Sunday, 9 May 2010


In the bar the previous night, as I sat watching a rather grim covers band, I was able to observe human nature in action.
It’s Graduation time here in the US at the moment and, as I passed through Arkansas, I stumbled upon a massive graduation ceremony at the University which boasts a fantastic looking campus including its own football stadium. One that would probably put some Premier League clubs to shame.
Traffic was slow and security seemed tight. Only later did I read that Michelle Obama had attended.
So in the bar in Hot Springs was a crowd of drunken girls in party frocks out for a good time after graduating. So every “plunk” was greeted with whoops of joy. A couple in their late 50’s were sat obviously post-drunken argument. Their table was littered with empty shot glasses and there was a pitcher of beer half drunk. They had obviously been there some time. They weren’t talking. Every time he tried to put his arm round her, she violently pushed it away.
There were a lot of bikers in Hot Springs. They looked the part. Harley, tattoos, bandana and leathers with patches declaring: “Live to Ride”. “Doesn’t play well with others” “Freedom”.
Guy sitting next to me had all those and dark glasses. Examining the evidence carefully, Dr Watson, I would conclude he was possibly Chiropractor on a weekend break.
Everything was very neat and very clean which didn’t suggest “rebel” to me.
The following day as I filled the car a group of them were also taking on supplies. One of them was studiedly smoking by the pumps.

It has come to my notice having stayed in dozens of American Motels. (200 Motels, anyone?) that many of them boast shower curtains that enable you to see out and, er, in.
This smacks of paranoia. You have doubtless watched many a thriller or shoot ‘em up crime type gangster movies where someone draws their gun and tensely ventures into the bathroom and sweeps the shower curtain aside in case anyone is hiding there. Plus Psycho, ofcourse, gave us THAT scene.
Now thanks to the “Acme peek a boo shower curtain” you can see your assassin before they start a stabbin’.
Having survived the night in Hot Springs and looked at how far I have travelled (About 2500 miles) so far. I realised that at the current rate I would be kicking my heels in Florida for a week waiting for the Dark Lady to arrive.
A gentle drive down to South West Texas would fill the time up and let me warm my bones as well as see some of the terrain I missed last time.

As usual, slept in and missed breakfast so headed out to find the interstate. On the way the stomach started to rumble and I pulled in at a bit of country shack called “DJ’s”. Nothing to do with the title. It was a backwoods diner. In I went to find just myself in there, apart from a spotty teenaged girl on her computer and a woman with some self inflicted tattoos behind the counter. They had a bored and defeated air about them.
“Hi, what ya havin’?
“Erm, coffee and……(looking at a very limited menu) a burger please”
“Cream and sugar?”
“Ah, no thank you”
She went into the kitchen to prepare whilst her friend tapped away at a laptop.
“I’m goin’ over to Rush’s later to go on Facebook,” she said to the woman in the kitchen.
I read the paper. The food arrived and the coffee wasn’t refilled. The whole place had an air of resignation about it.
As I left the woman behind the counter said “Bye” and the spotty teen at the computer didn’t look up.
Shortly after that I hit the freeway!
I have been extolling the virtues of the deserted roads and the beautiful scenery. I forgot about the interstate around big cities. Five lanes of traffic each side going as fast as they can. Overtaking and undertaking and tailgating and changing lanes on a whim without indicating. This was motorway madness at its finest.
That is why I have travelled so far today. I was swept along by the current.
My bladder told me that stop was imminent as long as I could flee the traffic. Swerved off the Freeway at a place called “Carls Corner” and found myself in a windswept truck stop. With a difference. The trucks were there fuelling on Bio diesel.

However this was no ordinary truck stop…this was “Willie’s Place”!
The place is, I think, owned by the fabulous Willie Nelson of who as you know I am a huge fan.
There is a theatre and various bits named after his famous songs such as “Whiskey River” and “Blue Skies”.

No sign of Willie in person although I do have tickets for one of his UK gigs in June.
In truth there was a lot of tat for sale including a large number of knives. However, I was at Willies place!
After using the “restroom” (I will let you fill in your own “Willie” gag here) it was back onto the interstate. Shot down the on ramp as fast as I could in order to join the speeding traffic.

I overtook, undertook, I didn’t tailgate but I did tap my brake pedal a lot to warn the people behind who where. I had to change lanes a lot to avoid ending up in an industrial estate: “Right lane MUST turn right”.
Eventually I asked the sat nav where the nearest Motels and restaurants were. 5 miles ahead. ETA 4 mins (we were travelling at some speed). Screeched to a halt outside a motel. Went in and asked the two questions I always ask.
“Got internet?”
“Wireless, yup”
“Bar near here?”
“Texas Roadhouse half a mile”
Never ever take an Americans word for distance. Unless it is car travel.
The desk clerk in Seattle told me it was “half a mile” to the car rental office. It was more than a mile.
“Half a mile” to the bar was slightly less than 400 yards.
Waited around in the room as I tried to connect with Tim Smith for an on air chat.
Technical problems stymied that. Rushed the 400 yards down to the bar/grill just in time for Britney as she told that the place would close in under an hour.
So much for a leisurely evening. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Tomorrow I am going to get off the interstate and take a gentle route to South West Texas.
Having said that I asked the GPS to select non-freeway routes from Iola Kansas. All it did was loop me off the interstate through various housing estates. Rather like being directed off the M6 in order to tour the back streets of West Bromwich!

By the way, you can now see a map of my travels so far here


  1. You'll LOVE West Tx (well I do anyway!). Loadsa country music, warm sun and bars with cold beer, all in equal measure. What more could a travellin' Brit DJ want? Keep on truckin' ~ CW

  2. Afterthought - San Antonio's worth a visit if you've got a spare day en route to Florida. (More cold beer) ~ CW

  3. Enjoy the music ... the cold beers ... and the odd beefburger (or 20).
    Beware of the traffic, sounds worse than the M25. At least they go slow here (traffic jams).
    PS. Looking forward to seeing photos of you dressed up in your cowboy gear - ha ha.

  4. Love the link to the map! You're certainly covering the miles. It's great following your progress and reading about your travels and encounters off the beaten track - you are seeing aspects of life in America that most of us who visit as "tourists" experience only very briefly - if at all. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it.

    Guess you're feeling more appropriately dressed these days?

  5. I'm really enjoying the blog entries. Thanks for posting the photo of Mt. Rushmore. It's actually kind of cool with the cloud/snow cover. I'll bet you're pleased to be in the warm weather, though! Texas is really amazing. It's a whole different world, and the different parts of Texas are very varied themselves, being such a large state. I envy your ability to find good country music radio stations...That's something that is sorely lacking in my part of the world, but we've got plenty of other good things going on, so it's a trade-off I'm willing to make. Looking forward to the next blog entry!

  6. I am really enjoying reading your interesting blog Alex. Happy birthday! Don't drink too much cold beer though.