Gas prices going up has got me down. I’m sure that’s not a catchy phrase I invented. And I could spin it to say: gas prices going up has still got me going down the road-at 90 mpg.
But, it’s true, this oil crisis is ridiculous. A gallon runs a good $.75-$1.25 more than last year and just yesterday I spent almost $20. Last year the total for 11,000 miles was $388.00. I’m keeping tabs on this year’s total.
Perhaps I should actually be thankful that I’ve run out of gas 4x here in Texas, because none of those kind folks would accept my cash for their gas. Right now I’m still smarting from the idea that oil is everywhere here, yet none in a pump for my tank. Jeezus, I mean really now. I’ve been going 120+ miles with almost no sign of life, aside from snakes, deer, hawks and rabbits. An NO sign of fueling stations.
Although, despite my general frustration right now-the day has been pretty eventful; long, empty hot roads interrupted with great conversation. This morning I cased out the Quality Inn next door to see if they had enough free Continental breakfast to share with lil ol’ me.
I travel with a solo cup plastic french press, to save money on coffee without compromising the quality. I grabbed some hot water for it and talked to the motel manager. I wound up being glad they were all booked up last night. The Motel 6 wasn’t really any worse. It comes down to excuses. The manager at the Quality Inn was making them, while Motel 6 just doesn’t care and patrons know this-there are no bells and whistles. Apparently the cook didn’t show up, so the manager had no breakfast-no toast, no cereal, nada. He didn’t know where the cook had put the stuff. As though the kitchen was the size of Hogwarts or something. Then I heard him tell a guest, yes, the internet is out. It’s not our fault though, the service comes from NY. So, carrying on with the travel tips on saving money.
I started my morning back over at the same truck stop where dinner was eaten last night. If you aren’t going to utilize the unlimited buffet option, ask for a discount. You will almost always get it. Fact is, a lot of that buffet food goes to waste. As long as you aren’t lying through your teeth-don’t go back for seconds-it’s a deal for you both. They charged me $3 to have a full plate of goodies.
While there I couldn’t help listening to a group of truck drivers passing around their two cents. I took it in, didn’t agree with most of it, but was interested in their opinions. Then one truck driver made the comment that the Earth’s elliptical orbit creates a natural global warming and that greenhouse gases are normal and help to regulate temperature. Which, is actually true. However, his claim was that we don’t need to change a damn thing about our lifestyle.
So I interrupted.
“Well, yes, you are right, the Earth has it’s own warming/cooling cycles. But we can trace accelerated global warming to man’s abuse of resources. Just because global warming happens naturally to a degree doesn’t mean we should justify all the waste we create in our world. There’s just more efficient ways to do things. Like drive a scooter instead of a SUV.”
Duh. I’m in Texas. I’m the only scooterist out on these roads. Every trucker has now turned to look at me. So I smile, I smile big.
He’s looking miffed. Sometimes, a glance can tell you much more than any words. I let it go and asked him about his job and if truck companies have a higher service charge as fuel goes up. Which surprisingly, the answer was no. They were all peeved about that and said that they used to make more money 10 years ago. I managed to work in some jokes and smooth things over. But, you know, I didn’t want to really. There’s just nothing false to my statement. Humans aren’t very resourceful. We waste a lot, we destroy habitats and we take a long time to change our ways. It’s just a cop out to say global warming happens naturally as part of the Earth’s cycle and then excuse yourself from learning how to be a better environmental steward.
Binary thinking often binds and blinds us to the art of compromise and understanding. After paying my check, I bummed a smoke from a chap on a motorcycle. We talked a bit about two wheel travel and then I asked if he had served in the military, because I saw his P.O.W. M.I.A bandana.
He said, “No, I was too young to serve in Vietnam and too old to serve in Desert Storm.”
So, I say it sounds like he wants to serve in the military. And then I ask if this means he supports the current war.
