Our destination this morning was Amarillo, 94 miles away.
It didn’t work out. We had a worthwhile day, though.
At breakfast, while the TV displayed “news” on the presidential campaign, Tom initiated a conversation about politics.
Tom, a Texan born in Louisiana, is sick of political phoniness and journalistic hype. He has a trucking business, moves oilfield equipment, and at first he seems to have a hard edge. But talk to him and the depth of his humanity comes out. He has seen whales and sequoia trees, hiked in Yellowstone with his kids, seen the beauty of New York State (he’s not the first person out here to mention it), and he has learned how small and short-lived is humanity. He has issues with unauthorized immigrants; but when Jeffrey told him how our government treats poor asylum applicants, he said it was unfair; and when he heard someone rail against Mexican men waving Mexican flags in a bar, he told the guy that the Mexicans are entitled to their culture and waving a flag doesn’t mean they’re not also good Americans. At age 55, he’s keeping himself fit so he can take his grandchildren backpacking in Yellowstone so they will develop a sense of awe. Texas Tom and New York Jeffrey got on famously, and might still be talking if both didn’t have places to be.
The long talk put us behind schedule. Jeffrey intended to make up the time. On this Sunday morning, the roads were empty, the towns seemed dead.
The road was lined with wildflowers, including some we hadn’t seen east of Texas.
On a bumpy downhill, Jeffrey noticed the Sprint 26 wasn’t handling right. The rear tire was going soft! He unloaded the machine, failed to find anything sticking in the tire, reloaded the cargo and topped up the air enough to get us onto I-40 and to a nearby rest area, where there would be water and shade.
Under a shelter at the fancy Texas “safety stop”, we met two Californians, Rich and Tish.
Jeffrey, Rich and Tish had a long talk about politics, law, immigration, asylum, refugees, the sense of entitlement and the welfare state, the wealth of America, and more. It was emphatic but respectful. While they talked, Jeffrey found a tiny shard of wire, smaller in diameter than a sewing pin, that had pierced our rear tire and punctured the tube. He extracted the sliver with pliers, patched the tube, and Rich helped Jeffrey reinstall the tire on our vehicle.
When time came for Rich and Tish to leave, they told Jeffrey they are glad someone is doing what we are doing. Each said they had felt themselves becoming jaded and hard, and that our talk softened them again, reminded them that things are complicated and multi-faceted.
These kind words made up for our disappointment that the delays would shorten our trip. We wouldn’t reach Amarillo today. The next-farthest place with a motel, Groom, was 40 miles closer. That’s life on the road.
Our trip shortened, we had time to chat with Olga, with whom we had shared the shade. She had watched and listened quietly while the rest of us talked. Jeffrey gave her a Ride sticker; she said she already had taken a photo of our Ride sign.
We had a lovely talk about immigration (it took her years to join her husband here), real cities (as distinguished from suburb-dominated American venues), culture, work and family. She was very much taken with the idea of the Ride and wished us a safe and happy trip. We wished her the best for her new life in California.
We took a gander from the rest area . . .
. . . and headed west on the I-40 shoulder. What a pleasure! It was in far better shape than the slower roads we had been taking.
At Groom’s only motel, where our marvelous Nancy had given advance notice of our arrival, the hotelier gave us an extra discount in honor of the Ride.
Sometimes, as the Beatles sang, the farther one travels, the less one knows. We traveled less today, and from Tom, Rich, Tish, and Olga, we learned more.
It was a good day.