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TRIP 2 Houston, Texas
Since it looks like I'll be commuting to Houston periodically (father died in January, mom has macular and needs assistance and love from her family), I thought it might be helpful to others to document what was a good hotel experience, bad, good gas stop, bad food, good/bad roads, etc.
I travel by myself--a SINGLE WOMAN--driving back roads of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.(Yeah, I've been told how stupid I am.)
March 15, 2009
Show Low, AZ to Hobbs, New Mexico
After my customary stop at Sonic to start my drive (Burrito, tater tots and Rt.44 Diet Coke), started by driving U.S. 60 East
, through my favorite part of New Mexico (Pie Town, Datil, VLA-Very Large Array, Socorro) to hit I-25.Socorro ops for food and gas are limited. The Circle K doesn't offer public restrooms!Arby's has a goofy parking lot that you can bottom out and rip stuff from under the chassy if you're not paying attention. I don't recommend the Corned Beef sandwich...I-25 South
to San Antonio
, then U.S. 380East
again through the Lincoln
area to U.S. 70 East
When I hit Roswell
, I took the South By-pass
got gassed and fed and kept going.Roswell My favorite is the McDonalds and next-door-neighbor, Long John Silvers. From the bypass, you backtrack a mile, but it's better than going all the way through town.There is also a convenience store/gas on the way. Not great, not bad.
Headed South to Artesia
on U.S. 385 South
, then East to Loving
on U.S. 82,
but angled down to Hobbs
by taking State Highway 529
turn-off to Hobbs
at Loco Hills
Here, I must digress.
Several years ago, my family took this turn-off (Hwy 529) and I saw a cross by the side of the road that just broke my heart. The typical white cross, but a bike helmet (bicycle, as I recall) was on it. The terrain there is black scrub and dirt. I can't forget what that brief snapshot looked like. Since I decided to make it to Hobbs
, I wanted to find this cross and pay my respects.
What I found were not one, but three crosses. I cannot describe the feelings, sadness, tears and distress I felt when I kept thinking I found bikehelmet cross and instead found two more. I left my business card at each one, hoping someone will contact me...
I've labeled these RestRoom, Eloy, "Burton"
(original cross--3 pics) as you travel from Loco Hills
Eloy O_?ORTO 1/11? 23?/68 -- 11.10.06
Here's the problem with "Burton". I swear this is not the same helmet. Either way, if anyone ever sees this and has information about any of these poor guys, please email me at:
email@example.com and let me know. I guess I've adopted them... Who they were, who they left behind... Please let me know.
After drying my eyes and yelling into the New Mexico twilight and wind about stupid drivers, drunk drivers, tired drivers... I found my way into Hobbs.
Now, to find a safe hotel...
I rejected the Days Inn because the physical facility looked dowdy, the main awning had obviously been damaged by a high-clearance RV ages ago (rust stains indicate age) and only had 1 truck in the parking lot. Too isolated looking=unsafe.
Across the street was Americas Best Value Inn on Marland Blvd (main drag into town). The marquee had perks, it looked "established" and clean, so I chose that one and was ready to spend about 65$.
I was really jazzed, I'd get breakfast cooked fresh to my order in the morning, Wireless for my laptop, a cop (in town for a convention) was just across the car-port, and my car was in a little motor court opening just outside my door. Fridge and microwave! Got directions to the local WalMart, fed myself with Sonic that I brought back to the room, logged on and happily computed until the eyes drooped.
The shower was kinda icky because of the age, but tolerable. Until....
I picked up the little lotion bottle they put with the soap. It had been opened, including the fingerprints of the last person who used it.
Strike Two, Three, Four.
I took the cover off the bed and discovered that there was no complete bottom sheet! It was missing by 18 inches and my feet would be on the mattress pad. Luckily, I keep my comforter with me and was able to take the top sheet and tuck it in as the bottom.
The pillow was dirty. The bedspread had cigarette burn holes in it.
Nothing like having a cave beside you when you sleep...
What I ended up sleeping on.
Cedric Williams, Chef at the Americas Best Value Inn
Hobbs, New Mexico
With a tiny kitchen, he made tasty breakfast.