He says, “Oh yes. We do need to protect ourselves from terrorists.”
“So, you think we are really always under the possibility of attack, huh?”
“Oh, yes. I do want our troops to come home though. Meddling in other people’s business isn’t the way to solve our problems.”
“So you think we should direct that 3 trillion spent in war towards solving our own problems?”
“Well, very few people in uniform died in 9/11. I think every city needs to experience what NY did during 9/11.”
“I just don’t feel it, you know, like we constantly face the threat of attack. I know we have problems here, for certain. Problems that were indicated when we had another national crisis-Hurricane Katrina.”
“Oh, no, now I differ from you on that. You can’t possibly get my sympathy when you willingly congregate to a land destined to be under water. No sympathy. They are meddling with nature.” (some of this is paraphrased)
“Absolute dominion, huh? That idea we can do whatever we want, without consequence.”
“That’s right and they paid the price.”
I say, “well, using the same logic as that, maybe we ultimately create this great threat of terrorism by exercising the idea of absolute dominion, not just there, but around the world.”
He says, “What do you think is the number one reason we are attacked?”
“Because we choose sides. It’s not just because we practice different religious and cultural beliefs. We choose sides based on our own interests.”
“I don’t see them attacking China.”
“Well, China isn’t choosing sides.”
“Right. (they are also driving a lot of scooters there) And we choose sides to serve our own agenda. Hmmm, like oil. So, the way I look at it is pretty apolitical, mostly. I don’t want to argue about the war. I don’t want to argue if GWB is stupid-because it comes down to his power. He’s obviously got power and the more the nation focuses on his so called stupidity, the less they accept that he uses his power to chip away at our own power. Kind of like a slight of hand, ya know? So I want to focus on how we can change our patterns, like say fuel reliance-things that lead us into needing Mid East oil.”
“Well, what your generation needs to do, after this election, because this election is a joke-is to get some real leaders. We’ve got 150 years of fuel left but you need to get some leaders who will make some absolute industry standards.” (where to people get this number-150???)
“Well, what I want your generation to do is to teach us while learning from us. Every generation thinks their way is right. I think we would all repeat a lot less mistakes if humans weren’t so resistant to change and more willing to integrate.”
That was a pretty intense conversation with a total stranger. And not once was a voice raised or a feeling hurt. We moved on to talk about riding-where I’m headed-where he’s going. Peace out and I was off for El Paso. It took about 4 minutes on “Main Street” for Pecos to disappear in the mirrors. And there I was again, surrounded by pipeline, fields and ever stretching horizon.
About half a tank through, I get a sense of dejavu. Picking up my road west, on 652, I spot a truck. I flag him down and ask where the next gas station is. Great guy, name was Manuel Rodriguez. He thinks there is a station at the junction about 40 miles ahead. He told me about growing up in San Antonio and Pecos, TX. The money he makes in the oil fields provides for good living. He seems to enjoy traveling a lot and we talked about New York City and Maui. How both places are great to visit but could never live there. Great man, very kind.
More road, more oil, more big sky. The heat wasn’t too bad in these parts. A steady wind was picking up and scanned the horizon for storms, no sign yet. I reach the junction and see no open station. Just a ramshackle skeleton of what used to be a well placed fuel station. Jeezus. I took a wrong turn and noticed I was in New Mexico. Turning around, I was able to get a shot of the state sign. I laughed upon reading something about driving friendly-the Texas way. About 10 miles down on the left, fuel gauge reading empty, I spot a guy working on his deck.
He tells me that the closest place is 15 miles the opposite direction. Turns out he had just given his last reserve to someone who had made a moped-rigged a mountain bike with an engine. Crazy. Turns out we were at the office to a pipeline and he said some guys would probably come by with extra gas, soon enough. I placed his empty gas can next to the scoot, as a sign.
