Between Late April to Early June you can rent a car from Arizona or Florida from 8 dollars a day and return the car to most large cities in the country without additional charge. My last road trip was from Miami to New York City. This time I wanted to visit the Great South West and return my car to Sacratomatoville.
Day 1 :Losing my soul to save a Buck
Frontier Airlines has joined Spirit Airlines as a no frills airlines. When it was in Sacramento it was a discount carrier . What I remember was a nice airline who flew my favorite airbus 320, which offered wider seats and more legroom for this big man then the Boeing Planes.
The new Frontier offers killer low fares but that comes at a price, which I soon learned. Frontier fly’s out San Francisco. My killer fare was $19 (not a misprint) How so never, every thing else is extra. (So bring your own toilet paper (kidding). You want a preassigned seat ?$30 bucks. A carry on? $30 bucks. A suitcase ?$65. If you do not prepay online it will cost more at the gates. So I paid 30 bucks which meant one pair of size 15 shoes for 11 days.
I took the Amtrak from Sacramento to the Richmond Bart Station. $27 ($76.) Bart $11.($87) There were one way flights via Airfarewatchdog from Sacratomatoville to Phoenix for $94. This travel expert saved $10. (including the bus fare from L street to SMF).
The seats were so comfortable on the Amtrack, I wish could have taken it to Phoenix. The seat are wide and the leg room is ahhhhhh.
Being a midday flight security was quick at SFO.
While most airlines SAY they will limited the size a bag you can carry on (I wish they would, it wasn’t fun being struck in the head by a 27 inch American Tourister) . Frontier was serious! . A girly gurl with big eyes attempted to walk on with a large back pack. Hey babe! $30. “I fly Frontier all they time and I’ve never paid, she said in very nice, nice, nice voice. The Frontier personnel didn’t say anything but the look on her face was like “Bitch Please!” As the nice, nice girly gurl turned and reached into her back pack to get her wallet-we saw her face transform from Nice Nancy to Bad Brenda! The look from the attendant was like, fork over thirty and in a hurry, we have other victims.
The seasoned flight staff at Frontier were very professional. However, what I remembered from my last flight on Frontier was completely erased. The seating has been reconfigured. The seats were public bus comfortable. Inmate grey. Comfort is not an option. Don’t look stupid asking for a pillow or blanket! You wont fight on Frontier,because of the ass in front of you want to sleep on your knees. The seats do not recline. A foot long Subway sandwich would overwhelm the tray tables on this flight as they are two thirds smaller than a normal tray table.
Can you say agony? My legs, my wide-bodied hips (imagine wedging a size nine into a size six shoe) screaming, could waterboarding be more painful? Thank gawd the flight was less than two hours.
In Phoenix, picking up my California bound Volkswagen Passat was a snap. Finding my hotel wasn’t. Either my charger or the power outlet was malfunctioning in my car. My cell was dead and my trusty navigation couldn’t help me. I was on my own. Wandering the streets of Phoenix.
After Ninety two minutes of roaming Metropolitan Phoenix I found it With keys in hand its time to eat. . Dinner was Raising Canes Chicken Fingers which seemed popular. Chicken was good. Oil was old and fries were just okay. Lemonade was outstanding. Nite Night.
Day 2 Slave to my Electronics
I liked my car, it was rooooomee ,peppy and I could ended up with an old school Impala Classic. yikes! Without power to my cell phone and back up Garmin unit, I’m stuck. Not wanting to get lost, I go a T-mobile store near the hotel to see if they could test my charger. The salesperson say’s I could buy one and if it didn’t work they would refund my money. Huh?. Wisdom prevailed as a young lady took a charger out of her car and tested in my Passat Its the Passat damm!
Back to Skyharbor and they had another Passat with Nevada plates. This car had more mileage and one of the tires seemed out of balance. Interstate 10 and El Paso, Texas was the goal The Passat shined, the gas tank promised 685 miles. yey. The radio was top 40. I am in the desert. Still tired from the day before but excited about the road and the adventure ahead .
Those Famous Chicken Fingers from last night were haunting me and not in a good way.
Interstate 10 east of Phoenix is filled with new developments. Big Box Stores and new car dealerships with huge movie theaters lined both sides of I-10 As the cities gave way to desert, the speed limit increased to 75mph, with cruise control set to 80, its on!
Not much to see, few rest stops in Arizona and they were basic. With my Pandora going in and out. My radio choices were few, sports talk or more top 40 .I briefly considered suicide after hearing Adele’s “Hello” for the 100th time.
New Mexico’s landscape was much like Arizona’s Tree’s were rare. However for the traveler,New Mexico offered nicer more rest stops.
Lunch was a Dairy Queen Special.Cheeseburger, fries, drink and a hot fudge sundae all for five dollars.
This was a mistake.
The road was growing long and tedious. The downside of this radio is it didn’t have Sirrus . So I called all my friends to keep me company. After the eighth call, the jig was up. “You must be on the road-its the only time you call-Mike told me you were going to Kansas or somewhere” As the roadway was entering a mountainous area, I lost my cell.
I was tired and El Paso, seemed like forever. Nightfall came, there were few cars on the road. My stomach was brewing something bad ,it was making these weird sounds. Stomach, fatigue and no reservations anywhere.
