Tuesday, November 10
3:11. Over a bridge at the bottom edge of Sabine Lake into Midland, Texas, and Texas 82. There's lots of stuff down there on the water, at least 5 big tanks, refineries etc. On the shore, there are eight strange-looking towers, like something out of some kind of East Indian religious building. These are probably used for refining gasoline. There's water to my left, houses to my right, some of them quite ornate, some on stilts, some not. I'm on a road with no businesses or houses, refineries across the river. This is where it gets ugly; this is where it stops being fun. On to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge, 82 bypass. A railroad yard under the bridge, a lot of suburban homes, then Refinery Alley. I have absolutely no idea where I am other than that I am now somehow on Texas 73 west, speed limit 75, a superhighway for all intents and purposes. I have no map or anything to help me. Heading west, the sky is pretty much clouded ahead of me, some blue sky behind me, so there's no more sun in my eyes. I-10 to Houston at 3:55. My God, theres a Stuckey's. I haven't seen one of those in ages. I finally get off I-10 at a Texas Country Inn & Suites in Anahuac at 4:22.
1977: "Who would ever have thought I would fall in love with Madison, Wisconsin?"
Louisiana Line to Anahuac, Texas
I get a pecan pie, Arizona drink, an eggroll, some kind of crab thing with a crust, some cupcakes, and another Arizona drink at a nearby convenience store. Bed at 11:45.
Wednesday, November 11
1987: "I want to be out riding the night with weird creatures, talking about things best left untalked about, in grundgy bars."
Anahuac to Bastrop Pines, Texas
Up at 8:00. Breakfast at the motel was coffee, watery OJ and apple juice, a mediocre Danish, a hard boiled egg, sausage biscuits, coffee, and watery orange juice and watery apple juice, no toast. I find my Texas map while loading the car. I leave at 9:14, temp 81, pretty much blue sky with cirrus and tiny cumulus. I-10 west to Houston, a big bank of clouds ahead of me, trees on both sides, a service road, an occasional house, a long ramshackle one. Over the Trinity River and a swampy area. The Lost and Old River. Totally clouded over at 9:33. Mont Belviei, Dayton, Baytown, Skeeter Bayou, the Harris County Line, another refinery, with at least 10 cranes. Chevron/Phillips.
I-610 south at 9:54 takes me around Houston to the west. It's 5 lanes at first, goes over a big high bridge that gives me acrophobia just looking at it, water and boats, the San Jacinto Battleship Monument, some kind of factories, refineries off to my left in the distance, down to 4 lanes. I take the exit AAA had mentioned over the phone and get lost again but quickly find the street it's on, have to turn around to get on it, then find the AAA on the left when I'm in the right lane and have to turn around again. I get some mpas and tour guides and a counselor gives me a triptik from Houston to Austin via a "scenic" route, directions to a AAA service area and a discount coupon. The instructions are complex but I follow them with no trouble until the very end, when I can't find the Memorial Car Center and go some distance, maybe a mile, through a park before I can turn around. (Nice park otherwise).) I finally turned around and went to the wrong service station before finding it. They give me a lube and oil change and a new air filter and I'm back on the road at 12:37.
There is nothing along I-10, 4 lanes, but buildings buildings buildings, 10-15 stories of glass, smaller buildings, duplex parking garages, which become smaller company buildings, 4-5 stories high, all pretty much business for 20 minutes. The sky is cloudy with a few patches of blue, the sun shining through clouds, which are high and unthreatening. I come to the Katy-Ft Bend County Road, which inspired my stories about Katy Bend. Actually, it's the towns of Katy and Fort Bend. Master Cast Stucco and Masonry. Finally into country. I get off at Koomey Road at Simonton, getting $10.05 of $1.859 at a Flying J then sweet tea nachos at Denny's. I-10 is down to 2 lanes each way. At Peach Ridge Road, there's an old bridge in the divider with no roads leading to it. I cross good old US 90, tempted to get off. Eagle Lake, Rosenberg.
I get off at Sealy on Texas route 36 to Bellville at 2:08 and get a vanilla cone at a Dairy Queen. 2 lanes each way with a grass divider, 70 mph into Bellville. The road to Cat Spring. Joining with Route 159. Coco and Ducky. Through the center of Bellville, Coco and Ducky, a Spanish style building, Family Dollar.
I take 159 alone west, a 2-lane road, gray asphalt, 81 degrees, sky totally clouded up. Houses scattered along the road. Really nice country, pretty-good sized trees on both sides, occasional houses and I do mean occasional.
This is today. I am very much living the day, not the absolute moment but the moment of the day. Yesterday doesn't exist. It's miles away.
Oak Hill. A collection of houses along the road, ranch homes, none of them more than one story. Nelsonville. Industry, Texas at 2:58. Ponies and horses out in the field, nice vista at the crest of a hill, all green, with fruit-tree type trees scattered on hillsides, a lot of cows or cattle, rolled hay. White and dark cattle, probably Angus. Willow Springs. Cows lying underneath the trees. Rek [sic] Hill. Clouds beginning to break up, blue sky to my left, less up ahead, sun shining through, heading more or less south. Fayetteville, Texas.
I miss the turn to 955 west, go the wrong way, turn around, and follow it to Texas 71 west. A bit cloudy again, the sun managing to break through the clouds. A big cattle farm. 2 lanes each way with a grass divider. A fair amount of trees, but no woods, rolling country, a small church in the middle of nowhere, a clear blue sky ahead, quite a few clouds off to my left, on a superhighway with a Jersey barrier, 2 lanes each way, a side road parallel alongside, fairly flat. LaGrange. The Colorado River. Low growing trees to my right off to the distance, distant trailers, institutional type buildings to my left, some kind of campus. Speed limit 75. A big ranch with white fences and a big Texas star and the letters EB, an alpaca or llama loping along toward the fence. Just before St. James Church Road. Ladybird Loop. Clouds ahead (west), blue sky to my left. An old tin-roofed shack starting to fall apart. An area with s lot of charred naked tree trunks. Lost Pines Paint & Body. A billboard for Whataburger. Super 8, Motel 6. Historic dontown. Historic downtown what?
Austin City Limits at 4:30. With the sun in my eyes, unable to read road signs, I get lost once again, finally find Congress Street but can find no motels. I turn around and go the other way. Still no motels. Finally I cross over to I-35 and take it south, finally giving up, turning around again, back up I-35 to 71 east all the way back to a Best Western in Bastrop that costs me $100+. I'm beat, a bit damp (after all, the temp was above 80), exhausted, upset. The worst day I've had on the road in a long time. At this point, I hate Austin. I wound up going to bed at 10:15.
Thursday, November 12
Bastrop to Austin
Up at 8:00. A bit chilly. Bagel & cream cheese, one slice of toast, very good apple juice (I had two), coffee, peach yogurt, a small Danish, a sausage link at the motel. On the road at 10:14, temp 61, sun shining but a lot of clouds in the sky, high flying and flocked, sort of cumulus but not exactly, definitely not cirrus. Back to Austin.
Back onto Texas 71. Whole bunches of businesses along 71 that I hadn't noticed yesterday. Hyatt Regency at the Lost Pines Resort, Fossils Bonsai Antiques, Tiled roofs, Ironwood Bar Food Beer Fun, Dry Creek, vultures, Fidel's Highway 71 Auto Salvage, Wrench-a-Part used auto parts, Onion Creek. God, this is ugly country. More blue sky but still a lot of clouds.
Austin City Limits. Motel 71--Couldn't even see it yesterday. I take I-35 south. Wrong. Turn around, back up I-35 and then to the service road to Howard Johnson at 11:20. $60+, 66 degrees, odometer 109967, overcast.
I get a poor pork BBQ at a nearby restaurant and go out to find an open mike. I go first to the Green Mesquite BB but their open mike had been cancelled for the winter (it was held outside) and I head back to the motel. But immediately I find Lamar Boulevard and another open mike is at the Irie Bean Coffee Bar (more bar than coffee) on that road so I head down it, hoping I'm going in the right direction, go right past it, get turned around, going down 3 or 4 side roads before finally getting back on Lamar and into their small completely full parking lot. As I'm turning around in the parking lot, two cars leave so I pull in.
It's around 6:30 so I have to wait quite a while before it begins at about 6:30, run by Nic, a good-looking young real estate agent who wears his cowboy hat well. It'a out of doors too and it gets quite chilly. First his lady Diane plays fiddle ("Cripple Creek," if I remember correctly), then Dodge (a Brit who is very good), then Matt (very thick Scottish accent, at least I think that's what it was) plays six songs while Cincy (that's what it sounded like to me) plays a very tuneful steel drum behind him. After Jimmy plays guitar and harmonica on several songs and sings one, it's my turn.
