Tandem, An American Love Story

A day later, In Laredo, we woke up to 25 mph headwinds. Since we were looking at an 80-mile day into that wind, we elected to wait it out in a motel and catch up on laundry and shopping.

The next morning dawned cool at 40 degrees, but sunny as usual and we headed north. We found that South Texans think 40 degrees is very cold and were amazed that we would ride a bicycle in it. We were comfortable, and were down to shorts and jersey by early afternoon. The road was remote, nothing but cactus and mesquite and blue sky for miles.

About 40 miles into the ride we saw a crossroads and a cafe, first human habitation of the day. We didn’t expect to find anything at all on the road and were happy to stop and get something to drink and conserve our five water bottles for the second half of the ride.

As I was parking Zippy I looked up at the ornate barred windows and saw a face staring at me. The face was of an older woman, wrinkled and concerned. She met us inside the empty cafe/bar and we could tell immediately that she spoke no English.

We managed to order two cans of soda by pointing, and then we sat looking at each other, seemingly unable to go any further. Then she began to tell a story, in Spanish, with great flourishing hand and arm movements and animated facial contortions. “Muy mal…tres anos.” She held her head and clutched at her breast, then she pointed to the packages of sugar on the counter. “Doktor!” she said, and patted her chest vigorously. “Tres anos.” She had been very sick three years ago with diabetes! She then took out her wallet and showed us pictures of her before, and she looked very much younger and quite pretty. She told us she was only 47. (Claire is good with Spanish numbers.) We presumed she meant to convey that the sickness had made her old.

She went on to tell us about how the “vaqueros” (cowboys) come in on Saturday night and drink so much that they take off their boots and sleep on the pool tables with a beer can for a pillow. You can imagine the pantomime. She was very good.

“Todo al dia?” I gestured broadly to the tavern; are you here all day long? She answered, “si,” and went on to enumerate, counting on her fingers, the days of the week she works.

“Como se llama?” I asked.

“Lupe Chavez,” she answered and then, “tu?” We gave our names and told her Zippy’s name too.

There was silence for a time while she thought. Then she began another story, this one about a gruesome accident that involved two cars and a high speed crash at the crossroads beside the cafe. One of the two people in one car was pregnant (Lupe swayed her back and held her belly), but the mother survived and the baby was born okay. Most of the words we did not understand, but her pantomime was wonderful.

Before we left, I took a picture of her at the bar with Claire, and again at her peering through the window at our preparations for starting out on Zippy. I imagine we probably made her day at that lonely crossroads; she certainly made ours.

On the way into Carrizo Springs we saw a small herd of goats outside the fence, grazing the side of the road where there was more grass than inside the fence. As we approached they lifted their heads in unison and quit chewing. From the stoker’s seat rang out, “Get home goats! You get back in that fence now!” They fell all over each other running for the hole in the fence and jumping back inside. We almost fell off Zippy laughing. We decided that Dave McCabe (Claire’s dad) should give this a try next time his goats get out. Maybe it was just Claire’s magic.

When we arrived at the RV park we discovered that there were no showers or facilities for tent campers, but we were welcome to camp free anyway.

Soon we were invited to a dinner of baked potatoes and barbecued deer ribs and salad. Roy and Susie who own the park are very friendly and make everybody feel like family. Roy was a banker in a San Antonio until they decided to get out of the city and buy this park. There is a beautiful fire pit and lot of wood to use. They showed us where the coffee pot plugs in and where to find the filters and coffee. All this in the outside sitting and dining area that is shared by all.

They are fascinated by our trip. They are all smokers, and maintain they couldn’t make it around the block on a bicycle, so what we are doing is nothing short of miraculous to them. I remember having to stop to rest on a flight of stairs when I was a smoker. Now it amazes me that I ever imposed that disability upon myself.

A bearded friendly looking guy walked up while we were talking to the owners. “Did you two ever make it to the Buffalo Cafe in Whitefish, Montana?” Huh! How could they possibly know that a friend, Lyn Muench had told us to find that place and eat there? (We did, and it was great.)

Gary and his wife Jill, in their early 50’s, are from near New York city, and are RVing full time for a year to try it out. They had been visiting friends in Sequim the week we left and read the story about us beginning our trip in the Sequim Gazette. Gary made the connection as soon as he saw us ride into the park. Strange crossed paths again. It is indeed a small world.

After the others retired to their RVs, we sat around the fading pit fire in the growing chill, under moon and stars and wind-rustled mesquite trees. Coyotes yelped in the distance, setting the town dogs to worrying and howling at the night. We might as well have been deep in Mexico.

More warm conversation would await us in the morning after the town’s roosters announce dawn. Oh my. Life is good.


Tandem, An American Love Story — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the memories, and the update on your own adventures. That last few days back to Sequim was bitter-sweet after more than a year on the road. We’ve never been the same; a good thing.

  2. What a marvelous and beautifully descriptive article about a simply amazing woman – Karen Landis. I’ve had had the serendipitous experience to create and nurture a friendship with Karen after I underwent a hip replacement and three hip fractures and realized I needed to request the local “Meals on Wheels” service. And of course, if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Karen serves the Chino Valley community two days a week by delivering meals to people in my circumstance.
    I loved Karen the first moment I met her. And when we started chatting I knew I had met a soul mate. I’ve been looking all my life for a role model, a hero, an amazing example of humankind. I don’t know if she realizes what an outstanding example she is of a strong, independent, intelligent, talented woman. Sometimes as women, we have a dentency to undervalue ourselves. But Karen, I want you to know you are the real deal. You are just so beautiful in your authenticity. And I a so appreciative of the value you have added to our environment by caring for the land and the animals under your watchful care. Your abilities and strength simply boggle my mind. And thank you for your loving service to me these past four months. You rock girl!

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