Road Trip – Part 2

Sergio had warned me that the road to Dallas was dull. It was indeed hot, but not at all dull. I-40 takes you straight along old Route 66 territory and rather than a view of concrete and other cars, you actually get to see small Texas towns and businesses. Hardly a chain in sight, except for Dairy Queen which Texans seem to adore. We stopped in Amarillo for lunch, at The Golden Light Cafe, recommended by Road Food, where we had great greasy diner food, old cranky regulars at the counter, young waitresses who still called you “Hon” and a bill of $11 for two meals, two beers and an endless refill of iced tea over chipped ice. The thrift shopping was just fine in Amarillo too. Much cheered, we hit the road again and made good on our promise to stop when we felt like it and not become driving machines. The sack of peaches in my lap shown above was the result of a quick stop at a little farmer stand. Summer air and fresh peaches – is anything better?

We were happy to see some gathering clouds on the horizon, wanting a break in the endless heat. But little did we know, we were hitting the Tornado Alley of the Texas Panhandle which in our case just brought severe thunderstorms. I’m from Alberta – I know thunderstorms. Or I thought I did. With bolts of lightening and thunder crashing all around us, the wind suddenly whipping heavy rain every direction, the visibility was literally nil. I’ve rarely been more scared in a car. We crawled to a stop on the highway along with the other cars and semis and finally spotted an exit where we could wait out the storm. It put us directly in front of a hotel. This, I realised later, was a sign from the universe: Stop Now, Sleep, Have a Shower. We didn’t listen.

When the storm passed, we soldiered on to Dallas, hitting their very frightening freeways in the dark, tired and sticky, Sergio haven driven for over 12 hours. I literally have to close my eyes on Dallas freeways – the German autobahns have nothing on them or their drivers. Reckless lane changes, speeding cars, no signals, multiple merge lanes – it’s barely controlled chaos of the automotive kind, which is my least favorite kind of chaos, it turns out. We were within one exit and 1.25 miles of Jaime and Jeanne’s home when the inevitable problem occurred: two speeding cars had passed us earlier, racing each other, and we ran smack into their fresh accident, police not even on the scene yet but the lanes blocked so we had to get to the side of the road. And our big heavy car ran over some of their accident debris. And immediately got a flat tire. The 4 minutes spent maneuvering our car off the freeway and onto the nearest exit rivalled the thunderstorm for adrenaline production. It’s after midnight. We have a flat tire. We’re parked in the driveway of a very odd and sketchy apartment building. Mosquitoes are eating us alive and I’m stripped down to my camisole, too hot to care who sees me in my virtual underwear.
But look at Sergio! Still smiling, though I assuredly was not. Sergio’s brother Jaime to the rescue! He has an excellent jack and a spare tire – which doesn’t fit our car. He goes home for another. The police cruise by. Jaime comes back with spare tire #2. It doesn’t fit. We concede defeat and unpack the jigsaw puzzle of our back hatch to unearth our own spare tire, then put everything back again. At 2:00 am or so, we make it to bed.

We had planned to leave the next morning for Mississippi but clearly that was not to be. New tires had to be found, the oil had to be changed and we had a new nephew, Anthony Cooper to hang out with. He was a little busy sleeping and eating so we spent considerably more time with in the world of Daniela which was great. We don’t get to see our nieces and nephews enough. Here’s Jaime and Jeanne and Daniela.
It was lovely to spend more time with them, though they were in the middle of their own packing and remodeling – but Dallas was a tad unwelcoming. Besides the flat tire. The flooding and heat created swarms of mosquitoes which bit all exposed areas immediately and I even managed to get some crazy fire ant bites on my foot that are still blisters. This made me fear North Carolina – if the mosquitoes are bad in Dallas, what would they be like out there? We were on our way to find out, via Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

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