By this time, a lot of people have left. "This Old Van," "All Night Diner," "Four O'Clock on the Highway," "Paisley Highways," and Patrick Sky's "Talking Undertaker" all seem to go well, especially with an attractive young lady (of which there were quite a few) very close to the stage. I'm followed by 2 more people then the owner celebrates their 9th anniversary briefly.
Meanwhile, people are coming up to me, complimenting me. I can't ever remember this many people coming up to me with compliments. A couple of people thought "This Old Van" was the same song a local musician, Charlie Mason, has written. And at the end of the night, I have a long talk with a young guy ("Dude, you were awesome.") and lady. Bed at 12.
Friday, November 13
1976: "Oh, but the morning air is cool and damp, full of dreams, of the promise of adventure.
I want to go on long drives with Dean and George and other fantastic creatures of the night."
Up at 7:20 for a waffle, apple juice, coffee, and toast at the motel. I go to Denny's for a strawberry sundae while they clean my room. Later Nic, who ran the open mike last night, picks me up and shows me around the city, ending off with a drive through the entertainment section after we go to the state capitol, walking through part of it including the House of Representatives and the Senate, lots of portraits of former governors, including Sam Houston, as well as one of Sam Rayburn, who was leader of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years. Statues of Sam Houston and Stephen Austin at the entrance, a large grounds with statues, including some longhorn cattle in bronze (apparently). Very impressive.
Dinner is spaghetti at Denny's.
Saturday, November 14
1994: "Mike and I toured FDR's Little White House and Callaway Gardens--Sibley Gardens, the Butterfly House."
Austin to Canton, Texas
Up at 8:45. It's overcast all day long. I have cereal, toast, coffee, and apple juice at the motel and leave after 9:50 temp 61, odometer 109981. I-35 for once is not jammed with traffic, although it's pretty busy going the other way. I spoke too soon. After Ladybird Lake, I-35 is suddenly jammed so I get off on the feeder road, where I can see police cars blocking one lane and the entry lane for no apparent reason. After I get past the entry ramp, they speed off, and people behind me are able to get on. Cesar Chavez Street. I get back on at the next on ramp.
I get off again to check the map and it's a good thing I did. I was looking for route 29 when I should have been looking for route 79, which is just two exits ahead. As I get back on the feeder road, 3 police cars block off intersection, letting the cross street making right and left turns while we can't not go straight or even move. 2 more police cars join the first three and finally a group of people marches through the intersection with a couple of flags--boy scouts, some veterans, and a bunch of other people. After a Swat team truck comes up behind them, the police cars move off and I drive on to US 79 at 10:15.
I get $19.00 of $1.869 gas at Texaco after stopping but not getting $1.959 at a station around the corner. Since then it's mostly in the $1.90s and $2.00, although I did see one at $1.849. Between towns, US 79 is a divided highway with a median strip, 2 lanes each way, gray asphalt, patched in places, not too bad. Speed limit 70. The country is nothing special, open country, occasional houses, businesses, the Palm Valley Lutheran Church, more or less short squat trees, another railroad off to my right, Old Settlers Country Store, gas stations, the Dell Diamond Sports Arena, the R Bank not particularly interesting country, a gray dismal sky from horizon to horizon. Cel towers, power lines, distant trees, scrub trees, distant buildings, a smokestack spewing smoke in the distance,not terrible but not great, generally blah, a water tower in the distance, a house surrounded by small trees. This is big country, there's no denying that. There is a kind of stark beauty to this. The Lucky Duck Cafe in Taylor. Another town, Thorndale. A big Thorndale Cafe sign but no Thorndale Cafe. The Thorndale Bulldogs, 10 big round storage tanks, 30-40 feet high, the Thorndale Meat Market in front of a cement factory of or something, the Thorndale Co-op. A big, big sky. Low trees, not very tall. Flavored water and mints at Walmart in Rockdale. A really long Union Pacific train along the road, 100 cars or more, a monster, gondolas, tank cars, boxcars. The Peaceful Rest Cemetery. 30 or 40 black Angus grazing around a couple of ponds, across the road, 6 or 7 horses, totally ignoring each other, a horse with a couple of cows. Robertson County Line. Little Brazos River at Hearne. Welcome to Franklin. I take a photo of the Franklin Courthouse or whatever. There seems to be a bunch of goats grazing in a field but, when one raises its head, it looks like a prong-horned antelope. The sky is brighter and the sun is shining through the clouds. Buffalo, Texas. Temp 67. Under I-45. The Davis Country Store. There is construction outside Palestine, apparently to widen 78 to 2 lanes each way. Red Dog Oil Tools, Katy's Pantry, "Texas is a Whataburger State Lucky You" (a billboard), Action Pawn, Lightfoot Flooring, Ceramic Flooring, The Pit Grill Restaurant, Jack in the Box.
Onto Texas 19 at 2:04, a 2-lane country highway, 70 mph, gray asphalt, good conditions, trees on either side, rather tall, pines mixed with deciduous trees. Not bad, not great.
I stop at Motel 6 in Canton at 3:30, the temp 66, odometer 110223. There's not much to the room, lots of empty space. There's a bed, a TV in the wall with a ledge underneath, lots of wall plugs (16 at least), one table, a corner padded chair, small tables attached to the wall on either side of the bed. In the alcove outside the bathroom, the sink has lots of counter and there's an overhead shelf, hangers, and, on a pole coming out of the floor, there is a small strange piece of furniture with 2 open shelves.
I go to the Dairy Palace ("open 24-7") A lot of fried food but I have a taco and 2 chalupas and a root beer then go to the convenience store next door and got a Cherry Mash, which I haven't seen in a long time.
Sunday, November 15
In 1996, I drove to the Grand Canyon and through the Navajo reservation.
Canton to the Oklahoma Line
I lay down in my clothes at 10:30 last night and didn't get up till 8, the second night in a row I've slept straight through the night.
I got a call from Burrie--he was at a house concert in Williamsburg and Dave Kearney showed up. He now runs an open mike in Woodstock, NY. After getting $15 of $1.899 gas at an Exxon near Motel 6, I was on Route 19 north at 8:50, speed limit 75, temp 56, odometer 110224, on another cloudy day. Breakfast was an oatmeal cream pie. The scenery in northern Texas is more interesting, rolling country, farming and ranching country, trees not terribly tall, somehow different from those of the East Coast. Black squirrel raced off the road. The Rains County line. I scared up a couple of vultures alongside the road. A couple of ponies out in a field, one completely white, the other brown and white. The cloudy sky ranges from horizon to unimpeded horizon. And there's Kearney Trailors! Emory, Sulphur Springs, Paris. A big old swamp, standing water with trees in the middle of it. The Hopkins County line, I-30 at Sulphur Springs, gas $1.799, the Tira City Limits. One-story houses out here look pretty puny against all this expense, just a tiny incursion by mankind. The Lamar County line, the North Sulphur River, Paris city limits. 271 north at 10:16, 2 lanes each way, a turn lane in the middle which becomes grass divider, speed limit 70. Powderly. Into Oklahoma at 10:31.
Monday, November 16
"The sun was shining through a metallic sky from the middle, the focus,
of a horseshoe of clouds that ringed the horizon. Ir was very menacing."
Oklahoma Line to Sweetwater
Texas at 1:06, pretty much clouded all over, the sun trying to get through, dark clouds way to my right behind me. US 83 north at 1:22, still overcast with patches of blue.
Onto Texas 256 due west, a gray highway, speed limit 75. Rolling country now, flat hills in the far distance, the sky full of large cumulus with patches of blue between them, low Texas trees (I finally figure out that they're mesquite), lots of scrub brush, not a single building in sight, over the top of hill to more scrub brush country, endless scrub brush country.
I realize that, for first time in Texas, I'm happy as I go over rolling hills. Maybe I just needed some rolling hills for a while: flatness is just not my style.
A red clay bank along the road, the Hall County Line, totally empty country, I haven't seen a house on 256 although there are cotton fields on both sides of road. A little shanty just off the road to my left is the only one before Memphis at the intersection of 287 at 1:45, temp 77.
More abandoned houses. Faux Pants Clothes, the Historic Memphis Hotel both closed. I stop at the Rock Inn Cafe for a way too big piece of steak, which I can eat only half of, eggs, toast, and coffee. Then I get $25 of $1.999 gas. A long long line of BNF black tanker cars is sitting alongside the road. The sky is now completely full of fluffy cumulus, lots of blue space, the sun shining. Another train with lots of container cars and trailers is motionless. The cars on both trains just go on and on and on. 289 is another divided highway, 2 lanes each way, a divider of mostly brown grass, dark black tar on my right lane, apparently repaved recently, gray tar on my left lane. Bits of cloud, mostly blue, the sun warm to my left as I head due north.
