Smokin’ The Waitress
~ A New Year’s Trip Memoir By Wayner ~
~ Texas: 2003 ~
Photos by Dan and Alec
Sunday December 29th, 2002
It’s hard to believe that lightning could strike the same place at the same
time two years in a row. In fact, it didn’t, but that sure was a catchy opening
sentence. Truth be told, our destination this year was several hundred miles to
the west of last year’s destination, New Orleans. However, we weren’t going to
forfeit the gulf coast experience, and we were able to comb the beaches of the
confederacy yet another year. That all comes later though, as we can’t forget
the way these trips always start, which is in utter frustration and total
Alec was already in Mississippi, so our ride to the airport was a little less
cramped than last year. Four people were seeking transit to the airport, but we
found ourselves scrambling for options… again. The logistics of getting dropped
off and picked up in Milwaukee proved too complex. So by Benny’s decree, it was
once again decided that we were going to drive, and moreover Dan’s Pontiac would
be the vehicle of choice. Davy would have offered his parent’s Bonneville, but
the heatless wonder escaped their driveway one lonely night to the comforting
arms of Mc Dill Auto Wrecking.
Dan picked up Wayner just minutes after 10 AM and we proceeded to Tres Picos
(aka: Winchester Mansion [aka: Ben’s Mom’s house]). To our surprise, Ben was
almost completely packed (and clothed!) when we arrived. On schedule, we
continued to Maia’s driveway to find Davy. It was too early to be making
decisions, so Davy just decided to pack his entire wardrobe, consisting of
enough clothes to outfit a small army for the week. Everyone watched in awe as
the new quartermaster fit his wardrobe into a single duffle bag, and then
finagled it into Dan’s trunk. The journey had begun, and we set out to
Milwaukee. On the way we stopped at Dan’s apartment in Madtown to get window
clings, pack some clothes, and oh yeah, find out where the airport was. Pizzeria
Uno was lunch.
Arriving in Milwaukee around 4 PM, we found a parking spot in the super mega
discount lot and caught the shuttle to the terminal. General Mitchell is a
smaller, and a much more comfortable airport than Midway. This isn’t to say we
didn’t have problems though. First, after cradling his lunch in his lap for more
than an hour, Benny lost his pizza to a stray traveler’s limb, and then came the
metal detectors. As Benny left Minneapolis for break, he had forgotten that he
threw his Leatherman in his backpack. A frustrated look came over the TSA
employee’s face as he looked at the array of razors, knives, and other goodies
inside the backpack on the screen in front of him. He opened the bag, presented
the Leatherman, and gave Ben a couple of options since he couldn’t carry it on
the airplane. Time dictated Ben relinquish the Leatherman, while he was assured
the Boy scouts would appreciate his gift to them.
Our plane left promptly at 5 PM and we arrived in Atlanta at 8 PM EST. YAY
Airtran! We had some time to kill since our connecting flight to Houston was not
departing until 10:30 PM. We dined late night at a TGI Friday’s inside the
terminal, featuring plastic cutlery. Surprisingly everything was on time in
Atlanta and we made it to Houston by 11:45 PM. The cloud cover over Houston made
for a sweet view during landing. First there were dense clouds and then suddenly
we dropped out to see all the lights of Houston.
We recovered our checked luggage and telephoned our hotel to send the shuttle to
pick us up. The Mexican music on the radio, the driver (who I don’t think spoke
English), and the trinkets hanging from the rear-view mirror distinctly marked
that we weren’t in Wisconsin anymore. Once at the hotel we met up with Alec, who
had arrived earlier in the day from his conjugal visit in Mississippi. He didn’t
have much to report except that the pool was freezing and dirty and the only
show on TV all day was a History channel documentary about the Autobahn. After a
wrestling match between Davy and Wayner to see who got to sleep on the floor (Wayner
wins!), we retire for the night around 1:30 AM. Amen.
Monday December 30th, 2002
Hope it's good.
|| Ben and Wayner rose bright and early at 9 AM to pick up the pimp wagon. In a
matter of thirty minutes, as opposed to last years two hours, we arrive back at
the hotel with a 2003 silver Dodge Caravan; a deluxe model featuring duel
sliding doors and triple climate controls. We would be traveling in style.
Rousing the others from their slumbers, we loaded up the van and departed on our
soccer mom tour of southern Texas. We drove around for a bit looking for some
cheap lunch and came across a new Mexican restaurant called “La Colina Taqueria”.
