The Camry Continental (Day Two)

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The journey from Tallahassee to San Antonio should have been uneventful. And while I encountered no major issues, I can’t honestly say it was entirely uneventful. The day began well, if a little late. I was a little tired so I decided to take things easy in the morning. Still, I was ready to go by 11:00 a.m. I was packed and I had everything in the car — except my three girlfriends (Melody, Ghungroo, and Chaklu). Melody and Ghungroo were both very cooperative and I had them in their carriers in under a minute. That’s when the problems began.

Chaklu is what they meant to say when they came up with the term “scaredy-cat.” She is tiny, all black (except for 6 white hairs on her neck), and afraid of everything she can see and most things that she can imagine. So, she would never wander out of the room, especially in unknown territory. And a motel room, unlike a house or apartment had few places in which to hide. Even so, a diligent 30-minute search later, she was invisible. To be safe, I walked around the property, shouting her name at the top of my voice. I was afraid I would have to leave without her. So, I called the front desk for help. They sent a guy to move my bed. Beds in motels are heavy. I guess they don’t want people stealing the beds. Anyway, the guy moved the bed. And there she was! Having worried me half to death, she now glared at me as though, somehow, it was all my fault! I picked her up by the scruff of her neck and dumped her unceremoniously into her carrier.

I asked the guy how she could have possibly gotten under the bed. I had checked the bed. Three sides were sealed with planks of wood. But the fourth side (the headboard) had a tiny bit of space behind the pillows. The sneaky little thing got in there and from there under the bed. The space under the bed was huge for a little thing like her. But I was glad to have my third little musketeer back with me. And off we went — in search of a car-charger for my phone.

I had bought one a week before leaving. I tested it and left it in the car so I wouldn’t forget it. However, when I actually needed the stupid thing, it went invisible! So, after duly getting lost, searching for the T-Mobile shop, that was on the same road as my motel, and less than 3 miles away, I found the place and bought my charger. Now that I have it, of course, I don’t need it. My phone is fully-charged already. In fact, the girl at the counter was confused. She is/was about Isha’s age and she asked me if my phone was completely dead. I said, no, it was fully-charged. She looked at me blankly. I said I was driving and I may need to charge while on the road. She still looked doubtful but she took my money anyway. But, at this point, I had solved the Mystery of the Missing Cat and I also had my charger. I was pretty much fully-charged too, having eaten a pretty decent breakfast (or so I thought).

By the time I was actually on the road, though, it was 11:45 a.m. I had eaten at 7:00 a.m. By 12:30 p.m. I was hungry. So, I had just barely gotten on the road when I had to stop again. I bought at a chicken-sandwich at a Dairy Queen, of all places! The gas station where I stopped had a Dairy Queen counter and, I think, a Wendy’s counter, side by side. I wasn’t really paying attention so I went to the DQ counter. I placed my order and paid for it. I figured I would use the restroom while waiting for my sandwich. There was one other customer. So, I figured, it wouldn’t take long for the guy to prepare my order. When I returned, he hadn’t even started to work on it. His excuse was that he had run out of tomatoes and he didn’t know whether I would want a tomato-less sandwich. I told him that I would probably not blow up into tiny little pieces if my sandwich did not have a slice of tomato on it. He needed another ten minutes to get my sandwich ready. I guess there’s a reason Dairy Queen sells dairy stuff.

So, NOW, I thought, everything is under control. Right. Never believe stuff like that. I had been on the road only a few minutes when it started to rain. I’m not talking about “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” kind of rain. I couldn’t see past my wipers. I had to hit the brakes and drive at roughly 2 mph for miles! But nothing happened. Nobody got hurt. There were no accidents. The rain finally got to a point where I could drive at highway speeds.

And so NOW, everything’s OK, right? No way! There was a large red flashing light on my dashboard, that said “BRAKE.” I was terrified! I had gotten my brakes checked the day I left. So I was surprised too. But the idea that my brakes could fail while I was on the highway on a slick road was, to say the least, not perfectly reassuring. That there was no exit for miles did not make things better. But, finally, I was able to exit. I bought some brake fluid at the nearest gas-station. Brake-light gone! Yay! Celebration time! And get-back-on-the-road time. But I was a little shaken, and I waited a few minutes.

By 5:00 p.m. I was back on the road. Of course, the clock had changed from Florida time to not-Florida time, meaning that the stupid thing was an hour behind. So, I guess it was really 4:00 p.m. when I was back on the road. And now that every possible thing that could possibly happen had already happened to me, I thought everything would be fine. Of course not. It started to pour again. But the deluge lasted less than 40 minutes or so, not 40 days and 40 nights. Actually, it probably lasted only 10 or 15 minutes, this time. The rest of the drive went fairly smoothly, until the last few miles. I had directions but I couldn’t read them because the print was too small. So, I stopped at (of all things) a deserted gas station. You’d think those things exist only in horror-movies. But there was a real, live (or dead) gas station. I memorized the last 2 or 3 steps. And then I was back on the road again — kind of.

The deserted gas-station was on some kind of cursed road. It ran parallel to the highway, for miles. Every so often, there would be signs pointing to the highway, but no stop signs, no paved road, and no actual exit. After passing a few of these signs, I realised that there was never going to be an actual exit. I was just supposed to drive on the grass between the side-road and the highway to get to the highway. So I did.

Getting to the motel, in San Antonio required a good deal of concentration. There is a series of “levels” (upper and lower) in downtown San Antonio. At first, I thought I had reached an airport, by mistake. But that is how the roads are. There’s an upper level and a lower level and you have to keep choosing the right level until you get to ground level (which, by the way, is not a level at all). But, at last, I was at the motel.

It is/was a pretty grand, imposing structure. It seems more a hotel than a motel. And it is a James Bond type of motel, too. I asked the lady for my room number after I complete the check-in process. She told me they weren’t allowed to say aloud my room number and that I had to look at my room’s key-card. So, I took my key-card to a place without cameras and satellite-terminals, and looked. Aha! The secret was revealed!

After depositing my cats in the room, I remembered that I needed to buy kitty-litter. So, I went downstairs and asked for the location of the nearest super-market. She said there were two. So, I asked which one was closer. You’d think I would have learned from my first experience. She couldn’t say which one was closer. So, I looked at the printed directions and figured it out. The Walmart was a mile further away than the HEB but the directions were simpler so I went there and got the disposable kitty-litter. The purchase itself was easy. But driving through the city was scary. It was just about 8:30 p.m. And it was dead. There was nobody on the streets, hardly anyone in Walmart. There were no cars, no people, no buses — nothing! Any thought I had of going out for dinner vanished from my head.

I ordered pizza from my room. A medium pizza with three toppings cost me $20 (including a $3 tip). I thought that was outrageous! But what was worse was that the guy sent no plate or plastic forks, etc. with the pizza. But the best part was receiving the very conspiratorial phone-call telling me that the pizza-lady was on her way to my room. So, of course, I recognised the secret-code knock of the pizza-lady, a few minutes later.

And thus ended a fairly exciting but rather long day. 

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