Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Dreary Day on One Of My Favorite Routes: I-10 San Antonio to El Paso

I was eager to drive this leg of our journey; I drove it the last time. AdventureMan had a cold and thought it was boring, but I loved the colors and the dryness and it was very much one of those zen zone kind of things for me. I-10 in West Texas is easy driving. Or it was the last time.

This day, it is an anomalous day in San Antonio, it varies only from heavy rain to downpour. As we hit the road, and I have to say, life is so much easier with Google Maps, and now that I’ve discovered the voice, I don’t even have to nag when I am navigating, she just tells us where to turn, and most of the time, gives us plenty of warning, tells us when there is going to be a left exit, tells us which lane we need to be in when exiting, etc. IF, on the rare occasion (LOL) we miss the right turn, she is very patient. She doesn’t even say “recalculating,” she just gets on with it, getting us to where we need to be. It takes a lot of stress out of driving in strange cities.

We wanted to get on the road early, as this is going to be one of our long days driving, and wouldn’t you know, the long day is this messy, rainy day?

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We really need some breakfast to fortify us for this drive, all this rain, all this low-visibility and all these racing trucks with sheeting water spilling off the tops. At one point, I am trying to pass a truck on a curve and AdventureMan is saying “Go! Go! Go!” and I can’t see a thing and I am on a curve and I have to drop back behind the splashing truck until I can get a straight-away and a clean pass.

Thank God we find the Flag Stop, in Bjorn, just outside San Antonio.

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AdventureMan and I diverge. I had a great breakfast, very traditional, eggs, bacon, and coffee. The coffee was surprisingly good, and the eggs and bacon were fine. Filling, tasty, cooked pretty well. I mean, it’s breakfast, it’s a truck stop. He had biscuits and gravy, and it did not meet his standards.

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On this route, there are a lot of areas that are very rural, without a lot of stopping places for gas. At one point, when we were beginning to get nervous, we came to a gas station but the gas was marked way up. We thought we’d drive a little to see if there was a station in the town, and quickly came to a sign that said “no further services” meaning NO GAS. So we went back to the highway robbery place and bought gas, happy to have gas. We ran into a couple just coming from the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, heading on toward Los Angeles. We almost got run off the road entering El Paso by the Eagles road van, with an aggressive woman driver, also coming from South by Southwest.

About four hours later, hour after hour of driving rains and speeding, splashing trucks, we found a town big enough to have a place to eat. We searched for one that was not a chain, and we found the Bienvenidos. I loved the exterior.

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Once again, we diverged. AdventureMan thought the food was very good; I thought it was just OK. I didn’t even bother taking photos of my two greasy tacos. Service was fast and friendly, and there were a lot of local people there, so maybe I just ordered the wrong thing.

Just wanted you to get a feel for the road conditions. The good news is, as we got close to El Paso, the sun broke through and we had clear visibility finding our hotel.

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April 16, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wayfaring Stranger and James Lee Burke in the Heat of August

Just in time to save August from being my most hated month EVER, a new James Lee Burke novel, Wayfaring Stranger.

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LOL, escaping from the relentless heat and humidity of Pensacola, I enter the heat and humidity of Burke country, ranging from the oil fields in Louisiana to the desolate social scene of Houston in the 1950’s.

I got hooked on James Lee Burke in a very cold winter February in Wiesbaden, Germany, when I came across a book called A Morning for Flamingos. I like mysteries, but this was a mystery by a poet! When I read about the what an approaching thunderstorm looks like when you live in a little cabin in New Iberia on Bayou Teche, I was lost. I-don’t-know-how-many books later, I’ve been to New Iberia, had lunch by the Bayou Teche and explored Burke country.

Louisiana is soulful, all those little roads, and sugar cane factories (think True Detective, here) but, (sigh) no matter how colorful, no matter how beautiful, the Louisiana in James Lee Burke’s books is better. He’s been there longer, he has the eye to see that heron, that shiver of wind over the water, that glint of pure evil in a bad guy’s eye. I know you think I am blathering on, but kinda-sorta the Dave Robicheaux detective series are all pretty similar, what changes is the particular social injustice. So this is what hooks me – Burke’s relentless battle against injustice, by writing powerful books that get read by a lot of people, and the elegant prose and philosophy he inserts to lift it way beyond the run of the mill mystery book.

