- it’s okay- I’m working out okay here? Um- I- I-

Jesse: Um, I haven’t hit my wall yet, even though these right lanes keeps ending in them. uh… Ooh! Ooh! There-s a fun sign on the side of the road there, one of the twisty little squiggly “S” things. So, uh… we’re gonna have some fun here. And uh… Okay, I think this is about it now- I’m gonna need both hands on the wheel, unless this is another one of those Michigan roads that purports to be interesting but is really straight and dull. This is really straight and dull. This sucks, man, this sucks. I want to be at the northern end of Michigan, where the roads are twisty and fun and every corner is a blind corner, and every crest is a crest into a 90-180 left. I mean, it’s- Anyway, I’m gonna put the tape player away- away for a little while.

Jesse: Five AM. All? Almost five AM. I’m now very very tired. It’s almost four AM- Central time. we’re in the Eastern zone now and uh… Still fifty, sixty miles until Saint- Ignace? Ummm- That’s not our final destination, but uh.. that’s uh… the next place we’re gonna stop, ‘cause we need to get gas again? You know, uh… before too long- uh… About a third of a tank left, maybe.

Jesse: in upper Michigan still. About a mile west of the northernmost point of Lake Michigan. Uh… It’s now 5:24 Eastern time, 4:24 Central… Uh… Just me and a bunch of truckers… Sittin… here at the truck stop. I got out and had a smoke. I let Norm have a nap, and I’m about ready to take off again. Oh. Maybe I should check the map, I need to see where we are. Uh…

Jesse: The rest stop and some rock and roll have left me feeling wide awake and refreshed. Then again, maybe it was the crack that I smoked in the bathroom. I- I’m not really sure about that, but it could be. Norm’s looking a little more alert, too. Looks like the sun’s gonna come up. It’s gonna be a good day. Very good- [snoring] Ohhhh! Oh God it’s a truck! Aaaauuugh-

Jesse: is 6:17 AM Eastern time, uh, 5:17 AM Central time- uh, you can probably do the conversions yourself, but, yeah, just for my own humor… Just to humor myself… [giggling] Yeah. Okay. So let’s see, that means that we’ve been on the road for about ten hours and fifteen minutes. And uh, we’re coming up on the Mackinack Island bridge?

Jesse: Mackinaw, sorry. I’m a little tired- Details are escaping me.

Norm: That’s okay.

Jesse: we’ve seen it in the distance and it’s mighty impressive- uh- It’s long?

Norm: t little green lights on it.

Jesse: It’s got green- little green lights on it- kinda like my- oh, never mind- you don’t want to hear about that. Um, where- um… oh shit, how much were those fares? Do we have cash?

Norm: we got cash.

Jesse: Oh, okay… Okay, Norm’s got cash.

Norm: Can’t be more than like, five bucks…

Norm: Uhhhhh… Let’s just- we’re gonna find out if this car’s submersible as well as all wheel drive. ‘Cause, fuckin’ A man, we’re gonna’ go in the water’ that’s all I gotta say. We’ll take the fuckin’ ferry, man. Where you gotta actually pull the rope yourself. Sixteen tons and whaddya get?

Jesse: Burger King on the way here, and uh…

Norm: Still think we should drop some of this stuff…

Jesse: Ooh, Burger King or McDonalds, that is a… very, uh…

Norm: Either way- I can go either way.

Jesse: I think I would actually prefer McDonald’s- I’ve- I’ve had good experiences with their Sausage McMuffins with Egg.

Jesse: Um..

Norm: I like their Sausage McMuffin with Egg.

Jesse: Yes. So do I. That’s why I want to stop at McDonald’s. Um. Ah. Okay. There’s the entrance.

Jesse: Gotta follow the minivan, which involves shifting…

Norm: That’s actually a full sized van right there.

Jesse: Is it? Oh, it’s a full sized van. Oh look! Snowmobiles! Who’d a thunk it?

Norm: In the U.P.?

Jesse: Ah, in the U.P.? Actually, thats-

Norm: They’re Arctic Cats?

Jesse: That’s their primary method of getting around up here, actually. Um, they don’t actually use vehicles like cars, um, all the cars on the roads up here are actually tourists…

Norm: y?

Jesse: Who have come up for the snowmobiling. Okay? Um, drive through service? Breakfast served 6:30 to 10:30 AM.

Norm: we’re ten minutes early.

Jesse: Actually we’re twenty minutes early because this clock is ten minutes fast.

Norm: Oh, okay.


Jesse: It’s is 7:50 AM Eastern time. I won’t give you the conversion this time. It’s just not worth it. We are in the final stretch- the final leg- of the journey of a thousand steps, or 588 miles, or something like that- I- it’s a long ways.

Jesse: Someone said 575.8- but we haven’t- I didn’t set the odometer or anything so I have no idea, really. Uh? So, we- we- we’ve been on the road? for?

Norm: hours.

Jesse: About twelve hours, and we’re gonna get there between twelve hours and twelve and a half hours- so that’s pretty good time- for as many stops as we made, and uh, me almost falling asleep at the wheel three times and uh, before I pulled over at that rest stop and, you know goin? like 60 miles an hour through that part and so? And sun?s kinda comin? up. There?s- there?s light out- I mean, I don’t really need the headlights at the moment- I’m gonna leave ?em on. Just to show other people where I am, but? You know, it’s kinda pretty out here. There?s lots of snow on the sides on the road, and uh, we got trees? lots and lots of trees? telephone poles, signs? and the most misleading signs in the world- uh, they got the ones where they say the road curves to the left and so you’re expecting a big- you know, something you actually have to slow down for- stop- but no, it’s just this gentle curve that you can- you probably just follow without turning the wheel at all? if it was banked a little more. And they?ve got the S ones and you? you? aaaaaaaugh? after you’re through what they call an S you?ll be like “oh, wasn’t there gonna be an S? ?Cause I mean this kinda sucks, dude.” They have about the straightest freeways outside of Iowa. I mean it’s crazy. It’s crazy. But we’re having a good time. we’re? we’re cruising along? uh? about 70 miles an hour. It’s uh, you know, good clip. We’ll be there shortly, and um? I say um a lot. Mostly ‘cause I’m tired, and also because I’m doing a sort of a- stream of consciousness kind of thing? and it’s gonna look really cool and give me lots of rave reviews when I put it on paper, you know?

Jesse: s more Hunter S. Thompson, but I’m just not that fucked up- I mean I’m tired, but I’m not- OH GOD! Oh. Oh I’m sorry. I thought I saw something there, and got a little? It was just a giant bat.

Norm: to say- it never got weird enough for me.

Jesse: [laughs] Ohhh? just you wait until my pants come off. Um, anyway. That’s about it. I’ll probably update once more before we get to the hotel and I lie down on the floor and? uh? drool. And snore. I think those are my two goals for this sleeping today is to drool and snore. And uh? I think I have a good chance of achieving both of those goals. So, uh, we?ll see how it works out.

Jesse: Check check test test.


Jesse: Look at me, I’m a Scooby driver. Look at me! Look at me! Hey everybody, look at me!!! WoOoOOoOo!!!

3 Responses to “12 Hours in the Car with Jesse Mullan and Norm Johnson ”

  1. That was pure genius.

  2. Unintelligible drivel, but I read it all anyways. Whats up with Norm?



Leave a Reply


People I Know

Random Stuff

Recently Listened