Episode 38A – Mensch, What Weather!

So, apparently a “cold weather bomb” has hit the southwestern states, which explains why it has gotten colder instead of warmer as we travel south and west.

As we drove through higher altitudes on Interstate 40 into Albuquerque today, the fog intensified, the temperature dropped to freezing, the rain turned to ice on the roads and windshield, and traffic slowed to 40mph in a 75mph zone. Passing transport trucks splashed icy slush right up to the roofline of our car, forcing the windshield wipers to work overtime. It was white knuckles for almost an hour. Thankfully, as we entered the city’s core, the skies cleared and the thermometer rose to a balmy 4C (40F).

If our drive today was cold, the people we met along the way were anything but. In German, and in Yiddish, there is a word used to describe people who are just real, authentic humans: mensch. Our first mensch was the proprietress of the Cadillac Ranch RV Camp outside Amarillo, Texas. We had detoured very slightly off I40 onto the old Route 66 to see the famous Cadillacs buried nose first in a farmers field as an art installation created in 1974. The cars have long since rusted, and their original paint jobs replaced by layers of brightly coloured graffiti, but they’re an iconic tourist site nonetheless. Unfortunately, 2 days of steady drizzle had turned the access path into a mud-hole, so we couldn’t get close, although Ted’s new zoom lens allowed him to capture this pretty great picture.

Anyway…. we had passed by a gift shop and RV park at the highway ramp,and noticed that they had 3 Caddies on display outside, so we decided to make a pitstop. Although it was almost 10:00, the shop was just opening. The owner explained that she was late opening because she couldn’t stop crying – her daughter’s family, with her new grandchild, had just left. They live in Iowa, and this was the first time she’d gotten to hold the baby. Their visit was a surprise; they have no money and couldn’t afford the trip, but her son-in-law’s father had been setting money aside in secret, and had gifted them enough to let them rent a car to drive to Texas. They simply showed up on her doorstep unannounced. I told her about seeing my first grandson for the first time, when son #2 and his new family were able to get a Christmas military flight home to Ontario in 2010. Remembering made me teary-eyed. She was already crying. So we hugged. This woman who I had known for all of 5 minutes held on as tightly as if we’d known each other our whole lives. She was just a mensch – and so was that father who saved to send his son’s family to the “other” side of the family for Thanksgiving Day.

One of the 3 Cadillacs at the RV Park

A couple of hours later, as we crossed the state line into New Mexico, we were detoured off the highway at some bridge construction, and found ourselves at Russell’s Travel Center, with its “Free Classic Car Museum”. https://russellsttc.com/about.php

TOP: The Men’s is Elvis and the Women’s is Marilyn; “Marilyn” having a Coke beside the first row of vintage cars. CENTRE: Texaco memorabilia and Ted flirting with the full-sized Betty Boop. BOTTOM: The drink fridge theatre sign and the diner entrance

The place was amazing: pristine classic cars and motorcycles; Route 66 memorabilia; old gas station, diner and barbershop set-ups; all kinds of tin signs, and movie posters. The restaurant looked like a soda shop. The drink fridge had a huge “Starlite Theater” sign above it. Everywhere you looked – even the restrooms – was a blast from the past. The fellow who owned it was stationed at the “museum” entrance, in an old-fashioned ticket booth. It’s definitely not tourist season, so he must have been lonely because he seemed to want to chat. We talked about the weather of course, and where we were headed next. He told us about his brothers, especially the one in Flagstaff who is “anti-Trump” (oh dear, I thought, but it went no further than that) and I think he was disappointed that we were headed to Tucson instead of Flagstaff, since he might have had us pass on a message or two. It sounds like the two of them have a WEE bit of sibling rivalry going on… like most brothers. Anyway, on the way out I noticed the box on the wall with the sign over it. All donations to the museum go to feed hungry families in the area. I imagine it costs a bit to maintain all that “stuff”, but their focus is on generating donations to help others. I don’t know whether we met Mark, Rusty, or Tim, but whichever brother it was he seemed like a real mensch.

The more we travel, the more we get to see the good side of people. One on one, folks are generally nice to each other. And you get what you give, so we do our best to be considerate of others. We don’t talk politics or religion of course, having been brought up in a generation where those things were kept more private, but we do talk weather – a lot!

One comment

  1. Love the comments about the new grandmother. So sweet! Sorry you didn’t get to spray paint the cadillacs. We had a ball because as a father and son were leaving, they gave us their paint. I felt like a graffiti artist! Drive safe, guys!


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