How could any Mexican eatery with ‘colin’ in its name be bad? After our
delicious cheap Mexican combination plates we headed down the Interstate to the
Johnson Space Center on the outskirts of Houston.
The Space Center, home of Mission Command (“Houston, we have a problem!”) and
the astronaut training facilities, was extremely busy but definitely worth the
visit. We challenged each other to a shuttle-landing simulator and Davy proved
to be the best shuttle pilot, barely beating out Dan (obviously flying a shuttle
is nothing like driving a submarine). We then waited in line for an hour to take
a tram tour of the grounds. We got to see some of the astronaut training areas
but unfortunately it was too late in the day to see any actual astronauts. After
the tour, Alec, Davy, and Wayner played around in the Martian Matrix, a huge
kiddie playland, until closing time. Weaving our way back to the highway, we
stopped at Vincenzo’s for dinner. Confused by the Italian menu, Davy ordered his
meal at random and began a vacation long goal to look at his menu BEFORE the
waiter asks what he would like.
|Thats as big as......
Upon review of the state map, we see that state highway 35 would take us all the
way to Corpus Christi. This way would allow us to see some of the coast and even
ride a ferry! It nears 9 PM as we set out on the 200 mile drive through rural
Texas. It starts to rain shortly thereafter, and we plowed through a
hurricane-like driving rain and 35 mph wind! The rain let up, the wipers started
working again, and we began to make up some ground. Ben got thirsty so we
stopped at a gas station to pick up some fluid. The porn rack caught Davy’s
attention while he was waiting in line for the bathroom and he subsequently buys
a three porn value pack. Nobody complains because we don’t hear a word out of
Alec for the next hour and a half! It was a break through in new anti-whine
|The highway reminded the captain of Highway 10 as we wound through many small
towns and rural areas. Nearing the halfway point of our travels for the night,
we spot a huge, orange flame burning in the distance that completely lights up
the night sky; jokingly we name it Mount Doom after the LOTR trilogy. Advancing
down the road, we eventually meet this brilliant flame that illuminates the area
better than a full moon. Wayner pulled the van over at a picnic area and we took
some pictures. We discover that the flame was from the Port Comfort Alcoa
Aluminum Plant (that’s AL-YOU-MIN-E-UM). After the heavy industrial sites an
area of sparse population gives us the opportunity to see what the minivan can
really do! It seems they don’t design the minivans to exceed 102 MPH, since
that’s when the governor kicked in. Respectable performance for a grocery
|Mount Doom, Texas, 77978.
We arrived at the Port Aransas ferry at midnight-thirty and hopped out to
stretch our legs. The ferry returned in few minutes to take us across the
channel to Mustang Island, a barrier island just north of Padre Island and
Corpus Christi. We made good time to Corpus Christi arriving at the Motel 6 at
1:30 AM. They left the light on for us! We unwound with some late night HBO
programming (read: Real Sex 27) before going to bed at 3 AM.
Tuesday December 31st, 2002 – New Year’s Eve
The day’s festivities began by ditching Alec at the hotel. The four bastards
went to the gas station to fill up while Alec was in the shower. Oops. We loaded
up the gear and sampled the Texas treat, WhattaBurger, for lunch. Alec spots
WhattaWaitress here, while eating his Whattachicken that he Whattasized.
“Smoking the waitress…” rolls off his tongue as we quote Super Troopers in our
On our way to South Padre Island, we visited the Padre Island National Seashore
on North Padre Island, just outside of Corpus Christi. The wind was rather
intense, but the beach was still quite active. We spent some time combing the
sand and even drove on the beach since Texas considers all beaches as public
highways. Also, people drove their RVs right onto the beach and set up camp. We
admired some fishermen as well as a few kids braving the surf. Then we turned
back, and headed to the main land. We could have driven the beach to South Padre
Island (some 60 miles away), except for a man-made channel half way that is
impassable by car.
|Miles and miles
|Who wanted to see the snake? Oh, she's
|I'm going to catch you and eat you!
|Texans like dumping waste into the
Heading back through Corpus Christi, we continued west to Agua Dulce, the
hometown of Doni’s parents. On the interstate, Wayne thought Ben and Davy were
being asses since they opened up both side doors while cruising at 70 MPH
because they didn’t like the AC. To make matters worse, Alec was opening up the
porns to the centerfolds and laying these across the dashboard for all passersby
to see. It was an interesting trip to Agua Dulce, but there wasn’t much to see
there. We snapped a picture of the city limit sign and continued south.
