I really wanted to see the folks at the small coffee shop before I left but I also wanted to get the fuck out of Oklahoma and into Texas. I made my way to the gas station across the street from my motel and bought myself a steaming hot coffee and a horrible and disgusting breakfast sandwich that I ate all of. Most of my food experiences on this trip so far (and ahead as I will talk about) have been dismal. When I don’t have another person saying “I’m going to take you to this spot, you’ll love it” I generally fail at eating meals on the road. And when you have hip friends that call places “spot” you know you’re in for quality. Just as my good friend Mike in St Louis hooked it up with the meals each time I’ve visited, I also experienced in Austin. But that’s not for a little while.
So driving through this part of Texas, the northeast corner of it. It’s rolling hills and very un-Texas like. In fact at the end of this trip, I don’t know if it’s a result of where I drove but most of Texas was very un-Texas like. Not a single tumbleweed. No hours-long stretches of flat two lane dusty roads. Actually there were some of those. One thing I’ve discovered on this trip, I imagine by accident because my eyesight is going, wearing sunglasses doesn’t give you the 100 % experience of seeing things as they are. Since I was driving all daylight hours on this trip, generally before 7:00 PM I always had the sun behind me. Having sunglasses on dulls everything. You think of Texas as the color of sand and brown sugar but it’s colorful and bright and new if you’ve never seen it. What could be wrong with that?
The never-ending drive to Austin from Claremore, Oklahoma seemed like it took about twenty hours. In reality it was about an eight-hour drive with a couple of brief stops for gas. A good chunk of the drive was on Highway 69 so that was exciting as well. I got to Austin around rush hour and met my friend I’d be staying with at her work and then followed her to some place where she promised me “the best fried chicken ever” and it was pretty damn good. I ate too much, got a little tour of some of Austin and then we went back to her place where I met her roommate and THEIR EIGHT CATS, ONE DOG AND A BIRD, MAYBE TWO BIRDS. I had my own room to myself with an occasional curious cat coming to visit me as I read myself to sleep finally in a home and not a rented room.
In the morning I would meet another friend I only knew from the Internet, Joey for breakfast. Joey took me to a great “spot” and we had an amazing breakfast of chilaquiles and talked about playing music and living in Texas. I mentioned not traveling with marijuana on this particular trip and he suggested I try something I had never heard of called “tinctures” which is basically grain alcohol and THC. He gave me an eyedropper full of the stuff and instructed me very carefully. “Only take maybe one dropper full, usually in a shot worth of water” after that “it takes about an hour to hit you” I hid the stuff away in my car and was on my way. Years ago I never would have made the effort to meet people I only knew a little. Our interactions online were pretty minimal aside from posting in the same private forum here and there. But it’s these kinds of meetings that make traveling better. Meeting friends, familiar people and strangers make it worth the hours spent alone staring at the sky in front of you.
My host Jodie was out of work early and decided to take me to The Alamo. I had never been there, and it was a short drive south of Austin. I’m pretty sure it was about one hundred and twelve degrees out. Apparently nobody told me, guy with three shirts on, about the weather. Like a lot of famous sites around the country the place is smaller than you think it’s going to be, also it’s smack down in the middle of a city. The city itself has some beautiful old buildings I took some photographs of but the heat proved to be too much so walking around wasn’t on the agenda. We white knuckled it back to Austin and I almost had a heart attack about four times. This happens when I am the passenger in any car.
The next morning, after an intense breakfast with Jodie that included eggs and avocado as well as a waiter that had a handlebar mustache, dressed like a cross between Doug Henning and a mime I hit the road for my next stop, Roswell, NM. I had never been, I wasn’t expecting much really. This drive was another eight-hour drive that gave me time to take in the first half of the trip. One thing I realized was I didn’t really do much “Austin” stuff. Well I didn’t eat ribs or see live music, I did have a mustache though so there’s that. I had a few great meals and was there more to see friends than see buildings. I’ll go there another day and deal with Austin proper, for now I had this long ass drive to Roswell. I feel like this one did actually take more than eight hours but I don’t feel like figuring that out.
The drive was similar to the drive in the north east part of Texas for a couple of hours, filled with winding hills with a good amount of green and colorful flowers on the side of the road. This eventually turned into just flat, straight long stretches through farms. Occasionally a rusty cloud of dust would snake its way upwards like miniature tornadoes. I tried to capture it with my camera phone but I didn’t do it much justice. Every half hour or so I would pass through a small town that took thirty seconds to drive through, and then back going in a straight line for miles on end. I tend to listen to podcasts or people talking more than music at this point as it makes the time go by faster.
