June 6, 2013
Thanks to Cousin BeeGee’s hospitality, I have reveled in three glorious days on the coast. This morning, after hugging her and packing the rest of my gear, I set the GPS on my iPad, slip in a CD, and set out for Texas 361, the first leg in the journey. I have driven all the way out here and lived to tell the tale. By now, I consider myself a pro at this traveling thing. I should have an easy drive home.
Key word, should.
After enduring 130 lonnnng miles on I-37, I’m pulling onto I-410 when I see a tractor-trailer sitting cattywumpus on the ramp. As this is part of my route and I’m still not familiar with alternate routes in this area, I power down my window and flag down a worker.
“I have to take this highway on my way home. What should I do?”
“If you’ll just wait a sec, he should get straightened out.”
True to his word, the driver straightens himself out, allowing me to drive on around. That settled, I breathe more easily. The northbound route should be every bit as smooth as the southern one.
Around Austin, my body starts acting like a five-year-old.
“Stop! I’ve got a charley-horse!”
” And I gotta pee!”
Yes, I’m hungry, all right. But no McDonald’s or Burger King for me. No sireeee! Touristy places are everywhere — so why can’t I get to them easily? Could it possibly be because of “road destruction”?
Nah, not a chance.
As I zoom along, I keep my eyes peeled for charming, out-of-the-ordinary places to stop in for a bite. After all, until I pull into my driveway, I consider myself still on my vacay.
Approaching artsy little Salado, my mouth waters. Certainly, I’ll find something here. But once I pull off on the access road, I discover my mistake. Like, don’t these nice people ever eat? As I pull back onto I-35, I discover — after the fact — that when “GPS-lady” tells me to turn left, she means “a hard left NOW” or else wind up in the “Neverland” between the construction and the road.
This, folks, is exactly why I don’t drive after dark.
Cranky from hunger, I sail into Temple. And, at last, I find a Mexican restaurant. I should be able to find something here.
“Do you have a senior discount?” I ask the man who takes my order.
“Yes, we do.”
“Great! Then I’ll have the number-seven lunch and ice-water.. Within a short time, here he comes. So far, so good, until I lift the lid and find flour tortillas instead of the corn ones I ordered.
Have I mentioned that I’m cranky, by now? Let’s face it — I am not my charming self. I want food PDQ. So, when the server brings out the corn tortillas, I discover there is no butter on the table. I catch the server as he whizzes past me.
“Excuse me. May I please have some butter?”
“Butter? Okay.” Again, he whizzes by, setting a table, ushering in customers, serving drinks…doing anything and everything except bringing me butter.
“May I help you?” asks another server.
“Yes, I asked someone else for butter?”
“Ahh, butter,” she says, on the run, never to be seen or heard from again.
“May I help you?” asks the hostess. (Persona numero- tres)
“Yes,” I said, lip quivering, “You’re the third person I’ve had to ask. All I want is some butter.”
Her face clouds up. “But-tehr?”
Magic word, that one. Within minutes, she brings a bowl of “fake-butter” packets. By now, I have only one tortilla left. I am not about to ask for more.
All things considered, although the food at this place (which shall go unnamed) is still pretty tasty, I am slap out of adventure. And, by now, my neighbor’s sending me panicky texts that it’s raining sheets and buckets in Arlington. Russet is about to become a soggy doggy. But I know my baby-girl’s smarter than that. She knows how to huddle up under the patio cover.
The last hundred miles until I-35 turns into I-35W drag on. By now, with Mexican food in my system, I start getting sleepy. Now, my car is yelling “Feed me!’. Stopping off at West, I pour my money into their gas pump, use their facilities, and guzzle a Red Bull, while I’m at it.
Before long, I see I-20 up ahead. Within minutes, I’ll pull into my own driveway, hug my dog, and call my sweetie. Shoot, I bet I can even scare up some butter.
In all, my first-ever solo road trip has been exhilarating and liberating. You tell me — which direction should I go next?