In the distance I could see lights, Las Cruces New Mexico yes…there were many motel along the freeway, but I was close to El Paso, so I kept going, so did my stomach, gurgling and bubbling with an occasional pop. I thought about stopping to get some Pepto, but bed was a priority. There are hundred of businesses along I-10 in El Paso, shopping centers, restaurants, and motels. Hotwire gave me plenty of low cost options, but I wasn’t in the mood to hunt for a mega bargain, the big man needed rest.
I pulled into a random Motel 6. 68.71 including tax. I am a big man, so even with my questionable stomach I thought I should get food just in case I needed a bite. At 10.51pm my options were fried and more fried fast food. So I opted for a pack of Tums and a large bottle of water.
The exterior of the Motel 6 was worn and tired. Some of the room numbers were missing from the doors. There were many work crews and people talking outside and drinking beer. Inside wasn’t bad, vinyl wood floors, a small fridge and microwave. The bed was a slab, not a place for sensitive backs. I turned on Bravo and I don’t remember anything after that..
Day 3: A perfect road to drop off a body
Who needs a wake up call ?
Somewhere between 10am and 11am a housekeeper loudly knocked on my door.
Groggy, I yelled YES! Check out time is 11!
I reached for my phone, it was-10:09am
I screamed, I’ll be out in an hour!
When your sliding into home and your pants are full of foam……(You know the rest)
Oh my god, not now, with the attack housekeepers lurking about.
On the toilet I sang a couple of Negro Spiritual’s
I finished my pack of tums and took a shower. Then another shower.
HOUSEKEEPIN! CHECK OUT TIME IS 11!
With every move I make, and every step I take, my stomach is out of control, I must be near the toilet.
I forgot to chain the door. HOUSEKEEPIN! she opened the door. I’m on the toilet and it anit pretty (believe me)! I screamed back at her. I’m not sure she was overcomed by the flowery scent, but she didn’t return.
I left the room at 12:30 and stopped at a nearby Shell Convenience store and bought some Pepto and drank it in line as I waited to pay. I visited their lovely men’s room and stayed a while.. No one complained , knocked on the door and the local hazmat wasn’t called.
The Pepto quieted the symphony of sounds in my stomach.
My goal was a nine hour drive to Austin
In the daytime, the landscape of El Paso reminded me of Tijuana. Rocky hills with little vegetation . In the men’s room, I read up on El Paso on my cell phone(I had the time) and decided to explore downtown. (If stomach permits)
El Paso was a Pleasant Surprise. A stranger bout me a burrito.
Click Link for Story
When I left Sacramento the average price for gas was $ 230 per gallon. In Phoenix it was $1.76 in El Paso it averaged $1.86. Being the penny pincer I am, I was looking to pay less. As I was leaving El Paso it was closer to $1.91. oh well……
In the seventies ,a stretch of Interstate 5 opened between Northern California and Southern California. It bypassed the central valley cities and was faster .At the time ,there were few businesses along the highway and people were advised to buy gas. Today, there are few businesses along I-5 between the Bay Area and Kern country. Some people still prefer the slower highway 99 than I-5.
You know your out in the middle of nowhere when there are no McDonald’s
I-5 in California ,is nothing compared to I-10 in West Texas. IT IS THE DESERT! The speed limit was 85, eighty five-legal miles per hour! So, of course I set my cruise to 90. This stretch of I-10 convinced me that Texas IS a huge state. The Interstate is dominated by trucks. Highway Patrol cars were rare. As were the gas stations and restaurants. At one point my Garmin said the nearest gas station was 120 miles. The road way was littered with closed and abandoned busineses. I saw one highway patrol car in three hours and without a cell signal it occurred to be I could die out here and months, years could pass before anyone would notice.
The first significant town was Van Horn, population 2000. The main drag has quite a few motels. Probably its number one industry. I stopped at a Dollar General for a foam ice chest, water and more Pepto.U
At Chuy’s Restaurant in Van Horn I came across
No , The Rock wasn’t inside the Restaurant, but there were several big guys. I took these pictures for friends who flew from Rhode Island to attend Wrestlemania in Dallas
By nightfall I was getting a little hungry.Austin was still five hours. There were no restaurants of any kind. Just past Fort Stockton, there were signs promising home cooked meals. Pappys, exit#… Big yellow signs “Pappy’s” .
The Pappy’s I visisted was inside of a Service Station. that featured Burgers and Mexican Food. There were three people sitting waiting for the orders. Potato and Bean burrito or Cheeseburger and fries $5.99. I passed and bought a bag of Frito’s and an Arizona Grapeade.
Out of the Desert
Within an hour the noise started in my stomach. I stopped at the first service station, Pepto, tums, water. Several times I exited the freeway to drive through the small towns along the Interstate. Many of the small towns were very fascinating, many of small towns had local businesses and locally owned restaurants in an age of chains I find this refreshing. Other communities was marred by the presence Wal Mart which drained many of the main streets. Wal Mart seem to have a negative effect on the community as many of the buildings on the main streets were vacant.
. My favorite city on this leg was Ozona Texas in Crockett County.
My exit off I-10 to US 290 in Junction Texas.By this time I thought I just need to find a room for the night. There was a Motel 6, the sign said $49. Inside the young woman said they had rooms. I confirmed the price and she took my credit card. and then said it would $82 including tax…. Hello? Its the only room they had. Ah no.
In the car ,I went online and Hotwire said there was an Econolodge 0.8 miles away $42. Works for me.
