Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 14: Lots of Nothing

(listen to today's theme)
In Texas, people's hearts are the size of the land. For this entry I would like to thank Jody once again, and David R. Ishlam, owner of the NRS Ranch in Decatur, the place where I was allowed to stay and rest.

Much like the previous morning, I took a good shower and packed back the luggage, taking a look at the outside lamp with the silhouette of a cowboy lassoing cattle, frozen in time, in Monument Valley. I will be there soon, I though to myself. With my worthy steed.

Newport started up fine, and, towing the lil' Scotty behind me, I drove to the Decatur Tourism Office to see Jody once again. We headed to the local bank to get some cash –Jody owed me $54 I lent him in the junkyard, and I had to cash a check for my apartment's sublet rent. Out in the parking lot, we took some final shots of the two cars, shook hands and departed with an air of containment and destiny.

Before getting in the highway, I made a quick stop at the local pharmacy. Maybe I have not mentioned this before, but I had been bit so many times by so many things (mosquitoes, fire ants, poison ivy), I was starting to have a hard time concentrating on anything else but the intense itching in my ankles and feet. Here's a rather graphic photo for you to see what I am talking about; do not check it if you are faint of heart. A quick spray of some mysterious solution cured the problem.

A quick, $3.65-a-gallon refuel (yeah!) and the road became my home once again. Halfway towards Amarillo, my A/C began blowing very hot, so I pulled into a picnic area to check the fuse. Blown. In the meanwhile, a sympathetic, 4'11 Mexican trucker had come to offer help. I was fine, as long as the car kept running. Some electrical problem was beginning to become the vein of my existence, again.

Amarillo is surrounded by lots of truck stops of bright, screaming colors. The land becomes flat and desolate, with some bushes here and there. Probably not the best place for a breakdown in the heat of Summer.

Much to my disappointment, the Taqueria popular, a little hole-in-the-wall butchershop and restaurant, had gone out of business. This is what I wrote about it on Yelp! a few months after trying their food:

"Let me tell you a little secret. Deep in the outskirts of this dinky, deserted town called Amarillo, two exhausted travelers found glorious solace. The Taqueria Popular can pride itself on two things. The first one is that it has its own butcher shop, so the meat in your dishes is guaranteed to be absolutely fresh and well marinated/spiced. The other thing is that it has the best tacos I have ever had in my life, which is a strange thing having visited Mexico three or four times.

Do not expect any degree of fanciness, at all. You should go somewhere else if you are looking for ambient music that is not a beat-up radio, decor that is not brushed steel and plastic chairs, and lighting that is not fluorescent. Sit down on one of those worn, cracked stools at the bar and prepared to be marveled. This is authenticity, this is the bare nuts and bolts of good, honest, blue-collar cooking. Serving food for people who are not in a date, or "exploring the area", or trying things for the sake of spending the money to try things, but for simple, plain, hunger's sake.

My personal recommendation is the following: regardless whether it is a taco or a burrito, go for carne asada or "al pastor". A true delight, which, in the company of ice cold horchata, makes for deep soul awakening.

Almost a year after I stopped there in the middle of a road trip, I still remember and miss that meat. Blame the circumstances, blame the scorching heat of the desert or blame my eternal craving for beef... for $7 a piece, I really cannot imagine a more flavorful, unexpected Nirvana."

May its secret rest in peace. Some things have to be tried only once for its memory to be eternal and everlasting. This be one of those memories.

Five hours to Albuquerque, munching on Woody's Beef Jerky and guzzling can after can of Peach Ice tea, with no A/C. At some point, all electrical systems in the car stop working. No lights, no wipers, no cluster. Nothing in the car, but me, my stuff and the clatter of diesel ahead; smooth as always. I am not worried about the engine temperature, as much of the cooling system had been upgraded; right now the biggest concern is time, and when I would get pulled over for my non-existent headlights and/or side markers. It was time to act, and act quick.

By sunset, I should find a place that is frequently trafficked by cars, so I can get a quick jump and get the alternator looked at. However, in a city I do not know that well, it should be a place that is not sketchy or dangerous. How about a car dealership?

With 3/4 of battery in the GPS, I punched "Mercedes of Albuquerque" and cruised to its location, parking in the very, very back parking lot. I tried to look for the management / security staff to let them know I was there and I could no longer move the car until the next day, but the only people I found was a team of very friendly Mexican painters in the Audi dealership.

Conversation (in Spanish) ensued. The painter I talked to had come with his brothers from Mexico to work in the US, away from the internal wars and corruption of the drug cartels. He was the son of a once wealthy man in the Southern Pacific coast of Mexico, and traveled extensively before the economy tanked. He even lived in California, and wishes he could return.

We talked about many other things, shook hands and departed. I needed to find food, as my sole diet that day had been beef jerky. Burguer King (do not judge me) did the trick. I returned to my little trailer and had a pleasant, safe sleep in the cool evening of New Mexico.

Jody (doublejody): The hospitality of Texas has a face.

The two beasts, at the Tourism Office in Decatur.

Two cowboys, two steeds.

The smooth, rolling hills of 287-N.

Suddenly, you start seeing less and less trees.

Freight train. I dreamed of a W123 heist, side by side.

One of the few highway ribbons in the way.

Do not tell me this is not the stereotypical, dry Texas of the movies.

Locomotive lovers, I do not know what this is. I just drive-shot it.

Closed for good. My heart was broken.

Back on the road, without electricity.

The "big nothing" starts here.

More nothing.

A few hours to go! I must get to Albuquerque before sunset!

Good ol' Route 66. Quite dilapidated and burnt.

Not an uncommon sight. Gas stations, motels, restaurants. All abandoned.

Original 1950s signage, beautiful. Cheap rates, too!

Abandon all hope for political correctness.

A lil' bit more nothing for y'all.

Did I mention this place is completely barren?

Just me, and my car. What I head to, and what I leave behind.

- - - - - - - - -

I am currently writing for a Barnes and Noble while the alternator is replaced. I shall update soon with today's progress. For all of those wondering out there, I am fine and safe, sipping on a cup of ice green tea as I write. Life is good.

Oh, Newport, thank you for taking me this far. It is not your fault if your alternator went bad. I must thank you, my iron steed, for driving 600 miles without a hiccup. You are a true champ. Any other car (with spark plugs) would have been left at the side of the road in the scorching heat of the desert. You, however, never quit until we found safe shelter.

1 comment:

  1. - came upon this from one of my subscriptions. - collects clocks, drives a 40 yr old car... who does that remind me of? hm...

    Glad you are doing more than well! I love those large roadside attractions! And I really envy you for driving without hinderance (almost). I'm slightly getting the euphoria of driving when it's late night Saturdays on the highway. Let's see... so far, a psycho in a wheelchair crossed the highway in front of me and I had to come to a full stop from 40mph O.O. The roads especially going from queens to brooklyn are sooooo narrow. Cars would try to cut in front of me while we're on a bridge. All in all, it's so good to know that it's not all traffic. :P