A cloud to my left funnels down to horizon with a fairly wide band of light in its middle, darkish gray around it. It looks really strange with that lighter section in the middle, which I suddenly realize is sunshine shining through a hole in the cloud. The clouds are really weird, with the sun shining all around dark blue clouds. It's very strange and very ominous.
Entering Claude. I Don't Know Sports Bar and Grille, Barrera's Mexican Restaurant, the LA Motel, the West Texas Gasoline closed, Armstrong County Museum closed, another abandoned gas station, 4 big grain silos, lots and lots of windmills, 50 or more. The sun is now at the edge of that big cloud, dark and ominous on the horizon, much wider. Two more trains are waiting on the track, one with gondolas, the other one with container cars, lots of black Angus on the other side of the railroad track. Another train, with lots of gondolas, moving slowly past me, going the other way lots.
Amarillo at 4:25, temp 71. The sky is half clouded over, half blue. I stop at the Texas Welcome Center, go on the internet and find an email from Mike--he's not in Amarillo, he’s in Waco, which is halfway between Houston and Austin. I don't know why I insisted on believing he was in Amarillo; he must have told me 3 or 4 times that he lived in Waco.
So it's on to I-40 to I-27 to Lubbock. There's a big dark cloud straight ahead. There were lots of cheap motels in Amarillo. The sun is in my eyes as I go south to Lubbock. The sky is pretty much clouded up again, with some patches of sky. Surprisingly the country is flat. Imagine that. At 5:06, there's some rain but there's clear sky ahead and the sun is shining to the west, pretty low. There are lots of trucks parked in rest area, carrying parts of a windmill, vanes, bases, and poles. Are they just waiting there or are they planning to unload and build one there?
Plainview at 5:37, the sun red on the horizon. A little Scottish terrier trots along the highway. Gas is $1.619 in Plainview. The sun is gone, the horizon still red where it had set.
I reach Lubbock at 6:15 and US 84 east at 6:24. Its another divided highway with a grass median. I get $11 worth of $1.699 gas at a Valero, almost 6.5 gallons. There's a thunderstorm to my right as I head east. Scurry. Fluvanna. I think this is the first time this trip that I didn't call it a day till after dark. Snyder, Lamesa, Roby. The stars are out and there are the red lights of hundreds of power windmills on both sides of the road. Nolan Corporate Limits. Roscoe.
I take I-10 to the Ranchhouse Motel in Sweetwater at 8:45, with a "full" breakfast. Odometer 111163. Nowhere nearby to eat so I get a ham sandwich at a Seven-11 ham sandwich. On the TV, I learn there had been torados through some of the towns in Oklahoma I had passed through a couple of days ago. Bed at 12.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
In 1967, Jenny and I went to see The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
Sweetwater to Waco
Up at 8. The "full" breakfast was sausage and biscuits and coffee. Other choices were eggs, pancakes, cereal. I had trouble with wifi at the motel so I was flying a little blind. I wanted to repack the car but wind and the cold prevented it. It was 52 degrees when I left at 10:21, quite windy, an almost clear blue sky, the odometer 111164, my hands cold.
I took I-20 to Route 6, no hurry, clouds on the horizon ahead and to my right. Another long train, boxcars and gondolas, is rattling along to my right, going the other direction. The 40 miles between Sweetwater and Abilene is flat of course, a pump at work, not many houses, the railroad track and a service road to my right, mesquite, telephone poles on left side of the highway, Merkel Area Museum, Abilene at 10:43, 58 degrees, still out in open country, the flat clouds higher in the sky. The clouds ahead (due east) are a streak across the sky with a bit of cumulus top, a streak of blue beneath, another streak of clouds below that, nothing to the north or behind me, the sun is out. Mushy Creek Road. Clouds over the entire sky, lots of blue, the streaky cloud now to my left, blue ahead with cloud streaks, clumps of clouds aggregated to my right.
I leave I-20 for Route 6 at 11:52, speed limit 70. The sun is behind some clouds straight ahead but it's still pretty bright. I mail off a package to Burrie in Carbon, Texas. Comanche County line. Speed limit 75, the Texas Sports Trail. Slightly rolling country, not quite flat, an idle pump, mixed clouds and sun. Going through DeLeon at 12:29, Desdemona Texas to the east, Highway 6 Cafe, DeLeon Inn, Wright Fabrication, DeLeon Housing Authority, Reyna's Laundry, long houses like trailers but not, a group of real trailers, a big bank of clouds ahead of me, east. The Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway. Erath County. The Dublin Historical Museum at 12:44, Barbed Wire and Lace, Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Texas Car Detail, "Community Table All Are Welcome", Doctor Pepper painted on the formcrete wall of Barbed Wire & Lace. (What the hell is Barbed Wire & Lace?) Houses in need of repair, bunch of cars in front of a house that has a porch with the roof beginning to cave in. Creekside Ranch, Bedrock Ranch an old weathervane whirling in the wind.
A bit of color in the trees and bushes, yellow and light orange, Clairette, an old garage building with no roof. Hamilton County Line, the sky pretty well clouded over, patches of blue. Hico Texas, a couple of buzzards along the road, Rainwater Trucking, Paradise Bakery, Country Donuts, a strange kind of building material like formcrete that tries to look like big pieces of rock covering the sides of a number of buildings, Koffee Kup, The Ranglers, Cowboy Kitchen, Harts Firehouse BBQ, Swifts Company Produce cream poultry & eggs, a store with a lot of junk in front of it. Iredell. Not particularly impressive houses, the Red Caboose Winery, slightly rolling country, black cattle in distance, scattered clouds and blue.
I'm feeling pretty happy here in Texas driving along this road, seeing this country. This is a good life. Boy, talk about distances. On a little bit of a rise and off to my left you can forever, miles and miles and miles, low hills to my right covered with trees.
Boy, that was a real wide load. It took the whole road, both lanes, forcing cars to the verge, some kind of boxed containers on it. Meridien pop 1493, Myers Cedar Yard, American Inn and RV Park, Brookshire Brothers Deli. Hilly country, not at all unlike New England but the hills topped with rocky cliffs, a strange kind of rock, like hoodoos imbedded in the cliff. Clifton pop 3442. Into the DQ for a vanilla cone. Some black cattle with big white band around their middles, all of them. (Belted Galloways, "the Oreo Cookie Cow") Never saw anything like them before. Lady Bird Road. $23.00 worth of $1.899 gas (12+ gallons) at Ace Stripes.
I reach the I-35 access road around 2:30 and look for some place to eat. I stop at Zoe's Kitchen at 2:50 for a steak sandwich and soda. The sun is out now, the sky pretty much clear. At 3:25 I stop at Denny's on New Road for ice cream and coffee then call Mike Bracken.
Mike arrives at 4:25. He has grown a beard and looks pretty good, a little like Greg Benford. I have dinner with him and his fiancee at a Thai restaurant. Since I had eaten so recently, I only have soup, which tastes and looks like won ton soup although I had ordered something different. Then I follow Mike to his house, which he is in the process of selling, and we talk for an hour or two until he goes to his new home, and I spend the night there, getting all my work done except internet (no wifi), the problems I had with the computer at the last two motels gone, apparently due to interference from their wifis, getting to bed at 12:15.
Wednesday, November 18
In 1966, I returned to DC after my first coast to coast trip.
Waco to Austin
A strange night. Usually I only get up once in the night, if that, but I got up 3 or 4 times, after forgotten dreams. Up at 8:15, my big toe starting to hurt again (it no longer does). Mike has quite a bit of lawn, a strange tree with very smooth bark, a tree with normal bark, car park wide enough for two cars. On the road at 10:00, temp 57, totally clear blue sky, odometer 111409. On down New Road east all the way back to I-35. Denny's at 10:14, out at 10:57, ham, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, English muffin, coffee. Pretty damn full--lots of oatmeal, eggs looked like 4 rather than 2. I-35 south to Austin (93 miles), first on the feeder road, cement plant on my right, piles of dirt or something, chutes going up and down from tanks and buildings, Lorane Texas and Bush's Chicken. A lot of construction along I-35, apparently adding a new lane or two, narrowing the feeder road and making it fun to navigate, up and down, winding between construction cones, Troy city limit, 4 helicopters heading northeast, white knuckle driving on I-35, doing 60 mph on two narrow lanes between trucks and the jersey walls. Finally back on the feeder road, temp 68. The town of Burnet. A-Tex Family Fun Center. Gabriel's Funeral Chapel. Plaka Greek Cafe, Frankie's NY Style Pizza and Pasta. Whataburger.
On the I-35 feeder road waiting for an endless line of gondolas, moving slowly. 15 minutes. Into Red Roof Inn after checking many others at 2:34, temp 72, odometer 111530. Checking the internet, there apparently are no open mikes in Austin tonight.
