LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 4: Back to Reality


June 6, 2013

6:00 a.m.

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.

Or not.

Around Austin, my body starts acting like a five-year-old.

“Stop! I’ve got a charley-horse!”

“I’m hungry!”

” 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?”

“Mantequilla.”.

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?

English: A pat of butter, served on a leaf, wi...
English: A pat of butter, served on a leaf, with a butter knife and bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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