Road Trip to Galveston Day 1 & 2
Thursday October 1
I drove to Owensboro (117 miles) and arrived at Buddha’s in the early afternoon. We watched TV until about 5:30 pm when his daughter arrived to fetch a key. After she left, we went out to get a bite to eat at Owensboro’s one and only Sushi place. I knew it was going to be a problem when I noticed the chefs behind the sushi bar were Mexican. I had the Hibachi Chicken. It was terrible.
We went back to Buddha’s place for drinks and more TV. Lucked into a Harold Pinter play on YouTube I’ve been wanting to see: “The Birthday Party”, starring Harold Pinter himself and Joan Plowright, in a BBC production. It was pretty good, but you have to be into Pinter to enjoy it. Buddha wasn’t so he went to bed to read while I watched the rest of the play.
Friday October 2
Owensboro. Woke to the news that Donald Trump and Melania Trump both have contracted the corona virus. Is that karma or what?
Got packed and loaded the car. Had to make a pit stop in Evansville so Buddha could see his psychiatrist and check up on his meds. Apparently, I am traveling with a madman. That’s OK. We’re all as mad as hatters here. All the best people are.
We finally got on the road and headed west. I figured to push as far into Arkansas as I possibly could before stopping for the night. We made it to Hope.
We checked in to the Best Western Motel. The maskless clerk kept asking us if we wanted one bed or two.
“Two beds, dammit!” Buddha muttered shaking his shaggy head.
“Do we get a discount?” I asked. “AAA? AARP?”
“Yeah, I’ll give you a discount alright,” the clerk snapped.
“Well, what’s the rate?”
“$75.00 including tax. Do you want one bed or two?”
“Two beds, dammit!”
“OK! Can I see your credit card?”
“Any restaurants in the area?”
“You can Google them and they will deliver.”
“OK. What room?”
“105. Right around the corner.”
Buddha was already heading out the door on his way to the room on foot. I drove around. We unlocked the door and unloaded the car, then took a moment to get settled. Buddha went to get ice.
I Googled the restaurants in the area and found a Pizza Hut and a Dominos. I called both but got put on hold at both places. Well, what could you expect in a little town called Hope, deep in the Arkansas interior? Bill Clinton territory as it were. The town sucked just like Monica Lewinski. Finally, Dominos answered.
“I’ll have a medium Supreme delivered to room 105 at the Best Western Motel, please. When will you deliver it? One hour? Wow! Well go ahead. We will just have to wait.”
While waiting for the pizza to arrive we made the drinks. We had picked up some liquor a few exits back. We got separate liquors because Buddha always buys cheap booze and I can’t stand the whiskey he usually gets, so I get something a little better. Turns out he got Ezra Brooks and I got Jack Daniels.
“Well, hell, if I’d a known you were getting Ezra Brooks, I would have drunk your booze. Ezra Brooks aint bad!”
“No, you wouldn’t! You’re not drinking my booze! You just drink your Jack Daniels!”
“What the hell Buddha? You don’t think I would have replaced your whiskey? You mean to tell me you wouldn’t have shared?”
“I don’t want to have this conversation right now!”
We drove the rest of the way in silence.
Meanwhile, back in the motel room, we decided to watch a little TV while waiting for the pizza. It was 9pm EST and 8pm Central. Buddha grabbed the remote and engaged the “on” button. TV said, “No Signal.”
“Call the front desk and tell them the TV doesn’t work,” I said.
Buddha grabbed the phone, listened intently, punched the dial hooks repeatedly, looked up wild eyed.
“No dial-tone! Motherfucker don’t work!”
“Call him on your cell phone.”
Buddha stared at the black desk set and started stabbing the numbers into his cell phone.
“Hello? Yeah, this is Buddha in room 105. The phone don’t work…. I’m calling you on my cell phone….OK…OK…Ok. That’s not why I’m calling you. The TV don’t work either…OK….OK…Ok.”
He hung up.
“What’d he say?”
“He said he would come down and try to reboot it himself.”
“Well OK then.”
So, we waited a few minutes, freshened our drinks and munched on some smoked almonds. Pretty soon there was a knock at the front door.