I go out at 8:39, 57 degrees. There are a couple of people standing around, a whore talking on her cell phone. At first I think my car has been stolen, it's so far down the line. Neither the phone nor the TV work right so I don't think I’ll stay there tomorrow.
I get a steak skillet and coffee at a Cracker Barrel. To bed at 12.
Thursday, November 19
In 1963, the American Light Opera Company gave a concert at the State Department for the new French ambassador and JFK
then Jack Coulson and I got ticketed for speeding on the way home.
Got up at 8:45. Left the Red Roof Inn at 10:50, 68 degrees, odometer 111534, still having computer troubles. The maid started to clean up the room as I was still loading the car. I tried to find an Apple store and failed, apparently getting completely turned around and winding up back on I-35 south. Stopped at an IHOP from 11:26-12:04 for 4 pancakes with a couple of peach slices, a little bit of raspberry sauce with some raspberries. I put strawberry syrup on most of the pancakes. Driving back on I-35 north: Hornito's Mexican Restaurant, a place offering naturalization (in Spanish), Nature's Treasures We Rock crystals minerals fossils more.
Stopped at a Motel 6 a couple of stops above Oltorf Road at 12:49, temp 76, odometer 111580. It's a pretty tiny room, the bed right next to window, a ledge with the phone next to the bed does the job of a bed table, padded small couch in a corner, table, TV imbedded in the wall, a large bathroom alcove with large counter with the usual ledge above hangers and suitcase holder. No fridge or anything like that. Lots of wall sockets.
Left for Irie Bean Coffee Bar after 6:30. It took me till 7:00 to get to Oltorf Road, further than I had thought and with heavy traffic and the lights on the access road. Then Oltorff to Lamar to the Irie Bean took about 15 minutes. Nic Atwood started the thing and I wound up behind Adam, another and another guy, both pretty good but not exceptional. I did "Traveling by Cab," "An Anonymous Alba," "Santa Fe," "New Kid in Town," and "That's the Bag I'm In" and got the usual raves, with "Santa Fe" getting the best applause. I talked to a guy with a long white well-trimmed beard and someone else and met Charlie Mason, the guy who last week two women told me had written "This Old Van." He said he had written a song like it but not the same. Matthew, the sf kid from last week, followed me, doing the usual kind of things kids do these days. Eric played great keyboard and sang, then Ed (who sat stone-faced in front of me during my set) did some nice stuff left-handed, and then Diane asked me to do another set. I did "Hard Travelin'," "Don't Ever Go," "All Night Diner" (by request of Matthew's girlfriend), "These Ancient Wings," and "The Parting Glass" then Patrick (who came in late) ended the night with the best set of the night. I talked with some more people, including Ed and Matthew and finally left at 11:26 and got to bed at 12.
Friday, November 20
When you're fifteen, you never notice the No Trespassing signs. As you get older, you notice them more and more. And most of them are in your head.
Austin to Sonora
I had a dream in which a bunch of us were hiking up Mount Everest and we certainly weren't dressed for it and it wasn't cold or particularly difficult. We were still some distance from the top, on "mountain 2," which should be "mountain 6" or hut 6.
I woke up several times during the night with people talking loudly in Spanish, mostly men, an occasional woman, not quite outside my door.
On the road at 9:17, temp 63, odometer 111623, another blue sky day. Onto I-35 at 9:26 then to US 290 to AAA at 9:48, where I get some maps and tour guides. Then I go to an Apple Store to get my Apple serviced. They can find nothing wrong.
Back on the road at 10:43 to US 290 and to a Phillips 66 for $19.50 of $1.899 gas (10.25 gallons). Back on 290 at 11:00, a lot of traffic, the road lined with stores and businesses, Sturbs BBQ, Graceland Grocery. I seem to have done well getting gas where I did. I see nothing lower than 1.899. A railway passenger car in the middle of a ring of building, DLS tack and riding apparel, Devine Serenity Holistic Chiropractic, XS Horse Training and Boarding, (Horse Water Boarding?) near Whirlaway Drive. Lights on 290 are not very well timed. 11:17, out into open country, small trees, mesquite or whatever, alongside the highway, occasional business of some kind, rolling a little bit and hilly, nothing spectacular, nothing in the way of large trees or interesting stuff. Ahead of me I can see brown hills dotted with mesquite tree. Dripping Springs, Gateway to the Hill County, Mighty Tiger Lane, Trailhead, Cowgirls and Lace.
12:05. Mexican eggs (sort of scrambled eggs with little bits of tomato and green pepper), refried beans, potato, coffee, at the El Rey Restaurant at the western edge of Dripping Springs. Then I get flavored water, candy, and a Little Debbie cake at Dollar General. The Blanco County Line, Johnson City pop 1656, Paternales Falls State Park, lots of businesses along 290 (the Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway), DQ, Country Clutter Collectibles, no abandoned buildings, Ronnie's BBQ, Hill Country Inn, Hill County Cupboard, Junque, 290 Diner, the Old Lumberyard, Texcetera Texas goods, Black Spur Emporium, General Merchants Withers & Spauldings. Still lightly rolling, off to my right in the far distance is a range of low hills. The town of Hye, an old car (30s?) in good shape, like our old Plymouth, various types of equipment and vehicles in front of a falling-down shack. The Lyndon Johnson State and National Park at 12:46 temp, 73. After listening to the spiel, I decide I don't want to waste time at the LBJ ranch. Stonewall, Texas, established 1860. Wheeler & Company, General Merchandise, Antique Wood House Frames, Three Mile Creek, Woodrose Winery, Bad Ass Ranch Winery (the ass is a donkey), an old style windmill turning very slowly. A lot of places selling peaches. Guess there are some peach orchards around here. The town of Blumenthal, 1:04. There's an old style windmill turning madly at Westerfield Farms. Something Thoroughbred Ranch with 20-30 or more horses. The Rocky Hill Fiesta Brewery with a silent old windmill. Luckenbach Dance Hall. Paternales river, Fredericksburg, pop 10530. Pioneer Museum, Holy Ghost Lutheran Church welcomes you, Zion Lutheran Church welcomes you, Pacific War Museum, Merry Christmas across the road (on November 20!), Enchanted Rock, nice old 50s car on side road (a Chrysler?), Western Beverages Liquor Beer, Unique Party Supplies, a New England style church restoration project, an Alamo style building, a stone (maybe faux stone) building, double porches (both floors), formstone, weathered stone, Christmas Greetings going the other way, Choo-Choo Trolley Patio Shop with all kinds of junk in the lot next door, not junk junk but new junk. More old windmills, one turning slowly, one more rapidly, one not moving at all, apparently abandoned. An old broken-down black cabriolet wagon with traces, axle probably busted, alongside a driveway. The town of Harper, Headwater Saloon, another broken down shack, a fake formstone Baptist Church, a standard white church building with steeple, SevenE taxidermy, Longhorn Cafe, Lindley's taxidermy, a Lutheran standard white church with steeple, ranch styles alongside the road, a portable home (2 halves) like a trailer. 70 mph, the Kimble County Line at 1:47, another madly spinning windmill, a lot of goats (50?) out in a field, some black, some white, maybe some mixed, Peril Ranch, more goats in another field, some tan, some two-colored. 1:59---I take a couple of photos at Little Devils River, which is completely dry. It's a straight down drop from the road, quite gut-wrenching; at the bottom there are a couple of decaying animal bodies. Temp 74.
Onto I10 (speed limit 80) west at 2:05, through a rock cut about the height of a man, high tension wires alongside the road marching off into distance. Interesting country with hillsides and low growth, rolling, yellowish sandy underneath, dry grass greenish brownish yellow, Sycamore Creek, Segovia. The HT lines cross the road marching parallel on my left for a while then do it again a couple of times. There are other electrical or telephone wires to my right. US 83 south and Uvalde, Junction and South Llano River State Park, temp 75. Coming down out of the mountains, such as they are, much taller hills than anywhere else in Texas so far, through rock cuts, a motorcycle roars past. Caverns of Sonora. The HT wires cross back, pretty heavy duty poles holding them up as they change direction on my right then several of those poles before they changes to girder style and march off into the distance. It's pretty flat country, hills on both sides of me. A helluva lot of rolled hay (100?) in a field, a solitary goat with a black head and a white body, maybe tethered. There's something on the ground; speeding past at 70 mph, it looks like tiny little piles of wood chips, but it's really cactus growing close to the ground, brown, yellowish, green. Prickly pear cactus.
I get off onto Route 277 and check into the Economy Inn, Sonora, at 3:30. Odometer 111833,temp 71. It's small with small dressers on either side of bed instead of the usual bed tables, 2 wall lamps on either side of the bed, one standing lamp next to the TV, which is on another dresser with 3 drawers and an open space under the TV. An alcove contains a microwave and fridge, a medium-sized table, and the usual ledge, with hangers and a suitcase holder underneath. There's a small ledge in bathroom.
