Abilene and Points East

March 30, 2011

I’ve been away, so there are a couple of Bentzman bulletins to catch up on:

I’ve done most of the driving. Ms Keogh doesn’t like to drive as much as I do. She especially doesn’t like the twisty bends through mountains or driving at night when her vision is compromised. For most of our trip she has been the nagivator [sic]. On the straight highways across plains, I grow numb, begin yawning, and when I yawn tears fog my vision, so Ms Keogh drives. This give me a chance to nap or take notes, although it is very hard to take legible notes. But here are some:

[15 miles west of Deming]
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[Nearing Las Cruces] << The vast terrains must have been frightening to first explorers and later pioneers. At times it must have felt like forever. Travelers were only spared because they knew the world was round and its logical consequences, still it must have been discomforting on foot or hoof.
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Tonight, because we are in or near the heart of Texas, because this is Abilene, we decided I should have a steak dinner. We asked the hotel clerk, a graduate of one of Abilene’s Christian Universities, for the name of the best steakhouse in Abilene and without hesitation he declared it to be Lytle Land & Cattle Company. This turned out to be a casual bar, rough-hewed and dressed with flatscreen televisions tuned to sports, but there were plenty of tables, and the most important thing, the steak was great. I had the Abilene, which is what they named their best piece of meat, a thick ribeye. Ms Keogh ordered quail, which was Cajun seasoned. As usual, I ordered a local beer. Apparently nothing is brewed in Abilene, so I had Shiner beer, an amber color and quite good. It’s from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, a mere 300 miles away.

Tomorrow Fort Worth, where the museums are beckoning to us.

And, more recently:

We took Interstate 10 into Texas and drove along the Rio Grande, at least according to the map, but in that flat region of the world, even though we travelled next to it, we couldn’t see it. Then the Interstate pulled away from the river, away from Mexico that traced the other side, and we drove smack into a Customs checkpoint that was stopping all eastbound traffic on the Interstate.

The checkpoint was operated by Border Guards and Homeland Security Agents, a dozen beefy men in bullet-proof garb. They roamed about in the shade of the checkpoint standing by to assist the few who were talking to the occupants of cars. Some had dogs which were occasionally sent to sniff this or that vehicle.

An agent came up to my window and inquired, “Are you folks citizens of the U.S.?” Had I answered yes, he probably would have waved us on, being pale skinned and speaking English so clearly. But we both said no, we weren’t “both” citizens of the U.S. He then focused harder on me and asked what country I was from. I explained that I was a citizen and pointed my thumb at Ms Keogh saying she was not. They detained us.

We had to pull our car over to the side, but we didn’t have to get out. I couldn’t help myself but laugh. I don’t know if my big smile made matters better or worse. I had told Ms Keogh to bring her passport. I had thought something just like this could happen while we were crossing Arizona, but I hadn’t expected it in Texas. I asked the guard if we had crossed a border? I saw no other reason for having to go through customs. He assured me we hadn’t.

The guard questioned Ms Keogh through the driver’s window and across me. Multiple times he stressed the importance of her ALWAYS carrying her Alien Registration Card on her person. Where was she born? Cambridge, England. Where was her Alien Registration Card? Langhorne, Pennsylvania. How long had she been in the country? Over forty-five years. Was she a permanent resident? Yes, I’m married to him, and she pointed at me, who began laughing again. Fortunately, Ms Keogh knows her Alien Registration number by heart. The guard wrote it down and took her Pennsylvania license to investigate further. Fifteen minutes later we were back on the Interstate, happy for having had the experience. Ms Keogh began texting people about this little adventure.

Well, we’re awake and half dressed, nearly ready to move on to Fort Worth. Ms Keogh, who was so happy for having the sun and heat – it reached 92 degrees yesterday – looked out the window this morning and announced the rain had followed us. And so it has. Have we been dragging the rain wherever we go? Still, this part of Texas looked like it needed rain.

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