Day 22 Rolling Around in Someone Else’s Shit

We wake at 7:30. I take care of a few emails, correct some things in my last night’s blog, walk Lola, and we’re off by 9:00, our usual time. No restaurant at the hotel, so I’ll find a place on the road.
I expect an uneventful day. The drive north will be mostly flat and with mesquite dominating the landscape.
In a way, I am looking forward to the day, the end of my Mexico/Central America trip, but in a way, I am not. I really like Mexico. Many parts of Mexico are beautiful, and the people are gracious. I love talking to them. And in contrast to the rumors one hears about the police and military, they have without exception been friendly and helpful. So I am sorry to be leaving.
I am surprised by the landscape. It is generally flat and full of mesquite, but this landscape has its own magic. There are rises and to the west, I can see the high mountains. But here’s what’s best: I have taken a road not often taken by gringos. This road goes through uninhabited country. I rarely see a car or truck. I am by myself, the land, the sky, and Lola and I moving through it by car. In the car, I am fixed: it’s the landscape that changes, like a movie. I think of Einstein again: Everything depends on what you imagine as a fixed point. I suppose we all imagine ourselves as the fixed point and it’s everything else that changes.
My movie changes after about an hour. I merge onto 101, and there is a lot of traffic. It’s kind of like people got into my space, and I don’t like that too much. But the time moved swiftly, too swiftly because I don’t want this part of my life to end.
But it does. I hit the border at 12:30. Borders come on you quickly. Suddenly, you have military checkpoints every few miles. The military rarely ask for any identification. When they see my bikes and hear that Lola and I have driven from New Jersey (I always say Philadelphia) to Panama and back, they want to know more about what I’m doing. And I invariably end our conversation by saying, me gusta mucho Mexico. Es un bien pais. And we leave each other with smiles.
Then the border is suddenly there. I measure what I have learned by the lack of any anxiety when approaching the border. I chose the Hidalgo over the Brownsville border because of all the stories about Brownsville, but I doubt that there would have been any difference. The border is a snap. The Mexicans give me a couple of stamps and point me toward the gringos. There is a bit of a line at the USA side, but I spend my time looking for a camp site. Like everyone else, the Americans are surprised that I have driven by myself (with Lola) through Mexico and Central America. One young woman, the border officer asks “And nothing happened to you?” She means kidnapping and extortion. I say, no, not even close. (Well, I did have to pay a couple of bribes.) But violence? Not a chance. This is the difference between what we hear about things and what they are, which you can know only when you try them out for yourself.
I am a little foolish: I have 70 miles of gas left and I just want to get out of McAllen—I really don’t like cities—before I stop for gas. But suddenly I am in Texas country, and in south Texas, there is nothing leading to nothing. After about 40 miles and no towns or gas stations, I go into my oh shit mode. I dial back to 50 mph to get better mileage. I pass one 300 hundred citizen town and no gas station. Finally, I hit an inspection station and I ask the young officer (I have noticed how everyone is young) if there is  a gas station ahead. I think I say, hay un estacion do gasolina Adelante? I have a hard time remembering that I’m in English speaking country. Whenever I meet someone, I say Hola.
Yes, thirteen miles up the road. That is good. I have 40 miles of gas left.
I guess I am on the downside, leaving Mexico. I hit the gas station and everything goes wrong. I try three pumps and various things are                           wrong—like I can’t read the instructions or the machine won’t accept my card. On the third station, the machine doesn’t let me extract my card after inserting it.
I go into the store, and the clerk says, yes, some of the stations aren’t working. A man comes out with a pair of pliers and extracts my card. I give the woman my care to pay from inside and fill up my tank. I am momentarily happy.
I buy some junk food and leave. There is a huge desolate area in back of the station, so I drive there and let Lola out while I decide where I might camp for the night. I see Lola playing around in the weeds and then peeing and pooping, and I a few minutes later, I see here rolling around on her back. In the sand, this is OK, but in the weeds, this is never good news. I call her and she comes, but boy does she stink. I don’t know what kind of shit or dead stuff she was rolling around in, but it stinks.
I very stupidly get mad at her. I blame her for rolling around in shit. I take her over to an adjacent car wash and put in two quarters and can’t get any water. I try another station with a quarter and nothing happens. Three women are washing their truck in an adjacent station, and I ask them how this works—like I want to douse Lola because she really stinks. They tell me you have to put in 1.25 to get it to work. Well, I don’t have 1.25 in quarters and the store is a long walk away. I see a sink with a water faucet, and I consider trying to put Lola in the sink, but the sink is more like for a kitten. I turn the water on and see that the water just pours out of the sink underneath, and I make Lola stand underneath the drain while I wash her with a towel that I will throw away. I am still blaming her. She wonders why I’m so angry. She thinks, all I was doing was rolling around in shit that smelled so good.
I get over this. I know there is a message here—and there is.
I study my map and find a campsite an hour away—near Mathais, Texas. We get there by six, and it is beautiful. I pet Lola and ask her to forgive me. She probably thinks maybe I should try rolling around in someone else’s shit.
After we have put up our tent and settled in or the night, I begin writing, Lola lying in the grass beside the picnic table on which I am writing. Lola loves to camp. If I could depend on her not to wander off while I’m writing, I wouldn’t have to leash her, but we haven’t got there yet. She doesn’t go far, but I need to get her so that when I say lie down, she’ll do that and stay there until I say it’s time for a walk. She’ll get there. She has come a long way since I first got her.

The evening is quiet. As usual, I’m the only tent camper, so no one else is in the tent area, and the RV campers seem to have gone inside. One quiet boat is on the lake. The lake has become smooth, the sun is setting. The dragon flies are thick over the shore. You would have to work to find anything wrong with this world.

Goto Day 22: September 11th 

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