FRIDAY JANUARY 14, 2011, EL PASO TO... SANDERSON? DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS
It’s only our fourth day and I’m already tired of waking up early. In fact, I’m just plain tired. Rom woke up slightly earlier than me this morning so she could take a shower, and I didn’t even wake up to that. When she got out however, she turned the light on, waking me up immediately and causing me to roll and groan. I got up eventually though and we slowly moved downstairs, leaving our key at reception. A man held the door for us as he asked us where were headed and then told us we were lucky to have a car. Thanks.
The freeway entrance was right in front of us, but I thought maybe we’d stop at a gas station first, just to get some water. I remembered seeing one somewhere, but I couldn’t find it again, so we just got on. El Paso freeways, at 6:45 am, were the busiest we’d seen since leaving LA and I got easily aggravated at the asshole drivers who wouldn’t let me in. Driving in LA is all about being pushy, but driving in Texas, this was even more the case. I really had to be dominant to get myself in. Rom laughed at me as I drove along the freeway, thinking I had turrets or some affliction by the way I was yelling profanities. Nothing too out of the norm I suppose.
When traffic lightened up a bit and cars began to veer off, we stopped at a gas station to get some water, a few breakfast items and use the bathroom. I went into the bathroom, then walked back out. When did this country get so many doorless bathrooms?! There were two stalls in the women’s room, neither containing a door. We’d have to eventually stop again to use the toilet. For now we’d just get water, and ooh, they had bananas. I picked out two that were slightly green, excited for breakfast, but when I opened one, it was so unripe it wouldn’t peel. Somehow I thought the other one wouldn’t be as bad, but instead I just had 2 bananas that wouldn’t peel. All I wanted was a banana.
We drove a little while longer before stopping again, just quickly for a bathroom break, then back out onto the road. Shortly there after though, there was a border checkpoint. The usual question, “are you both from the States” appeared and once again Rom had to hand over her passport. The tough demeanor of the officer had changed and the hard looking young man had turned into a pile of teenage mashed potatoes.
“Australia. Cool!” He seemed to melt as he said this, a large sincere smile coming over his face, his eyes wide and a glow about him that wasn’t there 30 seconds back. He waved us on and I told Rom she made his day. She had missed all of that, too entertained by the fact that he responded to her as “cool”. Now we could keep driving straight until we reached, what might have been, our stopping destination for the day.
Fort Stockton was the largest city between El Paso and San Antonio, but it was not somewhere I wanted to stay. Motel 6, Lazy 8, Holiday In Express and a few other cheap chains lined the freeway exits, as did every chain of gas stations and fast food restaurants. We stopped at the first gas station to fill up and find out if there was a supermarket around. I asked for directions hoping Rom would be listening, but she was so entranced by the first thick Texan accent she heard that she, completely bewildered by it, stopped paying attention. The directions were simple. Something about a left and a light, but I’m just so awful with them, that the two things she told me to do, I had already forgotten. The city couldn’t be that big, I’m sure we’d find it.
Sure enough we did. There was a health food store across the street as well. Rom figured this might be the only health food store in Texas so we parked the car and ran across the road when no cars were coming, feeling like we were in a difficult level of Frogger. The health food store however, had shut down and the building was for sale. I guess this wasn’t quite the place for a its business.
Inside the store, we started off in the produce department, getting a couple of pieces of fruit, some avocados, tomato and lettuce. I was in awe of one display they had, where tomatoes, chilis, tomatillos and limes were all sectioned together; it was like it’s own little salsa section. I loved it. How to spot a tourist, they take pictures of things like that. Rom searched around for cereal and bread, while I, after pissing off a little mexican woman behind the counter for asking for 3 sliced of turkey, realized I hadn’t gotten enough. I made Rom ask for more when she got her cheese and we paid and hit the road, deciding to go to the next town on the map, hoping it would be better. On the way out of town though, we had to stop to take a picture of the largest roadrunner in the western hemisphere. A dog followed us while we did that, then we said goodbye to him. Rom drove from here on out, until we reached Sanderson.