The hotel was on an isolated hill..There were no street lights .The road leading to the motel was a bit steep and twisty. . The only light came from the light bulbs marking the rooms. Circling the parking lot .I could see the dimly lit lobby. I could see a silhouette of someone human, I suppose. I paused and thought to myself I’ve seen Psycho. We have a black man in 23. Lets send granny. Ah no. I can make it to Austin.
Us 290 is a two lane hilly highway, with many twist and turns.. The speed limit often dropped to 25 miles an hour as you drove through the small towns..
290 goes through the center of Fredericksberg, Texas, the town seems to be filled with many upscale shops and restaurants
I was completely exhausted by the time I hit Austin. Austin on a Wednesday, without a hotel reservation. (Wednesdays in many cities is often the busiest day of the week) In Austin, many of the Motel 6 were asking for $129 a night. After a half an hour, it was back to the cell phone and Hotwire and Priceline. The bargain was an Extended Stay for $87. The good news it was five blocks away. Easy, thank God.
The lobby smelled of stale beer. A women sitting in a chair in the lobby was screaming on her cell phone “stop calling me” Another woman is yelling at the hotel desk agent because the agent couldn’t find her reservation (I wanted to ask ,did you bring your reservation number?) no huh!
It was the agents second day on the job and she wasn’t trained. She didn’t know how to pull up a reservation or knew the hotels reservation number or help line number.
Two other people joined us ,then she announced, she didn’t think she had rooms. My grumbling stomach sank. Meanwhile, a hotel guest was calling with noise issues. Gawd, I picked this place. The woman is now screaming “mommy you betta get somebody cause I’m tired -shit!” The desk clerk called her manager, who finally help her. Its funny (not) how slowly 40 minutes passes.
The screaming woman’s reservations was at another hotel, so she took her hostility out on the reservations department for the reservations she made. The woman standing behind me, thought it was her turn. WTF!
Kudos, to the agent. Many people would have walked out. She checked me in with a smile. The drama made me hungry. Its now 320am. I told her I was going to the WhatABurger, I wanted to try it out and offered to buy her lunch. WhatABurger is a Texas institution.
She said she wanted French Fries with chicken gravy. I ordered a WhatABurger and a side of Chicken gravy( hey could be a Texas thing) I dropped off her meal and went to my room. Its now after 4am. The burger was a burger and the fries with the Chicken Gravy was vile.
Day 4:Welcome to Weird Austin Texas
I checked out of the Extended Stay without a shower. My Marriott was up the road, 10 minutes, finally, I had a base, with a soft bed in Austin.or Cedar Park It was ahhhh….. It was going to be my home for three days Including my Birthday. I wanted to crash, get off the road ,take a long bath and just chill.
There it was, four stories of heaven calling me. Separating me from paradise was Rudy’s . FOOD has been my enemy this trip but its Barbecue, Barbecue, BBQ. California, like Texas has excellent Mexican food, Cali has outstanding Chinese food, but our Barbecue is ninth rate inferior.
Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, and the Carolina’s know BBQ. Californians are entertained by okay meat and spicy catsup. Tennessee and Missouri its about the rub and the sauce.. Carolina’s seems to be redefining BBQ with non traditional sauces and barbecuing techniques. In Texas, its all about the meat, bout the Meat, bout da MEAT, no treble.
To get to my hotel ,I had to get past Rudy’s and despite my queasy stomach. The Pull was much too strong and Rudy’s won. Rudy is a Texas chain with outlets in several states. Inside, I was offered free samples and I became a slave or its bitch to the Q. When I exited Rudy’s my credit card was thirty seven dollars heavier. I had enough food for Drake’s roadies. (I think I’ll call him on the cell phone!) The good news there was a good size fridge in my in my hotel room.
I discovered Austin Texas, a few years ago after a friend and her family relocated there from the Sacratomatoville area. It seems to have a defiant vibe. Throughout the city there are signs that proudly screams “Keep Austin Weird”
One morning I had breakfast at a downtown restaurant on Congress Street. In the restaurant were three men in there early 60’s shirtless wearing leather vests. You could tell there was a strong bond between the men. My intro to the trio was saying new man in town whats good? 30 minutes later both side of my napkins was full, they all agreed they wouldn’t live any other place. The three were instructors at a local college. They were passionate about Austin the people, the politics.
There is a uniqueness about Austin, it has a fierce independent streak. In 2005, the Voters of Texas approved an provision(Proposition 2) to the states Constitution banning same sex marriage The measure was approved by 253 of the 254 counties, the exception was Travis County.(Austin)
For many Texans, Austin hold a place similar to San Francisco, in that its too different. The philosophy is different in Austin, yes its Texas proud and yet it doesn’t allow itself to be defined.
A DONT MISS IN AUSTIN IS ESTERS FOLLIES
Esther’s Follies has been called the Austin’s answer to SNL and at 40 seasons and running, is not far behind its NYC cousin. Esther’s succeeds as an Austin institution that expertly satirizes both sides of the political divide with smartly written musical numbers, and sketches. What makes Esther’s Follies a unique theater experience, in addition to the lack of a back wall (a window overlooking the street brings the street to the stage and vice-versa) is its ability to bring the fast pace of vaudeville, to a modern-day audience.
Music, political comedy and magic combine in one show, making Esther’s quite unlike anything else in the nation. Esther’s star, Ray Anderson, brings the sparkle of the Vegas strip to Sixth Street with his large-scale illusions that defy reason and baffle our audiences.
