Day 39 - El Paso, TX

Today was a day off. I rode across town to a different, cheaper motel, and did shopping. I though I found a big movie complex in the phone book, and I was going to go see Master and Commander, but when I got there the cinema was out of business.

I am dying to see Master and Commander. I've read the books. All 20 of them. Twice. I absolutely love the books. (The books are a series novels by Patrick O'Brian that describe the career of Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his friend, the physician Stephen Maturin. The time period is the beginning of the 1800s.) I dread this movie, but I have to see it. There is no way they are going to do justice to the books. I am ready to be appalled. I have all these horrible scenarios, like they write Maturin out of the script. Or they make no attempt to include the humor. Or they make Jack a noble hero, and ignore his numerous character flaws and buffoonish behavior the moment he steps foot on land. Or they condense the highlights of 20 novels totalling 4000 pages into one film. We will see. The litmus test is whether the words "Jack, you've debauched my sloth!" are spoken.

The ride across El Paso was only 12 miles, almost all strip mall hell. There were a couple interesting areas in the vicinity of the University of Texas El Paso, where there were cool old houses, and neighborhoods. I think what money there is in El Paso lives to the north in the hills, because the strip malls there have a higher caliber of shop.

There was one really great sight worthy of photography.

Hockey (164K)

I was laughing my ass off when I saw this.

1. The kid is missing his front teeth.
2. The hockey league is sponsored by chiropractors.

You wouldn't think they know anything about hockey in El Paso, but I guess they do. Maybe next year they can extend their sponsors to orthodontists and expand the league.

I had a great lunch at a huge, very popular Italian restaraunt called Cappetto's. They have free Wi-Fi. I ate a ton of chicken and prosciutto orzo and uploaded a big update to the web site. I spent the morning cleaning it up, so it is a little better organized now. Dinner was not so hot, at a steak house in the Wal-Mart parking lot up the road. They barely cooked my T-Bone.

So, since there is little to report in the travel department, I will provide a Bike Trip Literary Supplement. I last went book shopping at the Barnes and Noble in Jackson, Mississippi. I did much better there than at the Kroger, where I had bought my previous book. The Jackson, MS books were very good. I tried to get novels with a travel theme.

The first one was "The Quiet American" by Graham Greene. This takes place in Viet Nam, in the late 1950's. At this time, Viet Nam was a French colony in a state of rebellion. It tells the story of an American agent who tries to stop the communist rebels and makes a mess of things and is murdered. I understand this was recently made into a movie. One might be tempted to draw parallels with the business in Iraq, but I think that would be a perilous thing to do, and you would miss the intended points of this book. It's a very, very good novel. Maybe the real story is how the colony corrupts the colonial power. I don't know.

When you read a really great book, sometimes you get this sort of jarring sensation of losing your sense of location. You get wrapped up in the book and then you don't know where you are, and it's like a dream. It has completely escaped your consciousness that you are in a tent off the side of the road in the desert in west Texas. You think you could go downstairs and get a snack from the fridge if you wanted to. "The Quiet American" never reaches this advanced state of excellence, even though it was very good. I left it in a motel room in Crane, TX.

The second book had me swept away to rural England, London, and darkest Africa. I would ride along through the desert and laugh my ass off about what I had read the night before. This book was "Scoop" by Evelyn Waugh. This is a very sharp satire of the British upper class and the newspaper business and the third world, which would never be published or even written today due to the rampant political incorrectness throughout. The book was written and takes place in 1937. Through a case of mistaken identity, a callow member of the rural gentry is shipped off to the fictional country of "Ishmaelia" in the heart of Africa, to report on the impending revolution driven by the conflict between the Marxists and the fascists. This book is on the level of "A Confederacy of Dunces" as a comic farce. I am so sad I finished it.

So one of my errands today was to buy more books. I was really hoping my (defunct) movie theater was next to a mall, or a bunch of big box stores that would have a Borders or a Barnes and Noble or something. No luck.

When I checked in, I asked the girl at the desk if there was a bookstore nearby. She said "Sure, there is a Barnes and Noble just five minutes away." I asked how to get there. "It's two exits south on the Interstate."

I explained I was on a bike, and that might as well be on the moon. The manager overheard me and offered to give me the book he just finished. I took it. It's by the son of General Haig. It's a military mystery thriller. It involves a JAG guy like on the TV show. I dread it, but I am going to read it anyway.

Just in case it's intolerable, I went to the only place around with books and got a couple more. This place would be Wal-Mart. I am optimistic that I will be fine for reading material until Tucson.

Here is my quick ride across El Paso.

Actual39 (185K)