Happy Saturday, friends, and thanks for returning to my epic tale of adventure in the American West, minus the gunslinging (so far). I hope you do not find the sober tone of the following entry too jarring – terrible things occurred on this day of my journey, the retelling of which may shock you. Shock you into never, ever going to West Texas for any reason – ever! Don’t do it!
Harry Blogger and the Goblet of Fire: Austin to Roswell
Everything I know about Texas, I learned from the movies. Apparently the jails are scary, racial tension occasionally leads double-crossed Mexican gardeners into gruesome quests for vengeance, and sometimes there are chainsaw massacres. Potent stuff.
But Austin, upon waking up in it, did not seem too bad. Especially because of this:
Vintage candy from wall to wall, an old-fashioned soda fountain, the sole employee gamely dressed as some kind of 1910’s circus worker – all good stuff! But Roberto and I were here for one reason, and one reason only:
A person’s favorite foods should not necessarily be combined (mint chocolate chip ice cream topped with chicken tikka masala…case in point) – but in the case of bacon and chocolate, I say make like Comcast and GE and bring on the merge! This stuff was like crack only more melty and less likely to induce paranoia and violent behavior. Unless you suspect someone is trying to take your chocolate bacon away from you…
Fortified with this healthy and nutritive breakfast, Roberto and I commenced what had been described to us by previous road-trip takers as “the worst driving day ever.” We had been told that if we could make it through West Texas without fighting with each other out of sheer boredom, we would be presented with a commemorative plaque at the New Mexico border.
The reason for all the warnings became immediately clear. The following was literally all there was to see in terms of scenery…
…for eight hours! It’s enough to make a person pray for a glimpse of George W. Bush clearing brush, just for a little excitement.
It’s also enough to make a person speed.
Now let’s get one thing straight. EVERYBODY, freaking EVERYBODY, was speeding down those highways (highways being an intense overstatement, by the way – we’re talking two-lane roads). The limit was 70 and I swear I saw a couple people going at least 110. I myself was going a respectable 80 most of the way…sure, there were occasional lapses up to 85 but never for longer than it took to notice and correct back down.
Then we saw the cop behind us.
At first, Roberto and I thought he was trying to pass us. But then we saw that his flashers were on. “Did we blow out a tail light?” I wondered. “Maybe he wants to give us a tip on where to stop for lunch,” thought Roberto. So we pulled over, expecting perhaps a brochure on the historical significance of the open plains around us, or some complimentary Texas pecans.
Instead, swaggering up to our car:
Officer Sunglasses proceeded to tell us we were doing 85 “a ways back” and asked for license and registration. Roberto and I were both shocked as he retreated to his car – had he not seen the pick-up trucks doing 100 right past us just moments before?
Apparently he had not – those mirrored sunglasses can be tricky. He then made us stew for about ten minutes, during which time Roberto helpfully opined that since I had never gotten a speeding ticket before, perhaps I would be let off with just a warning.
Officer Sunglasses returned to the car and proceeded to hand me what appeared to be a receipt without any explanation whatsoever. As I signed it, I checked to see how much the ticket was going to cost and instead read the following words:
“You are hereby notified to appear before the court.”
*record-scratch sound* WHAT????
Officer Sunglasses was apparently in a rush to get back to his job of pulling over people with out-of-state license plates and ruining their lives. “Just call the number listed, ma’am.”
“B-b-b-b-but…do I have to go to court?”
“Call the number. Drive safe.”
And Officer Douchebag (nee Sunglasses…the wedding was beautiful and the centerpieces were a lovely arrangement of crushed hopes and dreams) was gone.
We, however, were stuck on the side of the road in Texas with what appeared to be a court summons. It seemed prudent to get away from the passing motorists who were taunting us with their flagrant and repercussion-less violations of the speed limit. So I began to drive, with the plan that at the next rest stop we would pull over and call said number.
Thirty minutes later we were still on the open plains with not a gas station or jerky stand in sight. Now I am by nature not much of a crier, but the half-hour of uncertainty as to my fate had transformed me into a bit of a wreck. It seemed to me that my punishment options might range anywhere from staying an extra night in Texas and dealing with court in the morning to giving up my dreams of Los Angeles for a chain gang somewhere around Midland. My wracking sobs inconveniently prevented my watching the road, causing Roberto to go from a comforting reassurer to a tense ball of fear, contorted as best he could into a protective crash position.
FINALLY we found a gas station and pulled in. With shaking hands, I dialed the number on the ticket and awaited my fate. Goodbye Los Angeles, goodbye career as a screenwriter, hello chewing tobacco and awesome shoulders from breaking rocks by the side of the road. Two minutes later, the verdict:
A ticket. That’s it.
Were you ever so shocked that you forgot to be happy? That was me. And by “forgot to be happy” I mean “became overtaken with extreme rage at the non-communicativeness of Officer Dickhead causing nightmares of being headed for the penitentiary.” Compounded by extra rage at having to pay the state of Texas $175.10 for the crime of going 15 miles over the limit for about four seconds near a speed trap.
The rest of the day was pretty much a blur of boring scenery and me making sour comments from the passenger seat. We finally got to Roswell, ate some Mexican food, blah blah blah. Here’s a picture of a sunset in New Mexico.
Anyway, I would like to sum up by saying that West Texas is the worst place in the entire country and maybe the entire world. If they don’t want people to speed, maybe they should get some funny road signs or colorful foliage to keep drivers mildly interested in their surroundings. Because the number one reason to speed through West Texas?
To get the fuck out of it.