Monday, February 27, 2006

February 26, 2006
I got up at six, packed my rented, red Pathfinder, copped a banana out of the lobby (continental breakfast sans real cups or silverwear), set the thermostat for 77 and squealed out of the Alpine Best Western in the cloudy, morning twilight. Went about fifty yards and braked to get gas at the neighboring convenience mart ($2.23 a gallon for unleaded). I wanted to get gas quickly and go because it was, by now, 6:10 and I had four hours to get to the airport in El Paso, and I planned to take the long way back and see some scenery (I drove all the way to Alpine in the dark, missing Valentine, Marfa, Wolf and all the surrounding mountains, and besides, I hate going back the same way). Unfortunately, I spent five minutes trying to figure out how to open the fuel door. It had no indentation, or lock, or any visible clue on how to open the booger. I got back in the car and poured over the door, the dash, the steering wheel, the console, even the stereo, looking for the automatic button release. Yes, I could have read the owner’s manual, but that’s for women! Finally, I went back and pulled on it (I would have kicked it, but it was too high off the ground). Nothing. Then in total desperation, I pushed on the other side of the deal and it opened easily. Nissan Bastards! I hate this new streamlined mystery openers, almost as much as I hate new cars that automatically lock up when you get out. The rental car Sue and I had in Cody was maddening. I’d get out to open the back door to retrieve my briefcase and it would lock up before I could get there. This is nothing short of Demonic. I finally got in the habit of getting out, pointing the key fob at the door, and clicking twice, like it was a gun. I really hate that “smart car” crap. But, I digress.

Took the back way out of town because Larry Francell told me there is a ballpark on the edge of town, built to the exact specs of Comiskey Park in Chicago and there it was—home of the Cowboys, of course. Allegedly built by a rancher who loved baseball. Oh, those sum bitch Texans!

Having hung out with Joaquin for several days, I found myself saying sum bitch at the slightest excuse. It was exactly like that Seinfeld episode where George hangs out with The Texans and he starts using the term ad nauseum.

On the way to Fort Davis I hit a bunch of fog ("Sum Bitch!") and slowed down to forty so I wouldn’t rearend a deer. Two does, a buck and a coyote ran right in front of me ("Sum Bitch! four times) on the drive so I was glad I erred on the side of safety. Got into Fort Davis at about 7:30. Precious little village, very much like Lincoln, New Mexico or Graybull, Wyoming. Nestled in the foothills of the Davis Mountains, with a primo downtown, old hotel, classic courthouse, but no open cafes.

Took off from there and went up the mountain. I was a tad nervous because the night before Bob Hasslocher told me to watch out for this “high mountain road” because it is very narrow and treacherous. “Whatever you do, don’t look down,” he told me with some earnestness. I gripped the wheel and topped the first ridge, looking for the big, bald peak up ahead, but it never came. Went down the other side and realized Bob was either pulling a Texas ha-ha on a Zonie, or he ain’t never seen a real winding road across a big-ass mountain range. Sum Bitch. This road was somewhere between Cordes Junction and Big Bug Creek. Skill level, 2.0, steep drop-offs, 1.5. Hey, Bob, try the Silverton-Ouray highway sometime and get back to me, Sum Bitch.

Finally got breakfast at Chuy’s in Van Horn. Now this town has history for me because we have a family story that goes like this: the buckboard mail was coming out of Van Horn, Texas and on this particular summer day, along about 1900, a substitute mailman skirted the Guadalupe Range, and coaxed his team up onto Crow Flat, New Mexico (just across the Texas line). To this day almost every family up there is a Lewis. The new mailman made a half dozen stops before reining up at a small ranch. Pulling out the mailbag, the mailman said to the rancher standing there, “What’s your name?” The rancher replied, “Guess.” The mailman snorted, “Well, you’re probably just another Sum Bitch Lewis.”

My great-grandfather’s name was Henry Guess. When I went up to Weed, New Mexico in 1991, with my mama (Lillie Louise Guess) and Aunt Sadie Pearl, this story was still being told and I got it on video.

I had the huevos ranchers (very good), a small glass of orange juice and a decaf coffee ($14, left a $5 tip). I also had my Enterprise Rental Car free map spread out on the table. As the owner walked by I said, “Tell me about this back way to El Paso, through Cornudas.”

He gave me a funny look. “Why would you go that way? It’s muy longer.” I told him I had my reasons, and he told me there was some construction about ten miles short of the Guadalupes, but from there it was a straight shot to El Paso.

I took off north (I-10 runs straight northwest at El Paso from Van Horn) and enjoyed the rough scenery in those West Texas back canyons. Got up to the Guadalupes, turned toward the Salt Flats and saw the first mileage sign: El Paso, 101 miles. Sum Bitch. It was now 9:30 and I had to be at the airport by 11 at the very latest (flight at 12, see Friday’s entry). I also had to pee, but that was out of the question. I pushed the Pathfinder up to 95 and held it there. I shot by the Dell City turnoff, which takes you to Orange and Crow Flat, and kept the pedal to the metal. I passed every car I encountered (5) and hit the outskirts of El Paso at 10:45. Stopped and got gas to fill up the tank for the rental return. Relieved myself and headed in. Pulled into El Paso International at 10:59 and parked the car.

Got to the US Airways ticket counter at 11:05 and told the attendant my name. She typed it in the computer and got a furrowed brow.

“For some reason your ticket has been cancelled.”
—Betty Flores, US Airways Ticket Counter Associate

Bonus Quote
"You've got to be kidding me?"
—BBB (only I didn't say kidding)

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