Instead of backtracking, we took a new route that took us through Kingsville.
After some ice cream from a Dairy Queen that had chocolate and vanilla, but no
twist, we picked up State Highway 77. It was interesting because it was the only
road that appeared on the map in an entire County! For 60 miles, there weren’t
any towns, houses, or gas stations, just range land! Quite a sight to
experience, but the driver, WayneR, was the only one to see it since everyone
else was taking a nap.
We penetrated South Padre Island around 7 PM by crossing over a two-mile
causeway connecting the island and Port Isabel. Disguising several laps around
the small island as ‘sight seeing’, we locate the hotel. The Holiday Inn
Sunspree Resort was a cool hotel and we got a room overlooking the pool with a
patio. It was great to open up the patio doors and just let the wind blow in!
Hungry and ready for action, we loaded into the minivan and hit the South Padre
Island strip. The city is quite touristy for a few miles and then the city
stopped, leaving nothing but dunes and beaches. Incognizant of the city’s
alcohol sale ordinances, we hit up the liquor store first before finding a place
to eat. Everyone got a little something and the worker was pretty lax, “carding”
us by saying, “You guys are 21, right?” For dinner we ate at Blackbeard’s
Restaurant. Arrrrrrr. Dan ate what he said was perhaps the best shrimp he had
ever eaten, and tears came to Wayner’s eyes from his tasty japaleno sandwich.
We returned to the hotel and took to the beach with our booze to look at the
fireworks people were lighting off. Alec takes the point as he did last year,
but the uninhibited nubile coeds just weren’t there (at least not in January!)
After pursuing 12 year olds and coming to his senses, he exchanges glow sticks
with them and roams back to the hotel. We played President in the hotel gazebo
under the twinkle of many white Christmas lights, and hang until sleepy time.
Wednesday January 1st, 2003
Today was probably the least eventful day of the trip but still had its fun! For
breakfast, we ate at a local restaurant in Port Isabel called Isabel’s Café. The
food was tasty, cheap, and plentiful. Davy ordered three plates of crap and Ben
had the ‘contodo’ (with everything), something similar to a breakfast burrito.
After lunch we planned to try one of the few things we listed on our pre-trip
itinerary: Horseback riding on the beach. We tried to book a reservation,
however the only horseback riding operation on the island was full until 4:30,
their last ride of the day. Weighing our options and time left on the island, we
decided to sign up for the morning ride on the next day.
The decision freed up our afternoon to just hang around the hotel. Alec, Davy,
and Dan went swimming, Wayner combed the beach, and Benny took a nap in the sun.
Later on, Wayner, Davy, and Alec played soccer on the beach and Benny took a nap
in the sun. Then we all also spent some time exploring a water park that was
closed down for the “winter.” Later that evening, after a thirty-minute session
in the crapper, Benny had to call room service for someone to come up with a
plunger to break up the ‘contodo’!
|I think it is the off-season, wayne!
For dinner, we ate at the Beef Eater’s Steakhouse in Port Isabel. We all ate our
fill at this home of an all-you-can-eat barbeque. Our waiter, who was originally
from Iowa, offered us some tips on Brownsville (“The City That Never Sweeps”)
and crossing over the border. After dinner, we went to Walmart to purchase a
cooler and a football. To finish off the night, we went to the Sheraton swimming
pool, since our pool closed at 11, and hot-tubbed and played ‘500’ until 1 AM.
|Port Isabel lighthouse, we climbed it!
Thursday January 2nd, 2003
The early morning horseback ride got everyone up and moving early, but it wasn’t
to be. As the last person (Alec) was showering, “Horses on the Beach” Inc.
called saying that the morning ride had been canceled due to high winds on the
beach. She rescheduled us later in the day, and everyone decided that 4 PM would
work best. We finished our morning cleaning routine and checked out of the hotel
by 9:45 AM, a two-hour improvement from the usual!
Amidst a sea of elderly and succumbing to Alec’s incessant “I want Denny’s”
whining, we enjoyed a breakfast at Denny’s. The food was rather slow but we
weren’t in any hurry. After breakfast, we visited one of the touristy gift shops
to buy some momentos. Our choice of shops was Ship Shape SPI, where the smiles
are always free! The store owner was very nice and gave us some information
regarding silk screening and iron-on transfers for this year’s Trivia shirts.
