Thursday, September 25, 2014

Points west

I am finally back. Close to four thousand miles put on the van this trip, my right ankle is sore from pushing the accelerator pedal. The show in Texas was tolerably good, maybe even worth it if I get some after show business. Met some new clients, showed my face and wares in a new arena.

Van is reasonably okay, a few new cuts and scratches, a new check in the windshield courtesy of the car next to me kicking up some gravel near Fort Stockton. One near miss that brought me perilously close to total disaster, more on that later.

A few quick thoughts on the show and the trip. Texas is a very clean state, much less trash and litter than California. The restaurants are good, the state was beautiful and green, the rest stops are clean  ( although you are advised to watch out for the poisonous snakes, just what I want to see when I am on the can) the people are courteous and polite, albeit pretty conservative.

Saw two great bumper stickers on the trip, can't disagree and very Texan in attitude; God bless our troops, especially the snipers and Political Correctness was responsible for Major Nidal. I don't think I offended anybody at the show, two conversations about the Texas educational standards and I only brought it up once. She fled.

I started driving west from Houston monday morning, after filling up with gas. Cheapest I saw this trip was $2.99. I decided to hit a few barbecues that Bradford had suggested I check out. The first was Joel's, a rather flea bitten affair by the highway. Just my style.

It was early in the day and I decided to stick with the brisket and establish a base line. Pecan pie looked good but a man needs a certain amount of discipline and it was early in the day.

Joel's had atmosphere galore but the brisket was a little dry and only so-so. I headed down the road.

Next stop was the City Market in Luling, Texas. Now this place was like going to barbecue mecca, the real deal. A dusty old town with an oil museum, I finally found City Market by the train tracks after calling Mike for directions. Mike is a true expert Texas barbecue man and this was his favorite spot, so it definitely had my attention.

I walked into the old building, like heading back to 1910 and looked around. Stand for pop in the middle of the room, check, Cash register, check. Happy people gorging themselves at tables, righteo.

Just one question, how do I get food? A few seconds later I had it figured out. There were two doors to the inner sanctum at the back of the room, in and out.

Sort of like a dungeon or maybe a maternity room. I walked back and you could have bottled the atmosphere. Black streaked walls, the place was positively medieval. I ordered brisket and a pork rib. Should have taken a shot but I ate it too fast, washed down with a Stewarts root beer. Quite possibly the best beef I have ever tasted, maybe better than the place Leslie and I once found near Round Top. Bradford had given me a map of other places to try, a place up by Austin, the original Rudy's, Franklin's, etc. but I was starting to overdose on mesquite and thought it might be time to layoff for a while.

I continued down the road, plunging into the monotony that is Texas. I needed water and stopped at a gas station. Noticed the sacks of deer corn for sale outside.

"You feed them with that or blast them?"

"Well, both really mister,"the young lady said. "The white tails are thick as dogs around here."

I hardly pulled my camera out the whole trip. Everything with the crappy camera on the HTC phone but I hope you get the general drift.

A few comments. When I left Ford Stockton the first time, something literally stunk. Wasn't sure if it was the hotel, me, what the hell it was? It turned out to be Texas. West Texas smells, specifically like burnt fossil fuels. Kind of like Mt. Doom at Mordor might smell.

Very pretty though, nicer than I remembered. Lots of pretty flowers, no bluebonnets this time of year but lots of black eyed susan ant other stuff. A pretty vine at a rest stop, fruit undetermined. Anybody know? You must...

Didn't see a lot of birds, a large falcon or kite with a dark eye on the way out, sitting on a fence post. Looked like a goshawk but my friend Steve says it would not be a typical area for them to roost. Noticed a beautiful brown raptor on the way back west.

I made it to my first trip deviation around 2:30. I had wanted to explore the caverns of Sonora. located about 15 miles south of the freeway. I never got a detour on my august trip and it might have hexed me and contributed to my heart ache. This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful caves in the world, speleologically speaking.

I drove out, only to find out that the last tour of the day had already left. Damn. Will have to arrive early next time. Bought a little fudge. I had heard reports of vandalism to the beautiful butterfly formations and the girl gave me the sad story.

