Sunday, February 24, 2013

Going West

After spending nearly a week in Florida, including about 3 days worth with Petr's boss, we finally made it out of the state, although just leaving took a day or two, due to loading complications, and electrical work on the trailer.

The truck doesn't have air conditioning, so, on account of the warm temperatures outside, the temperature inside the cab climbed up to about 93 degrees Fahrenheit during the day on Thursday and Friday. At night it was still warm enough that, up in my sleeping loft, with all the windows open a little, I went without anything over me, and was still warm enough I switched to a thin polyester athletic t-shirt instead of the cotton t-shirt I was going to wear. I've also not been wearing socks the last few days, going barefooted inside, and just wearing my shoes without socks when necessary. I tried going barefoot while at the beach, and it worked well enough (including around the parking lot), that I decided it wouldn't be a problem. At a rest area where we stopped one night I dumped a bunch of nickels and dimes and a few quarters I had in my pocket in an ice cream vending machine - something I'd only formerly seen in southern California.

The next day it rained, and when it rains around here, it rains as much in a few hours as it does at home in a month. ...as evidenced by the high capacity cement lined drainage ditches and earthen "reservoirs" (as much as 10 feet deep, usually with an outlet somewhere, but obviously contoured for holding water). Daytime visibility was in the quarter to half mile range, and you could almost see better with the windshield wipers off than on. Oh, and the formerly dry ditches along the highway were suddenly running 6 or more inches deep.

The way the scheduling and log book worked out, we ended up crossing through southern Mississippi and Alabama and into Louisiana during the night, and were mostly out of Louisiana before I woke up in the morning. This unfortunately meant that 1) I was unable to make up for not taking any good pictures on the way over, and 2) I was not able to get at all acquainted with the local culture or landscape of Louisiana, that most mystical and intriguing of all states.. Ok, so I did eat at a local restaurant, but that hardly counts for much.

I'll definitely have to come back again some day...

Entering Mobile, Alabama from the east means driving across the Mobile Bay, on a bridge probably 3-4 miles long, before dropping into a tunnel, probably a quarter mile long, with a 6-7% grade or more on entering and exiting.

Crossing from Alabama into Mississippi (Misipi, if you prefer), one is suddenly met with an utter explosion in roadside billboards - by which I'm meaning, a couple dozen in a mile? Something like...

This side of Texas has a lot of trees
(as does most of the south). Around here it appears that they get maybe 5x the rain that the Pendleton area does in a year. Texas is an interesting place. Of course, to say "Texas is.." from what I've seen so far would be like someone visiting Coos Bay, Oregon, and speaking of the rest of the state from that experience.

One of the most noticeable features of Texas is the speed limits. In Oregon, a state highway is, virtually by definition, 55 miles per hour. No one sticks to that speed, but nonetheless, that is what is posted. Here, even two lane roads are marked as high as 75. And, being southerners, they drive like crazy too.. (we got passed on the left by a fuel truck in a 2 lane road entering town, but before he had an opportunity to move to the right, a pickup tried to cut between us and pass the other truck on the right).

After all the time spent in Florida, I was going to say that it's the most friendly state I've been in so far - as judging by how likely people are to return or show a smile, say hi, etc. Perhaps it's just the limits of my exposure elsewhere, but it seems people are generally more comfortable with strangers than elsewhere. However, my rather limited exposures in Louisiana quickly threw it a bit higher on the list. Today, here in Texas, I was met by a "Hey, how're ya doin'?" as soon as I walked into a service station looking for a restroom, by the attendant who had a customer. Then, as I walked out, not having made a purchase, I was bid farewell with a "Appreciate it!"

From my limited experienced it seems that the further away from large population centers, or the further south east you get, the friendlier people are.

Today we went to a Mexican restaurant, staffed almost exclusively by people who, from appearances, probably spoke hardly a word of spanish (lets just call them American), and virtually void of customers. The walls were of the '70's plywood laminate variety made to look like solid wood paneling, and I don't recall seeing any (or at least much) exactly hispanic decorations. The staff almost acted as though 1) they weren't used to seeing people in their restaurant, and 2) they weren't used to seeing, or hearing, people from elsewhere. A girl, who wasn't our waiter, came up and was asking us where we were from, and about Petr's accent, and then trying to act as though she knew something about Russia (which she didn't). The monochromatic plate of beans, rice, and tortillas I received wasn't too bad, but it wasn't the best I've ever had either. After finally figuring out our order and providing the food, our waiter, probably about my age, came by about every 5 minutes, asking, "Everything Ok?", as if on a script, running at double speed due to total boredom.

Here in Woodsworth, Texas, population 2500, is the smallest Walmart supercenter (food, clothing, pharmacy, auto..), I've ever seen. Also, this is the first time I've ever walked completely around the inside of a store looking for the restroom before discovering it in somewhere I'd already checked, near where I started.

One could get the idea that there is not a whole lot of money or traffic running through this place..