Our next stop was the South Padre Island Post Office. Stopped in the parking
lot, we spent a few minutes writing postcards to our families and Tany. Benny
also did something uncharacteristic of himself; he sent a postcard with only
“Cheesie” and “Stevens Point, WI” written on it. Can they just throw away mail
they have no idea about? The rest of the afternoon was spent in Port Isabel
exploring some historical museums and scaling the famous Port Isabel Lighthouse.
Grabbing some ice cream before we left the town, we headed back to South Padre
Island to ride horses on the beach! The riding was one of the highlights of the
trip and was worth every penny.
We stopped at the Padre Island Brewing Company on the way out of town upon the
recommendation of the owner of Ship Shape. Everyone ordered a pizza except for
Wayner who went with a chicken fajita sandwich. Alec and Wayne played NTN Trivia
while they ate at the bar, scoring some points for the Brewing company.
Meanwhile Dan, Davy and Ben sat at the table thinking about scoring the
waitresses! It was getting late, and most were eager to get to Brownsville so we
signed off and said goodbye to South Padre Island. Good Bye South Padre Island!
We’ll be back!!!
Before we left Port Isabel we stopped at Amigo Pawn to satisfy Dan’s hankering
to visit a pawn shop to look for guitars. No decent guitars were found, but Davy
and Benny had a good time trying on some full body harnesses and looking at
power tools. Dan’s craving for pawn started us on a trend as we subsequently
stopped at two more pawn shops on the way to Brownsville. Best intentions are
not always realized, and we never really bought anything, but HEY: It was fun.
Now, for a side note pertaining to our visit to Brownsville: When we planned the
trip in Minneapolis, Benny made a recommendation to find a local, non-chain
place to stay for the night in Brownsville. As he and Alec browsed the motel
listings for Brownsville, Motel Citrus seemed an obvious choice, and a
reservation was made. Looking back, we should have known better, since the owner
made the reservation with only a name.
We arrived at our “reserved” lodging and discovered this wasn’t a ‘nice but old’
ma and pop establishment, but a real glimpse of hell. The Omni did not even have
enough rust to blend into their parking lot. Benny and Alec went up to the
“lobby,” which was a door with a piece of glass and a hole in it, while Wayner,
Davy, and Dan questioned our support of this hole. The man with no teeth, or
“clerk,” informed us that they didn’t take reservations and they had only a
“suite” available. At the same time Ben noticed the “Cash Only” note next to the
pricing. Against a perturbed Alec vote to stay, an executive decision was made
to find another hotel. Super 8 Brownsville was our answer! Located within blocks
of the border crossing, we were pretty sure that this room would have carpeted
Leaving behind a crabby Fasching, the rest of the guys took a midnight walk to
the border crossing along the Rio Grande. It was exciting to see the two Border
Patrol Suburbans cop-talking right below the crossing on their own dirt road
along the river. The whole area was illuminated by giant flood-lights, and
managed to escape the typical image of ‘the border’. In fact, the surprising
thing about the Rio Grande was that it was only 30 or 40 feet across. In search
of a snack, we arrived at the neighboring restaurant to the hotel just at
closing time. Unable to find local food, we piled into the minivan to find some
more options. Heading out along the river, we came to a railroad crossing and
had to wait for a train. A minivan behind us got impatient and turned left into
a vacant field. They drove around there for a while, eventually coming to a stop
and not being any further ahead than they started. It was fun and creepy to
watch at the same time, which is what can be said about most of Brownsville. It
would be safe to say they were fleeing something. Also, while backing up to see
where this other minivan was headed, Wayner executed the famed ‘Weidner
Maneuver’ on the vehicle next to us. The train passed and we continued on our
trip around town but ultimately we returned to the hotel empty-handed. The drive
wasn’t a complete waste since we found the location of a Sonic Drive-In. This
restaurant would enable the group to satisfy the Prime Directive the next day
and get Alec over the pain of not staying at the Motel Citrus.
Friday January 3rd, 2003
We kicked off the day with a brunch at the Sonic on the left. It was like a
commercialized version of Tess’ Twist, like many A & W drive-ins around
Wisconsin. Then we decided to hit up some Mexico.
