Thursday, 26 June 2008


As I set out from Jacksonville, it began to occur to me that I was losing track of the days. As I headed out of Texas into Oklahoma at least the scenery began to become a bit more interesting. Not that I have anything against hot and arid scrubland. It just gets a bit wearing after the first few thousand miles.

To be honest, Texas had become slightly greener and as I pointed out in last years blog: ‘The greener the country the more diverse the roadkill’. So after miles of nothing much to report, crushed armadillos started turning up along with the odd racoon and very occasionally, half a deer.

As I was driving I began to realise all those things I had forgotten to tell you. I had been mesmerised by the country and had somehow hypnotised myself. Move over Paul McKenna - I have the perfect cure for across Texas.

Then again I may have contracted "Rocky mountain spotted fever". Apparently this tick- borne illness is rife at this time of the year. It causes flu-like symptoms apparently - with the side effect of death in certain cases.

Or this memory loss may be due to sleep deprivation. Or it may be the effect of sitting at a level crossing and waiting for the train to pass. Both are the result of trains. As I type this a train has just passed my hotel. I timed it from the first whistle. It took 8 minutes and 10 seconds to pass. They pass every fifteen minutes.

A couple of days ago I sat and counted a freight that consisted of 2 locomotives at the front. Then 120 boxcars. Topped off with 2 locomotives at the end. What do you think the effect of that was? When the lights went off at the crossing I blindly followed the line of traffic that turned left and we turned up "Tank Destroyer Boulevard", past a large tank. I should have suspected something as a couple of miles earlier I had driven past an enormous hoarding which read: "WELCOME HOME TROOPS....THANK YOU FOR MY FREEDOM". Looked like a turnpike up ahead. I drove up to the barrier and asked the man how much the toll road cost.

Then I noticed he wasn't so much a man but more like an avalanche of massive boulders that had somehow come to rest in a very crisp uniform. He asked for my ID so I had to give him my passport and my driving licence and also an explanation as to why I had turned left instead of right. "I, erm took a wrong turning, erm sorry"

He took my documents and went into his hut. Shortly after he came out and said "Do you want to come in?" I beamed and turned on my best Stephen Fry and hit him with: "As much as I admire your troops and the work they do, I think I may be a little long in the tooth and the wrong nationality to join up but thank you all the same." There was silence for a moment as he regarded this podgy purpled-faced apology for a potential soldier. I think I also heard a small "plink" as this attempt at levity bounced off his starched uniform and hit the tarmac. He looked at me for a moment longer and then said; "I'll open the gate and let you out. You can get on your way then Sir.

The word "Sir" is one that is often used over here. If you are unfortunate to be held up down a back alley in some large American city by a crazed mugger with a gun hell bent on stealing all you have and then shooting you to death, you can bet the last words you will hear will be along the lines of "Just give me your wallet and watch...SIR.” So beware of Fort Hood which is between Austin and Waco in Texas. As I exited whimpering with joy in apology-overdrive I noticed a wrecked car "Soldier side" of the barrier - above it, the legend "2 fatalities this year". It would seem that being in the armed forces is dangerous whether you are home or away.


Frances said...

Alex, I hope for your sake that Boulder Boy doesn't turn out to be Tiffany's Dad !
Sounds like you need some Security staff out there with you.
Crushed armadillos are always nice on top of a nice bakewell tart by the way.

Antonia said...

''Move over Paul McKenna...'

I didn't know he'd gone with you? I didn't know you were so close!