The Camry Continental (Day Three)


San Antonio! What can I say? Saint Anthony would have been either very pleased or very disappointed. The city needs help. And it’s a saint’s job to help. So that would have made him happy, I guess. The lady at the front desk of the hotel told me that the hotel was a bit cut-off from the rest of the city. When I asked her to recommend fine dining she said “Whataburger.” Now, either she didn’t understand what I said, or she spoke the truth. She looked and sounded intelligent so I’ll go with the second option. What else do I need to say about a town where “Whataburger” defines fine dining! So, then, the city is hardly alive. But it is still a trap, a kind of Post-Modern prison. The streets are a maze. It is hard to get anywhere, even with detailed directions. And it is equally hard to get out. I spent an hour in the morning, just trying to find the I-10. And the I-10 is, quite possibly, the biggest highway in the U.S. 

In the process, I got nearly halfway to Austin. Austin is about 60 miles away from San Antonio and I drove a little over 20 miles toward Austin before I realized I wasn’t going to find the I-10. Of course, as soon as I turned off the highway, I came across a Stop sign. I stopped. I looked around. And I drove on. That was a mistake. A police officer stopped me and said that I hadn’t stopped for long enough. So, I told him I was lost and he gave me directions back to San Antonio. So, it wasn’t all bad, I guess. Finally, I did find the I-10 and I was on my way to El Paso. With all of the time I had wasted on finding the I-10, though, it wasn’t long before I stopped for lunch. I’d been on the road for just under 3 hours but only 2 of those hours were in the right direction. Still, the drive was entertaining, in the beginning.

I passed a town called “Welfare.” I thought it was funny that an entire would name itself Welfare. That’s really sticking it to the government, isn’t it? Deal with it, Senators and Congress reps. We’re Welfare and proud of it! But that was just funny. What was really strange was a town called Junction. So far as I could see it wasn’t close enough to anything to be a junction. It’s basically a scrap of land in the middle of nowhere. It’s almost as if all the gunfighters in the Wild West retired here and started barber-shops and tag agencies. I stopped at the most high-end restaurant in town to get lunch — Subway. They did have some type of sandwich that I had never before seen at any Subway — chicken with Fritos. I wouldn’t eat it again but it wasn’t bad — just weird, like the rest of the town.

The landscape, during this drive was a mix of beauty and completely non-descript. By and large, it is flat and stony. A few shrubs grow here and there, sometimes in large clumps, covering several miles. Most of them are between 3 feet and 10 feet high. Miles pass without any change in the landscape. But sunset! What an experience!

There is a vast ring of small hills. The sun set to the left of me behind one of the hills. The sky was gray. But then it turned into all colours of the rainbow! It was a sight that was so awe-inspiring that I can’t even say it brought tears to my eyes. Tears are so mundane and ordinary. The sky turned molten gold. It seemed as though mountains of gold hung in the sky, trying to meet the mountains underneath. The grey clouds further away turned bronze, then silver. When it finally got dark, the sy created a perfect rectangle. The bank of clouds seemed to have been cut with a knife, leaving a sharp edge. And I could see the space between the mountains and the clouds. It’s impossible to describe. Really, you had to be there. But the colour of the mountains changed from gray to rose to purple to black. And then there was the sky itself, changing from blue to gold to pink and then various shades of grey. As I drove toward the mountains, it seemed they were waiting to embrace me. I felt comforted, awed, and inspired, all at the same time. But that was not to last long.

As I drew to within 20 miles of El Paso, another police car stopped me. He claimed I was speeding. I claimed I wasn’t. He lost. He let me go and told me to watch my speed. I did. What I didn’t know was that he had put another police car on my trail. That car stopped me again, five minutes later, claiming there was a problem with the way the frame covered my licence-plate. I thanked him and said I would take care of it. But my troubles had just started. I couldn’t find the exit I needed because the way it was marked had changed. So, again, I drove 20 miles past my destination and turned back. In the process, I also got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes because someone had been rude enough to get into an accident just about then. But finally I made it to my motel.

I was hungry after all that. So, once again, I made the mistake of searching for fine dining. I drove for 20 miles or a little more. I ended up at the Applebee’s (Neighborhood Bar & Grill, in case you didn’t know). But at least the food was good and so was the service. That brought the day to a good close.

Let’s see what tomorrow holds!


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