On our way to the border crossing, we infiltrated the library at the University
of Texas at Brownsville in order to check our email and grades from the previous
semester, which is a tradition. Everyone seemed pleased, and Alec took the cake
by making the Dean’s List, after he was told what it was of course! We prolonged
our visit in the air-conditioned building by searching the phonebook to find a
local bowling alley to continue that tradition as well. Only a few exist in
Brownsville, but we spot a 40-lane behemoth in McAllen, a city near Brownsville,
along our way to tonight’s proposed destination of Laredo.
We returned to the same Super 8 where we stayed the previous night, parked the
minivan and walked to the border crossing. The crossing area was bustling at
this time of day and we each deposit a 50-cent toll to walk across the bridge to
Matamoros, Mexico! Once across, we are bombarded with offers for cabs, markets,
prescription drugs, and other close stores. Benny then obtained a city map and
directions to the central market of Matamoros. We continued walking deeper into
Mexico and marveled at the line of cars waiting to cross the border. Horns were
beeping, tires were screeching, and the exhaust was clouding above the road.
Most people though just sat in their cars and waited.
Eventually we arrived at the market. The Mexican store owners were really smooth
talkers and didn’t want to take no for an answer. We get asked multiple times if
we want some “tequila with the worm”, but even Dan wasn’t interested! Davy buys
a straw hat for $15, but everyone else is able to resist. Alec meets a young
attractive “clerk”, but doesn’t buy anything from her, even though Ben was
convinced he would walk out with a bag of several shirts! Dan looks at some
guitars but doesn’t find the quality he’s looking for. After some Cokes in
bottles, we head back towards the bridge. Along the way we get propositioned for
$1 Coronas, but we keep moving on. Near the border, we stopped to visit
Garcia’s, a gift shop/restaurant/liquor shop/pharmacy complex. Everyone gets
some gifts here and we decided to head back to the United States. The bridge
toll was only 25 cents per person this time but we did get the added bonus of
passing through Customs. The guards recognized us as corn-fed Midwestern gringos
and let us pass unbothered. We return to find our minivan intact and then load
up for Laredo.
Hopping on the main highway towards Laredo, we pass through McAllen and decide
to find somewhere to eat. In a decisive highway maneuver, Wayner piloted the
minivan to Tia’s Mexican Grill. While Ben was in the bathroom, the waiter asks
what we would like to drink and Dan ordered a super margarita upon his
recommendation. Ben returns, and now while Dan is in the bathroom, he orders the
same drink (not knowing that Dan has done the same) in an effort to be original.
It was quite the surprise when the waiter returned with two margaritas on his
tray! Benny, not one who regularly imbibes, quickly realized that a super
margarita is no whine cooler. To his credit, he finished the drink! Splitting
two orders of fajitas between four of us, we all ate like kings here. On the way
out of the restaurant, the hostess inquires which of us was driving. Wayner
raised his hand and she gave him three mints, insisting he put them in his mouth
to cover the alcohol! Wayner, who hadn’t been drinking, was confused and
informed the hostess that Benny needed them more. On the way to the bowling
alley, Benny was loud and goofy. He might have even been drunk!
|The Flamingo Bowl lived up to its advertisement in the phone book. We prepaid
for two games and bowled away. Dan proposed a few Coke Frames and Benny and Davy
wind up having to buy a round of Cokes for the entire group. Benny and Steve
notice how Dan always proposes the Coke Frame but rarely ends up losing it! They
propose an ice cream frame after the frame was done, and spotted an ice cream
vending machine across the building. Then Dan was successfully pressured into
purchasing ice cream. He returned shortly since the ice cream machine was
broken, so we had to collect our winnings at a later time. As all this
transpired, Alec overheard the group on the lane next to us complain about being
hungry. In an unselfish act of compassion, Alec used his own money to buy the
girls an order of fries! One of the several girls offers to exchange telephone
numbers, but Alec wisely declines (Hi DK).
After bowling, the group made the decision to stay in McAllen for the night
instead of driving 140 miles to Laredo. Perusing the hotel coupon book we picked
up at Denny’s, we find that the Best Inn would be our best option. We checked in
and as soon as we were inside the room Davy crashed face first into a bed. He
had a migraine and suffered while the rest of us watched a cheesy action movie
and played a round of team cribbage. Steve and Ben started out on fire but a
LUCKY twenty-three-point crib launched Alec and Dan past them. Alec and Dan won
the game and Davy’s sister! Benny squeezed onto the bed next to Davy and we all
went to sleep.