And, it's about 5:30am...
Cedric was pleasant, fun and gave me some of the local history of Hobbs.
I'm still keeping you and your beautiful family in my prayers, Cedric!
Breakfast almost makes up for the creepy bed!
After a quick stop for an early morning am Diet Coke, the trip continues... Day 2
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DAY 2 Hobbs, NM to Houston, TX
Not quite bleary eyed this early in the morning, I headed East on (Texas) U.S. 180 through Semiole* to Lamesa. With the Texas sun trying to warm the grey-blue horizon over my dashboard, I was hoping to get to Lamesa before it crested so it would be on my left, and not directly in my eyes. This stretch is a sleepy little farming/oil area. Coolest part was outside of Seminole, Tx... for miles I watched a crop duster criss-crossing in front of me. With only me and a family van tailing me (they finally pulled over and the kids poured out watching this aerial acrobatic display, I assume as enchanted as I), I was able to back off on the speed and just enjoy! Since one of my goals was to get my pilot's licence and take dad on trips, this was a link to him for a brief, sad moment. Smiling through tears, I kept going on to Lasmesa and made it just as the sun came up and the kids were on their way to school. Following buses through town (not bad for the Texas Panhandle) gave me the slow ride so I could glance down side-streets and actually read the signs on storefront windows.
Turning South on U.S. 87, I'm heading to Big Springs.
--Last time I was here with my husband (2007), there was a convention in town and not a vacant hotel room in the area. Since it had been night-time, I wasn't able to see the SPRING! I'd sent boo-koos of Do-It-Best Government Service Agency merchandise to the Retirement Home when I lived and working in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I'd wanted to see it, too. But unfortunately, a minor "discussion" about going on without stopping for gas, distracted me and we ended up in Sterling City... but that's another story--
On March 16, 2009, it was a beautiful day, clear, clean and made it to Big Springs just after the morning rush hours. I was able to pass the Vet Retirement Home and was impressed with the campus. With the poor care some of our service men get, I'm hoping the outside was a healthy indicator of the inside/facilities!
The gas tank could get me to Sterling City, so I continued South through town (still on U.S. 87) past the "Spring". I did not stop but was able to glance over and see the lake/spring as the road ambles past it (and the entrance was POORLY marked and I was past it before I realized I should have turned). At the top of the hill, South of Big Springs, the road follows the natural mesa-top and before too long, I passed a little rest-stop, glance to my right and realized I could see the finger of the Guadalupe Mountains, South of Carlsbad, NM.
The people behind me didn't appreciate my quick turn (and no signal, sorry :( as I pulled in, grabbed my map and camera and took pictures. I could not believe I was seeing the Guadalupes, so decided (after wet eyes--see the return trip, Day2 for an explanation of why) I'd HAVE to come back this way someday so I could see for myself if this really was the monolith rising from the West Texas floor.
I continued on, but didn't get far. To my left, the hills revealed the tips of wind generators. It's an eerie sight to see this rise from the horizon as the road rises over the hillside like sci-fi engines rising out from the ground. At one point, an old, broken windmill was silhouetted by a field of these white, sweeping towering symbols of technology. The tailfin of this poor thing was damaged and drooped--I had the feeling it was shamed. In the shadow of the newer windmills, did it feel unwanted, no longer needed? I decided that on the way back to AZ, I had to come back through Big Springs and take pictures of this poor sight. (See Day 1 of my return trip!)
Brushing more wetness from the eyeballs, I continued on to Sterling City. Got gassed and drink and went on to San Angelo (of LDS conclave fame).
Beware of a red Camaro...
In San Angelo, I grabbed some Jack (in the Box) and stayed true to U.S. 87 to Eden, TX.
On the way, I tried to find a Post Office so I could mail my big sister's birthday card with the thought how she might puzzle over the postmark in no-where Texas. To my surprise, many of the little town P.O.s were closed. Signs still indicated the buildings, but little town after little town had only the required school, maybe a little mom/pop store and houses. The immaculate modern brick (or trailer house) Post Officers were vacant and boarded. I may be witness to the beginnings of ghost towns. I finally found VanCourt, Tx and deposited my little offering.