I go to the Dollar Store for Scotch tape and an extension cord then have a mediocre strawberry sundae at DQ. A chef's salad at the Sutton County Steak House. Then I drive out of town a short way to look at the sky. A half moon and the lights of Sonora (pop 3020) wash out much of the southern sky but I can see Orion rising just barely over the horizon, the Pleiades (I think), northern cross sinking, Vega, Altair, Deneb still up, Mars maybe, Cassiopeia, the northern star Polaris, insects singing incessantly.
Bed at 11:45.
Saturday, November 21
If I had a dollar for every time I told someone what I was going and they said "Man, I envy you. I wish I could do that"
I would be able to afford much better motels than the ones I'm staying at.
Up at 8:00, a clear blue sky day, very windy, 47 degrees. Pancakes and bacon at the Sutton County Steak House. Sutton County 4-H Civic Center, Lighthouse Community Church, athletic field with bleachers, Snowflake Donuts (open 5 to noon), For Lease, trailer, children's park, municipal swimming pool, Dry Devils River, Veterans and Ranch Women Museum, 1925 on the facade of a building painted over, a Frisco Trailway plaque at the County Courthouse, Old Sonora Ice House Ranch Museum gifts and antiques, Poplar Street and Concho Avenue.
Bought some stuff at Dollar General and Family Diner and the local grocery store so that dinner was a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. On the bulletin board on the grocery wall was "Mittel Dozing General Dirt Work Contractor."
Finished rearranging things and lay down on the bed fully dressed around 9:30 and fell asleep.
Sunday, November 22
I woke up around 3:00, took my clothes off, and went back to sleep until 8:30. Another blue sky sunny day without clouds. Leaving the motel at 9:27, odometer 111848, 43 degrees, immediately going next door to one of the 3 Sunoco stations for $14.00 worth of $1.929 gas (7.147 gallons).
Then it was down US 277. Lot of businesses and houses going out of town southeast, old storage tanks probably still being used, the KHOS transmitter, an out of business small grocery store. Then desert, not yellow sandy desert but low-growth trees and shrubs and brownish-yellow grass. Simon's Petroleum, Coal Energy Services, a big complex wirth lots of trucks and storage tanks. Very empty country, a dirt road alongside briefly, low trees, rolling country, 2 rock cuts, not much to say, nothing, not a soul anywhere in sight, a water tank, gates on either side with dirt roads, a storage tank of some kind out there but nothing else. Not a sign of animal life, no cattle, horses, sheep, or goats, not even a dead animal alongside the road. Poles with a single strand of wire along the road, a buzzard sitting on one of the poles. High tension wires cross the road and march off to the south. There's a couple of grassy green fields off to my right, a couple of rusted and weathered storage tanks to my left, something that looks like a deer under the small trees. A crow flies across the road at what looks like a refinery, Enterprise Products, lots of narrow smokestacks, a couple of pale yellow towers with pipes.
At the Edwards County Line at 10:15, I take Texas 55 (speed limit 75) to Rocksprings (33 miles), a rolling tar road, low trees, 10-15 feet high, a ranch style house with a tin-roofed shed. There are a couple of birds on the wires, mockingbirds maybe, several poles away from each other. I cross county Road 761, a dirt road, County Rod 760, another dirt road to the Texas Agricultural Station. A dirt road driveway with mailboxes, still rolling country but more open, 3 storage tanks in cleared-out spaces. A tannish yellow home just off the highway but hard to see among the trees, a Quonset hut type structure nearby. Another crow flies across the road. What looks like a radar dome is off on my left.
Rocksprings (pop 1182) and US 377 at 10:46. A trailer park, some nice homes, brick ranch style, flavored water and oatmeal cremes at Family Dollar will be my breakfast if there are no restaurants (there aren't) along here. 377 is a gray highway, with tracks of thanks to tires in each lane, 75 mph.
On to Texas 41 at 11:02, I-10 51 miles away. Still gently rolling, short squat trees, lot of open space between them, brownish grass. A straight roller coast road ahead of me, black chunky stocky cattle, probably Angus, to my right, 10-15 goats to my left a little later, something dead in the road, a hawk flies over the road. Crossing US 83 and past the Garvin Store (biker gear barbeque venison jerky) at 11:24. Kerr County Line. Still clear blue, same trees. Way to Go Exotics, We Sell Hunting, Exotic Hunts, a palamino horse under trees to my right, a house being built, just wooden frames and timbers. Mile after mile the only sign of civilization being only the road and the fences on either side and sometimes the telephone poles with one or two wires. Hurt Ranch, another bunch of goats, mostly white.
I-10 at 11:44, 80 mph. Power lines marching alongside the highway. At the Gillespie County Line the speed limit drops to a mere 75. Texas 16 and Kerrville at 12:03. Into the Econolodge 12:26, temp 54, 111983 on the odometer. There's a Fidel Castro fugitive with a big black beard and Che Guevara cap lounging in front. I go to an IHOP for Swedish crepes and coffee then back to the motel to unpack.
Fairly large room with a fridge and microwave and a couch but not much flat space to work on. Not much sink counter space. 4-drawer low bureau, side tables, luggage racks.
Over the Guadeloupe River for spaghetti and meatballs at Denny's, leaving at 9:17, 39 degrees. Downtown Kerrville already decorated for Christmas--white lights line the edges of the buildings, there's a Christmas tree in the town square, other trees decorated with red white and blue lights, phoney pine twines around the lampposts with embedded white lights.
The Ol' Wateringhole is small, with a two rooms and an outdoor deck. Patrick, the guy who runs it, and the drummer (also Patrick) are setting up as I arrived, both in their late 20s or early 30s. Stan, the bass player, probably late 30s or early 40s, 6 foot plus, rangy, taciturn, arrives as Patrick starts his set, about 5 songs. Then I do "Hard Travelin'," which seems to have no effect on the handful at the bar and definitely not on the people sitting at a table who talk loudly all night long, but they seem to like "This Old Van" and "Traveling by Cab," and they definitely like "The All Night Diner." Stan and both Patricks accompany me (all good solid musicians), and I g've Patrick a couple of solos. I'm followed by Jeffrey, not bad, not good, who plays and plays because Patrick has disappeared. I finally split at 11:30.
Monday, November 23
In 1963, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis died and JFK was assassinated.
Kerrville to Sanderson
Up at 7:05, another clear blue sky day. Coffee, juice, waffle, very poor Danish, 2 slices of toast at the motel. On the road at 8:18, temp 37, odometer 111922. Unable to get a prescription refilled at the Walgreen's; they say they can't do it till the afternoon. CVS fills it and I'm on the road by 9:03, taking Texas 16 to US 173, across the Guadeloupe River to 173 truck route. But I get lost again. There are no more signs and I have to get redirected at a convenience store. I am now on 27 and I get back on 173 at 9:23.
This is definitely hill country, pretty clear country off to my right without a lot of trees, pastureland, a huge row of houses with a couple of flags in the distance beyond that, a zigzag fence of wood crisscrossed. Still a lot of open country, scattered with trees, a small pond near the road, a larger one (or small lake) in the near distance. Entering Bandera County, a little more trees cover the hills we're going through, on either side, speed limit 70. Back to open country, forested hills to my left in the near distance, to my right some more at a further distance. The road is pretty empty trafficwise, with practically no one going my way though there's a small amount of traffic going to other way. The hills move quite some distance from the road, a large range of hills rises across the horizon in front of me, right on that borderland of mountains or hills.
Bandera seems much larger than its 857 population. St. Christophers Episcopal Church, Western Union, water tank, Frontier Times Museum (with some kind of spire up to a dome then a cupola on top of that with a sharp pointed spire, as best as I can describe it), Texas Land Man, Chela's Gift Shop, Western-type rectangular buildings, the Cowboy Store, Bandera General Store, WOW old west imports. Over the Medina River with a small waterfall, a hawk flies across the road, more or less open country, trees scattered profusely about, Texas Hill Country Trail. Several houses, 10 or so, all fenced in by a big wide fence around the perimeter, Old Hondo Road, Julian Creek, a guy with a reflective vest carrying metal detector walking on my side of the road, a truck follows him on the other side, riding slowly on the verge. Back into hill country, pretty much tree-covered slopes, some open spaces with plenty of trees dotting them, the ground cover light green and brown grass, some rocky slopes, Medina County Line. Somewhat hilly country, not terribly hilly but not flat either, lots of trees, open country, light and dark and tan horses, Verde Creek. Lots of little paddle cactus (prickly pear) on the ground. The territory alternates with open territory with trees scattered about and a wooded kind of land with trees growing closer to each other. A car almost pulls out in front of me. It is wide open and flat on my right and left, green on my right, plowed on my left, no trees at all for some distance, cirrus in the sky now coming in from the west. A big round storage tank with a conical top, harvesting machines lots of historical markers, farming country, plowed fields and dirt on both sides, very flat open country on both sides, pastureland to my right, plowed on left then pasture, a ranch-style house, more plowed ground, a storage area with quite a few tanker trucks and storage silos. Hondo Creek, very wide and filled with dirt. Texas State Pest Control, off to my left 8 or so round silos and a bunch of smaller ones with all types of tubing.
