Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lafayette LA to Houston TX (the longest day yet)

A Good Start
After the debacle of yesterday, and by the lucky virtue of my host having an early start, I was on the road at 7.45am. I whistled a little tune as I waited to cross the interstate, and found myself a good spot on the other side, a long on-ramp, safe to stop and plenty of time for drivers to see me. The first bunch of cars came by and one of them pulled over. I wasn’t surprised for some reason. It just felt like I was going to get a quick ride, and I did. He was a college student on his way to class. By the time he dropped me off in the little town of Crowley I’d heard a few of the songs he’d recorded in his home studio and heard about happy days spent in Colorado.

The Niggas
Three lads who were in the business of selling seafood squeezed my bags in amongst their eskies, and shoved me in the back seat of the pick-up. They were white boys who liked to refer to each other as ‘nigga’ and talked about popping caps in arses, listened to hip-hop, that sort of thing. They were actually pretty humourous. They told me they could get me as far as Lake Charles, but suddenly we pulled off the highway and parked infront of a Walmart. One of the chaps got out, and we waited. I didn’t know what was going on, but it turned out he was robbing a few little items he required like a phone. He’d been inside the store for about 20 minutes when a police car entered the parking lot and pulled up at the shopfront. We all thought he might be in a little trouble, but at that moment he surprised us, coming from behind and smiled as he got in, showing off his brand-new cap! We were off again and a little down the road I thanked them and was on my way

An ex-hippie
After quite a wait a guy pulling a caravan made a last-minute decision to stop. I don’t usually pick up hitchhikers, he told me, but then I saw your guitar. Music wins again. It turned out he was a bit of a tripper. In his 50s, he was on his way from Florida to the devastated island of Galveston. He’d had a tip-off that some hurricane recovery work could be found there. In the meantime he was on the look-out for a dentist who could put his teeth back in. He was pulling his home with him, behind an old Ford Van that was getting 8 miles to the gallon. I know the mileage because we ran out of gas not once, but 3 times. He only seemed to want to have enough in his tank to make it to the next gas-station. At each stop we got out and wandered around, and at one stop he forgot to actually get gas, and sure enough, we didn’t make it to the next gas station. Luckily he had a spare gallon in the back, he popped that in but we still didn’t have enough. The gas-station location on his GPS was out by 1 mile, so when he squeezed out the last drops from his reserve, we were still half a mile short. We walked down and got ourselves another gallon. It was impossible to be in a hurry with this guy. But we had lots of interesting conversations, not all of which I really understood, but interesting none the less. The rain started to fall as I got my first glimpse of Texas, and he dropped me off 20 miles from Houston. But 20 miles from Houston basically is Houston. I was trying to get to Austin, and the megalopolis was in my way.

Un otro Mexicano
Too much city traffic. I could feel that nobody was going too pick me up. And it was raining. So I talked a mexican into taking me around the ring-road to a truck-stop which I hoped would be my saviour.

The Trucks are Stuck
Excuse me sir, I was trying to get a lift to Austin.
Oh I’m not going anywhere.
I’ve been here for 5 days.
Nooo, I’m staying here tonight.
And so on.
It’s the economy, apparently. Lots of truckers waiting for loads that don’t exist. And nobody going to Austin. I made friends with the security guard but he couldn’t help. I struck up a deal with a homeless guy. We stood outside the door together, I asked for a lift as they went in, he asked for money as they came out. He was doing much better than me. After two hours without even a sniff I gave up and decided to go into Houston and see what happened.

A lonely bus ride in the pouring rain.

A busy bar. With wifi. And Houston has a hostel. Check-in is until 11pm. But I don’t write down the address.

An holistic-optician
At 10.43 I am on a tram. The police get on, and ask me to get off because my ticket isn’t valid. I’m not the only one. I tell them that the machine doesn’t work, and if they look closely they will see that the ticket for which I was overcharged is stamped with tomorrow’s date. This is taking time, its now 10.50. But a woman has overheard the conversation, has recognized my accent. She asks me what I’m doing. I tell her I’m not sure, going to a hostel I don’t know the address of, or sleeping in the greyhound station. We get off together and she takes me to her office where by day she takes a holistic approach to improving vision. She is lovely. We look up the hostel on the internet, get the address, and she drives me to it. We arrive at 11.27. The office is closing but they check me in, and a beer is awaiting on the balcony, the first of a few after a very long day.

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