Saturday January 4th, 2003
Excited to be rid of his headache, Davy celebrated by jumping on the bed and
breaking it. After rotating the mattress and box spring to cover the damage, we
checked out and drove to Edinburg, home of the Hidalgo County Historical Museum
and the only surviving gallows in Texas. The museum was fascinating and we make
sure to put a pin in Stevens Point on the Visitor’s Map as we left. After a
cafeteria-style lunch at Luby’s, we head out along the border for Laredo.
One stop on the way was the Los Ebanos Ferry. This ferry is the only hand-drawn
ferry still used to cross the border. We don’t take the minivan across but we
did get out and ride the ferry. The ferry can transport three cars across a time
and allows passengers the opportunity to help the crew pull the ferry. We all
take our turn helping. Another stop was the Falcon Dam. This dam, a joint
venture between Mexico and America, was an impressive sight. We took in the
sights of the power generating stations, the spillway, and the line separating
the Mexican side from the American side. Leaving the bridge, we passed through
Customs again without much hassle and carried on to Laredo.
|I'm in Mexico, I'm in the US, I'm in
We made it to Laredo and complimented ourselves on the decision to stay in
McAllen the previous night. The 140-mile drive took a few hours longer than
expected and would have been bad to start at 10 PM. On the outskirts of town, we
refueled the two-wheel drive sleigh and ate some ice cream sandwiches courtesy
Our hotel options were limited in Laredo so we stayed at the Gateway Inn on the
2 ½ floor, and saved a couple of dollars on lodging. We encountered a similar
dearth of eating establishments once dinner time came along. Honoring Alec’s
request of no Chinese, we drove the strip a few dozen times finding nothing much
that interested us. Crossing over to the other side of the highway, we find a
CBRL subsidiary restaurant called Logan’s Roadhouse that looks promising. Benny
ran in to see the menu and decided that we should pass on this burger and steak
joint for something else. We continued on our trek for another hour before Alec
began to whine and then laid down on the back seat. In the end, we return to
Logan’s Roadhouse, where Alec decides to eat alone and watch the Packers game at
the bar. The others in the group have a great time eating the complimentary
peanuts and discarding the shells on the floor. We met a nice waitress here, but
there weren’t any sparks like last year.
Back at the hotel, Davy jokingly takes the fire alarm off the wall and places it
in an exterior pocket of Dan’s luggage where he will surely see it, right? We’ll
Sunday January 5th, 2003
|We hit the road immediately this morning, even skipping breakfast, in order to
spend some more time in the big city. The interstate was rather barren for the
150 miles to San Antonio. The only excitement came when we passed through a
Border Patrol station and saw a group of ten Mexicans standing outside a semi.
It was good to see that the Border Patrol was actually doing something! About 30
minutes outside of San Antonio, Benny started to swear in the back seat. Alec
had informed him that we had left the hotel and forgot to take the fire alarm
out of Dan’s suitcase! We were too far along now to turn back so we had to just
laugh it off and hope that the maids wouldn’t notice. (The maids didn’t notice,
and we were never charged for the detector. Benny even tried to send it back
once at home, but they refused the package. In response to this, we soaked the
alarm in lighter fluid and burnt it in the driveway.)
|The heat melted the snow.. yeah, that's
what she said
The green hotel discount book served us well again by finding us the La Villita
Inn in San Antonio, which featured computers in every room! Benny checked us in
as a group of four as usual, but as we were bringing our things up we ran into
the owners and they eventually charged as an additional five dollars for the
fifth person. Once in the room, Alec was the first to test out the no frills E
Machine computer. The thing was so gummed up with spyware and porn that we
couldn’t even get Internet Explorer to run. Alec fired up Defrag in hopes that
we could get it working as we left for lunch at Peter Piper Pizza.
Peter Piper Pizza is the Chuck E. Cheese’s of Texas, except they use old K-marts
instead of dinky retail spaces. We ordered a couple of pizzas and some tokens
for the games in the arcade. Davy and Alec spent their time collecting tickets
while Steve and Dan pumped tokens into Area 51 and completed all three levels.
After all the money they spent, Davy and Alec redeemed their tickets for a deck
of cards with one hundred dollar bills on the back and about 25 plastic rings!
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a pawn shop that we spotted before
lunch. No guitars or harnesses this time but plenty of videos and DVDs. We
bought a couple, including a long awaited copy of Bloodsport for Wayner, and
headed back to the hotel to take in the sights of San Antonio.