US90 at Hondo at 10:15 temp 52, a railroad track alongside, $15 worth of $1.799 gas. God's Country Please Don't Drive Through Here Like Hell. A bunch of rectangular buildings on the other side of the railroad tracks, the Hondo National Bank Established 1901, an orangey-red building, light yellow and yellowish-white buildings on. On this side are businesses and gas stations, Billy Bob’s Hamburgers, BBQ, Best Bail Bonds, B&H Spirits, Little Live Oak Creek. US 90 is a divided highway with a brown grass median, 70 mph, brown fields stretching out for quite some distance on both sides of the road, a shack of some kind, a small round storage tank, small house with 2 shacks, one closed, the other open to the weather, irrigation sprinklers on wheels, a big house like a New England farm house with several floors and a a real porch. Open farming country, flat, not a lot of trees, some, brown fields with brownish grass or cover of some kind, on and on interminably, pretty much blue sky, wispy clouds ahead to the west, a bit of cirrus to the south. Seco Creek with a big rusted girder RR bridge alongside, Live Oak Creek, on my right, across the railroad track, 10 or so square Western buildings, larger houses behind them; on my left are more common houses. Squirrel Creek Ranch, 6 mostly brown cattle, one black, telephone poles have 4 wires and one crosspiece. Uvalde County Line. Slightly rolling country, mostly trees now, Ranchero Creek.
Entering Sabinal, 10:45. Ogden's Motor Inn, a windmill with just a vane, no wheel spinning, back in open country. Green fields to my left, mesquite to my right with open country behind them. Dinner Creek, open land on either side, a streaky sky, pure clouds dead ahead with cirrus streaking off like flames of white fire, a train coming in my direction--gondolas, lots of gondolas (big surprise)--Union Pacific (Building America), CMO, We Will Deliver, GATX.
Knippa at 10:56. 3 big old metal storage bins with conveyor belts on their tops, small houses on my left, a really big large house on my right, a rusty railroad bridge, cemetery, a bunch of coal piles and conveyor belts, lots and lots of coal. The Dry Frio River is really dry. A plowed field to my left, now pastureland, low trees to my right, a railroad, more dry plowed ground.
Uvalde at 11:04. The H E B really big down here, I’ve seen quite a lot of them, apparently a local version of Walmart. Antiques on the Square, a maroon building (Once Upon a Time), an Alamo type of building, Food Court, Gringo's, a phony stone building, Vasquez Restaurant, Garza's Radiator Shop, R&B Beverage Barn, amn out of business gas station, BMS Tire Shop, across the Cook's Slough, fairly wide, grass growing in it, a rusted iron roof building, still in use, Big Al's Sports Bar. The cirrus type clouds streaking out from the central area is now higher in sky, a small patch of blue beneath it, streaking out to south and northwest, taking up about a third of the sky. Flat country, brown tall grass, green fields on other side give way to plowed ground. A dappled grey horse next to road, Single Action Shooting Society. The Nueces River has water in it. Colorado Materials Limited, a quarry, piles and piles of sand or something, big conveyor belts. Kinney County line. Power windmill territory, 4 on one hill, lots more on a ridge, an old style windmill not turning at all. Clouds pretty much cover the sky, clear to the north. Slightly rolling country, low trees and brush on either side of road, not a lot of trees, sagebrush. For some reason, I do find this area of Texas more interesting, coming over a rise to see a panorama of sagebrush. Another hawk swooping and gliding over the sagebrush. 7 horses in a field, some black & white cattle. Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail West at a picnic area at 11:50.
Brackettville at 10:56, the skies clouded over though the sun is still shining. US 90 is now the Texas Pecos Trail. An apparently abandoned restaurant and motel several miles outside of Brackettville, what looks like a hunting platform, an observation platform on stilts. Yellow Creek is just yellow sand. Mai Verde County. I could take pictures of twisted trees all day long.
Del Rio and Laughlin Airbase at 12:21, temp 60. Airplanes coming in low and landing, a jet fighter, a prop plane, others circling. Lots of flowers at a (military?) graveyard. Onto loop 79 at 12:25. A lot of planes in the air over Del Rio. Yellow sand, scrub brush, a few short squat trees, slightly rolling country. US 277/US 377 at 12:34 then Back to US 90. The Amistad Reservoir to my right. I stop for a tuna fish sandwich at a One-Stop conveniencew store and gas station just past the Amistad Info Center.
Comstock at 1:23 temp 61. Lots of cirrus, lots of blue sky. A couple of rock cuts in weathered yellow rock makes me feel like I’m driving through one of the pyramids.
Going through canyon and gully country, another yellow rock cut. The spectacular Pecos canyon with US 90 crossing it on a bridge. No diving from bridge. I wouldn't think of it.
Nice country now, more gullies, a meandering stream bed with no water in it at the moment, rock cuts, places where a stream has cut through, scrub covered hills in near the distance, not the kind of country I'd like to live in but it's fun to visiting it, good country here, just scrub brush, not much in the way of trees which are not much taller than a man, Judge Roy Bean Museum, rolling country, both the road and the country itself, gullies, wadis, whatever you call them, an occasional shack along the road, Bird Nest Creek with rock cuts, railroad off to my right. It's so hard to describe. In fact it's impossible. Great green growths of some kind. Oshman Canyon, no water anywhere in sight. This is definitely jeep country, one just passed me, with dirt roads alongside and going off into the desert, the sun pretty much totally shrouded by clouds, trying to shine through, totally covered over at 2:10. Hills in the distance to the south are just blue ghosts, a little ring of mountains are barely visible to the north. The road alternates between 1 lane each way, 2 lanes one way 1 the other, sometimes 2 each way. Terrell County Line at 2:19. The sky is pretty much clouded over with a few patches of blue. A totally rusted out storage tank, top pretty much gone. I've spent a lot of time in cruise control.
At 2:41 I pulled into a picnic area and closed my eyes for a while. Curry Creek, no water of course, desert, yellow sand dotted with whatever grows in this soil, just sand, an old windmill not moving. Little mesquite bushes growing here and there. An overcast sky, the sun shining through it. The town of Dryden at 2:50. Grayish yellow houses scattered around, a shattered house in some kind of southernwestern style, not abandoned, there's a car there. Some kind of concrete mixer standing out here in the middle of nowhere, slowly rusting away, a broken down house with a tin roof, no one on the highway ahead of me or behind me, just the other way, more houses that have seen better days, empty territory, a railroad cut, another old style windmill to my left, quiet. An old oil rig off by itself, some distance away from the house and outbuildings behind it. Overcast, the sun shining through but not casting any shadows. Coming over a rise, I can see US 90 snaking through the desert then disappearing into a pass in the distance.
Sanderson Canyon great rock formations rising up over the road, a dirt road snaking up them. Budget Inn in Sanderson at 3:24, temp 56, odometer 112289. The owner, apparently Mexican, gives me a tray with a small apple, a banana, and 4 packages of cookies, each different.
There's a microwave with a coffee pot on top, a refrigerator underneath and small table with a drawer and an open space. 2 beds, with a similar table between them, a lamp, although the overhead gives plenty of light, an ottoman type thing with blanket. There's an alcove inside door, a big storage space above, hangers, another table, foldaway luggage rack. There's not much in the way of flat space. The bathroom pretty Spartan with no counter space.
I drive to the other side of town, where there's a gas station and 2 more motels, the Desert Air Motel and Outback Oasis Motel. Back through town--Good Eats (For Sale), Kelly's Restaurant Closed, Sanderson Tires and Feed, a large building, Antiques (probably once a hotel), Eagles Nest Cafe, Tis the Season Flowers and Gifts, Sanderson Groceries and Hardware.
I go back to the Stripes at the gas station to get some beef fajitas to bring back to the motel room. Bed at 11:20.
Monday, November 24
1980: "Tom suggested I go to Fells Point."
Sanderson to Study Butte
Up at 8:50. 9:18, 45 degrees, 112296 odometer, photos at the motel. At Stripes I get $10 (4.855 gallons) of $2.059 gas and huevos Mexicana and coffee for breakfast. A guy with a motorcycle in his padded silver suit, backpack, and helmet, looks like a superhero. It's a clear sky, a few cirrus to the northwest, no other clouds in sky. Big Bend 132 miles. NW on US 90. Three Mile Draw is dry (of course). I pass a silent old windmill, nothing else there. Into Rocky canyon country, hills with strata of rock, one with a little rocky knob on top, more mountains ahead. They're not high but I think these qualify as mountains. I don't know how to explain this country. Even photos wouldn't do it justice, and I can't take any because my camera suddenly decides that the memory card is locked. So here I am in photo country and my camera craps out on me.