So here I am about ninety minutes outside of Roswell and remember my friend in Texas gave me that grain alcohol/marijuana stuff. Roswell is supposed to be UFO central, so what better way to experience it than with the weed juice? I figure if I take some now I’ll arrive in Roswell just as this stuff kicks in and perhaps I’ll see an actual UFO or an alien walking down the street. Or maybe a closed UFO themed gift shop? My friend said to just take the one eyedropper full. I realize I’m a little bigger than him so decide I should take one and a half droppers full. I don’t have water, just the last of a bottle of diet soda. I dig the stuff out and fill it once, squirt it into my mouth and it’s like when you’re 13 and take your first shot of alcohol. I haven’t had any alcohol in my system in probably three years so the taste hit me. It’s not the best tasting thing, but I also ate that whole breakfast sandwich back in Claremore, Oklahoma a few days ago after eating at a Chinese food buffet IN OKLAHOMA. I ATE SEAFOOD THERE. I fill the thing halfway and drink the rest of it. It’s pretty disgusting. About forty five minutes later I decide to blast the band Kyuss in the car thinking “yeah this will be great, Kyuss in the desert, buzzed, let’s do it” An hour has passed and nothing has happened and I’m getting closer to Roswell. I fill the dropper up completely and take it down. Cough for a couple of seconds and again, wait. Nothing. I arrive in Roswell and am surprised at how much more lived in it looks than I imagined. I imagined this tiny place with two streets, a diner and that alien museum you hear about. No, it’s a fairly sized town with a lot of modern buildings and typical suburban sprawl, just not as desolate as I had imagined. I was staying at a Holiday Inn here where, like most towns I’ve stopped in, I found while sitting on my phone in a parking lot nearby looking for the best rate. It was a Friday night so rates are generally higher. I get out of the car and at this point have kind of forgotten that I was waiting to feel high. I was sitting down in my car for however many hours driving and ingesting the weed juice. Disgusting really, the whole scene. Walking into the hotel I am surrounded by elderly people sprawled across benches in front of the hotel, one of them is wearing some sort of award on a red ribbon. She says hello to me and I say hello back and they all kind of give me that old people smiling head nod thing. Like a “yes I sense you are a nice young man” look not knowing I was just in the car blasting music about Satan and doing drugs because I’m balls deep in Mid Life Crisis Fest 2015. I think little of the scene and continue in.
The second I walk up to the counter of the hotel two women in their 50’s greet me. I immediately think to myself “GOOD LORD I AM HIGH AS A FUCKING KITE RIGHT NOW” It all hit my brain and body right at that second. I somehow managed to get my room checked into with this woman and am also offered lemonade and cookies. I feel like I’m in a Cheech and Chong movie and I should be like “Hey thanks man, how’d you know?” The woman that didn’t wait on me pipes in, “wait until tomorrow morning, that’s when I’ll make my cookies” I say to the woman who waited on me “You hear what she’s saying about your cookies?” We have some sort of brief and completely unsexy banter about cookies and I go to the table and stand so they can’t see me take four of the cookies. Two in my breast pocket and then two in my hand, with a cup of lemonade and three bags of luggage. I somehow make it back to my room without passing out or having an anxiety attack and immediately turn the air conditioning to sixty-nine degrees. Oh yeah, there was a sign on the counter of the hotel “Rowsell, New Mexico Holiday Inn Welcomes the 2015 New Mexico Senior Olympics” Yep, I’m staying in a hotel filled with elderly Olympic athletes.
I rest for a few minutes, it’s late in the afternoon and I need to check out the town and see if I can see “some UFO shit” I decided I should probably take some more of that stuff since I am now pretty high as it is, this will make the UFO stuff even more trippy. Yeah okay sure. I ingest another whole eyedropper full, this time mixed with a little water. I almost immediately feel it. My mission objectives are simple: Starbucks, some UFO shit, dinner.
I find some UFO shit but it’s closed. Almost everything is closed, well aside from this Mexican bakery. I go in there and buy a couple of doughnuts to go with the four sugar cookies I ate an hour ago. I also buy something called “Mexican Sweet Bread” which is basically just colored sugar cookies, a bit fluffier and delicious. There isn’t really many places to drive around and I certainly wasn’t going to drive to the “official spot where the UFO landed in Roswell” as there’s not going to be anything there. It’s not like going to say the Giant Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, AZ, which is so immense and crazy to look at and contemplate. There’s certainly a fun kitsch factor to the whole town and the aliens painted all over the place, but I really needed a coffee and to go back to my room with dinner at this point.
I found a Starbucks, stood in line and all of a sudden heard a guy behind the counter loudly say “can I help you sir?” as if he had already asked me and I was off in space. I was now paranoid thinking he assumed I was on drugs and was judging me. Especially wearing a big cross around his neck. I ordered my drink and moved along; now paranoid everyone knew I was not right in the head. As I looked around I noticed at two different tables folks studying the bible in groups. Native Americans reading the bible, I thought of that Willa Carter book Death Comes For the Archbishop, one of my favorite books. At that moment I needed to get back to my room and fade off into the New Mexico night.
Morning came and I joined the elderly for breakfast, sitting by myself. Acknowledging the elderly woman with the gold medal on with a smile and a brain full of “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” No time to contemplate crap like that though. I was on my way to Las Vegas. On a Saturday night. There was a concert with Public Enemy and The Cult on the same bill. I thought about doing that, or gambling, or relaxing or just sitting in a Las Vegas hotel worrying again if this trip even mattered.