Buddha let in the night clerk, who again was maskless, but he was at least pretty friendly. He took the remote and began trying to reboot the TV.
About that time, we got another knock at the door. It was Dominos. Buddha answered the door. He paid for the pizza, $20.00 including tip.
The smell of the pizza filled the room.
“Wow, if you are getting pizza, I’m getting hungry.” This from the maskless night clerk.
“You want a slice?” I asked.
The clerk didn’t have any luck getting the TV to work either.
“Let’s see, the TV don’t work, and the phone don’t work. Don’t you think we should get another discount?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’ll give you another discount. I’ll give it to you right now.”
And with that he left.
Buddha and I just looked at each other and shrugged. Then we devoured the pizza.
A little later on that night the night clerk showed up with our receipt which included our discounts. All in all, an $85.00 room ended up costing us $65.00. Not bad.
We got up early the next morning and hit the road again right after breakfast. It was around Texarkana when the drugs started kicking in.
Next Stop: Galveston
New Harmony, Indiana is a great place for a weekend getaway. It is an easy two-hour drive from my home base of Louisville, Kentucky (135 miles).
Maureen and I set out about eleven am figuring to get there in time for lunch. Only made one wrong turn but, discovered my mistake quickly enough that it didn’t really result in any loss of time. Yes, I have GPS but I usually only consult it as a last resort. I like the challenge of finding places on my own after an initial consultation with the map. I seldom get lost but sometimes I am surprised by my destination. And Maureen was no help as she would be the first to admit she has no sense of direction and seemed to be proud of it.
So, there I was on my own with no navigator. Well, I always say, Id’ rather have a navigator than an alligator. But lucky for me, Maureen was neither of these things. She was a fine traveling companion and lover as well. I had prepared a mix tape to listen to on our drive and we sang up every song we both knew and were in New Harmony before we knew it.
New Harmony is a small town, a village really, with a population of 850, situated on a stretch of the Wabash River. It was originally settled by a communal German religious group known as the Harmonists in 1814 wo attempted to create a Utopia. This worked for a while and then their leader, George Rapp, took them back to Pennsylvania, where they originated, in 1824. They sold the land to a socialist visionary named Robert Owen who believed in workers’ rights, an eight-hour work day, and communal living. Owen believed in a secular utopian socialism. He rechristened the community New Harmony in 1825. The Owenite community failed in the late 1820s.
The third utopia can be attributed to Jane Blaffer Owen (1915-2010). During her time in New Harmony she brought modern architecture to the town, such as the Roofless Church, the Atheneum and many public art pieces. She created serenity with Tillich Park, Church Park and the Cathedral Labyrinth and has left behind a legacy all her own.
While this is not a true Utopia, New Harmony truly is a unique experience. The village is very aware of its history and has done a good job in retaining its historical character and charm, and maintaining a state of genuine peace and tranquility. It features, public art and architecture, gardens, shopping, fine dining, a wonderful inn, live music, museums, a brewery, coffee shops, nature places, and an abundance of history.
So, like I said, we arrived right at noon, with the time change, just in time for lunch. I parked my car in front of the Bread and Breakfast where we were staying (The AC Thomas House) and we walked into to town. The first place we went was jammed packed so we made our way across the street to Sara’s Place. It is a coffee shop on one side and a pub on the other. We got into the long line to place our food order to the overworked barista and finally made our order. I had a panni and Maureen had a grilled cheese sandwich which is her “go to” choice in such situations. We carried our food out of doors to the patio, that’s when I noticed the pub. Say, I said, would you like something to drink? Sure, I’ll have a Hendrick’s gin and tonic, she said. So, I marched back inside to place our drink orders only to discover they didn’t serve hard liquor, only beer and wine. So, I, ordered a Stella and beat feet out to Maureen to see if she wanted a wine. She declined. We had a pleasant lunch out there on the patio under the warmth of a golden sun. A few minutes later her friend shows up with his daughter in tow and we make our acquaintances and exchange pleasantries. We are going to meet up with him and his partner later on that evening at the Red Geranium for dinner. Until then we were on our own.
