In 152 miles, exit right

I will spare everyone my rant on the inefficiencies of American Airline, and instead enthrall you with our adventures on the road.

When our TomTom gleefully announced “In 152 miles, exit right” I knew we would be in for a long drive. A very long drive. Once we left Dallas/Fort Worth the landscape occasionally featured cows, 24-hour XXX book/video stores, Mega Churches, and greasy fast food joints (not national franchises).

In the process of uploading/modifying the TomTom, the music we’d put on had been erased. Gavin attempted to find music on the radio. Twenty five country stations, occasionally broken up by a blast of festive latino, we turned it off in despair and started a round of 99 bottles of beer on the wall (we got to 86 and quit).

Heidi lives with Abby & Kevin, Duke (a nearly blind/deaf arthritic dog), Slinky (the fluff-ball cat) and Chiquita (Chic the cockatiel). She has my old mini-fridge from prin, amply adorned with odd stickers from my college days, and a unique collection of art and postcards adorning the walls.

Heidi graciously drew us a very not-to-scale map of the area which managed to get us in mostly the right direction. We headed downtown in search of the bakery, McKays. It was not bad, but I firmly believe that I make better cinnamon rolls (Gavin agrees).

Most of downtown Abilene is empty, what is not empty has tinted windows and looks empty. It’s cheaper to build outside of the downtown area than in is to go back and renovate the old buildings that are already there. It’s easy to find parking.

After breakfast we went to the Abilene Zoo. For $4 you can walk around, and for an extra $1.50 you can buy crackers to feed some of the animals. We made our $8 donation and spent almost two hours walking around watching the Elementary School Children in an Unnatural Habitat.

The groups would wear matching t-shirts, be loosely chaperoned and run screaming from animal to animal. The giraffes were among the most popular as the bridge over their enclosure allowed for an up close encounter. They also have long tongues which they use to take crackers. When they realized we did not have food for them, they sauntered off and didn’t give us a second look.

We saw the monkeys sunning themselves on the warm metal roof, fighting over food, and balancing precariously on a swing. We saw lemurs (all both of them) sitting looking bored. The lions were half napping, as were the black bears. The zebras lined up to get fed, the bison were eating, the cheetah napped in the shade, and the Creepy Crawlies didn’t do much of either.

Albert the Alligator didn’t move much, the little “guard” quail looked like they’d swallowed soccer balls, and the mallards raced between the legs of precariously balanced flamingos. Through out all of this the Small Children in Matching T-shirts screamed and ran around. We tried to go see the animals they were not. Sometimes it worked better than others.

Heidi met up with us at the Zoo, and we took her jeep to Buffalo Gap, population 436. In Buffalo Gap there is a little restaurant with a fairly well priced menu, good food, and slightly distracted service. Heidi’s birder/work buddy Laura joined us for lunch.

Immediately after lunch LW decided she needed to take advantage of her Efficient Imported Labor Force (aka Kindli & Gavin). We drove to Abilene State Park where the Audobon Society Volunteers have built a bird blind, then they realized that people walking by scared the birds, so they were constructing a fence (out of non-native invasive cedar) to protect the birds being watched so the birders in the blind could take full advantage of it.

Sort of like a private peep-show for birders. Complete with a water feature and bird feeders (why else would the birds show up).

The fence was 2/3 completed when we got there. The cedar posts were wired onto a metal frame, and to the other cedar posts. Being Efficient Imported Labor, we finished it in about 3 hours. Heidi and Laura (who had small gloves for their small hands) put the posts in place, I ran the wires around them, and Gavin tightened the wires securing the posts in place. It was beyond thrilling, let me tell you.

On the way back from the fencing project we stopped at the Buffalo Gap Pottery. I wish they had a website. If they did, I would be sure to link to it. They sell vases, mugs, and other earthenware items, beautifully and innovatively gazed (in this case that’s a good thing).

We went to Olive Garden for dinner and (completely by accident) met up with Laura and her husband, Randy. So our party of 3 and their party of 2 became a party of 5 and we were able to get a table more quickly, and we had fun dinner partners.

When dinner was over, we went to the local bookstore (with an impressive Christian section), and to the local grocery store. Parking near the store was impossible, as the only open space anywhere near the entrance was reserved for “new and expectant mothers.” Heidi claims 90% of Abilene’s reproductive population is reproducing. We also noticed the giant Jesus fish on one of the buildings. Apparently the only vandalism in town involves the Darwin fish getting their legs snapped off (as of the mid-90s Abilene has the highest per-capita of [“christian”] churches in the US).

Now I want a Darwin Fish.

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