Saturday, September 22, 2012

off the road

I'm off the road and glad to be.  The road wore me down.  I started out with a bunch of apples, but I devoured them before I reached Decatur, Illinois.  I haven't eaten a single healthy vegetable in ten days.  At dinner tonight, Rose Mary asked me if I wanted salad—she'd been preparing a salad—but I said I haven't had a salad in ten days, why start now?  Tomorrow I will eat a salad.  We had fresh raspberries and ice cream for dessert tonight.  I was famished and under the weather when I arrived.  I hadn't eaten since El Paso.  Below is a picture of a typical street in El Paso.       

Before I arrived in Dixon, about twenty minutes before I pulled into town, I thought that Rose Mary would either tell me that I had changed or that I hadn't changed at all.  I was hedging my bets that she'd say I looked older—I'd been noticing my gray hairs in the rear view mirror.  Rose Mary heard me coming up the drive.  She was outside, picking parsley for our dinner.  I had my car windows down.  She couldn't see me, but she said, Is that Jono?  I said it was me.  I parked and greeted her.  She said, You haven't changed at all.  You don't look one day older.  I'd bet wrong.  I'd prepared my hello speech for "You look older."  I guess I look the same as I did last year.  Here's another typical El Paso shot.

Lots of classic old trucks, bungalows, and dusty front yards in El Paso.  I wish I could have spent more time there.  One of the most difficult parts about traveling X-Country on a schedule is that you don't have the time to look around a town as much as you'd like.  You end up "missing" a lot of things.  You end up with half-formed ideas about places.  For instance, one could never hope to write about Texas in one single blog post after driving across it.  There is obviously so much more to see and know about.  It's because I knew I'd passed up so much good stuff on this journey that I made a point this morning of finding something authentic in El Paso, or at least more authentic than Arby's.  I left the motel and hunted around for something good to eat.  I found Rafa's Burritos on Montana street. 

The parking lot was packed.  I had to park down the strip, in front of the hair salon.  I had no idea what to expect.  It wasn't clear that all the cars in the lot were there for Rafa's.  When I could barely get into the door, I knew that I had done well.  The dining room was packed, too, and there was a line to order take-out.  I scanned the menu board.  It was a Byzantine menu board and I could not understand it.  Burritos were classified as "A" and "B" and then sub-classified in about twenty different ways.  One burrito called out to me, the burrito maize.  I tried to order that but apparently nobody wanted it and so Rafa's does not make it anymore.  The cashier recommended the chicken.  I asked him if he would have the cooks put the hot sauce in the burrito, rather than on the side, because I wanted to eat it while I drove.  He looked at me like I was nuts.  When I got the burrito, I understood why.  It was beautiful.  It was long and slender.  The ends were not tucked in.  The flour tortilla was homemade.  It was so soft.  It had char spots on it.  It made me realize that the things I've had that pass for flour tortillas are really just rubber circles.  Now I can return to New England with a benchmark.  Here's the burrito.

I can safely say that this was the best burrito I ever ate.  I did not even resemble the burritos I've known.  Or maybe it resembled them in the slightest, but it resembled them in the way you resemble your second cousin.  The chicken inside was also perfect.  Driving north through New Mexico, I placed several phone calls and told everyone who answered about this burrito.  It actually reminded more more of a French-style rolled omelette than it did what I had heretofore considered a burrito.  It was all loosey-goosey, slender and long.  I ate half of it in the parking lot outside of Rafa's.  I had to retro-fit the other half to make it road worthy.  The tortilla was real bread.  It wasn't the bottom of a sneaker.   


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