Despite having come across favorable weather for the first time since L.A., an unlimited supply of lattes could not have kept me awake on I-20. In fact, I’m pretty sure we didn’t pass a commercial establishment on this road that would know what the hell a latte is.
We stopped in a town called Tatum to stretch our legs and refuel the Benz. I poured out of the car and tripped to the fuel bowser.
INSERT CARD OR PAY INSIDE.
ADD CAR WASH?
ADD HOT DOG TO YOUR PURCHASE FOR $.99?
ADD GIANT SLURPEE TO YOUR PURCHASE FOR $1.99?
CASH OR CARD?
CREDIT OR DEBIT?
ERROR PLEASE PAY INSIDE
By about the third question on this SAT-level refuel I had had a feeling that I was going to be lured/forced into this sketchy establishment somehow.
I kicked down the sliding door and was overcome with the smell of chemical-based floor cleaner, fried food and little hint of stale fart.
Fluorescent lights flickered overhead while a few ancient corndogs rolled lazily on a heater looking about as enticing the idea of Kimbo Slice babysitting your kids.
But all was forgiven when I made eyes on the Hostess Fruit Pies, and soon enough we were on our way with a full fuel tank and high-fructose corn syrup in my gullet.
I had eaten the whole Pie before I realized my debit card was still sitting on the counter, now almost a hundred miles behind us.
“Hey Birdie, how much money you got?”
Luckily her cousins were buying dinner in Dallas that night, so I thought I’d be able to refrain from racking up international charges on my Australian debit card for at least a few more days.
Sadly I could only hold on to that dream until we discovered Elm Street- the Dallas nightlife hub locally known as “Deep Ellum” which I learned later referred to the phonetic spelling of “Deep Elm” when read with a southern drawl.
With the famous last words; “Cheapest single-malt you got with two ice cubes in it,” out came the Commonwealth MasterCard, $7 transaction fees be damned.
The Dallas nightlife might have been one of the biggest surprises of the entire expedition. Blocks and blocks of bars and music venues are packed into the Deep Ellum district. It has the gritty-warehouses-converted-to-party-spot vibe and therefore was crawling with hipsters (I didn’t think they knew Texas existed). Even downtown had a few good places that were kind enough to oblige us with service moments before last call. The Texans sure know how to party.
The lack of a Chuck Norris sighting and the pungent odor of our hotel room were really the only negs of the Dallas stop. Yee-haw.
Back on the main street I detected a strong concentration of old hippies as we passed more than two art galleries with hand-painted signs. My suspicions were confirmed when the guy running the coffee shop was rocking round specs and an Indiana Jones hat. At least he was kind enough to recommend a place for breakfast.
Westbound again we took US-180 towards Texas. Kind of.
I was at the helm and kept the revs high enough to keep myself interested, which meant another workout for the 4×4’s well-exercised suspension. Sway bars creaked as I loaded the left, powered on, braked, loaded the right, powered on again… and carried on for another hour or so until, as if by divine intervention, somebody ironed out the road and we were gunbarrel straight again.
The Merc settled out of the last corner and I put the hammer down. The usually subtle V6 made itself known with a kitten-roar as the MPG gauge plunged into single digits and the rev counter surged. Tunnel vision set in and we figured out about how quickly the SUV could travel before its drag coefficient got the better of it.
Despite the throat-clearing I allowed our engine, the ride to Roswell seemed to take forever and a half… an annoyance amplified by the disappointment that occurred at not seeing a single alien in the entire ten hour period we spent in town.
Which is, by the way, well worth skipping next time you’re passing through the region.