“Houston, we have a problem!”
Hanks as Jim Lovell in Apollo 13
After a great
day with the kids touring NASA’s Space Center Houston and seeing the sunset on
the beach in Galveston things changed rather quickly. It was one of the most dreaded things that could happen on a
trip – a compromised debit card. Johanna called to say
our bank informed us that someone was trying to buy stuff at stores on the East
Coast. I had just dipped a toe in
the Gulf of Mexico, so I knew it wasn’t me. After talking with the bank the best option was to go into a
branch the next day and get a new card, otherwise I would have to wait a week and get a new card in the mail. Not
gonna happen, my friend. The only
wrinkle was finding a branch in Texas that could issue a new card right there in the branch. It was a new
service that wasn’t available at all branches and one customer service person
said that none in Texas could do it.
This had happened to both Johanna and I before and we were able to go
into our branches in California and get new cards. This left an uneasy feeling
in the pit of my stomach and scenarios about how to get money for gas even if
we decided to just go straight home. We wouldn’t get too far without the use of
the card. It had been a long day
driving from Winnsboro to Galveston so a good night’s rest was needed. It could all be figured out tomorrow.
morning we got up a little too late but in enough time to grab some free
breakfast, albeit very basic, in the motel lobby. We got on the road quickly after I found online the nearest
bank branch, which happened to be near NASA. On the way out of Galveston Olivia informed me that she
couldn’t find her stuffed tiger keepsake she got from the Tyler Zoo and she
must have left it in the hotel room.
Geesh! She had already lost
a quilted blanket her Aunt Kim had made for her on the first leg so I was
determined not to lose anything else.
We turned around and headed back to the hotel, pushing us even further
back. I was starting to rethink
whether we could make it to Carlsbad that day. It had consequences since it was too late to change the
hotel booking without penalties.
I pulled up to
the hotel and told Olivia she had to go in by herself and inquire about her
lost tiger, which she did, without fussing. I think my blustering lecture about responsibility actually
got through to her. She told us
once she got back that the desk clerk sent someone with her to the room where
she found the tiger. I had hope
that was a good sign for the rest of the day. We needed some good karma.
I put in the
address of the bank branch into the GPS before heading back over the bridge
towards Houston. Sometimes the GPS
is a Godsend as it was the only way I could have found Kenneth and Joanne’s
house in the dark in Colorado Springs but today it didn’t work so good. I followed the blue dot and ended up
somewhere in the middle of nothing at a crossroads with no bank and only a gas
station/convenience store. As the
clock ticked away I called the bank branch to get directions. It seems that it was right off the
interstate and we overshot it by a few miles. I turned around, negotiated road construction to find the
branch. Interesting to find out
that the woman who greeted us and ushered us to a waiting area to be helped by
a manager used to live in Simi Valley and was quite familiar with
Moorpark. Small world. All seemed good until the manager told
us that they were not able to issue cards at their branch but she thought that
perhaps a branch in North Houston would be able to so she gave them a call and
luck would have it they could help me.
She gave them the heads up we were on our way. We said our thank yous and goodbyes to our new friends.
I had tepid feelings
towards the news that perhaps this debit card problem would be ending soon
because it wasn’t a sure thing and it was another stop that took us a little
off our path but with luck not too far.
At least the branch was also off the interstate and better than going to
downtown Houston to the main bank, which was the other option.
It was easy
finding the bank and the woman helping us was kind and even willing to be video
taped for the inevitable video that will chronicle these exploits.
It was a big relief to have the new
card in the wallet and just in time as the gas gauge was dipping into the
bottom eighth. Google Maps showed
me that we could just go up a mile and catch The Sam Houston Tollway that would
take us over to State Highway 290 that would lead to the Blue Bell Creamery. In my head we could still keep the same
itinerary, albeit get to Carlsbad really, really late.
The toll road
was literally the next exit and thus no ability to get gas. As the gauge kept dipping lower and
lower my chest clamped up hoping we wouldn’t run out of gas. We soon got off the tollway and onto 290
where I was hopeful a gas station would soon be beckoning. It took a couple of crossroads but we finally
found a station and pulled in for the quick fill up…or so I thought.
