And They're Off
Time for a road trip!
Oprah says she got the idea from a Chevrolet commercial from her childhood. The ad, with its catchy "See the U.S.A. in a Chevrolet" jingle, always aired right after Lassie. "It was 30 seconds that really stuck with me for several decades," Oprah says.
Now, years later, Oprah was going to do just what that jingle said—see the U.S.A. in a Chevy Impala. This epic journey would start in Santa Barbara, California, and end 10 days and 3,600 miles later in New York City...just in time for the Tony Awards.
What the friends didn't realize is that a cross-country trip can put a strain on even the best relationship. "People said doing this trip that we may not be speaking at the end of the trip," Gayle says to Oprah. "I don't believe that. Do you?"
Oprah and Gayle decided to not take any chances on the survival of their friendship! So, in the way that old friends do...they took a "pinky swear" oath.
Next, there are a few aspects of driving Oprah says she doesn't like. She says she has "interstate anxiety," "unpaved road anxiety" and "merging anxiety." Oprah also explains a few of the other things she doesn't really like—night driving, merging and driving over bridges.
Gayle is quick to add a few other of Oprah's road dislikes. "She doesn't like to pass trucks. She doesn't like curves. And Oprah doesn't like going across bridges, trucks, highways or bumpy roads," Gayle says. "But other than that, she's a lot of fun."
The last of the ways Oprah and Gayle are out of tune...is in the tunes. While Gayle likes to have music constantly playing, Oprah prefers silence. "I like to be with my thoughts," Oprah says.
"Listen, I have thoughts, too," Gayle says. "But I don't want to be alone in the car with my thoughts while we're driving 3,000 miles."
In the end, Oprah and Gayle decided on a classic compromise. Whoever is behind the wheel of the Impala gets to decide on what, if anything, they'd listen to.
To get things going, Gayle made a few stabs at car games. First she had the idea to chase down a couple of studs speeding past them in a convertible, but they got away. Undeterred, she stumbled onto a game the producers stashed in the glove box. "This is called 'Would You Rather,'" Gayle announces.
"Would you rather urinate through your nose or smell things with your genitalia?" Gayle asks. "What is your answer, Oprah Winfrey?"
"What are we, 11? I'm not playing this game, Gayle," Oprah says.
"I think I might have to urinate through my nose," Gayle says. "I know they're both bad."
As Gayle reclined her chair and closed her eyes, Oprah observed Southern California's legendary traffic. "A lot of people in the world," she says. "And a lot of them are out on this highway."
"Yeah, we're still moving, though," Gayle says. "Are they barefoot, both of them?"
A surprised Oprah responds, "Both of who?"
"Oh, never mind," Gayle says. "I think I was dreaming out loud."
"Jeez, Gayle. You just laid your head down," Oprah says. "I can't believe you're asleep already, for goodness' sake—doing that crazy talk."
She pumped her own gas...with a little help from the attendant at the station.
"I feel kind of stupid not being able to pump gas, but I thought maybe they'd changed the pumps since I last pumped," Oprah says. "The pumps aren't the same as they used to be."
"Oh, my gosh, that's pretty," Oprah says.
And, just like everybody else, there is the occasional snag checking in. After about 20 minutes, they finally sorted it all out and Oprah and Gayle had their room. "I see that this normal way of doing things is very time consuming, isn't it?" Oprah says.
Despite their best efforts, they didn't fool anyone...except an unsuspecting policeman. "A police officer looked at me and he goes, 'very good, very good'—meaning I was a good Oprah," she says.
"[Impersonating] is a serious business," Gayle says. "Somebody had flown over from London looking like Elvis and Cher!"
Once inside the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio Hotel, the edible offerings stretch from one end of the room to the other. Oprah and Gayle have their choice of everything from sushi to pizza to crab legs! After Oprah's first full day on the road, she says she needs something a little stronger...a fish bowl-sized margarita should do the trick! "One day down, about 3,000 miles to go," she says. "No problem."
Day two takes a turn for the worse just minutes into the seven-hour drive to Sedona, Arizona. While in search of a grocery store to stock up on healthy snacks, Oprah and Gayle get turned around near the Vegas strip. "We hadn't even gone a mile, and we were lost," Gayle says.
After 10 minutes of U-turns, Oprah says she's ready to give up and head out on the highway. "Ms. Winfrey's losing her pleasing personality," Gayle says. "And it's not pretty." With Gayle behind the wheel, things inside the Impala were about to get ugly.
At first, Oprah sings along. "I decide I'm going to be a good sport about," she says. "I thought maybe if I participate, she'll get tired and turn off the radio. I got tired...she didn't." Oprah, who prefers to drive in silence and "be alone with her thoughts," tries distracting herself with her Kodak digital camera. When that doesn't work, Oprah plugs her ears with her secret weapon—headphones.
Gayle belts out one song after another, from "My Girl" by the Temptations to Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This." Even after 30 years of friendship, Gayle says she had no idea that Oprah liked to drive in silence. "We're normally being driven and we're normally going short distances, so it really was kind of shocking," she says.
Before Oprah and Gayle could polish off their root beers, word spread throughout town that celebrities were chowing down at Mr. D'z. Locals drop what they're doing and show up at the diner for a photo op. One woman comes straight from the beauty parlor...with her hair still wrapped in foil!
Oprah: I miss my house. I miss my dogs. I miss my yard. I miss my trees. I miss laying out and reading under my trees, in silence.
Gayle: Well, honey, we're still on the West Coast...I just don't want to do this no more.
Oprah: It was good for one day, wasn't it?
Would they be able to make it for nine more days?
With the windows rolled down, the smell of pine trees fills the car. They even stop for a "Kodak moment" to take pictures of the mountains. "Now this was worth the trip," Oprah says.
What could possibly happen next? A moving ceremony, a heart-warming story and surprise visit to an old friend.