Esther’s Follies exemplifies the “Keep Austin Weird” ethos that makes Austin such a playground to tourists and locals alike.
(Day 5 & 6 ) Stalked By a Lesbian
Alone time is difficult when you travel and haven’t seen your friends in a year or so. My plan was daytime TV with Barbecue, after all I had five different meats. Beans, potato salad, Banana pudding, none of these items were Weight Watchers approved. A hot bath and an extended nap.
As I entered the hotel, a friend was sitting in the lobby. SEE THE PLAN, he would wait for me to call! The good news ,I had someone to help me with my things , the bad news, sleep was going to be delayed.
I never made it to bed. I fell asleep on the sofa . I woke up to an angry cell phone ringing. There were crushed baked beans on by my arms. I dont remember my friend leaving, maybe I should have offered him a slice of my smoked turkey. On the other end of the cell phone was my Austin Area Family,”where are you-when are you getting here!” While I would have liked to extend my nap, my Austin family would release the dogs they would hunt me down.
When I arrived at their home the family was waiting for me outside, nice.
My first visit to Austin was their wedding .. They were the only people I knew in Austin Today, I know nearly a dozen most, have moved from California. My original two friends are now a beautiful family of five.
Initially I made friends online, from there I have made friends through other friends . One such friend moved to Fort Worth because they were struggling in California. After two visit to the Dallas area everyone was onboard. She landed a job in the medical field in Fort Worth. She sold her home on the Central Coast and paid cash for a larger new home outside Fort Worth.
After six months, they hated every thing about Fort Worth and Texas, their child was miserable. After attending a meeting in Austin she liked what she saw. Problem was, another move in Texas would be devastating for the family. After several weekends her husband found a job in Austin and for a year the family visited In 2011, they moved to Austin, in a smaller older home . They miss the ocean. But the house isn’t far from the lake..
Austin and the suburbs are exploding. Unlike other large cities in Texas, Austin isn’t a cheap date, million dollar homes are not uncommon. Austin’s Tech Salaries are amongst highest in the nation.. Austin was one of the few cities that mostly survived the economic downturn. Condominiums have reshaped the cities skyline.
The suburbs are exploding .my friends have moved to a small community 30 minutes from Austin. Their home is four times the size of my apartment. The plan for the next day which happens to be my birthday.is going to the community fair and parade The host is planning to barbecue ribs ( How could I say no!) and the hostess and I planned to locate a cake befitting the CityFella. In the evening, its downtown Austin and the clubs with other friends.
The next day, the city with a population less than 1000 people were having a fair.
Day 6 (Its my Birthday)
It took me nearly an hour to find this park in a city slightly larger than a postage stamp. While I missed the parade, I enjoyed watching the children and fair goers.
The Host left early to tend to the meat for dinner. Snacks were was fried fish and chicken. As the sun went down. I met another couple from the area. Charlie’s ribs cooked over wood was superior to Rudy’s The conversation drifted into no mans territory. Painting the dogs nails pink and shoes for dogs. The debate was lively. My mind wondered. Would painting of nails have psychological affect on the dogs? If the dogs didn’t like the color, would they act out? What if the dog were butch? , or named Butch? Left on its own my mind is a scary place.
I was enjoying the surroundings and the food and would have been perfectly happy to stay where I was. But I had commitments with other friends Downtown, where the lights are bright.
Downtown Austin is fantastic, there are new restaurants and venues opening monthly. The streets are alive with energy. There are few places in the US that offer s more live music venues than Austin. There was even a singer in a 7/11. The vibe is party!
Who knew my evening party would begin at a Lesbian bar or a bar filled with single women not necessarily interested in men.? Four women and me, LETS GET DOWN! (gawd how old am I?)
The music was good, the conversation lively. Being the only black male in the bar wasn’t lost on one of the ladies. Who sat next to me. She first apologized for the absence of black people in the bar. Okay? Then she wanted to know my opinion on the “Black Lives Movement” . Who was I going to vote for? Why don’t more African Americans like Bernie? While the other ladies where experiencing an evening of light and easy banter filled with laughter, I’m being interviewed by Fox news. Before she could ask me, what was life like in Compton? I smiled and carefully backed off my bar stool and toured the bar.
As I was memorizing the Dart schedule and other events at the bar. I saw her out of the corner of my eye, heading my way. My eyes quickly scanned the bar looking for the restrooms, which was to my immediate left.
Why couldn’t this be just a normal evening ? What does she want, My soul? My legs fell asleep as I sat on the toilet. I had to hold on to the wall as I stood up. To wake my legs and feet up, I had to walk in circles in the small bathroom.
I carefully re-entered room and planned a route that would take me to the fun side of the bar. My friend said she wondered where I was and asked if I was enjoying myself? This side of the bar was GOOD, the talk was lively,people were laughing, it was sillyness deluxe! I was in the mix. YES praise Jeezus!
SHE walked around and sat next to me. Why?Bitch Why? Like I’m really a nice fun guy and your sucking up all my oxygen! Not a smile, she didn’t laugh or titter with rest of us. She focused on me. She tapped me on the back and asked if she was making me uncomfortable? The honest answer was YES! YES! YESSS! I said no. Did I feel comfortable with Lesbians? (Damm, where are the random snipers in Austin?-this would be the time-take da bitch please! )
God is good, the troops rescued me. She was told to lighten up and have a drink. “He’s from San Francisco” I thought he said he was from Sacramento? She wanted me to confirm that she wasn’t bothering me. I manned up and said, lets keep it light, maybe another time. I wanted to keep it light and breezy on my birthday.