There's a railroad to my left, pointed peaks, rock peaks on top, a little ranch with flags and the requisite windmill. Pecos County Line, rock formations rising up to my right, really beautiful country, a cliff to my left. It seems to be almost made out of rocks, one boulder on top of another, mesquite to my left, a range of rocky cliffs and hills to my right, some of them come to points, some rounded off, some form a ridge. Longfellow Ranch and Long Fellow Road, a shack on the other side of the railroad track, prickly pear cactus, some of that spiky cactus (yucca) off to my left. Dry Creek (aptly named), strange rock formations go on and on and on, rising up over the desert and falling back down, some have little domes of rock on top of them. The Brewster County Line at 10:20. One has what looks like a plinth next to its rock dome, a couple of dome shapes. Empty desert off to my right, grass. This is really beautiful country, a smaller rock hill rises up to a little dome, behind it is a small one that looks like an anthill, on top of another rock there's a long rectangular block like a railroad diner, cliffs off to my right and ahead, a small electrical (relay?) station, a trailer and a couple of sheds, a rusty small squat storage tank, a pickup truck next to a cel tower, more transformers to my right on the desert floor. Another just rises up to a beautiful dome. A house way off to my right, now hidden by one of hills.
My consolation that I can't take photos is that there's no way could this be captured with a camera and that there will be more up ahead.
A large 2-story house on my left, with horses and maybe cattle nearby, a smaller red house. A large shack and a small shacks. I finally get out of this area and enter less interesting country, sand, grass, cliffs to my left. 2 guys on bicycles going the other way. Phone poles 3 or 4 wires, one arm. A blue-gray ghost rises over the mountains to my south, looking like a volcano cone. Up ahead is a little bit of cirrocumulus, good-sized but not huge. I'm going due west, it's to the northwest. The road is straight and straight and straight. Goats grazing to my right, mostly white, prairie or desert to either side going off to distance, railroad to my far left, mountains in the fairly near distance, the "volcano cone" behind them, more mountains rising ahead of me in far the distance, flat prairie or desert on either side. The tower of an old windmill with nothing on top of it.
Marathon at 10:48, temp 62, pretty much clear blue sky except for that cloud. No one can help me with my camera.
Down US 385 at 11:00 to Big Bend National Park. That "volcanic" cone is still a blue mass on the horizon, a couple of sharp peaks behind the cone, rocky ridges to my left mostly blue too. Now it's dead ahead of me, 15 degrees to my left rocky ridges are taking shape, to my right about 15 degrees hills and mountains rise up and go slowly back down. I stop at a "picnic area" at 11:12. My camera is working again but there's nothing here worth taking a photo of. A wall of mountain rises ahead of me, which we'll skirt, ups and downs, sharp peaks, rising to the volcano then continuing to my right with a ridge before cliffs fall off to my right. Sign: Santiago Peak (Santiago Peak (6,535 feet [1,992 metres]), was used as a lookout by the Apache, and remnants of an old Apache campsite are still present at the top.--Encyclopedia Brittanica). 2 more photos, one of Santiago Peak. A dark brown finger of rock rises from the desert, instead of the yellowish-brown of most of the rock here. There's some kind of tree in flower but it has no foliage I can see. An American flag at Persimmon Gap Ranch.
At 11:45 I enter Big Bend National Park.
Friday, November 26
Big Bend to Alpine
Over Rough Run Creek and through Study Butte and Terlingua on Route 118 (the Texas Mountain Trail), at 2:00, 80 miles to Alpine. 5 long-horned cattle at a feed trough just before the Big Bend Resort Motel. Some great mountains and formations here, red rock points to the sky, something near it looks like a mitten. Bee Mountain to my left. I would be scrambling over these rocks if I lived here. Back to 70 mph, a red rock massif to my right and another red rock something up ahead, the kind of country that makes a man (or at least an Easterner) feel small. Red rock teeth alongside the second massif. More hoodoos or something to my right, rising out of a cliff, separate towers, a pyramid off in the distance to my left, stegosaurus up ahead, a conical peak more yellow than red, a row of cliffs closer to the road, the stegosaur yellowish with red, lots of red rock, a plain underneath it scattered with trailers and trailer-type homes, long and narrow, trucked in as two pieces. Definitely awesome country, even outside Big Bend. But people still have to put stuff on top of the awesomeness--a house has a little hill in front with 3 canoes in the rocks sticking out of it. Coming down out of a pass, trouble going up (altitude?), plains and prairie and desert, large rock towers ahead. Hen Egg Mountain off to my left. An interesting orangey-red rock formation rising out of the desert to my right, Pack Saddle Mountain to my left, mountains in the distance to my right. In the middle of a plain to my right, rolling country to my left, mountains further off to right. Rancho Not So Grande. Aqua Fria Mountain, elevation 4828. Santiago Peak, 6521 feet, way off to my right, dominates the eastern horizon. Flat prairie country, scrub brush, very dark green up ahead, in shadow, a mesa or two way off to my left, a rock ridge to my right. A very long ridge to my right is topped with a “fence” made up of rectangular rock, like a junkyard metal sheet fence, and it continues for 3 of those things,the 2nd and 3rd connected by ridge with wall, 3 or 4 more after that. East Rim ranch being broken into 71-acre ranches, the Black Mesa ranch. White buildings with red roofs under the shadow of Elephant Mountain. A mountain rises up a steep cliff, levels off, then a rounded peak rises high above that, falls off then slopes down to the desert. Quite impressive. Border Patrol inspection station, a few questions, no problem. What may be the first magpie I have encountered this trip flies across the road. 6 or 7 horses at a trough, a gray one at a trough, coming down out of mountains into a plain or valley ringed by yucca and mountains, some rising to peaks, others with short ridges, sage brush. Tranquility Sold by the Acre. A 50s Chrysler sitting in a picnic area.
Alpine at 3:41, 78 degrees, big institutional buildings on a hillside. US90 and Motel Ben Venidio at 3:43. Odometer 112465. There is some kind of contraption on top of the fridge--I have no idea what it is, microwave on top of a dresser, a shaky round table, 2 kitchen chairs. Around a half-wall tis a shelf with hangers under it, no foldaway, mirror and counter, a 50s sink in bathroom, linoleum piece is used for a shelf. 3 wall lamps and table lamp.
I go to Penny's Diner,which I wouldn't have found if the internet hadn't told me it was there, for scrambled eggs with sausage and supposedly ham and bacon. All I tasted was sausage. Also hash browns, toast, and coffee. I buy flavored water and trail mix at a Family Dollar and go to bed around 11.
Thursday, November 25
I performed for the first time at DC's The Iguana in 1972: "It went over like a lead balloon."
Alpine to El Paso
Had a dream with Paul Scheib and Dave Grossman in it, something about where I was working, no longer in a good part of town, 10 years after I had retired. We were going to vote on something.
Up at 8:15. I leave the motel at 9:25, temp 61, odometer 112649. It apparently it had rained overnight because it's wet but not raining now. After getting $18 worth of $1.979 at Stripes, I get on US 90 west at 9:31. It's still gray with a couple of patches of blue, mountains off to my left; one rises to a peak then a secondary peak then back up to a double peak, which are of about equal height, before going back down, another peak off to my right. There's a big streak of blue in the northwest. Trailer homes, Twin Peaks Self Storage, the Quarter Circle 7 hotel, Oriental Express, regular homes, a lot of pickup trucks at AG Ace Equipment. Past Twin Peaks, another one rises up out of the desert, mostly brown, rising up before rounding off with double peak, not sharp, then back down again. There's desert on either side of me, mountains fairly close to road on my left; farther away to my right one comes to a sharp point. There are some trees with yellowish-green foliage, a rock cut, bushes out on the desert about 3 feet high, mesquite trees along the road but not out in the desert. I'm now in totally flat country, yellowish-brown grass on either side, completely to the horizon on my left, telephone lines about 100 yards or so from the road, the desert spotted with low green growth, a fair amount of traffic on US 90. I pass the Marfa Lights Viewing Area.
I get pulled over by police on the eastern edge of Marfa. There's a shield or something hanging down in front underneath. I get a citation for having no proof of insurance. I duct-tape the shield on. It's not very good duct tape and it takes a lot of duct tape. Apparently the shield protects something inside. It's not hot so it's not a heat shield.
