I was expecting something a little more dramatic right about now, but the primary emotion flooding my mind at this moment — three hours after Brother Jerry pronounced us man and wife, and fifteen minutes after I broke out a four-way lug wrench and wowed Grant with my best impression of a NASCAR pit crew after he ran over a broken beer bottle in the middle of the interstate somewhere between Dilia and Starvation Peak — is relief.
Flat tire notwithstanding, the day went very smoothly, and if the rest of the evening goes according to plan, I’m less than an hour and a half away from a long, hot shower, a cold bottle of champagne, and a much-anticipated evening at the beautiful El Rey Inn in Santa Fe.
In case you are wondering, I will be out of pocket for the next few days….
Remember the old Burma-Shave ad campaign, which involved little poems written on carefully spaced signs placed along roadsides during heyday of Route 66?
Yeah, I don’t remember them, either. Too young. But I’ve seen plenty of replicas along the road in recent years. They’re really popular with Route 66 travelers.
Set of Burma-Shave-type signs that mysteriously appeared along westbound 66 in front of the Tumbleweed yesterday afternoon as I was coming back from a grocery run in Tucumcari:
FORCE AT THIRD
(SO I’VE HEARD)
Set of signs attached to the backs of those signs at some point between the time I went to bed last night and the time I slipped out for a jog this morning:
CURSE OR NOT
‘TIL NEXT YEAR”
Set of hastily made cardboard signs currently taped over the westbound signs for Grant to see when he picks me up for church this morning:
THE INFIELD FLY
HER KIND OF GUY
Grant sent a diminutive blonde teenager named Lillian into my lobby yesterday afternoon to inquire about a job.
Lillian, who hates her first name and just goes by “Lil,” is an honor student and president of Coldwater High School’s FFA chapter. Lil drives a ’73 Ford pickup she inherited from her late grandfather, loves history and geography, and assures me that there is not a motel guest alive who can make a mess any nastier than anything she’s cleaned up on her family’s ranch.
A well-known Route 66 historian happened to check in while I was showing Lil how to run the credit-card machine this afternoon. Upon hearing her name, he told her about another Lillian with ties to a historic motel on the Mother Road, then announced that Lil should henceforth be known as “Lil Miss.”
Lil Miss nodded. “I like that,” she said, her eyes downcast and her voice soft. “I like that a lot.”
After our guest headed off to his room, Lil Miss looked at me, tears brimming in her eyes. “Nobody’s called me ‘Lil Miss’ since Grandpa died,” she said. “That guy called me ‘Lil Miss’ because it reminded him of someone he obviously loved a lot, who also died. Isn’t that odd?”
I glanced at the picture of St. Julian the Hospitaller pasted onto a jar candle above the fireplace and smiled.
“Around here, ‘odd’ is relative,” I said, pressing a heart-shaped milagro into her open hand. “Welcome to the Tumbleweed.”
A quiet Sunday morning and a cup of coffee feel good after the day I had yesterday.
I went over to Tucumcari to pick up groceries and have breakfast at Kix on 66 while Grant and Joey were setting up for Coldwater’s annual back-to-school carnival.
I didn’t realize I’d forgotten my cell phone until I got to the grocery store and started to send Grant a text asking whether he wanted me to take advantage of a sale on his favorite cereal.
I was seven miles from home when the truck sputtered to a stop on the shoulder of Route 66.
Good thing I took up jogging this spring.
Hank Freed is on vacation this weekend, thanks to the holiday, but four miles into my unplanned jog, I heard the unmistakable beep of a Volkswagen’s horn, and Skinny Rodriguez pulled up and asked if I needed a ride.
Skinny, as I think I’ve mentioned once before, is the biggest gearhead in Guadalupe County. If your truck breaks down, Skinny is probably the first guy you’d want to see pulling over to offer you a ride.
Fifteen minutes later, Skinny had diagnosed the problem as a leak in the fuel line. One of the ancient hoses had cracked, and I hadn’t noticed that most of the gas had leaked out of the tank. Skinny took me to Teague’s, where we picked up a can of gas and a roll of duct tape, and I crawled under the truck and patched the hose well enough to limp the old girl back home. Hank will have to fix her for real when he gets back next week.
I got cleaned up just in time to catch the end of the school festival and help the teachers take down tents and streamers and tables and chairs.
It’s always something….
The Chamber president came by this afternoon to ask if I’d be willing to chair a Route 66 festival in Coldwater this fall. She thought I’d be a good choice because I could coordinate with Grant and Dr. Scherer to get the schools involved.
Apparently I have taken complete leave of my senses, because I’d already said yes before it occurred to me that I have absolutely no experience and absolutely no business doing any such thing.
Something tells me this is going to be an unmitigated disaster.
Nothing happened today.
There were no disturbing revelations. No ghosts from anybody’s past. No mysterious shamanistic visitors. No aging hippie raconteurs. No relatives. No cartoon characters come to life. No socially conscious drag queens. No reggae singers. No stray animals. No job seekers. No pogo-stick photo ops. No pyrotechnics.
Absolutely nothing happened today.
Do I need to tell you how completely, utterly, blissfully OK I am with that?
Let’s see … since I closed on this motel in February, I’ve sheltered travelers from four continents; partied with French bikers; bought a truck; roofed two buildings; rescued a wolf that turned out to be a dog; fostered four kittens (and kept two of them); entertained a stranded Irishman after a volcano, of all things, disrupted air travel; watched a man hop down Route 66 on a pogo stick; celebrated Independence Day with a Japanese rockabilly band; reunited with an old friend I hadn’t seen in 18 years; and made friends with a big-hearted drag queen.
Just when I thought I’d seen it all, a perfectly ordinary-looking Ford Explorer pulled up in front of the Tumbleweed this afternoon and disgorged Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, and the Cheshire Cat.
The White Rabbit came into the lobby and asked if there was a fee for using the Tumbleweed as a backdrop for some family photographs. I assured him that there wasn’t, so he set up a tripod, and he and Alice organized their brood — tweenie Mad Hatter, 3-year-old Cheshire Cat, and 6-month-old Dormouse — in various poses front of the motel, including one that involved Alice holding a plastic lawn flamingo like a croquet mallet.
They spent about 30 minutes out there, came in and bought some bottled water and postcards in the lobby, shot a few more pictures inside, and headed off toward Tucumcari, where they were planning to spend the night.
Curiouser and curiouser….