The rest of the night went well, we walked talked, made crazy fool’s of ourselves. Stuck our heads in random bars along 6th Street and the night ended with a big fluffy cupcake with a candle. My kinda birthday.
(Day 7) Raid!
I should have planned for a longer stay in Austin. I feel I haven’t fully scratched the surface and while I am a huge fan of the city, the State is another matter. I once considered moving to Austin, but after an extended drive with friends, I realized California “Sacratomatoville”is a tough act to follow.
In Sacratomatoville, I have many options . When I’ve had enough of heat and the congestion, I have Tahoe or the Ocean 90 minutes away, wine valleys to the north east and southeast . The area surrounding Austin is very nice, beyond the area I experienced dust and Oak Trees, its not the same.
But I wanted one more night in the city. A day alone to get lost and meet more of the locals.
Ahhh! next year.
After making my final goodbyes. I was off to Albuquerque
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take Interstate 10 again. Givin the choice, I’d rather take the long route through Minnesota than take Interstate 10 again. Someone suggested Highway 183 to Interstate 20.
Highway 183 was a delight, the two lane highway threaded its way through small towns each with its own personalty. Missing on this leg of the trip were the Big Box Stores that follow along on America’s Interstates. Briggs, Lampasas, Lometa, Goldthwaite , Rising Star and other small towns with banners proudly advertising Football victories , local fairs and events.
A couple of towns had Small theaters from the 40’s 50’s and squares filled with people talking . Many of these towns have thriving business districts without a Wal Mart. . Dollar General was the only business the towns had in common.
With the night rapidly approaching, and Albuquerque a few hundred miles away Abilene was going to be my stop for the evening. After my experience on 183, I will rethink my future road trips.
Its 11pm in Abilene Texas. I drive into a service station to find a room for the night. I carefully checked Priceline’s “Express Deals” and ratings.. I’m looking for a deal south of sixty dollars By 11:38 I found a room. The review were good, they said clean, nice good value
Outside, the hotel looked okay, but at night everything looks okay. The lobby was nothing special. Big signs promised a free breakfast, a feast. Everything including Turkey bacon, TURKEY BACON! Ohh Wee! The Nice Desk Clerk upgraded me to a King Room. Yess, score!
I have my keys, time to grab some food. My Abilene, was dead at midnight. Despite being near the mall, my food choices was the dreaded WhatABurger (shoot me now) and Circle K.
While the exterior indicates a building about 30 years old it seemed to be okay . Inside, the hallway and its patchwork network of carpet pieces, guaranteed a horror show of a room.
The key is inserted, the green light comes on, the door opens and the smell of Raid is fresh, I turn on the bathroom light and nothing scatters, good. Everything’s dead!
There is a large screen TV and one of those pod coffee makers, a fridge and microwave. I was tempted to check inside the fridge for critters, but I needed my sleep. The sofa was an after thought from the Salvation Army. My drapes, was a piece of fabric with a hole in it. It was cut too small for the window. Robe required .
My favorite feature of the room was un vacuumed line of roach powder that lined the entire room. A white powder too powerful for a Hoover. The bed was soft, with all the detailed attention paid to my room I removed the bedspread and put towels over the pillows.
The bathroom could be called caulking R us. With varying shades of caulk around the mirrors and bathtub. The bathroom counter was supported by a piece of wood. After two bites of my WhatABurger I was done.and despite all the praise heaped on the Hotel by Priceline reviewers , I passed on the Turkey Bacon.
(Day 8)Take Me 2 Albuquerque Baby!
Daylight in Abilene Texas. I survived the insect chemicals in the room and took a quick shower. It was onward to Albuquerque , this time I wanted to get their before night fall. I knew where I was staying its was all just a matter of time.
There wasn’t much to see along the roadway. This is desertville, as I crossed the border, I noticed gas prices were higher than Texas . I was entertained by Spanish hip hop on the radio. Donald Trump needn’t stop in New Mexico, there is no love for him here. With every break his named was mentioned. New Mexico has the highest percentage Hispanics of any state and the vast majority of Hispanics are native-born.
What I didn’t realize as I was driving was the altitude. When one (at least this one) think of dessert think of Death Valley, but here in New Mexico I’m cruising at an altitude of 4000 feet .
As I was approaching Albuquerque there was a very long convoy of Motorcycles, and Tricycles, the convoy was several miles long of Baby Boomers, these were not cheap bikes these were custom Harley’s and other high rent bikes. This was some convoy and after about 10 or 15 minutes I reached the front of the convoy which we being lead by the Sheriff’s Department. At a transition,the convoy turned right, however, my hotel is straight ahead. My childlike curious nature wanted to follow, I’m sure there are stories there, but my room awaits.
Within seconds, the sun disappeared and dark clouds surrounded me and the gods poured a giant bucket of water over the Volkswagen. Sixty became twenty five in the fast lane, my hands are now squeezing the steering wheel, and I cant see forward ,left or right and worried about who is behind me and if they can see me. FUCK!
Two minutes later, there was sun. My heart returned to its normal place in my chest.
I needed a break, and a slurpee. A Shell service station is three quarters of a mile away.