Back on the road (still the Texas Mountain Trail) at 10:39, temp 57, through Marfa. Carmen's Cafe (closed due to Thanksgiving), The Ballroom, a Spanish style Catholic church, Museum of Electronic Wonders, the Thunderbird Restaurant (closed forever), "See Mystery Lights," a Dairy Queen, "No Services Next 74 Miles." Desert country, low hills in the near distance to my left, bigger hills to my right in far distance, totally overcast, a dreary day but no rain. A train coming toward me, moving slowly, 40-50 container cars.
Out here in the desert there's a plump small blimp, white, among white buildings, surrounded by fence, tethered close to them! The road is straight as an arrow ahead of me and behind me, mountains in the distance to my right, a ridge to my left even further away, patches of blue in the sky to the southeast, pale blue ahead (northwest), nothing to the north except maybe rain way off, a long narrow cloud with a patch of blue above it.
Jeff Davis County at 11:09, temp 61, a much better road, 75 mph. Valentine pop 237 at 11:16, the Highway Cafe closed probably forever, a gas station may or may not be open. Not much of anything here. There are clouds around me, it's blue up ahead, a big blue patch to the north, and it's nearly completely blue overhead. I pass the town of Lobo off to my right, under striated cliffs, rising up from the desert like a sphinx, quite a number of whirling windmils.
It finally hits me--what the hell am I doing, just driving aimlessly. What if something really serious goes wrong?
Up ahead is blue sky, some blue off to my left at the horizon, a blue patch to my right, a dark cloud over me. Van Horn pop 2500, temp 68, at 11:56, a nearly blue sky up ahead. I hope to get breakfast here but there's nothing. Breakfast is 2 slices of pizza for $5.00 pizza at the Pilot Travel Center. And an Almond Joy for $1.50.
I get on Route 54 (still the Texas Mountain Trail), due north to the Guadeloupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns at 12:22, 67 degrees, passing the "Historic El Capitan Hotel," two floors, fake adobe, U-shaped, a square U. 70 mph. The sky has blue patches but it's mostly clouds, streaky like cirrus but thick. The mountain ahead of me has sun and shadow patches, to my right sagebrush. Mountains at 12:33, lots of sheer cliffs, slopes coming down to road, grasses and brush on them, mountains rising to my right, not as spectacular as those to left. A lot of cliffs, 45 miles to US 62, the mountains to my left move further from road, sagebrush between us, steep, one makes an almost 90-degree drop then peaks with cliffs facing us. To my right are rolling hills covered with grass and sagebrush, more mountains ahead head. There's an interesting moutain ahead--a small cumulus cloud is apparently low enough to be in front of it. A roadrunner races across the road in front my of car. At least I think it was a roadrunner; I just got a glimpse of it.
At 1:26, temp 64, onto US 62 and US 180 west, I enter the Mountain Time Zone. So now it's 12:26. There's quite a massive rock formation at the intersection. El Paso 101 miles highway; 75 mph. A lot of big boulders are scattered around a dune, sagebrush country, not much off to my left, pretty good-sized hills rising out of the desert to my right, nothing spectacular. A lot of traffic, at least more than I've been used to seeing lately. There seems to be water ahead, but it seems to get further and further away as I move toward it. Is it some kind of optical illusion? No, it's real, an area of white flats, sand or salt. An abandoned southwestern-style house with fake stone facing. Mountains off to my right, some conical, a kind of a ridge way off to my left, totally clouded over now, maybe rain clouds to left, temp 70. Desert, pretty much tightly packed green sagebrush, not much sand visible. Flat, a straight road ahead of me. May's Cafe out in the middle of nowhere apparently open since there's a sandwich board out in front, right in the middle of that part of Texas country I love to hate.
Looking at the telephone wires, it suddenly occurs to me how absurd it is, that through these phone wires goes electricity but we hear a voice, not just a voice but a voice we can recognize as Tom's or Martha's or George's. It's just totally absurd. How can this possibly be?
The El Paso County Line at 1:34, temp 65. I go through a great rocky canyon, a great place to stop and take a photo but there's a pickup truck on my tail. I rest my eyes for a while at a "picnic area." Back on the road again at 1:45, a light hazy sky, the sun shining through the haze, a big dark cloud to my left. The towns of O'Shea and Suwannee, the road lined with lots of businesses along the road, junkyards, lots of junkyards, the Adult Drive-In, a big bridge over something, Imports and More Auto Salvage, Mitchell's Auto Sales Body Shop, "Pediatrics Nightly Clinic Coming Soon" in the middle of nowhere, used bus parts, diesel, Americat Converter, Melanie's Body Shop, Montana Sport, Import and Domestic Auto Salvage, Texas Motors, Montana Hideaway, Gentleman's Club-- Girls, #1 Auto Salvage, Desert Oasis RV Park, Saratoga Homes El Paso's #1 Trusted Builder, a red and white checked water tank on high.
North 375 loop and the Purple Heart Highway at 2:07. 601 west Liberty Expressway at 2:11. 54 west to El Paso at 2:19. I-10 west at 2:23. I get off at the wrong exit (19) for Mesa Street (it has two exits), back to I-10 west at 2:36 after swearing at the lack of signs and making a probably illegal U-turn. House after house after house on little hillsides to my lelt, totally overcast. Mesa Avenue Exit 11 at 2:43, temp 63. Light rain falling.
The Red Roof Inn at 2:59 (CST), rain coming down hard, temp 61, odometer 112919. The first floor room (which I've reserved for 2 nights) is small and Spartan. One chair, a long bench with the TV, 2 drawers, a wall safe, 2 wall lights (one of which doesn't work and someone comes in and changes the bulb), 2 overhead lights, an overhead rack with hangers, a small bedside table with one drawer and the telephone. No microwave or refrigerator or foldaway luggage rack. There's lots of counter space in the bathroom.
The rain stops and the sun comes out briefly. Then clouds. I go to Albertson's to get batteries, the sun trying to get through the clouds in the west. I can find no dollar store.
I go to 7400F Mesa Road and sure enough it was closed and dark. No open mike on Thanksgiving. I have chicken & dumplings at the Cracker Barrel next to the motel. Bed at 11:30, Mountain Time.
Friday, November 27
1989: "I almost got killed--another car coming down Connecticut Avenue in the wrong lane, head on to me.
I hit the brakes, skidded to the right, and we passed each other by inches."
Up between 7:30 and 7:45, temp 61, odometer 112929. It's a totally overcast sky but the sun is getting through, even though there's no blue anywhere I can see.
I go to AAA but they're closed for the weekend, as are the 2 State Farm agents I check out. I call State Farm and they email me info about my insurance policy, which I’m able to print out at the hotel. I call the judge in Marfa but apparently they're closed for the weekend too.
I have breakfast at the Village Inn, in the same small mall where the AAA office is located--scrambled eggs, bacon, an English muffin, a strawberry crepe, and coffee. The sky is still the same.
Sun Garden Chinese Bistro, The Rock, Lucy's Cafe. Clouds are streaming down the hills the north. While they clean my room, I go to Arby's ("Try Our New Steak Fajita Sandwiches") for a vanilla shake. Across the street is The Thrifty Nickel, the Mesa Street Antique Mall, Quik Cash, El Paso Pro Musica. It's pretty windy but not as bad as Sonora was. It rains for a couple of hours in the mid-afternoon.
I know I should do something while I'm here in El Paso but I don't know exactly what. It's much easier to stop and look at the Pecos River for a minute or two than to seek out what to do in any city of any size. I get $18 worth of $1.819 gasoline and a steak fajita sandwich at Arby's and a Krispy Kreme donut. Bed at 11.
Saturday, November 28
In 1968, I met Beverly at the Bent Card Thanksgiving dinner.
El Paso to the New Mexico line
Up at 8:30. I-10 back east at 9:22, temp 45, odometer 112949. A glowering day, a dreary day, clouds hanging low over the mountains and hills of El Paso, obscuring their tops in a few places. I pass gateway to Juarez Mexico, McKinney Wrecking, and Globe Mills, brick buildings like old New England mills and factories. I-10 is 5 lanes through the center of El Paso, past good-looking houses, not particularly Southwestern, some that would be perfectly at home in New Haven, stretching out to a flat plain to the mountains not too far away, quite a few low houses. US 54 to Alamogordo at 9:36, concrete slabs ticking under my wheels. US 54 is a superhighway. It starts to rain at 9:40. At 9:45 I check out IHOP and Village Inn but both are very busy in the middle of nowhere so I move on, Into fog or low-lying clouds. I can see a fair distance but it's not the best of driving conditions. The freeway ends at 9:52 but it's just one 2-lane into another 2-lane highway. Back out onto the desert, as flat as far as the eye can see, a lot of sand or dry grass, low bushes. The fog liftd. High tension lines come looming out of the haze, cross the road, and march off into the tdesert on either side of the road. Into New Mexico at 10:00.