Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Austin, Denton and into the desert

We stop at Texarkana, play shows in Austin, then Denton, and drive on through a wilderness of pale blue rusting metal, discarded oil derricks, long ridges of sand, scrub and cactus, leading up to far away mountain ranges. As an enforced tribute to the Bee Gees, we stay at Odessa on the first night, in a motel 6. Over the hotel car park, a vista of unintelligble silver and light, an evil empire space base from Star Wars: in reality a compressed air factory. Oil refineries glitter on the horizon. I ask the hotel staff if there is a bar nearby and they laugh out loud.. of course not! Odessa prides itself on being 'the Sahara of the South West'

Annie and I are riding together, and she forgets we are low on gas until the gauge is reading zero. We look for any exit with a petrol station, and find only miles of dereliction: 50s era cafes and stations all boarded up, the wood fissured and cracked by the heat and dryness, paint flaking away through 50 degree summers. There are 300 miles of desert between us and El Paso. Just in time, we find a small town that provides us with gas and breakfast. We drive all day and reach El Paso in darkness, which, it seems to me is the best way to see it, a sea of light breaking against the Rio Grande, the spiky mountain range - cleft rims behind which some last red rays fall away over Mexico. El Paso seems to last forever, glittering below the freeway, falling steeply down and down. A ghostly train keeps us company to our right, driving in perfect tandem with us, noticeable only through the occasional gleam on the windows, which we first spot with a sudden shock. Everyone is completely exhausted by now, probably because we are drinking in each others rooms late into the night, even on our nights off.

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