LA/XC-3 DAYS NINETEEN, TWENTY, TWENTY-ONE, AND TWENTY-TWO: LORDSBURG, NEW MEXICO; MARFA AND AUSTIN, TX; HOPE, ARKANSAS
Day Nineteen mileage: 454
Day Twenty mileage: 399
Day Twenty-one mileage: 408
Day Twenty-two mileage: 397
Total LA/XC-3 mileage: 6,270.4
Road music: Sirius cycle; Little Big Town (Tornado); Loretta Lynn And Friends (Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute To Loretta Lynn); Monday Night Football; New Mexico Featured Artist: Ryan Bingham, Hobbs (Junky Star); Texas Featured Artists (for one reason for another, it seems about half the people I listen to are from Texas): Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimie Vaughan, Dallas (Family Style); Miranda Lambert, Longview (Four the Record); Gary Clark Jr., Austin (Blak and Blu); Janis Joplin, Port Arthur (Pearl); and finally, Trish Murphy, Austin, as my theme music coming both into and out of her city (Captured; Girls Get In Free; Rubies On the Lawn; Crooked Mile); more about Trish and her music below
Weather leaving El Centro, CA Monday morning: 92 degrees and scorching sun
Weather arriving Hope, Arkansas Thursday evening: 72 degrees and dark
Three-day state tally: 5 (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas)
Gas money to date: $1,257.12
Last week I got to hang with my literary super-favorite. Yesterday I had the chance to spend some special time with my musical one.
You already heard me rave about my soiree in Berkeley with novelist Tupelo Hassman (“Pushing the Envelope.”) Yesterday in Austin it was a long lunch at Quattro Gatti on Congress Avenue in the shade of the state capital with Trish Murphy, who only happens to be my favorite singer-songwriter in the world. (She’s got three — count ‘em — three songs on Beagle Man’s 200 Favorite Songs of All Time list ) Funnily, it was Carol who initially prodded me to get in touch with both of them. “If you love (Tupelo’s writing/Trish’s music) so much, why don’t you send an e-mail fan mail note?” So I did. And the rest is history.
Loyal Beagle Man followers might remember that I got Trish to do a private performance at Maggie Mae’s on Sixth Street last October for Carol’s Big Austin Birthday Bash (“The Beagle Has Landed“) I “discovered” Trish a few years ago singing a beautiful duet with Pat Green on his album Three Days. Did some research to find out who the amazing female vocalist was. Turns out it was Trish Murphy, who not only sang the song — “Wrong Side Of Town” — but wrote it. I now have all four of her albums and, I’m sure, have played them more than anyone on the entire East Coast. If you spot me in my car with a —–eating grin on my face, that’s Trish I’m listening to. She told me yesterday she and her band, Skyrocket, are planning a fall mini-tour of the Northeast (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Washington DC). If that happens, I’ll pass the word. And if you don’t go, you’re nuts. Btw, Ricky amazed me by sleeping at our feet the entire two hours. True, of the 23 hours a day he sleeps, those late-morning hours are his most intense. But still, the smell of food was everywhere, and food generally trumps zzzz’s —as in when he rockets to the kitchen out of a dead sleep at the crack of the refrigerator door.
I did my part to help “Keep Austin Weird” Wednesday night with a wild goose chase through the streets of downtown. Was supposed to meet young family friend Scott, who’s in Austin getting his MBA at UT (okay, yes, I spend way more of my time with 20-somethings and 30-somethings than I do with “adults”; wanna make something of it?), for dinner and drinks. I had to find a dog-friendly place, since it was about 150 degrees and I obviously couldn’t leave Ricky in his crate in the car. So I tried Moonshine on Third and Red River, but it had been hired out for a private party. The nice valet parker there sent me to the Iron Cactus on Sixth and Trinity, but turns out that was not a dog friendly place. The nice hostess there (people in Austin tend to be nice) sent me to Little Woodrow’s, a sports bar on Sixth and Rio Grande. Scott, meanwhile, was following in his own car five minutes behind me at each stop. Eureka! There were dogs all over at this cool spot! Except by then, it had cooled down quite a bit, and Ricky was snoozing in his crate in the car — so I cracked the windows, and let a sleeping dog lie. No worries, though; good tacos and beer and talk made up for the 45-minute car chase scene.