As I swiped
the new card at the pump and put in my PIN I quickly got the dreaded “See
attendant inside”. I tried again
and the same thing. A few
expletives said under my breath later I quickly got the bank on the phone. After explaining everything to the
initial customer service person they informed me that I would have to go into a
branch to get a new PIN. In my
trying to stay cordial but can't not ooze anger voice I informed this person that I had
no gasoline and was miles from the branch. As the first line of defense often does I was quickly
switched to another, hopefully more helpful, customer service person. I haven’t determined whether customer
service people who are overly nice and upbeat are worse than those who simply
don’t care whether you know they really don’t care about your problem.
I’m not sure
what knowledge this new person who came on the line possessed that the first
person did not but they told me I could use the card as a credit card without a
problem until I could get to a branch to get a new PIN. I just couldn’t use it as a debit card
so no getting cash out of ATM’s. I
would have to be Mr. Plastic until I went into a branch. I figured I could do that until getting
I went inside
to pre-pay just to be safe and the card worked. Relief. We
could finally get on with the trip with a little peace of mind. I had some numbers I had researched
before starting this leg and I had a vague idea how long it would take to get
from one stop to another. We were
still okay if we didn’t dawdle too much at anyone place.
was time. We kind of felt like
Charlie in similar anticipation of seeing Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,
though here everyone got a golden ticket…for a free cup of ice cream at the end
of the tour in the parlor.
It did have a
Wonka feel to it as we saw each station in the process of making the different
flavors and treats they make in the factory. They make everything from scratch, even the cookies in the
Cookies n Cream. We found out that
Homemade Vanilla is the number one flavor and they use a heck of a lot of milk
from local farmers that’s tested for quality and safety before it’s
accepted. Their ongoing slogan is,
“we eat what we can and sell the rest” and as incredible as their ice cream is
I know it’s a true statement. You'll have to take our word for it because they didn't allow photography during the tour.
The tour ends
at their ice cream parlor where you can get your free cup of ice cream from a
variety of flavors. I went crazy
for Krazy Kookie Dough. Avery and
Olivia went for the standards, Dutch Chocolate and Homemade Vanilla. Yum yum!!!
|hard to choose|
were short on time I shuffled the kids out and back into the heat of summer so
we could try to stay on schedule or at least our revised schedule. On the way out of town I saw a sign for a residential development I just had to take a picture of because only in Texas would you find such a name.
|heaven on Earth|
I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would
take us to get to San Antonio because we were so far off the interstate and
would have to take state and county roads to get to I10. No time for lunch so I hoped the ice
cream and the car snacks would be enough to tide the kids over until dinner.
|only in Texas...and maybe Oklahoma|
The route back
to the interstate took us through the originally settled part of Texas – what
was part of the Stephen F. Austin land grant and where Santa Anna saved his
life by giving away Texas to the Texans.
Also along this route – out in the middle of nowhere – was a stretch of
road that had antique auction houses one after the other. There’s somewhat of a town called Round
Top that I researched and it seems they have antique festivals throughout the
year where antique dealers from all around gather. It was rather bizarre since
there was no real town to speak of.
This part of
Texas was quite attractive, with rolling green hills and a large bluff along
the Colorado River outside LaGrange called Monument Hill, which was also the
site of a state park and home to a tomb for the fallen from battles during the
Texas revolution. The park also
has one of the first breweries built in Texas by Heinrich L.
Kreische. It seems the business
flourished until his death, when it failed his heirs abandoned the
|Round Top, Texas|
reached the interstate and headed west to San Antonio. It was getting late as we reached the
city limits where I could see downtown in the distance. I looked up the times for the Alamo and
if all things went well we would have about an hour before closing time.
|Monument Hill, LaGrange, TX|
light and after locating a nearby self-pay parking lot we headed the few blocks
to one of Texas’ most revered sites.
I had visited once before while on a shoot for Greyhound Bus video but
that was over twenty years ago. I
remember thinking how small the actual building we think of as the Alamo, which
is actually the chapel. The rest
is part of the original barracks and fortress. It began as a Spanish mission and then converted into a fort
by the Texicans. Avery enjoyed the
canons and Olivia like trying to figure out the six flags that have waved over
Texas. She was able to get
five. Everybody forgets about
France, which once ruled over Mexico.
The six are: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate and
the United States.
