"Are we going to visit the baby Captain Professor X or the baby Priceline Negotiator?" I stopped kicking the back of Catie's seat long enough to sarcastically ask. She shot back a disapproving glance in the rear view mirror. Hell hath no fury like a Trekkie scorned.
Up to that point, Catie, Katie, and John had spent the entire three-hour trip to Riverside, IA, "the future birthplace of Captain James Tiberius Kirk," swapping stories and cracking jokes about their favorite science-fiction series. Maybe I was starting to feel a little left out. Having never seen more than a few minutes of the show (in any of its many iterations) or a single Star Trek movie, there was little reason for me to tag along other than my love of road trips. In other words, I was going into uncharted territory - perhaps not boldly, but at least willingly.
I recognize and respect the influence Star Trek has had on popular culture. But trying to sit through an episode leaves me feeling bored and guilty. Is there something wrong with me for not being engaged with the adventures of the Enterprise? What do the franchise's devoted fans understand that I don't? And what in God's name is a tribble, anyway?
I didn't know it then, but I was about to find out.
When we arrived in Riverside, we found exactly what I expected: an otherwise ordinary rural farming community but for a faded sign saying "Welcome to Riverside, Where the Trek Begins." In fact, the only thing that distinguished the town from my birthplace of Manhattan, IL, was that the churches and bars were on opposite sides of the street. But one weekend a year, something extraordinary happens in Riverside: Trekkies make a pilgrimage to Trek Fest to celebrate Captain Kirk's future birth with Star Trek costume contests, question-and-answer panels with the show's stars (among them Chekov, Uhura and Sulu), fireworks, Kirk's Stomping Grounds Rodeo and, most suitably, a demolition derby.
Not that we were able to take advantage of any of that. For some Godforsaken reason, we decided to visit Riverside on one of the 363 days of the year that were not during Trek Fest. The town wasn't quite lifeless; kids played in yards, and a pair of mechanics were reassembling tractors in a field near the BP gas station. But a Star Trek-themed rodeo it wasn't.
"If I was Captain Kirk, I'd rather be eaten by space ghoulies than spend my life here," I muttered.