Okay, so when I tell you this story about my detour to the sleepy little west Texas town of San Elizario on Tuesday at the request of my friend Jeff, don’t be thinking I’ll go anywhere anyone tells me to. Jeff just happens to be a little more persuasive than most people. When I mentioned a few days ago that I’d be traveling on I-10 toward El Paso, he said casually that I’d be passing within 5 or 6 miles of San Elizario — known as San Eli — where he’d done his VISTA stint some 40 years ago. (Ouch.) You might enjoy a stop there, he offered casually. Later in the conversation, he reiterated that he’d really get a kick out of it if I could stop there. That evening, I got an e-mail from him, that said, in part: I wanted to encourage you to stop by San Eli, where I was a VISTA Volunteer. (Joan was in El Paso, but we spent much time together is San Eli.) It’s not like it’s such a great tourist stop, but it was an important part of Joan’s and my life, and it’s a cute town.
The bad Beagle Man felt like saying, an important part of your life. But the good Beagle Man won out. So I went to San Eli, and I’m glad I did. It was a cute town. Saw the only jail that Billy the Kid ever broke into. Saw the adobe house right behind it that Jeff lived in. And, to Jeff’s point, if I’m driving 7,000-plus miles, what’s five or six more? All right, Jeff, happy now? That should give me some slack if Ricky eats all of Toby’s food when we stop in Alexandria next week.
Now about Marfa TX. You’ve heard me mention Marfa a lot. I first heard about it last year during LA/XC-2 from our friend Nancy and intended to stop there, but it fell victim to my late-trip scaling-down syndrome. It’s been getting a lot of ink as this funky alternative artsy-intellectual oasis in middle-of-nowhere west Texas. And it was a cool-looking town, but when I got there late-afternoon Tuesday, the whole place looked like Main Street in Dodge after a gunfight. No one around. I treated myself to a fine meal in the courtyard restaurant at the historic Hotel Paisano, and finally the people of Marfa started to emerge. Oh, was planning the whole way down Highway 90 into Marfa to stop at the Prada storefront (fake; it’s an art installation) 37 miles northwest of town, but it’s truly in the middle of nowhere, and at 90 mph, I blew right by it. Fortunately, there was nobody around for about 795 miles, so I was able to make a U-ey and snap a photo.
Btw, chose not to stay at the Hotel Paisano, which was dog-friendly, because I’ve come to realize, after almost three complete cross-country road trips, Why God Invented Budget Motels. In a fine hotel, pets might be allowed in, but you can just feel that they don’t belong. And you can’t park your car four feet from your door. You have to use elevators. There’s generally no comfy free breakfast and coffee waiting for you in the lobby, with bananas and apples you can steal for lunch for you and your dog. And there’s a fair chance the wi-fi will be a pain in the butt — as it was in a certain boutique hotel in Santa Monica I won’t name. (But it rhymes with “Hotel Balifornia.”) So when I travel with my family, bring on the Ritz-Carltons and the Four Seasons. When it’s just Ricky and me, give us Best Western and Comfort Suites.
There’s a funny thing that happens to me every time at about this point in my cross-country journey: I wake up and have no idea where I am. The guy helping me at the convenience story Wednesday morning greeted me with this really heavy Texas drawl. I’m thinking what’s up with that? Then I remembered that I was in Texas.
RANDOM ROAD NOTES:
• 111 SOUTH TO CALEXICO: Not a big fan of those hybrid names. Calexico. Texarkana. Mexicali. Kind of cheesy.
• END SAFETY CORRIDOR: So this is where we get to start having accidents again?
• Saw a guy on I-10 between Lordsburg, NM, and El Paso pedaling one of those reclining cycles. I’m sorry, but they just look ridiculous. And you have to have that flag in the back so you can even be seen. You shouldn’t have to have a flag on your bike; you should be high enough to be seen without one. Sorry
• Judging by the billboards, I’d have to guess that the cash crop of New Mexico is fireworks
• BEAUMONT TEXAS 852 MILES: Show-offs! We all know how freakin’ big Texas is
• How cool is that? A cowboy just tipped his Stetson hat at me as I buzzed by on Highway 90. Either that or he gave me the finger. I’m gonna go with the hat-tip.
• Dumbest move of the trip, but all too typically Beagle Man: Stopped at a service station for gas. Wondered why the owner and another local were staring at me. The California plates on my rental car? Tried to insert my Amex card and start pumping, but the first sign that all was not right: No digital read-outs for price, gallons, etc. Even more telling: No hoses coming out of the pumps. Grand Opening of the gas station, the friendly owner eventually told me, was still three weeks away. Y’all come on back then . . .
• Was walking Ricky when a guy showed me three scruffy dogs in the back of his pick-up. “Good cattle dogs,” he said. Wasn’t sure what I could say to that on Ricky’s behalf.
Resumed my Presidential Tour with an overnight in Hope, Arkansas. Also passed through Johnson City on the way to Austin on Wednesday. And now . . . on to Music City!