This little stretch of highway is four-lane. Very nice and clean (as Texas roads tend to be). I'm minding my own business when a black woman in a red car (Camar0) pulls up on my ass and stays there for several miles. I'm going the speed limit (yeah, cruise control) and am in the right lane. She can pass on the right because it is a FOUR lane highway. I'm looking over my sunglasses at her in my rear view and she just glares at me, at very close quarters. I can't see her license plate, she was that close on my ass. FINALLY, she 'huffs' and whips around me. I get a good look at her. She's got Illinois plates and is young and pretty. She stiffens and ignores me as I wave (and waved all the fingers, though I didn't want to). I eat her dust for a bit, then she's gone at a speed so fast she had to be going 90. Texas roads up this way allow you to go 70 mph.
Don't know what was eating her bonnet, but at least she was gone and I have the road to myself.
In Eden, Tx, I was cut off by this same woman in the red Camaro facing me at a stop light! She'd likely passed the turn south and was correcting her course. At the light, I had the right of way since I was turning left. She just sneered at me and cut me off as I turned left. People behind her and ME leaned on the horns and she just sped on. Where were the DPS???
Shrugging, I continue my turn and go South on U.S 83 to Menard and Junction. I'd seen Junction, TX several times as it is on I-10. But having read a Texas Tourism book on Texas towns, I'd read about several towns in this area and the history about them. I figured I could get to Menard, see the Mexicans and slip through before they robbed me. (Half kidding. Biases and traveling single keep me a bit paranoid in the safety area.)
The drive to Menard from Eden started out as farm land (as much of the area is farm/ranch land within 100 mile radius from San Angelo) but soon undulated into rolling, gently wooded hills. Large ranches (indicated by the elaborate stone/gates with long driveways to the 'house' ie semi-mansions) dotted the way. Since Eden, behind me was a little white sedan that paced me. If I passed, they passed. I couldn't see the driver, but was impressed that my erratic driving and speeds (and yes, a bit of speed-ing up to 90mph) were nicely mirrored by this driver. I love my car! It took the speeds and the hills and turns with good handling. I call her "Bessie", and though she's almost ten years old, she's a hardy old lady!
Menard turned out to be a quaint little berg of rolling hills, trees just beginning to bud (I thought it would look like the area around Junction/I-10) and manicured dark green lawns. It was cute. I saw no Mexicans--in the sombrero, traditional sense. The tourism book contained a picture of dancing, swirling dark women/girls and mariachis with some girth. This was nothing like the picture, though people of color were seen on the streets, going into the school(s). It seemed like a quite, likable place that I'd like to visit again. Bad me. Bad tourism picture!
Adjusting my attitude and feeling shamed, I noticed I still had my white sedan behind me, slowing as I rubbernecked through town, but not looking upset about it.
There was a bit of construction outside of Menard, so traffic backed up. After passing several more trucks, lo--I ended up behind the red Camaro!
South of town is the turn-off for Mason, TX. The red Camaro brakes, almost to a stop. For no reason. In order to keep from hitting her, I swerve to pass her. We are on a little stretch of four lane again. But I need to turn right to stay on U.S. 83... She's speeding up, making sure I cannot go around her now. She sees my signal to merge right and again, cuts me off so I can't get around her--either speeding up or slowing down, matching my speed. I'm yelling at this woman--ARE YOU CRAZY?? Do NOT tell me you are doing this ON PURPOSE!?!"
I know my Bessie, gun her, whip around the front side of this bitch and her little fast car and just make the turn while red Camaro goes by on my left with inches (I can see the buff marks from her last car-wash!) to spare as she heads straight to Mason. I notice ALL this drama. I notice that white sedan has backed off considerably :) Still, he's still following me, and there is no more drama all the way to Junction, TX.