The Wayfaring Stranger is the best yet. It’s not one of the Robicheaux series, it’s part of a Holland series, lawmen whose Texas lives and challenges we’ve read about in previous books. Wayfaring Stranger is the story of Weldon Holland (Burke tells us in an after word that Hollan – no D – is an old Texas family name in his line) who lives with his grandfather and runs into the real Bonnie and Clyde. Fast forward and he is fighting in the Ardennes, and the only reason you have faith he will survive is that there are so many pages ahead of you . . . he and one of his men trek, hop a train, and end up in a deserted death camp, where they find one survivor – a woman. The three of them are surrounded by fighting armies and find safety in a local farm’s cellar.

Oops. I’ve already given away that Weldon survives the battle. It’s hard to write much more without giving too much away. It’s a powerful story, powerfully written. It’s about good men and women and weak men and women and how sometimes an evil person can surprise you with a goodness.

Warning. Once you pick up Wayfaring Stranger, you’ll need a block of time so you can just go ahead and finish it. You won’t be putting it down.

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Social Issues, Survival, Technical Issue, Values, Work Related Issues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Absolute Favorite, in Mancos, Colorado

Every now and then pure unexpected magic happens, a blessing, pure grace. Every now and then you make a stop and all the right things happen.

We had not enjoyed our breakfast the previous morning at the Far View Lodge, so we decided to get on the road early, and find a place to eat on the road. We were up and out by seven, and it took about half an hour just to get off the mesa and down to the main road. Once we hit the main road, we start looking for a good place to stop.

We see a sign: The Absolute Bakery in Mancos, Colorado, just turn right at the next stop light.

We turn right. We find the bakery, which looks cute from the outside:

And then we found a place to park, in front of a Hat-Maker’s Shop guarded by a beautiful long-haired cat. For me, the magic has already started. Did you even know of a hat maker anymore? I thought they had all disappeared:

As we walked into the Absolute Bakery, we were enticed with smells, the odor of break baking with cinnamon, the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, bacon frying . . . and inside, it is homey, and welcoming, and you are warmly welcomed, and we just feel so glad to be there on this sunny morning when we have so far to drive . . .

The breakfast menu has so many good things, you don’t know what to order.

AdventureMan chose the VegHead Stack, which was totally wonderful:

And I chose the Absolute Breakfast special with Chorizo – total YUMMMMM:

The breakfasts are delicious, and as we eat, the bakery fills up, travelers, locals, families . . . it has the feel of a place we would like to live, a community, people who know each other.

You know how it is sometimes when you have so much to do, and you really need to get started? As we paid for our breakfast, instead of getting on the road, we dawdled. We picked out cookies for the road – I had the most huge delicious macaroon I have ever had, just a bite now and then, and it lasted all the way to Amarillo. We got to talking with travelers headed the direction we had come from, just strangers crossing paths, but it was a great conversation, and we hated to pull ourselves away, to get back to the serious business of driving.

Lunch was OK. It was BBQ, but someone forgot our order, so we lost some time:

To add insult to injury, not only is it a long day on the road, but we also loose an hour, so we get in even an hour later than we would have. As we near the border, I am watching my phone to see if I can see the change, but it happened about six miles before the border and I missed it. AdventureMan’s on the same system, but his phone changed a little later.

The morning drive was mostly through the Navajo nation and backroads, full of ranches and horses and some drama. The afternoon, on Interstate 40, was just boring, with an occasional moment of hilarity:

What can you imagine would use a tire that big?

We have reservations in Amarillo, and by the grace of God, our hotel is just off the highway, and my little iPhone tells us exactly how to get there. We hit the pool, and get some exercise. We split the last apple and some trail mix for dinner – we are still full from breakfast at the Absolute Bakery!

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, iPhone, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fredericksburg, TX; an Unexpected Pleasure

We are headed west, and our friends suggest we take a route which will take us through Fredericksburg, TX. From the time we get on the road, we are surprised – good fast roads, even the backroads, wildflowers along the highway, and, soon, a wonderful store where we found Mayhew Jelly:

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Continuing on, we arrive in Fredericksburg just about noon, after driving past countless tempting wineries and farms, all with great old German names. We find a place to park and look for a place to eat, finding the Lindenbaum and oh – they have Zigeunerschnitzle, schnitzel Gypsy style, which we love. Actually, when we lived in Germany, we sort of stopped eating schnitzle because it is meat and then deep friend meat, with fattening sauces, but it’s been years, and we couldn’t resist.