We finally got downtown at dusk to see the Alamo on the left, but we were a half
hour too late to take the inside tour. Nevertheless, we snap some photos of the
exterior and read about the battle on the historical markers surrounding the
entrance. We circled around through a mall and found ourselves at the start of
the Riverwalk, a picturesque series of restaurants and shops located right
beside the river. We could have taken a boat tour of the Riverwalk but we
decided to walk it instead.
|The basement of the Alamo!
|Beam me up scotty!
The weather was gorgeous and the scenery was very festive for the holiday
season. None of the restaurants catches our eye so we hiked over to the Tower of
the Americas. The Tower of the Americas is a Space Needle like tower that is the
highest building in San Antonio. Atop the tower, we were able to see all the
lights of the city and spot the location of the Amtrak train depot where the
boys would be departing from tomorrow.
|We're just really tall
|A man made river! Who knew?
Hiking back to the Riverwalk, we settle on the Kangaroo Court Restaurant for
supper. Wayner, the only authorized driver of the minivan, finally got his
chance to imbibe at dinner but the pitcher of cheap blue margaritas the group
ordered just doesn’t do the trick. We spent the time after dinner playing hearts
on the restaurant table and enjoying the sounds of the live entertainment. Once
we got back to the hotel, Alec and Dan fix up the computer and Benny and Steve
began to call the Walmarts in town looking for one that was open 24 hours. We
find one not too far away and load up to get some food for the train ride. Alec
elects to stay behind and chat on ICQ. A large amount of food is purchased for
the trip, and Benny got his laxative too. It tasted pretty bad. We returned to
the hotel close to 1:30 in the morning and took some time to clean out and
organize the minivan because the next day was going to be hectic. The boys had
to be at the Amtrak station at 8:30 and Wayner had to return the minivan to
Houston by noon!
Monday January 6th, 2003
Wayner got things going early by rising at 6:30 and starting the shower cycle.
Everyone knew time was short and did his best to rush through the morning
procedure. We waved goodbye to our hotel and loaded ourselves into the minivan
for the last time. The Amtrak Station was easy to find since we saw it from the
Tower the night before. Distracted by the big Army helicopters on hand for the
All-American football game, we take a circuitous route to the station but still
make it in plenty of time. Wayner, helping the others with their baggage, boards
the train, questioning the level of security that the Amtrak staff is providing.
Hurrying back to the minivan, Wayner wished the rest of the group a safe trip
back and hit the road himself.
|Super-Liner, The Texas Eagle!
We had originally planned on leaving the minivan in San Antonio but after we
found out that this would cost us an extra three hundred dollars we had to
change our plans. Fortunately, Wayner, who was holding off on purchasing his
return train ticket was available to drive the minivan back to Houston where he
would then fly to Minneapolis. This trip from San Antonio to Houston was going
to be a tight, as it was already 8:50 and the minivan had to be in Houston by
12:05 (which already factored in the one hour grace period). At close to 220
miles, Wayner had time for nothing else except driving. Piloting the minivan at
speeds of eighty to eighty five miles per hour on the interstate with only a
single gas stop, Wayner made it to the Houston Enterprise dealer at 11:50!
Catching a shuttle back to the Houston Airport, Wayner hung out the rest of the
afternoon before catching a 5 PM flight to Minneapolis. Traveling through
Atlanta, he returned to Minneapolis at 11 PM where Doni and Raygor picked him up
and escorted him home.
January 6th, 2003 – Alternate Ending – Amtrak Ride to Milwaukee
In a un-Amtrak and un-Airtran like fashion, the train leaves promptly at 9.
However, the way the train routes are set up the train actually backed up for
several miles out of the city going south, before it can start going forward
again toward Chicago. The train started out mostly empty again and the four guys
shared the last car with only two or three other people. Benny started up a
little conversation with the car attendant, and then they all took advantage of
the quiet, rocking ride to fit in some pre-noon napping.
After their nap they enjoyed a lunch of saltines and sausage, which they cut
with the six inch serrated blade knife they brought on in the cooler. After
lunch it was time to explore the train and the people on it. We found our car
was like most of the rest of the train: Empty. We checked out the lounge car,
and played some cards for a bit, but left to avoid the weird grumpy gay guy
attending that car. The observation lounge was showing City Slickers, so we
decided to watch. That was when we met the strange kid with the headphones and
the jolly ranchers, and his partner in crime, the medium fat chick that talked a
lot and was spoiled. Her talking eventually drove Alec to return to his seat
half way through the movie, while the mastichists remained. Shortly after, we
met the bald guy, who was part of the Texas Harley Davison gang, banditos.
