Posts Tagged 'Abilene'

Is this the way to Amarillo?

Today I set off on the road again, but before I launch into that, have a few shots of Texas.

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A hidden gem

A hidden gem

I arrived at the Abilene greyhound at 2:10 for the bus due at half past. And then more fun and games: the stoic chap behind the counter couldn’t get his computer to work, and the clock was starting to wind down. With two minutes to go and no apparent development, I leaned across the counter and asked in rather a strained voice whether I might not just hop on and deal with it there, because ‘I really gotta get this bus’. He looked at me placidly, reproachful, and told me I was the one who showed up late. I had to bite down on a remark about twenty minutes being rather more time than printing a ticket should take.

Turned out I needn’t have worried, as the bus was late again – an hour, this time. We set off into the night with the moon at our flank: full, fat, heavy and – call me romantic – somehow auspicious. It lit up the curve of the midnight cloud and seemed to foreshadow good things to come.

The earth wheeled on through space; the moon relented and the sun came up. But that’s rather an understatement. Josh’s wife had told me: ‘everything west of here is nothing’, and that’s both true and untrue. The darkness, untroubled by street lights, fell away to reveal infinite horizons on both sides, the barren scrubland peeling away from the road until the curvature of the earth bent the fields out of sight of the naked eye. Above them, that massive, capacious sky was back, shot through with bright marigold flares. The sun is more brilliant here, near the equator. Hanging over it were draped these supermassive anvil clouds, and beneath them, in the delicate mauve of dawn, hung the wispy strands of distant rainstorms. It really is a landscape to inspire. There’s simply so much space and light. I’ve not really seen anything like it.

As the sun came up it was cradled in the clouds.

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I arrived in Amarillo just before 9, having got a little – just enough – sleep on the bus. Americans may not know this (even the person I spoke to there didn’t), but Amarillo actually featured in a terrible, kitschy song by Tony Christie, popularized briefly in England by comic Peter Kay. Link is here, if you dare.

It is bad.

Anyway, it was with interest that I walked out from the as-per-usual grotty station into the early morning. But uh… Amarillo is definitely a place that has seen better days. The streets were more or less deserted, the buildings were run-down brickwork with smashed windows, and the only thing in the entire town that was open was a Subway, where the counter attendant wished me God Bless. I wandered around the nearby blocks for about an hour, and then over to the churches, but really there wasn’t much to see. The people I did come across were all incredibly obese, which I’m increasingly starting to associate more with poverty than anything, and a general air of decrepitude cast a pall over the silent streets. A sad place.

After I reboarded, the countryside changed from flat green plains to flat brown plains, then vast, arid sierras with titanic shelves of rock breaking through like whales. Then came a hilly, tussocky area that reminded me of No Country For Old Men, and finally a series of rapidly undulating mounds that were so small and defined that they seemed almost artificial.

I arrived in Albuquerque and have been chilling out with my buddy Rhysaati, who I’ve known separate from PA, for about ten years now. It’s good to finally meet him. But I gotta go now, this isn’t the house I’m sleeping in tonight. More news tomorrow.

Small Town America, Inc.

I’m sitting in a lounge in Abilene watching Josh’s dog. He is called Napoleon. He’s currently sleeping on top of the back of a sofa and making silly noises in his doggy dreams. I’m kind of waiting for him to fall off.

After catching up on my sleep, I spent yesterday lounging around the house and chatting away, then Josh came home and we went out to get some Thai food. It had fresh vegetables, which I found to my surprise I had really missed. Shipping produce across 900 miles of land is a bit of a task, I guess. Later, we booked seats in Perini’s, which has a legitimate claim to Best Burgers in America. Controversial stuff, but their website is very pretty, isn’t it? Incidentally, last night I played through Braid and you should too. Great game.

Today, I ventured out on bike to see what I could see of this quiet Texas settlement.

Abilene is a small, well-to-do town of leafy streets and white picket fences. The downtown area doesn’t hold much apart from an old Paramount cinema from back in the day when the major companies owned their own screens, and a smattering of bars. I couldn’t spend much time there though, as we had to get to Perini’s. The place was good, but had kinda poor service. And I gotta say, the best burgers I’ve had have been in tiny little places in Atlanta and San Antonio, the latter being barely a spec on the road by a railway.