One big sip and a throat freeze, I was ready. My GPS said the hotel was 22 minutes away.
Wanting to know what was happening in the city I turned on talk radio. The topic was about black lives matter and the question was, are black people targeted by police?
Every caller was white, not one person of color. They went after blacks big time,blaming Obama for fanning the flames of racism. Where are my brown (Hispanic) brothers? I’m slow (click link below for the rest of the story)
For only the second time on this road trip have I checked into a hotel while the sun was still up. This hotel was going to be home for a couple of days.
I am exhausted. but excited to see Albuquerque, so sleep would have to wait. I have driven through the city but never really seen the city and I wanted to get out and meet the locals.
Dinner was more fried food, Chick fil A, not a wise choice for this road traveler.
I wanted to see if the lights were bright downtown?
As I drove underneath an underpass on Central Avenue my initial impressions was a dim downtown with colorful lights. Now mind you this was the beginning of the week . Looking at the buildings it clear to see at one point Central Avenue was THE STREET. The area where everyone came to shop and socialize. There are many old Theaters intact. Central Avenue is also the Famous Route 66 .
There weren’t many people out, a couple in their early twenties with multiple piercings. A security guard looking out of a bar, this was not Austin.
One bright spot was Garcia’s Cafe on Central , according to the sign its been there since 1973. Why oh why did I have fried chicken. I seem to make bad choices when I’m super hungry.
I visited “The Library” an old bar with a bit of character. Inside there were about eight or nine people.some playing pool other chatting. most of the people were playing pool. After a few minutes I downed my Diet Pespi and walked in another Bar on Central. I was greeted with the smell of fried food. The bar had a lively crowd, I ordered a 7Up and a patron paid for my strong drink and a conversation began
The thirty-something couple moved to Albuquerque nearly two years ago. They are originally from Oklahoma. They met at a pizza restaurant and both of them were in relationships at the time. They married seven month after they met.
He comes from a big family and lived in a rural community where everybody knew everybody. She is only child and lived outside Tulsa. He likes the land and any street with more than four cars in a row is too much for him. She likes cities and the suburbs and loves crafts stores like Michael’s and the Hobby Lobby.
They both wanted to leave Oklahoma, she wanted to move to California, but the “people are crazy there and it was too expensive.
In the last few years they have lived in four states including Texas, Colorado, Arizona and now New Mexico. They originally settled in Santa Fe she liked the area, but he found the people “stuck up” and it was expensive. After a couple of visits to Albuquerque they settled here and last year they bought land and a manufactured home. We love the winters here and we don’t live in a tract home, living on top of each other. The people are nice here, but the traffic is bad, we come downtown once a month. They were extremely friendly and interesting but this was date night and they were going to the movies ‘The Boss’
When I stepped out of the bar, the sun was gone. Exhausted, I wanted to see more, so I head up Central and drove by The University of New Mexico, and pass through an area called Nob Hill. I ended up at what I thought was a large Country bar called Sidewinders.
Oops, not a country bar, a gay bar. The bar looked larger from the outside, inside there was a karaoke area and a good size room with a raised state. Looking at the banners its the home of Drag shows and balls. On the other side of the room was a rectangle bars and beyond there was a few pool tables. I ordered a pepsi and the bartender refused my money.
At one of the pool tables was an intense couple playing pool. He told me, he was teaching her, but they way she broke, I wasn’t so sure. He was a jovial guy and she was intense on the game. She offered to buy me a real drink, but I declined.
So far the night is good, but my azz is dragging. Tomorrow an early start.
(Day 9)All About Albuquerque
My day started where it ended last night, Central Avenue. This time near the University of New Mexico. There are a lot of food options on Central and I chose Mannie’s. The restaurant didn’t look like some of the ultra modern eateries and seem to be the perfect place to meet locals and students. Outside, was a banner that read “No Abq (Art) Rapid Transit. Art=Albuquerque Rapid Transit. In fact, there were signs all along Central in opposition to Rapid Transit along the street
The City, wants to build a light rail along Central (Route 66). They say right rail will alleviate congestion along the route. The 10 mile, fifteenth month project will cost $119 million. The Feds will give the city $89 million towards the project.
Businesses and citizens along Central says light rail is too expensive and the city hasn’t fully considered alternatives. Currently there are two lawsuit’s to halt the project. Those who oppose the project ,say’s its a public nuisance and will have a negative impact on landmarks along the route. While they recognize there is congestion on the street, they believe electric or clean air buses would be a better alternative.
Well I thought Mannie’s would be a perfect place to here what people think and learn more about the city. Inside was a basic restaurant with Aluminum chairs, on two of the walls were a couple of flat screen TV’s . A very nice and efficient staff greeted me and my meal arrived in mega seconds. The crowd was mixed, some young, some older, the young eyes were affixed to their smart phones and the older crowd was watching and reading the newspapers. I wasn’t successful engaging here.
Nob Hill Neighborhood
If there is a cool area of Albuquerque, its the Nob Hill Area. I slowed down as I was driving through the area last night. It reeks cool, its named after “Nob Hill”in San Francisco. Unique shops, galleries, restaurants it’s a pleasant alternative to chains and malls. Many of the buildings are from the late 30’s 40’s . Many of the Motor Lodges and Motels are apart of the Historical Registrar and despite their large footprint wasn’t bulldozed.
Unlike downtown, a new generation has discovered the area and there is development on both side of Central. From what I can see from the new architecture (condos/apartments) is it compliments the old. If that’s a city mandate, Bravo.
