The Drive To San Antonio
Leo’s snoring has reached a new level that it should be named something else. It’s a sort of free jazz of respitory failure. I grab about four hours of sleep and then hear Sugar’s phone go off. Whatever’s going on doesn’t sound good.
Sugar: “OK… So he’s not moving? Is he breathing?”
I think “Oh no”, figuring one of her dogs must have come to a bad end.
“Is his phone next to him?”
Feeling secure in the knowledge that most dogs don’t have cellular data plans, I guess she is talking about Texas Pete.
The plan has been for Pete to fly to Austin today to serve as Leo’s co-pilot for the inhumane 24 hour drive back from Texas. Pete, with the “Old Lady” out of town, must have gone out last night and tied one on to the point that he is incapable of even consciousness. He fill miss his flight to Austin, and the frugal Mrs. Will not be pleased about making same day travel ticket changes. There is little doubt that Leo has now emerged as the uncontested captain of the vessel for the return journey. This is a startling truth to face on a rainy Sunday morning. The band’s largest actual asset will be in the hands of Leo and a man that can’t make a noon flight at the Airport. Ye Gods.
Sugar gets on the phone to delve into the various flight options for Pete, assuming that he ever gets out of bed and hasn’t died like Bon Scott on his own barf. Knowing Sugar, I expect Pete will be connecting to Austin via Anchorage with a five-hour layover with middle seats between Turkish weightlifters the entire trip. This will be a long horrifying day for Texas Pete.
I shuffle out to the Days Inn breakfast buffet to nose around for something to eat. It is very joyfully tended to by a loudly dressed Indian gentleman, the proprietor of the motel perhaps? He makes a point to tell me that while some guests have complained, he has provided everything one could ask for in “sweet and not-sweet cereal”. Yes, they have it all. The nation’s saddest little breakfast consists of a choice of Cheerios or Froot Loops, mini muffins, and processed biscuits with a crock-pot of gravy that I mistook for spackle.
The guy is really nice and genuine. When he asks if I slept well “on the good comfortable bed”, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I hardly slept a wink due to Leo and the steady stream of wailing police sirens tearing up and down the mean streets of the surrounding neighborhood. While he nods and smiles at me, I answer “I slept great”. Over his shoulder, I notice a homeless man shuffle in to the bounty of the buffet, and look suspiciously from the corners of his eyes. He mixes up a hot chocolate and stares at me defiantly.
All the bands by now have been awoken by what seems like four generations of a black family, each one screaming down the hallway at each other. If you wanted to demonstrate to a five year old what “not giving a fuck about anyone else” looked like, this would have been a great life lesson. After cramming Grandma, her wheelchair, and her Pall Malls into a rusting Grenada they all light up smokes and rattle off. Welcome to 9:47 am Midwest X Southwest bands!
We have an astonishingly long drive today, about 850 miles through all of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. We basically woke up in Kansas and said, “Let’s drive to Mexico!” For 13 hours we drive through flat plains and sluggish rolling hills. There is nothing to look at in Kansas. I saw a bird. Then a few cows. Then we ate Chinese food in Wichita.
Oklahoma also has nothing. There are some brief “strips of crap” around Norman. This part of the country likes to put shitty chain stores as close to the highway as possible. Dollar General, Verizon, Panda Express, and Dots are seemingly 15 feet from the highway, yet there is nothing but empty land in every direction. I’m telling you, if you walk out of a Old Navy in Oklahoma and don’t pay attention, you may get pasted by a van like ours whipping by at 85 mph.
We finally cross into Texas and see more strips of crap with the added feature of local bar-b-que chains at gas stations. We keep driving. We fill up in Denton and I see a guy in a Daniel Johnston t-shirt. We’re getting closer. Heartbreakingly, we have to drive through Austin for another 90 minutes until we get to an Econolodge of Nightmares that was pre-booked by the tour.
I get the key from the Indian clerk at 1:30 am. You show me a shitty hotel, and I will show you an Indian or Pakistani family running it. We have been driving since around Noon. The tiny cement compound is seven feet from the highway, the basic zoning plan for everything we have seen for everything on this highway. A bunch of weird mutant hillbillies have their door open on their second floor room, drinking beers and looking down at the saddest pool in Texas. Dark eyes Mexican girls look at us suspiciously as the white men with cheap clothes smoke and drink beer. They are either having a Sunday party at an unlikely location, or this is a low rent porno shoot. I’m not really sure which, and I don’t give a fuck. I just want to be anywhere else but the van right now. I exchange grunts as I walk by the smokers, and I hope they keep it down. I get into the shabby bed, and I keep itching myself. I’m positive I am infected with bed bugs or fleas.