--I am steaming at this woman's behavior. Do Illinouis drivers allow this kind of shinanigans? I am concerned for this woman. Texas drivers are not as kind as I am and someone, eventually, will be teaching her a lesson about road rage. I am in Texas, esentially WEST Texas. They don't take kindly to stupid people's driving like that. They also don't take kindly to a stupid black women doing the same. Seriously, I fear for her safety during her trip--
In Junction, I pull off at the McDonald's/conviencence store and 'take a break', grab a cold drink and get back on the road. I notice as I turn into the parking lot, white sedan turns off across the street. When I park, I tend to start looking for all the trash to throw away on my way in, and am gathering an impressive load. As I throw it away and open the door to go inside, I see white sedan park next to me and see a really cute histanic woman, dripping with silver chains and rings ease out of the passanger side. My "driver" is a handsome dude that pauses to lock the doors.
I go on to the ladies room and following me is the white sedan passanger. I turn to her (there's a small line) and express my delight with her husband's driving and ire at red Camaro woman. She told me they could not believe what this woman did. I took a moment to vent and tell her what she'd done outside San Angelo AND Eden. We shake our heads, do our business and wish each other safety on the road. When I get on I-10 heading for San Antonio, here comes white sedan. They pass me, wave, and life is good all the way into one of Texas' largest, and historical cities.
--I think about the red Camaro lady and the white sedan couple. These little 'meetings' seem insignificant, yet, both impacted my life. I am more careful about red Camaros and more careful about my own biases. Trying to balance the 'single woman traveling safety issues' with common sense is hard. In Houston, my 'safety sense' is always on alert. I seldom think about it when I'm by myself in Show Low and shopping at WalMart. White sedan reminded me that there are nice people on the road. Sometimes, they are just people. We don't make eye contact at the rest stops, or we might. The shy (or ultra-cool) smile (or ultra-cool upward nod of the chin) connect me with a larger sense of where I fit in the world. I am given energy and grounded all at the same time--
In San Antonio, I take I-10 through town, intending to gas up on the East side. Thinking I've found a good place to exit, I do and discover I am in the wrong part of town for someone of my color. After several miles of interesting detours through barrios, 'older' neighborhoods and avoiding local police checking out groups of kids walking home from school, I make it back to the freeway and try again. I finally found a place just off the interstate, which I prefer, gas and drink up, then am on my way.
Note: There are NO facilities at the exit to Victoria, Tx/U.S. 87. Wait until the next one.
I'm cruising through familiar country. Sequin, Luling... Somewhere around Luling-Flatonia is a cut-off for Bastrop. Because the sun was at my back, I missed a photo op at that location... Sillhoutted against a very large, grey barn was the image of a small Windmill. Because of the shadow, this windmill's image filled the entire side 'canvas' of the barn. Something about windmills on this trip... It is etched in my memory, but wish I could have shared this with someone.
I stop at the rest area West of Columbus. It is very nice, but hispanic youth and men are just hanging outside the back part. I got the impression that if I dropped a baggy in the bushes, they'd be all over it. I didn't feel UN-safe, just cautious.
In Columbus, I wanted to grab another drink and turned at the first exit. There was only one way to go (South) and this little lane took me through the slums and 'older' section of Columbus. I'd never have guess there WAS such an area. I could see it bordered the river (Colorado) and it eventually came out on another through road/F.M. that would lead me back to the interstate. At the junction was a historical marker that spoke how the area I had traveled was an important part of the fight for Texas' independence--it was a smuggling supply-line to Mexico for cotton! What looked like a slum, was--in part. It was also part of the heritage for the state I love.
--sometimes my little wanderings and off-road explorations reaps rewards I cannot express--
As dusk fell on the interstate (and people sped up significantly since they were nearing Houston), I continued uneventfully, but fighting sleep. Driving up to my mom's house, I realize it is my "Mom's" house. Dad no longer resides there. But, if he was watching over my shoulder, I know he enjoyed this trip. And he probably would have added tons more information to his travelogue. Here's to you, Dad.
*There is an old farmhouse I'm checking out next time I'm out this way...
Labels: Arizona, Cedric Williams, crosses, Datil, deaths, Hobbs, Lincoln, Roswell, Show Low, Springerville, U.S.529, VLA laptop Houston