We walked around the town a bit and visited a couple of the unique shops along the way. Maureen bought something to wear for later on that night at dinner. We moseyed on back to the AC Thomas house to unload the car and get unpacked. Her friend was going to pick us up on his golf cart a little later and take us back to his house for drinks before dinner.
Dan and John own an art gallery in town with many pieces of lovey art. We would visit their store tomorrow. Meanwhile it was drinks at their stately mansion on Main. Then we all piled onto their golf cart for the short ride to the Red Geranium for dinner.
The Red Geranium is known for its fine dining and congenial atmosphere. We ate out on the terrace. Food was delicious and the company was solid. We had a lot of laughs as Maureen caught up with her friends. David and John were from Louisville and thy had just moved to New Harmony a few year ago to open their art gallery and to lead a more tranquil life with their daughter. They had started coming to the village as a weekend getaway and fell in love with the place and decided to move there permanently.
After dinner we walked around the town a bit more. It was surprising how different everything looked after dark. Things took on a more sinister aspect and even the religious art had a pagan look to it. When we got back to the B&B we were exhausted. We quickly disrobed and climbed between the sheets and fell to sleep listening to the strains the mixtape I had prepared which I was able to play on my cell phone. The last thing I remember was Toni Braxton singing Unbreak My Heart before drifting off to La La Land holding Maureen tightly in my arms.
Next morning, we were up bright and early as our hostess prepared our breakfast of coffee and quiche. It wasn’t bad but not as good as expected. Today we would explore the village a little more before heading back to Louisville. We walked out to the labyrinth and wandered around there for a while then we came back to town to visit John in the art gallery. Of course, I took copious amounts of pictures which I will now share with you, dear gentle reader.
Dinner at the Red Geranium
Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Natural Bridge State Resort Park is in Kentucky along the Middle Fork of the Red River, next to the Red River Gorge in the middle of the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Natural bridge is the centerpiece of the park.
I had occasion recently to hike the original trail from the Hemlock Lodge to the summit of the bridge. I made two ascents. One on the afternoon I arrived and one early the next morning. What a difference a day makes.
Here are some of the pictures I took:
Photo Essay Chapala
Chapala, Jalisco is eleven kilometers (7 miles) from Ajijic, an easy taxi ride or bus trip. To take a taxi it was 50 pesos, to take the bus it was 10. I usually took whatever came first. But the bus rides could be quite an adventure. They were always crowded and some times if you got a local they got off into the neighborhoods and the traversed the narrow cobblestone streets.
Chapala is a pretty little town a little larger than Ajijic and is a bit nicer. A lot of of tourists come down to visit from Guadalajara which is about 50 KM away. It is nestled between the mountains on one side and Lake Chapala on the other.
Jan. 4, 2020. Last full day in Ajijic. My plan was to tackle the mountain and climb up to the shrine. But first breakfast at Scallions with Buddha and the boys.
As I made my way up Calle J. Encarnacion Rosas on the way to the trail head I stopped at a little shop to pick up a liter of water. It was chilly that morning so I wore a jacket and a sweat shirt. But soon as the day wore on it got warmer and I had to peel some of those layers off. Of course I wore a hat to protect myself from the glare of the sun.
I found the trail head and headed up the mountain to the Shrine of La Crucita. On the way there are many smaller shrines bearing crosses which represent the 14 stations of the cross symbolizing Christ’s journey on the way to his crucifixion.
I had to sit and rest several times on the way up. Coming down was much faster but not any easier. I had to pick my way in order not to fall and there was a lot of stress on my knees and hips. And hips don’t lie!
I took a lot of pictures on the way up to the the shrine and once there there was quite a good view of the town and the lake from my vantage point.
Once I got back down off the mountain I stopped at Min Wah’s for lunch. I had the Moo Goo Gai Pan, hot and sour soup, and a Kirin beer. Very refreshing.
Once I got back to my place, I was one tired unit, but better off for the experience.
All photos by me.
Jan 2, 2020 Thursday 10:05 am. Cold and rainy. Rained all night and into the morning. Sound of the rain like gravel on an old tin roof. Had breakfast with Buddha at Gosha’s. Scrambled eggs, black beans, toast, fruit, and coffee. Walked home in the rain. Went out later with Buddha to a bar near the Malecon called the Traditional. Had a Corona and listened to some music. Later we walked up to the square and sat on a bench and watched the people walk by. It was a little cold so we walked back home. I finished reading my Raymond Chandler book and watched a movie on my tablet. Went to bed at 11:00 pm and up at 6:00 am, dreams of Anna filling my head.
