For the most part, the drive down to Houston was fairly uneventful. My parents kept telling me I should leave my wedding ring set at home because they were afraid that someone would mug me for it. As a new bride I wasn’t about to do that but I promised to turn them around whenever I got out of my car so just metal bands showed.
I got in the car in the predawn cool hours of the day and headed out. This time I didn’t encounter any weirdos on the highway trying to play leapfrog with me like the trip to Hot Springs. I made it all the way to Texas with pretty much no issues. There was one weird moment in Oklahoma when a semi pulled beside me and the driver honked and waved and gave me a thumbs up. I really really had no idea what that was about but I smiled and waved back. Later when I was walking back to the car after a bathroom break I saw the back windshield of my car and had to laugh. Where my husband had written Just Married on my car the day of our wedding was still there. Now the thumbs up made sense.
(Side Note: I refused to wash the writing off my car that my husband put on there the day of wedding. It stayed on there until just before I left Kansas. He had used my $26 lipstick to write the message and I didn’t want that sacrifice or sentiment to be in vain. It had stayed there all winter but Kansas in July is an experience in heat few can imagine. One particularly hot day I ran the car through the car wash, something I had done numerous times since the wedding, and it finally came off. It was sad and somehow fitting since I was about to leave.)
There was massive construction going on in Dallas as usual. I do not know what drug induced hallucination inspired this mass of intertwining roadways but I hope it makes more sense when it’s finished than it did as I drove through it during the creation of that M.C. Escheresque confusion. Thank God for working GPS because I never would have made it through in good time otherwise.
Somewhere between Dallas and Houston I needed to make another bathroom stop. I opted for a local owned gas station/convenience store. I didn’t need gas but I figured I could pick up a snack and some more water and walk around a bit. I asked the guy behind the counter for the bathroom and got a very terse, “it’s for customers only.” While I understand the guy doesn’t want to have to pay to stock a bathroom for people who are not putting any money into his business, it’s the rude way he delivered the message that kind of hacked me off.
I looked the man in the eyes and smiled then said, “I plan on buying a few things but I’d rather do it after I go to the bathroom. I don’t want to have to walk around your store with my legs crossed praying I don’t sneeze.” He actually laughed and pointed out the bathroom for me. As it turned out, there was no paper of any kind in the bathroom; no toilet paper, paper towels, not even tissues. If I had tissues in my purse I would have just used them but as it was I had to go out and tell the man he needed to stock his bathroom. He said thank you for telling me and went back to reading his newspaper.
I walked up to the counter and leaned in and politely explained that I hadn’t gone to the bathroom yet because there was no paper of any kind in the bathroom. This got him to get up. He said he figured I had already gone. As I stood there trying to figure out how he imagined I had handled the no paper issue, he stocked the bathroom and I was able to go finally.
Once I started walking around his shop picking things up to buy, his attitude improved greatly. By the time I left he was much more polite and even added a “come again” as I left. It’s amazing what can improve a persons mood.
The weather had been cool when I left Kansas. By the time I reached Oklahoma it had warmed up to where my sweatshirt was more than enough in the car. By the time I reached Texas, the sweatshirt was almost too much but as I got further south a weird weather pattern took hold. Just outside of Houston it started to get cold again. The sky was turning grey and it seemed like there was a haze on the tops of trees. As I got further south I realized that haze was actually frost. At one point on the drive I went through a few miles where the weather was actually colder in Texas than it had been in Kansas. That was just plain wrong!
This weather pattern didn’t last very long and soon I had driven through it and it had warmed up a bit before hitting Houston. With the help of AAA maps and my GPS I found my hotel. While the hotel was very nice the surrounding area was unnerving. I could easily understand why this hotel was so much less expensive than some of the others in Houston’s downtown area.
Near my hotel were several buildings and houses that looked, if not abandoned, like they were about to fall down. There were cars that looked they were ready to be sold for scrap. To really give you a mental picture, I have in my youthful travels walked around by myself at about 1 AM in downtown NYC, Baltimore and Detroit but I would not have done it in this neighborhood.
There was a large gate around the entire hotel and security cameras everywhere and more than one staff member present so I felt there was adequate security. You also had to have a room key to get to your floor in the elevator so I felt as if I was safe enough while in the hotel. The funny things was in the light of day I realized that the nicer downtown area was only a few blocks away.
I checked in and went to my room to relax for a while. Later that night I was going to be having dinner with some newly acquired in-laws. My husband has an uncle and aunt, we’ll call them Gerry and Ann, who live in Houston. Due to conflicts they were not able to come to the wedding so this was a chance for me to finally meet them in person. This was important to me because this couple was very important and influential in my husbands life. I really wanted to make a good impression.
They came to the hotel and picked me up for dinner. This couple was so open and easy to be with it was like I was hanging out with my own family. Ann and I had so much in common that I actually felt a little sorry for Gerry. She and I talked practically non-stop all through dinner. The only thing that was little disappointing about dinner was the food.
They had taken me to one of their favorite restaurants. It was Italian and I happen to love Italian food so I was looking forward to it. After reading through the menu there weren’t a lot of vegan choices, at that time I was vegan and not just vegetarian. I told the waiter I was vegan and asked if I could get a pasta dish with no meat or cheese just marinara sauce. He said yes, of course. I was thrilled and looking forward to the meal. When he brought out the pasta it had meat in it so I sent it back and explained to him once more that I was vegan and I didn’t eat meat. He said, no problem they would make another.
I told Gerry and Ann not to wait on me and to go ahead and eat. We talked and soon the waiter brought me out another dish of pasta. This one was covered in melted cheese. I just sighed and decided not to send it back again. For one thing, I didn’t want my new in-laws to think I was difficult and for another I have worked in a restaurant before, if you send something back too often there is a chance someone in the back is going to get annoyed and start putting “additions” in your food. Anyone who has seen the movie Waiting knows what I mean. Luckily the cheese was pretty much a solid melted blob on the top of the dish and I was able to peel most of it off.
After dinner Gerry and Ann drove me back to the hotel and invited me to extend my trip in Houston and stay with them for a few days. I really wanted to do this but I had to get back to Kansas to go back to work. Ann suggested that I just quit my job now and stay there for a visit. I was so tempted to do this. I called Tony and discussed it with him. While I was disappointed that he didn’t think it was a good idea to quit my job at that time as we had no idea then how long it would visa I had to agree with him.
After saying goodbye to Gerry and Ann I went straight to my hotel room and went to bed. The next morning I was going to have my appointment at the Danish Consulate for my visa.
Next up, the VISA!