I really don’t know how to describe Sanderson. It’s something I think everyone should experience for themselves. It’s one of those tiny towns we only imagined discovering on this trip. It’s literally 1 long street, about a mile strip 4 gas stations, 4 motels, an R-V park, a tire and feed stop, a few cafes, most of which were for sale, 4 markets, 1 of which was not open yet, and 1 of which was for sale, the other 2 being markets in 2 of the gas stations, and that’s about it. The streets are barren. If you do happen to see someone walking around, they look like cowboys; this was definitely taken straight out of a movie. Driving down the main drag a few times in circles, the few local folks outside were beginning to take note of us, knowing (besides the fact that I had a California license plate) we were tourists. I decided that the tire stop might be a good place to try for a tire check so we went inside.
An electronic doorbell rang as we opened the door to get inside and two men were there. One man in jeans and a jean shirt with work boots, a cowboy hat, a large mustache, a few missing teeth and a hearing aid stood, while the other man as will with a cowboy hat, jeans, work boots and a mustache sat.
“What can we help y’all with?” He asked in a heavy southern accent.
“I was wondering if perhaps you could check my tires?” I said in a very non-southern accent.
“Have ya got 4?” The man sitting down asked in an even stronger accent, laughing at himself, then looking over at me like I was stupid. The man standing looked at me perplexed as to why I’d need a tire check, and after I simply responded, “we just do”, he got his pressure gauge checker thingy-mabobber and went out to check the tires. The guy inside was reading the paper and looked up at us while we stood there.
“nahrowma-dawaaaaanaa-something!” He said. I thought he said something about perhaps letting a load off, but I just wasn’t sure. I smiled anyway and said we were going to go watch how to check the tires. He looked at me and continued to smile, but now it was one of those “You’re stupid” condescending smiles. Aside from the fact that I was now embarrassed that this man thought I was stupid, I also couldn’t understand a damn word he said and thought that outside might be a bit less awkward.
The man outside was checking the tire pressure in all 4 of my wheels. His final diagnosis, my tires were fine. He pointed to the front left tire and showed me some marks, saying this was a sure sign that I would need a new tire in the next few months, but for now I’d be okay. Aside from having to concentrate extremely hard to understand him, he paused mid sentence to spit, right in front of us, and this severely distracted me as well. I told him of our road trip, saying we were gonna head back to LA after we got to New Orleans.
“Where?” he asked.
“New Orleans.” I responded.
Blank face, “where?”
Blank face, “huh?”
“Louisiana!” I decided to go with something new. This he understood and just suggested I get it checked there before we headed back. Great, day 4 and I already had to be worried about my tire. I thanked the man and we went to see how much accommodation would be for the night.
We stopped first at a Budget Inn, the end of the town, from where we had started. As we neared the office door, it was opened for us from inside, and an adorable little middle aged indian man, stood there, the phone up to his ear, holding up his index finger to indicate “1 minute”.
“Sorry, I was on the phone with the IRS,” he said. “What can I help you with?” His voice was high and soft. We asked him how much it was for a night. He told us the original rate, and then said business was slow and he would give us a deal. I looked at Rom and asked if maybe we should just stay. We shrugged, and then I told him we would just go have some lunch, as we weren’t even sure at all that we were staying in town yet. His face grew long, and he looked sad. We left and he went back to the phone.
Rom wanted to get some sort of bread for lunch, so we on over in that direction, turning into the wrong street. Rom did a u-turn and then waited for a car to pass before turning onto the main drag. He waved a thank you to us, then turned into the street we were going; where the market was. It looked closed and so we parked in front of his driveway and asked him about it. He looked up, then began walking over to our car.
“Sorry, I couldn’t hear ya.” His accent thick and his voice low. Did he just apologize to me for not being able to hear me ask him a question? He pointed us in the direction of Uncle’s, a small convenient store in front of a gas station, at “the other end of town”. We thanked him and then drove off, trying to hold in our laughter until we were out of sight. Did he just say the other end of town? It takes 65 seconds to drive through the entire town!