January 3, 2020. Meeting Linda Schaefer in Chapala. Linda is a person who I have been Facebook friends with for over 10 years, but whom I’ve never met in person. By sheer coincidence I learned she was traveling to Mexico and staying with friends in Guadalajara. We decided to meet up in Chapala.
There have been many coincidences surrounding my friendship with Linda. She is friends of friends on Facebook: Firoze Shakir of India, Anthony and Crystal Posey of New Orleans, who are originally from Kentucky. Linda lives in Ada, Oklahoma where I used to live at one time. Oh, the irony abounds.
Linda is a renowned photographer, a published author, and a subject matter expert on Mother Teresa, who she knew personally. I was excited to meet her for the first time in person for sure.
I took the bus to Chapala and we met at a restaurant on the Malecon.
I had a wonderful afternoon with Linda and her friends. It was a beautiful day, lots of sunshine and warmth. I took a lot of pictures. I stayed until after nightfall, but hurried back to Ajijic because I wanted to say goodbye to Anna at La Tia and I knew she got off work at 8:00. This was the last chance I had to see her before I left town. I made it just in time.
Wednesday. First day of the new year. Had the breakfast buffet at Scallions with Buddha. All you can eat for 130 pesos. Great deal and the food was delicious! Buddha was feeling kind of rough this morning so he left early. On the other hand, I felt pretty good! My room was cleaned while I was away. Doing a little reading and catching up on my writing.
Last night we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Perry’s Pizza. He had a party that was tickets only. All you can eat, music, drinks and dancing. My date, Anna, showed up right at 8:15 as promised. She is a gorgeous Mexican girl I met at La Tia Bar. Has a great personality and a killer smile. And boy can she dance! We were going to El Bar CO. after we left Perry’s. Anna needed to be with her family so we dropped her off at her grandfather’s place on the way. I was trying to decide whether to have another drink at Perry’s or wait until I got to El Bar Co. Anna said, “You are here now, have a drink here. What’s the problem?” I said, “You’re right! No problem! I like how you think!” So, I had another drink there before we left. It didn’t take much to convince me.
We Ubered down to El Bar Co. We had to pay a cover to get in plus buy a drink. It was a couple hundred pesos all together. I had a Jack and soda and Buddha had a glass of Port wine. I ain’t kidding ya. He loves that shit! We sat and listened to the band for a while. They were very good. A large sound with two horns.
Buddha didn’t want to stay. He was getting bored again, so he left. I stayed until midnight because on New Year’s Eve that is sort of the point, isn’t it? At the stroke of midnight everyone hugged and shook hands, It was nice! I walked home in the darkness. When I got to my street I noticed a fire burning in the street next door to my hacienda. That is how they celebrate New Year’s Eve in Ajijic. That and fire crackers which went on all night.
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”
-Raymond Chandler, The Fine Art of Murder
Lunch at the Lake Chapala Lake Society. Had the empandas and a Corona. The Lake Chapala Society is one of the world’ largest expat societies, helping expats from all over the world to integrate into the Mexican Community Lakeside. It is located in the beautiful gardens in the midst if Ajijic. The Lake Chapala Society offers a variety of cultural, humanitarian and wellness programs. I returned this beautiful spot over and over again during my stay in Ajijic.
Dinner at El Torito. New place that just opened up. Had the Steak Tacos and a glass of red wine. Had a night cap next door at El Bar Co. Jim Beam and soda. Not every place had whiskey, but El Bar Co. did. The next day (Sunday) had breakfast with the Breakfast club a Dona’s. Open Mic tonight at Perry’s Pizza.
Buddha signed up to do a couple of songs. We were there til six. Got a ride home from the keyboard player. I was walking back to my place from the drop off point in the growing twilight. As I was walking I was approached by a cute little Mexican girl who looked to be about 19. She had just left a little neighborhood grocery and was carrying a small bag. She had multiple tattoos, and was wearing a crop top top, ragged cutoffs, and lots of chains and bracelets. She started speaking to me rapidly in Spanish but I didn’t understand her. “No habla Espanol.” I said.