On the way back we stopped in a minute village called Buffalo Gap (presumably to go with Moose Factory and Pigeon Forge). It’s a charming place with a population of about 430 people (and six tumbleweeds), full of secret avenues, old oak trees, rusted-up machinery and swaying grasses. There’s a lot of small, curious-looking shops and shacks, and but for more time and better light, I would have happily spent several hours wandering around. It really was very beautiful; this area of Texas is surprisingly verdant, with a generous water table. The towns aren’t perfect – we passed a crack house in Abilene – but they’re small, reserved, and peaceful.

This is Real America™ ®Sarah Palin Patriotic Holdings Co. ©2008. I can’t say however that it’s much different from the rest of America when it comes to what matters, and though political leanings, religious beliefs and the idiosyncrasies of mannerisms that vary from state to state lend each area I’ve been to their own distinct micro-cultures, there’s no denying it: what have I seen everywhere I’ve gone? The same basic human decency, the same love for life, the same respect for others and the kindness of strangers. Though responses range from ‘we’re the richest country in the world, we shouldn’t have people dying in the streets’, to ‘who says you have the right to healthcare?’, and though there’s a heck of a stronger church presence down here than up north, and though the north treats the south with superciliousness and the south treats the north with scorn and though sometimes you get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, everything is about to explode

Life carries on. Good people are good. And if you talk to people you might find out, for instance, that a great deal of the south’s anti-Big Government attitude is significantly due to their local politics being a corrupt mess (mind you, one girl did also tell me, somewhat coyly, ‘we want all the freedoms we can possibly have, even those that aren’t good for us’). There are reasons why people think things and, easy as it is to do, grouping people into Red and Blue is just silly. I’ve spoken to oil rig workers, commercial divers, healthcare insurance people, programmers, nurses, students, parents, and everything in between. People are just people like you, and such. Even as Wallmarts rise up through the turf and adverts everywhere pressure you to buy, buy, buy, everywhere I’ve been has had the same basic principals. America hasn’t lost anything of its soul.

You’ll have to imagine me swearing

Hey, my parents read this blog.

So I have had a really, really bad day. Anyone following the twitter feed might’ve got an impression of the trip. I was going to write a full-length, scathing diatribe – a philippic, if you will – about the various misadventures of today, but it’d be too exhausting and probably upset you.

So in short:

– Buses full of prostitutes and meth addicts are weird.
– Sitting next to the harmless old lady in a bid to avoid said company subsequently guarantees you that the respective little old lady will be crazy.
– Having pepsi thrown all over you and your precious electronic equipment by aforementioned octogenarian is not helped by being blithely told it will dry out.
– Greyhound sucks.
– Greyhound sucks.
– Greyhound sucks.

It is darkly amusing that the city in which the canine-oriented company is based, Dallas, plays host to its worst-by-far station. When I found out that I had to wait three hours because I had missed the connection because the bus had arrived two hours late, I thought I would head downtown. But the station lockers were broken and the word ‘backpack’ can translate frighteningly easily to ‘mugged’. Knowing what the answer would be before I even asked, I queried a ranger as to the safety of the immediate area. He actually laughed.

So that was a no go.

I arrived in Abilene, not at 11:15pm as planned, but rather… oh, about an hour ago, at 3:10am. Josh was an absolute champion in going out of his way to pick me up when he had an early start at work the next day, and I have got a whole bed to myself and cereal and yay.

Anyway, I’m off to sleep, but I must thank WIckedKarma and his bonnie lass for their awesome hospitality, as well as an honourable mention for Melkor, who joined up with us yesterday to watch Alien at a place called the Drafthouse, which basically combines a restaurant with a cinema, which is actually genius because they enforce the silence rule with extreme prejudice: “We will bite you in the leg and hang you”. It was Melkor’s idea, also, so extra credit and a shiny gold star to him.

Maybe not the gold star, actually, we wouldn’t want him to start thinking he’s better than the other children.

I am going to sleep.


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