Sitting next to him was a graduate student from Boston, visiting his parents in
Texas. Lots of conversation ensued, the interesting coming from the bald guy,
and uninteresting coming from the girl. Davy got good information on the
purchasing and availability of stolen motorcycle parts, along with a cost
breakdown. The bald guy’s openness to speak of his criminal history impressed
everyone. Our three friends left soon though, getting off around Dallas that
evening, the rest of us returned to our seats for some more napping.
|Those cheap cards came in handy!
We dined in style in the dining car late that evening. Davy, Dan got the pasta,
the grad student got the Fillet Mignon, while Benny and Alec ordered a double
kids order of chicken fingers for about the same price. Take that Perkins! We
played hearts into the late night as the train roamed through many small Texas
cities, stopping occasionally. At about 1 we all said good night and returned to
our seats for some sleep. On the way back to our seats, the train had filled up
considerably, with most people laid down and asleep in their seats at that hour.
Like Wayner said last year, no one really sleeps well on the train, but we made
due. We also learned that adding accommodations like a sleeper car don’t cost
that much more, since they pay for all your meals along with it. We will have to
do that in the future.
Tuesday January 7th, 2003
When we woke up, we were in Arkansas, but no one was in a hurry to do much of
anything. We sat around quite a bit, and stared out the window at the beautiful
landscape. Meanwhile, Dan slept with his 6” x 9” Amtrak pillow named Pillow
cuddled against him, managing the façade of sleep into the mid afternoon hours.
Around Springfield, Illinois, the train paralleled the highway for several
miles, and we made up time for the delays we had encountered earlier in the
trip. The train was rapidly passing all the vehicles on the interstate,
estimating our train speed at 85 mph. This put us into Chicago Union station on
time, just before 4 pm.
We caught the 5:10 pm commuter train from Chicago to Milwaukee, and time passed
way too slowly, as everyone was eager to get home, spending the last 32 hours on
a train. Milwaukee couldn’t come too soon, and at 6:45 we were standing outside
their station downtown, trying to figure out how to get back to the airport
where their car was parked! A bus sign was found, and just at the last minute,
when it seemed a bus would never come, one came. It was a quick ride to the
airport, and we unloaded the bus, and loaded up again on the shuttle to the
parking lot. As this was happening, Benny realized that he left his carry on
with all his checks, camera, and souvenirs on the city bus. Cursing all the way
to the Pontiacacacac, he calls the city bus number and finds out the only way to
get his bag back is to go back to the airport stop and wait for the same bus to
come back again. The wait was surprisingly short, and to his immense joy, the
bag sat on the bus unharmed. After taking the intense ridicule, they all set out
for Point in good spirits.
Arriving in point just before midnight, everyone gets dropped off, and retreats
to their own comfortable beds that they don’t need to share, and their own
blankets they will never lose. :)
Moral of the Story
- A nickname like “The city that never sweeps” is probably for good reason.
- Even a motel listed by the Visitors Bureau can be a shit hole.
- If you talk to anyone in Mexico, expect to pay a dollar.
- Decide what you want to order before the third time the waitress comes around!
- If the menu is in Italian, it is best to pick at random.
- The best way to shut up Alec is to buy him porn.
- If you accidentally steal from a hotel, don’t try and return it.
- The best time to hot tub with thirty-something moms in SPI is New Years.
- An obvious Wisconsinite in Texas wears shorts on a 60-degree day.
- Open a restaurant where you are supposed to throw peanut shells on the floor.
- When one door closes, another opens; Likewise when a K-mart closes, a Peter
Piper Pizza opens.
- Sprint may not have service in Linwood, but every remote Texas location has 4
- The best place to hide drugs in your car is in a Super 8 parking lot.
- Dance like no one is watching, work like you don’t need the money, and flirt
like you don’t have a girlfriend.
- Sing like no one is listening, smoke like your lungs are pink, and drive like
you’re going to Tany’s on a Saturday morning.
- If you lay porn on the dash, you can drive and “read” at the same time.
- Chicks dig neck beards? No. Tany does!
|Dan tries to be an artist, Steve tries
to walk (lush!)
|The off-season, at night!
|Another year, another trip, another