Two guys came by, no gas. So me and Danny talked. He had bad hearing and my voice is pretty hoarse, so it was a very hysterical interlude of me having to shout. He offered food, a bathroom and coffee. He tells me about the land and points over to New Mexico. He says, “You are in the Wild Wild West, girl.”
He tells me all about the drug problems around these parts and then says that I’m driving on one of the most notorious drug trafficking roads. Great. I’ve been gearing up for this part of the ride anyhow-riding close to the border means taking extra precautions. Which means probably buying a gas can tonight!
Finally, Ivan comes by and jumps right into action. He gave me a full tank and we all talk about P.E.A.C.E SCOOT. Turns out they both served in Vietnam and fully support what I am doing right now. Danny offered me a great definition of Peace.
“Peace isn’t regulating society out of responsibility.” “Now you think about that for awhile.”
I love it! I gave him a postcard and pointed to the back, where it says, don’t point one finger, point two. I explain that this means more than just a peace sign. Point one finger at the problem and one at yourself for accountability. He loved it!
They tell me that El Paso is 120 miles ahead, and that tank has to last me. Danny pointed to a mountain peak mostly hidden by the clouds. He says I will go over the highest point in Texas. They were both great guys!
180W opened up into a beautiful ride. I wound through the Guadalupe Mountains, stopping to take lot of photos. The colors were gorgeous and the elevation climbed up to 6,000 ft. The scoot was having a hard time going over 50, to my frustration. The elevation, the heat, and severe crosswinds impacted my speed. Which is frightening on a road where the speed limit is 75mph. And potential drug traffickers are zooming past. I saw a caravan of black SUV’s with tinted windows go by, as I was taking a photo. I quickly packed the camera up and scooted on. Just in case. I didn’t want anyone to think I was photographing license plates.
The views were pretty, but it had more to do with the way the mountains stood out among the flat horizon and big sky. I wouldn’t want to hike out there, but the contrast of sandstone colors against sage and blue grey storm clouds was very pretty. This was about the only moment of pure bliss I experienced. The rest of ride I was fighting severe wind gusts and racing storm clouds. My route was right in the middle of two storm systems it looked like. One moving in from the North, the other from the South.
A few drops pelted me for 5 minutes, but it felt great. The Earth smelled so good and musky, it was amazing. Then I pulled out ahead of the rain and rode into dust storms.
I was completely hot, parched, shaky and out of gas when finally an Exxon appeared. Maybe I could have gone one more mile.
I’ve been using a CamelBak, priceless in this weather. While it hydrates, it also makes you have to pee really frequently. The route had been to flat, to full of rattlers and scorpions and too trafficked to take care of business. I had a stand off with the clerks, who didn’t want me to pee there, because the restroom, “was drying out from being cleaned.” I explained nicely, but firmly that I was going to use the bathroom. I explained that I had not seen a restroom for 120 miles and if they could please take mercy on me, being that one day, they might wind up feeling the same way. It still took 7 minutes to get into a restroom that was absolutely already dry!
A pretty adventurous day, all by 5pm. I was hot, grumpy and sunburned when I arrived. I’ve been extra stressed out about riding this close to the border and I’m trying to just relax. There is a reason why the 20,000 mile Peace sign needs to stretch down this far and I’ve just got to get it done. I will arrive in Tucson this weekend, I’m really looking forward to it. My friend from Flagstaff will drive to meet me and even spot me on the ride over to Yuma.
That makes me feel a little less stressed but I’m still trying to make up for some lost days. The riding I will have done by Friday was originally meant to take 3 more days than I’ve had. I’ve been jamming along. I’ve got to do some work to cover for these motel expenses. At least there will be plenty of places to stay and camp along the West Coast!
Oh, today P.E.A.C.E SCOOTER is officially 1 year old. Last year on this day, I went to buy an atlas and start plotting the route. It was there that I ran into a customer, John. He asked what I was doing and was the first person to encourage me to do it. He called it, an adventure through the looking glass.
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