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Oh! It was so good!

We decided we need to stay the night in Fredericksburg; there is the Nimitz Museum which is calling my husband’s name, and there are little shops calling mine. As we are eating lunch, we find a place in a Fredericksburg Magazine, The Austin Street Retreat, but to book there, you have to go to a place called the Gastehaus where they have a bunch of B & B’s and you get the reservation through them and then go to the place, which is a really good thing because some of them are a little hard to find.

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We book Annie’s cottage – and when we get there, we are delighted. It is very French, a cottage all to ourselves, quiet, private, a great retreat:

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And then AdventureMan heads off is his direction, and I in mine, both of us finishing up about the same time and heading back to the cottage to rest and plan our next day’s travels.

Dinner was at Mamacita’s, a very popular place with both local people and tourists, and reminded me of Chevy’s Fresh Mex – they made their own chips, and our server was very polished and attentive; we really liked the way Jason took care of us:

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This is the schnitzle from Lindenbaum, but I can’t figure out how to get it in the right place.

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April 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Health Issues, Road Trips, Shopping | , | Leave a comment

Hell Bent for Texas and the Country Kitchen

(This is my first blog entry done from an iPad, and I still have a lot to learn about how to make the same technologies work that seemed so easy on my computer. Bear with me!)

We could have taken more time, but we decided to make it all in one day – Pensacola to Bryan/College Station, Texas, to see old Texas friends. We made it out the door at exactly seven a.m. – a miracle, and chat chat chatted our way across the remaining few miles of Florida, flew across Alabama, zipped across Mississippi. About when we figured we were half way, and were hungry for lunch, we found ourselves back in familiar territory – the Atchafalaya Basin, Bayou Teche and serious Cajun country. And – we also needed gas, so drifting into the gas station on fumes, we breathed a sigh of relief and focused on our next project – what to eat, where to eat.

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An answered prayer – The Country Kitchen. As we drove into the parking lot, AdventureMan lowered his window and said “Can you smell that??” The smell of smoking meat pulled us happily inside, where we ordered BBQ chicken. I did something I never do – my phone rang and I had to make a quick decision on a side, and I went with cornbread dressing. What a blessing of fate, while it is something I probably should not eat much of, it was SO delicious, hot, spicy and sweet. It was hard to resist. I also had the sweet peas – they were out of green beans. AdventureMan had very much the same, except with rice.

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SO Good.

If you find yourself outside of Lafayette, LA, find this gem. The cooking is all real food, probably not the healthiest, probably they use fat in just about everything, but it is oh, so delicious.

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Now Google tells us that the quickest way to get to Bryan, TX is to get off the Interstate at Beaumont, TX, just after crossing the state line. This road is hilarious – two lanes, with speed limits of 70 on several stretches, churches along the way with names like Cowboy Church and Lonesome Dove Chapel, and a stand set up selling Mayhaw jelly.

It was a very very long drive, and, at long last, we arrived at our friends’ beautiful, serene house, spent the evening laughing and catching up, with never a silent moment, we all just had so much to say. Finally, exhausted, we fell into bed, only to rise ready for more chat the next morning. Aren’t old friends the BEST? No matter how much time has passed, you can pick right up, share your hearts and you can talk about everything.

It was a joyful breakfast, again full of tears and laughter, and then, the painful parting. We have this wonderful memory though – just as we were about to leave, we asked about those Mayhaws. what were they, and then we asked about a song AdventureMan can almost remember, “Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch,” which our friend knew and sang, and as we left we were all laughing once again.

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Eating Out, Friends & Friendship, Road Trips | , , , | 2 Comments

Why Skidboot?

On November 18 of last year, I published a short item, very short, four lines, on Skidboot. At the time, I was so new to blogging, I didn’t even know how to embed a YouTube video in the blog, so I just referred readers to the YouTube site.

For the last two weeks, it has been my top stat getter. I have Googled, I have tried everything I can think of to figure out why Skidboot? Why now, almost a year later?

If anyone coming here to read the Skidboot article will take a minute to tell me why, I would sure appreciate it. It’s not going to kill me not to know, but it is a mystery to me!

Here is the original video:

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Communication, Education, Experiment, Family Issues, Pets, Relationships, Spiritual | , , | 4 Comments