It was the middle of March when I received the anticipated invitation to my granddaughter Nicole’s wedding ceremony on Saturday, July 7th with the usual RSVP request due by April 15th. Father of the Bride Ted was certainly allowing himself ample time to prepare for the big event. I mailed back my acceptance card, even though I was a little apprehensive about making the trip due to my physical disability. Specifically, about two years earlier, I had been diagnosed as being afflicted with dysequilibrium, a condition affecting normal walking. The disorder was irreversible, so I was eventually relegated to acquiring the aid of a walker. Nevertheless, I was determined to be a part of a “once in a lifetime” event.
Over the years, I had made it a habit of giving Nicole some of my original watercolors as Christmas and birthday presents. With that in mind, my choice of their wedding gifts was inevitable – three of my best aquarelles …
In mid-June, Ted drove up to Dallas with twin sons Peter and Paul in order to load them on a bus at the Valley View Shopping Mall bound for a church camp in the Arkansas Ozarks. I met them at the nearby Black-eyed Pea restaurant where we were joined by his oldest son James and good friend Todd Denniger. Except for the twins, we all opted for the delicious, but decadent, chicken-fried steak drowning in cream gravy. Ted and I were seated next to each other so he could bring …
… match as Best Western, Holiday Inn, and La Quinta to get their toll-free 800 numbers so I could find out if they had any motels in the northeastern sector of San Antonio. None of them had anything close, so as a last resort, I called Motel 6’s 800 number and found out they had a motel on east I-35 close to the junction with NE Loop 410. As I consulted my miniature map of San Antonio (in the lower comer of the Texas map), I told the representative, “The location is perfect. Please reserve me a handicapped accessible room for the nights of July 6th and 7th, and tell Tom Bodett to ‘leave the light on for me'”. It was a done deal.
My next step was to email brother Franz, who had incidentally volunteered his services as the “official” videographer for all the wedding activities. I informed him that, after checking out all the motel locations in the area, I had made reservations at Motel 6, and gave him their phone number so he could reserve a room, hopefully near where I was bedded down for the night. He answered via email with, “Motel 6 sounds okay with me”. His response sounded somewhat incongruous coming from a man who was accustomed to staying in 4 and 5-star hotels on trips to Europe. I was relieved that he had “lowered the bar” for this trip.
I wasn’t about to hazard a long-distance trip without first getting the drive belts replaced, especially when it had been almost nine years since new belts had been installed according to my homemade maintenance log. My owner’s manual recommended a changeover every four years, but since I had only driven 44,000 miles during that span, I had uncustomarily neglected that particular service. However, I did recall a time-tested truism that rubber deteriorated more quickly due to time of exposure to the elements rather than every day wear-and-tear.
My grandson Jim helped out by escorting me over to the nearby NTB Service Center, and then driving me the next day to pick up Ol’ Blue. I thanked him for his help, saying in farewell, “See ya’ in San Antone.” Gosh, I felt so much better having got that done, thinking how inconvenient it would have been to be stranded on the side of the road with a busted belt, and me being a member of that “exclusive” fraternity of the one-third of Americans not owning a cell phone.
Now get this, for it may just blow your mind. It was 270 miles to San Antonio, and it had been two years since I had taken any lengthy road trip. I think maybe I was going through some sort of journeyman’s menopause, but I simply could not fathom driving the entire distance in one day! So, I called Motel 6’s 800 number again to find out if they had a motel in Temple, exactly midway between the metromesses. Sure enough, they did and I reserved a room for Thursday, July 5th.
On Wednesday the 4th, I pretty well packed up Ol’ Blue with an assortment of attire, ranging from denim shorts and polo shirts to sport coat, a tie, and dress slacks with classic wing tip shoes thrown in. Around noon on my departure day, rain began pelting down at a good clip, leaving me thankful that I had done most of my packing the day before. The local noon weather report on Channel 8 forecasted a steady rain during the day throughout central and southern Texas, so I did something that I hadn’t done in almost 200,000 miles of traveling across the U.S. of A. – I took along an umbrella!
Fortuitously, at around two o’clock, the downpour subsided, allowing me to “get the hell out of Dodge”, stopping briefly at my local Tom Thumb market to ice down the Coleman chest with quarts each of milk and orange juice. I motored south on North Central and veered right onto Woodall Rodgers Freeway which separated downtown Dallas from the new burgeoning “Uptown” development of high-rise luxury condos and apartments. What a transformation! Back in the early 1900s, the area emerged as an enclave for the black community with modest wood-framed houses, but also, as a focal point for jazz and blues musicians to congregate at the local hotspots along the confluence of State and Thomas Streets. It was truly a unique neighborhood for more than half a century until the 1970s, when a spate of entrepreneurs decided that the area was ripe for new upscale development. As a result, a part of Dallas’s black heritage was gone forever.
I easily merged with I-35, but the worst was yet to come as I approached the infamous “mix-master” at the convoluted interchange of I-35 and I-30 where I had to constantly keep my eyes peeled on the overhead directional signs so as not to get sucked into the wrong interstate towards Ft. Worth. I cruised south through Oak Cliff, which I had always labeled as a “no-man’s land” ever since the predominant Baptist coalition had voted back in the 1950s to abolish the sale of alcoholic beverages in an attempt to “sanitize” the community. What a crock!
I had always dreaded driving south out of Dallas on I-35, knowing all to well that more often than not, I would be ensnarled in a traffic jam. As expected, just past the four-level interchange with I-20, the normal 60 to 70 mph traffic flow was suddenly and inexplicably reduced to an arteriosclerotic crawl. After only a mile or so, I could see up ahead who was the culprit of the congestion, and wouldn’t you know, it was a jackknifed 18-wheeler halfway off the shoulder, which closed down the right lane. The logjam finally broke free of itself, and it was clear sailing from there on.