Downtown and Old Town
Albuquerque is wonderfully laid out in a bowl. The elevation of the city is 4900 feet. However in the some of the mountains surrounding the city the elevation exceeds 6700 feet.
In the center of this bowl is Albuquerque Plaza
The buildings are the tallest in the state.
The largest employers is the government. City, County, State and Federal . Like Phoenix, it seems a lot of the development took place away from the city center. Unlike Phoenix and Las Vegas, the absence of rapid development may have preserved the city core and its historical buildings.
Some of the neighborhoods near downtown seems to have of lot of its history intact. Nearly 600, 000 people live in the city. My first impression of the city is there seem to be planned growth.
City Views from West Central Avenue.
The Tourist Area of City is Old Town
Its a collection of old shops and a lot of southwest trinkets. Sorry, I was underwhelmed and sadden. As a lot of Native Americans seemed to be dispatched to an area of old town where they were selling their trinkets as they sat on the ground. (I couldn’t take a picture)
From what I read, the Native American are the poorest population in the state. Governor Martinez reportedly vetoed more than 20 Native American projects, from $30,000 water well, to utility lines to help families in rural areas. . She also reportedly vetoed a report that would address the needs of the poor. Sad.
In my very short visit, I’ve met a little over a half a dozen people. With a couple of exceptions most of the people are from other places. Art from Lubbock Texas helped a friend move here and never left, that was 2003. Paul relocated from Maryland, he was tired of the congestion and cost of living in the DC area. He sold his home and paid cash for his home in Albuquerque and retired at 43. He likes that Albuquerque has four seasons and while he misses the museums and Italian food, he now lives for Mexican Food. From time to time he is rewarded with snowfall. Another couple moved here from Las Vegas, Nevada (there is a Las Vegas, New Mexico) after being laid off from the hotel where they both work. They both found jobs within a week and the rest is history.
One of the questions I normally ask is what the best and worst thing about your town? In Albuquerque. Weather was first, followed by the pace of the city. The worst, was the poor (which I didn’t see a lot of ) panhandling and the traffic.
All in all, I liked the people I came across in Albuquerque. There seem to be a bit a resentment of cities poorest citizens. This isn’t exclusive exclusive to Albuquerque. The poorest of the poor are always blame for the area’s problems.
I’m not sure if I will return to Albuquerque. There aren’t any negatives that come to mind. There just isn’t’ a compelling reason to visit. At least not yet.
Having said that, if your in the southwest, shadowing Route 66, or driving through the city. Albuquerque is worth you time. Hotel prices are slightly below average and there are a state museums, a few casinos. You may be impressed.
Did you know: Filming is big business in New Mexico? Hollywood drops $150 mil in the state. : There are currently five TV Show filming in Albuquerque. Breaking Bad, and this seasons Preacher and others In Abq. Who Knew?
(Day 10) Expressway To Vegas Baby!
I got an early start from Albuquerque. Vegas was nine hours away. Interstate 40 was gonna get me home. West bound 40 was beautiful, with an continuous changing landscape, from flat mountains , Red Desert and Mesas to mountains filled with tall green trees.a very entertaining drive.
One thing I have learned to appreciate is the Truck Stop. You gotta love a well equipped Truck Stop. With restaurants and stores in these mega complexes. The stores has clothes ( in my size and larger) appliances, DVDs Laptops, Restaurant and many have showers (if your feelin dingy). Private places where one can rinse the road off.
I stopped at a huge Truck stop in South Carolina. The food was good and I even used the showers. At one point, I think I overheard someone in a growly voice say ” I can do your back if you wanna?”. I’m good thanks. Did you see the game last night? Exit, stage right .
When you think or Arizona, you think of deserts. Flagstaff, Arizona elevation 6900 feet was a wonderful surprise and a distraction. Its surrounded by trees, the air is fresh, the city has history and its the home of Northern Arizona University.
The students bring energy and there were quite a few tourists. “What a distraction” I considered spending the night, but I had to focus. Vegas offered slots and cheap rooms and cheap eats.
Three hours and a good slice of Italian Pizza made by an Irish woman its time for road.
Another late night arrival, the the mountainous highway curved its way toward Las Vegas.
As I entered Nevada, the price of fuel increased again. 20 cents a gallon, so like a lot of people I made a u-turn and returned back to Arizona and filled up there.
My Garmin took me across Hoover Dam and as I entered Las Vegas, I remembered one important thing, I don’t like Vegas. There is something magical about the name, but once I’m there its like okay?
The buildings are impressive, there is a lot of energy, Vegas is an adult playground. A place where one can get wild and crazy. I have had good times with friends But what if you don’t like the mega casinos, with out of control adults? I don’t want to walk two miles to my room through a smokey casino.
Vegas has bulldozed most of its history I prefer downtown to the strip. I find my locals there. Where are the unique walk able neighborhoods? Where are the quiet places. Reno offers a many quiet places, so does New York City. Its not just Times Square.
Its midnight and once again I’m without a place to lay my head.
The good thing about Vegas and Reno, its a cheap date. Its overbuild and that good for travelers, not so good for hotels. On this week night I could stay in the Luxor for $36 or Mandalay Bay for $54. You cant get a Motel 6 in Sacratomatoville for that.
The weekday room prices are very very low. As low as $15* However, fees can easily double that rate.
