After ribs, chicken, catfish and a pitcher of beer at Dick’s Last Resort, we decided it’d be a good idea to travel together. The evening continued at several late night hotspots (not many in San Antonio on a Monday night!) until we caught the last bus back to the campsite. Stumbling into my tent, I fell asleep promptly. I arose refreshed and ready to get back on the road. I called Heath and we were soon on our way, headed west on I-10 towards Van Horn, TX.
Adam Donaghey captures the quixotic spirit as he burns westward; and finds it manifested as he gazes at a forest of windmills atop the scattered sky islands along the Chihuahuan Desert.
I plowed along the desert until I rolled into Van Horn, a dusty Texas town sixty-three miles due south of the Guadalupe Mountains. However, as desolate as the town is and as flat as the desert is, the mountains appear to be only a few miles away.
I arrived about an hour before Heath, so I went over and talked to the neighbors. I really wish I’d taken a picture of the father and son pair I met. Well, I did take a picture of the back of the son, Eddie… He’s got an unusually hardcore tattoo, so obscene I won’t post it here. Covered in what appeared to be jailhouse tats, the shirtless, thirty-one year old country boy to the core, hails from the swamps of Mississippi where he works in the oil fields. His father, Mike, “swung by” and picked him up to take him back to Vegas–another odd coincidence. Eddie laughed out loud and expressed his excitement about hitting all the whorehouses. I chuckled meekly, then mentioned the fact that I had a film at CineVegas and Mike immediately perked up. He knew the festival. I mentioned the name of the film–My Mom Smokes Weed–and I thought Eddie would have a conniption fit. Later that evening he would offer me some “swamp grass” and I would accept.
The spartan town of Van Horn has very little in the form of amenities. It does, however, have a drive-thru liquor store; so, I bought a bottle of Vodka for Heath and a twelve pack of Natty Light for me. For dinner, we had very little options: fast food, a diner near the campsite, or Chuy’s. We picked Chuy’s, mostly because I had aspirations that it’d be something like the lovely chain of restaurants in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. It was nothing of the sort.
An attractive sign with an odd tagline sutured us in. Upon entering, I immediately began to understand the tagline. As creepy as it all was, there was something quaint about the whole thing. I’ll just let the back of the menu tell the tale. It reads:
By the glory of GOD, this all started back in 1987 on a Monday night. Mr. Madden wanted to see the Monday night game on TV. So he stopped here. He enjoyed the food and mentioned us in TIME Magazine. He has mentioned us in Sports Illustrated many times and several other publications. In 1993, he featured us on the All Madden Show and that is when called us the All Madden Hall of Fame. He has been here every year since then. He calls us ahead when he is coming by, so we can have his food ready. He likes the No. 21 Chicken Picado, John Madden’s favorite on the menu. We have had the pleasure of meeting his wife and sons. They are great people, very nice and friendly. Mr. Madden is truly a great friend and we enjoy talking to him. We could never repay him for what he has done for us. This is only a short story. We have had many great moments when he stays here.
Continuing westward on I-10, the next morning we made our way thru El Paso and Tucson. We broke due west onto I-8, as I wanted the full PCH experience as I headed into Los Angeles. Speeding ahead of Heath, I stopped in Las Cruces for lunch on the Rio Grande. Along the way, I began sighting billboards with the verbiage: “The Thing… What is it?”
Road Side America has a really great video documenting a journey to The Thing. Don’t worry, it doesn’t reveal what The Thing actually is. You have to pay a dollar for that, duh! And it’s certainly a dollar well spent!
Upon veering onto I-8 at the city of Casa Grande, I quickly found myself cutting through the Sonoran Desert National Monument; and what a lovely drive indeed! Continuing thru Gila Bend and into the dunes of Yuma, AZ. The KOA campsite in Yuma was something of a desert oasis, remotely located ten or fifteen miles from the city of Yuma. I set up camp and sat in the hot tub for awhile before heading into town for dinner.
We stopped at Ron’s Place, a nearby dive, on the way to town to find out where we should go eat. The bartender suggested Chretin’s; unfortunately, it was closed, along with every other restaurant in town, it seemed. After driving around for a good thirty minutes, or so, we finally decided the best course of action was to eat at the In-N-Out Burger. After Tweeting that the In-N-Out Burger is “all hype” and having discussed it with loads of folks since then, I’ve learned that those folks from Texas (particularly, those who’ve tasted Whataburger), really don’t care for In-N-Out much at all. True, the buns were toasted and tasted fresh and not soggy; the meat and ingredients tasted fresher than, say, McDonald’s or Burger King; but all in all, it’s just another fast food joint and really didn’t impress me in the slightest.
The next morning, Heath and I parted ways. As I exited Yuma, I looked to the right and saw the vastness of the Algodones Dunes (site of Tatooine in Star Wars!). Located just west of the Chocolate Mountains, the Dunes are a welcome sight for the wanderer headed west. I had come this far… I knew that much. But what adventures lied ahead? Would I actually see the sights of Los Angeles? Or, would it just be another trip full of drunken debauchery? I was soon to find out.
Previous Note: L.A./ Vegas/ Marfa – Tentative Schedule of this trip w/ humorous comments.