In 2006, a punk kid from Houston, 29 years old, broke off a piece of the butterfly helictite speleothem and stuffed it in his pocket as a souvenir. Might grow back in a half a million years or so, please let me know if you are around.

Humans, you have to love them.

I drove and drove and about a hundred miles from Van Horn, my old nemesis, and disaster near struck.

The rain had started to fall again and it was getting pretty dark. I was fiddling with the radio when I looked up, just in time to see the large object in the road directly ahead of me.

It was a truck tire, replete with wheel and I had no chance to swerve, hitting it straight on doing seventy.  "Oh, my god!" I felt it scrape all the way down my van's spine. For a few nervous seconds I watched my gauges, sure that I had done in cooling, transmission and various other systems.

But nothing happened. About forty more miles I pulled into a gas station and checked the underside. Disaster narrowly averted, once again, my specialty seemingly.  Told a guy in a truck what happened and called the cops to alert them to the hazard. It was really pouring and the mud getting in and out of the place was incredible. Later I found out it was a 250 year flood that had killed that day in both El Paso and Phoenix.

I found a hotel in Van Horn, not wanting a possible repeat with the gendarmes at the Border Patrol to happen late at night. I was sweating bullets thinking about what might happen this time, if I would be spending more extended time in a cell for my crime of offending their canine.

Next morning I hit the road early. Passed a herd of pronghorn that sprang into the bush upon sensing my scrutiny. I made it through the border check with a little small talk about my show, then a wave on down the road. Another disaster averted.

Talked to my wife. Evidently we have a broken water pipe. Asked the neighbor to help in my absence.  She has been without water for a couple days and I feel bad.

I drove towards my old hometown, El Paso. It was clear and didn't look quite as bad as on the way out. Passed Signal Peak and Hueco tanks.

The pride of MacArthur Elementary drove right on through El Paso. I decided to have breakfast in Mesilla, a wonderful town, maybe my favorite downtown in New Mexico. Loved to visit when I was a kid in Las Cruces. The Billy the Kid Bar is now the Billy the Kid gift shop. The old town is slow and somehow regal in its tranquility.  Unchanged.

The town square is much like the zocolo near my home in Las Cruces as a kid. Lovely place to stroll around on a warm evening.

I miss the lightning of New Mexico from my childhood. It was so dry that the blankets often made strong sparks when you opened them up.

I have a lot of rich memories of this place, will have a psychic connection forever. I was formed in the southwest, out of the native dirt and clay.

Had breakfast at Josefina's, from a nice mexican apache woman. Walked around the plaza for a while and just took it all in.

I think that it is important to circle around in our life, to come back around on and touch those things that were important to you once again. Places and people. Get a reality check, maybe see how things turned out.

I had an old love contact me through a friend while I was on Facebook. A very important old love, my first. I couldn't process everything that was going on at the time, it was right before my show and I ultimately severed contact with the proxy for one reason or another. She had said that my old girlfriend was aware of my writing and photography. Now I had last talked to this person in the late 70's, a very long time.

But I am happy that she reached out, only wishing her the best. Because to some degree, we helped form each other as well. I am very grateful to this person. Would be interesting to talk, if you are reading this, and you feel like it, drop me a line. Or not. Love for ever, to everybody.

I continued into the heart of New Mexico and suddenly had a wild hair. It is quite possible that I had never been to Silver City, don't remember going through there with Diann, never with Leslie. So I turned right and drove an hour or so north... New trails to explore.


Anonymous said...

That would be a Calicarpa Americana vine; aka American Beautyberry, Verbenacea, Dwarf Mulberry, Beautybush, Filigree, French Mulberry and Beautyberry.


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Stutzy said...

My God isn't city market the most incredible place! Went with a friend and must agree it was the best beef I've ever eaten as well. Will ruin bbq at any other place. Beautiful shots, looks like quite a trip .

Anonymous said...

So great to live vicariously through your exploits. Must say, I have even less interest in going to Texas now that I’ve heard your stories.
The Doc Watson tribute video – Blue Railroad Train – was great.