We watched an
interesting documentary on the history of the Alamo and finally it was nearing
|Fire In The Hole!|
|figuring out the six flags over Texas|
|water well turned wishing well|
|model of the Alamo compound during siege|
I retrieved the Moorpark Acorn newspaper and a nice family helped take a photo
of us in front of the chapel in the glow of late afternoon. We reciprocated the favor. Avery took a photo of them as I was
using their camera on them.
|NOT an Acorn Newspaper photo contest winner|
With our daily
dose of history complete we jumped in the car and made our way through downtown
San Antonio towards I10 west. We
passed the famous River Walk (seen from the car), which if we had the time we
could have strolled along it but there isn’t much to see except for hotels,
restaurants and bars.
|remember (the no name family at) the Alamo|
We were all
getting rather hungry and so I kept a look out for a Pizza Hut or Pizza
Inn. I wanted to get out into the
suburbs and once I spotted an area full of retail I exited. I needed to get gas and without
thinking looked for a Costco for the cheapest gas but it took a bunch of turns
to get to it. Then I reach the
pump only to realize they only take debit cards. Ugggg! Damn
bank! Damn person who stole my
debit card number! Get back in car
and find a regular gas station to fill up, then a pizza place to fill our tummies. We settled on a CiCi’s Pizza, which I
don’t recall ever going to but didn’t feel like driving around for someplace
|pizza overload coma|
wisely as there was a large pizza buffet that satisfied all of us, stuffing
ourselves for the long drive ahead of us.
The sun was sinking fast as the suburban landscape morphed into the
southern reaches of the Texas hill country. Kerrville was the largest town we’d drive through until we
would hit Ft. Stockton many hours away.
I had never driven that stretch of road before in my life so I looked at
every vista I could see, always interested in the geography and topography of
the places I visit.
|Kerrville, Texas hills|
enjoyed their electronic devices as darkness prevented any landscape
viewing. Since we were in no mans
land the speed limit surprisingly reached 85 mph – again something I’d never
experienced. It was nice cruising
at that speed, which would get us to our hotel a little sooner than expected,
or so we hoped.
|West Texas sunset|
I believe it
was still dusk when Avery informed me he had to pee. Of course, we were miles from an exit or any form of
civilization so pulling over to the shoulder was the only option. There weren’t any trees so to speak,
only some shrubs but he was desperate so we just walked over as far as we could
and I let him empty his bladder. I
don’t even think a car passed by while this was going on. At least for me this was a better
option than stopping at a gas station or restaurant – easy out, easy back into
car and on our way. It would be a
little harder if it were Olivia.
Even before we
hit Ft. Stockton the kids were asleep.
It was nearing 9 or 10 pm and we still had more than an hour to go. US 285 would take us past Pecos and
Interstate 20 and up into New Mexico and eventually to Carlsbad. Along that route I noticed a lot of oil
derricks and oil drilling areas all lit up. This was oil country and the heart of what put Texas on the
map. Once in Carlsbad, near
midnight, I found the hotel that looked like it was straight out of 1966 and
most likely the best hotel back then, not so much now. The parking lot was full of what looked
like oil industry trucks and next door was a yard full of oil industry
vehicles. Checking in I found out
that my non-smoking room was not available and they claimed they never got a
non-smoking reservation. I had proof but that wouldn’t help get a room when
there wasn’t one. The night clerk was nice enough to go see if a room, that was
used by oil executives once a month, was unoccupied, but they came back shaking
their head so we were stuck with a smoking room, the only one left. I hadn’t realized that Carlsbad would
be this busy of a town.
|Pit (or pee) stop for this leg of the race|
I really can’t
stand the smell of smoke. I grew
up with a pipe smoker and I can smell a cigarette blocks away. I also went through a fire in an
apartment I had just moved into in Dallas back in the day. I had that smoke smell in stuff for
years and no matter how much you cleaned it that smell never went away. But we had no choice and it didn’t
bother the kids. By the next
morning I almost got acclimated but then it was time to leave. At least we had a bed and a shower and
another free breakfast in the morning.
It had been a very long day and we covered almost 700 miles. Now it was time for a little rest. Tomorrow we’d do a little
|Econo Lodge, Carlsbad, NM, unique architecture|
(Next on A
Road Trip Adventure Across America: Cave exploring, crossing three states and
finding Kristin in the dark.)
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