I chose Circus Circus, almost always a cheap date this night it was $37 including fees and taxes. The line was long as I getting close, I reached for my wallet,and patted my pants. No wallet, your fucking kidding! The wallet is in plain sight in the Volkswagen on the front seat of my open car. Praise Wendy’s, it was there! Back in line.
Carrie, the lady who checked me in, gave me a red carnation and upgraded my room as a post birthday gift. Its been a good trip. The room was very nice and impressive, my view was Las Vegas Blvd. After midnight, room service wasn’t an option and most of the restaurants in the large hotel was closed. Dinner was Subway.
(Day 11)Crazy Stupid Wild
On route to Las Vegas, I had a little fantasy where I hit the big one. I have the same dream at Thunder Valley, where no one wins more than $500.
After checking out ,I drove south on Las Vegas Blvd, I wanted to go to a casino but not a mega Casino. If I didn’t come across one I was just going to head towards Sacratomatoville.
For ten days , I have been wearing the same pair of shoes and to my left was an outlet mall.
Who knows maybe Ill get lucky and find a store that sells size 15EEE. Hey, it happened in Birmingham Alabama at a Wal Mart.
The good size mall was crowded and I wasn’t feeling it .
What I was feeling was a cold drink. As I’m deciding between lemonade and an icy drink . A Strange lady grabbed my arm . Apparently she needed my arm or someones arm to organize her giant purse. A couple seconds passed before she realized I wasn’t her Latin husband. She gave out a short scream and grabbed her purse. Her husband and the people around us started laughing.
Back to my car with a cold lemonade.
I continued to head south on Las Vegas Blvd. The South Bay Casino looked liked a place for me to donate my hard earned coins to the State of Nevada. Inside it looked friendly and it wasn’t crowded PERFECT! This is a Casino for locals and anti mega casino people like me. It has a hotel, with a Century Theater, Bowling Alley and spa.
The clientele had grey hair. People seem to know each other and the staff. My fortune was going to be made from a extremely noisy penny slot. ( Oprah and I will lunch ) People were very friendly and conversations flowed. My kinda place.
I nearly broke even and when I attempted to stand my feet were asleep. A glance at my cell and it was 7pm. Three hours at one machine.
Gasoline was ridiculous in Vegas, $3.25 a gallon. I few day ago, I paid less than $1.70. My fuel light was on and I knew once I left Vegas it would be cheaper. WRONG!. $3.55 a gallon. I put ten dollars in the tank and I knew there were lower options down the road.
(Background: I’m cheap! Cheap, Cheap, CHEAP! Even when it doesn’t make sense!-I’m that guy who drives a couple of miles to save a penny per gallon)
Now, I’m driving and there are no gas stations in sight. Most of the traffic was north bound toward Vegas. The fuel light returned, and I realized once again, I have made a horrible mistake. I am praying in my head and making another deal with with god. Don’t let me run out of gas, this time I WILL fill up. My car says I have 18 miles of fuel left. But what if it was wrong. I may have really fucked up this time.
In the distance there is a lone station. This isn’t good. Lone stations mean $$$$$$$$$ but if I make it , it will be a miracle.
I make it, with 6 miles to spare. The station is crowded and they want $4.17 a gallon. I must have crossed over into California. The fill up cost more than my T-Mobile bill. Just get me to Hwy 57.
Bakersfield is where I’m going to lay my head. Tomorrow Sacratomatoville.
Hotwire said I could get a highly rated room off Hwy 99 for $42 bucks. Sold.
Last room on the Road. Bakersfield. Check in was quick. This night I wasn’t interested in food. As was parking my car. I noticed a woman in tight white jeans and high black heels standing in the doorway of one of the rooms.
As my car came to a stop. She walked towards me. I think she was concerned about my loneliness. (A problem she could solve-for a minimal fee?) Before we could discuss terms I picked up my phone and perpetrated a vigorous conversation complete with wild hand gestures. She retreated
As luck would have it my deluxe room was above hers and her spokesperson, an older and very tanned man. The lock to my room didn’t work (Thank you gawd)
I return to the office and was relocated to another building and received an upgrade. As I walked up the stairs I am startled by an older man who has a light on his forehead. There are many conversations in the parking lot. I sensed that there were people who lived here long term.
The room was very large with a kitchenette . The furnishing are circa Brady Bunch, but the room was extremely clean. No odd smells I thought Id take a quick shower but in the background I hear police on a loudspeakers and telling people to stay put. My big CityFella training told me to quickly barricade the door and wedge myself between the beds. Good night.
As with any trip I researched the town and considered touring Bakersfield perhaps take a few pictures. Downtown, the Fox Theater, Buck Owens Concert Hall, but fatigue said mmm next time. I filled up at the AM/PM $2.55 a gallon.
On 99, I considered visiting friends in Hanford and Fresno. But no, I have a very nice bed in Sacratomatoville. My Passat was a champ! One this is clear, I’m in the valley, cause its hot! On route, I called my daughter to meet me at the Airport. 3321 miles in 11 days.
I saw some amazing places that I would have flown over. Met some nice people . If I could do it again, I would limited my driving to 400 miles a day. When your tired you make some poor choices. The next time, I will spend less time on the Interstates that bypass small towns and cities, small town America is wonderful. I realized I missed a lot of history and flavor when I drove on I-95 from New York to Florida. And I will make my own lunches.
Tum, da, dum dum.