We stopped in a darkened doorway and she got very close to me and said very slowly, as she pointed her finger first at me then back at herself, “You give me 20 pesos for the food.” I said, ” I don’t have 20 pesos.” She smiled and said OK and continued to walk down the street, her hips swaying as she navigated the cobblestones. I walked back to my place which was about a block away. I couldn’t help but think of all the possibilities fate had just thrown my way. If she would take 20 pesos for the food, what would she do for 100 pesos? At another time in my life I might have decided to find out. Tonight, however, I let discretion be the better part of valor. But, it was a while before I stopped thinking about her and finally drifted off to sleep.
Friday. Breakfast at Emilia’s. Had the Linda Omelette. I just love the way they serve black beans instead of potatoes. I’m reading Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories. I always bring Hemingway with me when I travel. He writes the kind of stories I like to read and the kind of stories I like to write. If you want to learn how to write read Hemingway.
Walked with Buddha to the Malecon. He played his guitar. A couple of Mexican boys kept coming up to us on their bicycles to listen to him play. Then they would ride off again making big circles and come back again and stare at Buddha with a hangdog look as if to say, “What are you doin’ here, man?”
Norma’s husband died today. She works for my host, Luis. It is very sad. Norma is a fine woman and a hard worker. Now her life will change dramatically. It is a sad reminder that tragedy can strike anywhere and anytime. Life can come to an abrupt end without warning.
Later in the day I went to a Happy Hour with Buddha at the Victoria Hotel. All they served was beer and Margaritas. I had had my fill of beer already and I didn’t want a margarita. The bartender, a young ginger in a red t-shirt, tried to fix me a martini. It was awful. It was undrinkable. So, I sent it back. I drank nothing right then, but socialized a bit with the crowd at our table. There were a couple of parties going on tonight but I passed on both. Instead I walked back to the Malecon and took some pictures of the sunset.
Later, I was walking back to my place and I stopped in a little bar called La Tia. It had a Mexican flag and an American flag draped either side of the entrance. Music was pouring out so I hustled there inside.
There was a gentleman sitting on a bar stool in the middle of the bar. There was a couple sitting at a table towards the back. I went in and sat a couple stools down from the guy at the bar.
A cute little Mexican bartender flashed me her pearly whites. “What would you like to drink?” She asked in perfect English.
“I’ll have a Corona.”
She got me my beer and set down in front of me and went back to her perch. She was talking to the other guy but he turned to me and included me in the conversation. Turns out he was from Oregon and was meeting his girlfriend later. He was drinking beer and had a shot of tequila sitting beside his bottle of beer.
We all got acquainted and had a nice conversation. The girl’s name was Anna and I was becoming quite taken with her. I snapped a few surreptitious pictures of her.
“Do you want to play a game, Benn?” she asked.
“Sure. What is it?”
“It’s called 21. You roll the dice. There are three winners. One who calls the shot. One who pays, and one who drinks the shot. Do you want to play”?
“Sure, let’s play.”
So we each took a turn in rolling six or seven dice out onto the bar from a leather cup. Each time Anna counted the tops of the dice. I won the first roll so I called the shot.
“What shot do you want?” she asked pointing to the bottles of tequila behind the bar.
“What are you drinking?”
She pointed to a bottle.
“OK. That’s the one I want.”
She poured out a shot and set it on the bar in front of us. We rolled some more. First the guy from Oregon, then Anna. At the end of the game the Oregon guy drank and paid for the shot I called. We all laughed and he left. So now I had Anna all to myself. We talked a little more and I told her about a New Year’s Eve Party I was going to at Perry’s Pizza. She said she had been there before and that the food was good. I asked if she had plans for New Year’s Eve. She said no. I asked If she would like to come with me to the party as my guest. She said she would. Hallelujah! Now we are talking! So we exchanged telephone numbers and became friends on Facebook so we could use messenger and sure enough she showed up at the party and we had a great time!
She’s a beautiful girl and I went back to bar several more times to see her.