I remember taking this picture in Texas while Cindy was driving. It looked ominous up ahead, but we couldn’t drive out of the storm’s path. We were lucky in that it turned out to be only a brief downpour.
We left Dallas the next day and moseyed on down to El Paso, encountering no problems. I remember that at one point I looked over at Cindy and saw a sombre face. It was then that I realized that neither of us had smiled in the past three days. I mentioned it to Cindy and she agreed. That seemed to loosen the mood, and soon we were actually enjoying the trip.
When we got to El Paso we found and checked into a Motel 6, Cindy’s favorite motel chain. This was actually a pretty nice Motel 6, clean rooms and an outdoor pool. Cindy inveigled me into going to the pool with her. We spent a long time soaking in the water and setting in deck chairs. After a while we went back to our room to change for dinner.
We went searching for a restaurant that we found in the Yellow Pages, but gave up after driving around for a half hour or more. We settled on stopping at a German restaurant that was just down the street from our motel. I wish I could remember the name of the place, because it was the best German food that I had been able to find since I got out of the Army. It was great!
The next morning I awoke with one of the most uncomfortable sunburns that I have ever had. I knew that there was no way that I would be able to sit in a car all day, so we extended our stay in El Paso for another day. I could however stand a short drive across the border into Ciudad Juarez. So off we went.
Once we crossed the bridge I was desperately driving, looking for a shopping district where we could pick up some souvenirs for the kids and friends back home. As we were sitting at a stop light, a little man riding a bicycle pulled up beside us and asked Cindy if we were looking for a place to buy souvenirs. She waffled a bit, but said yes. He then told us to follow him, and he would lead us to a good shop.
I followed his bicycle as he weaved through the traffic leading us further from the main streets. Finally he pulled into a dirt parking area and stopped beside a nondescript building. It looked like a very small house. He escorted us into what appeared to be a side entrance. Inside were tables with typical souvenir knickknacks, T-shirts, etc. I chose a T-shirt for me, Cindy found a leather purse, and we picked up a few things for the folks in Indiana. We paid and left the building.
In the parking area the man with the bike came up to us with his hand out. He told us that we were expected to give him 20% of what we had spent. That seemed too much. Cindy told him that people don’t expect that much in the U.S. He started to get angry. I thought of telling him that he was probably getting a decent kickback from the shop owner, but decide that he might not understand that much English, and that there was no need in angering him.
At that point Cindy glanced around and saw two men staring at us. She started to get nervous. She was certain that the men were getting ready to attack us. I looked at them and didn’t feel that they would. I think they were just curious. But Cindy wanted to give the man some money to get rid of him. So I gave him some bills from my wallet (not as much as he wanted), and told him that it was all that we had. He scowled. We got in the car and I drove away. Luckily I remembered how to get back to the main thoroughfare.
When we got to line of cars lined up for border customs I made the mistake of pulling up too close to the car ahead of us. The border guard got upset and ordered me to back up, so I did. I felt foolish. When our turn came, he asked if we had bought anything in Mexico. We told him what we had bought. When Cindy said that she had bought a purse, he said that often drug runners would put drugs into purses and then rob the innocent people who brought them across the border; sometime killing the people.
As we pulled away, Cindy took the purse and opened it. She tore out all of the paper that was stuffed in the purse to give it shape. She was frantic. It didn’t occur to either of us that if the border guard was concerned he would have asked to see the purse. He hadn’t. But we weren’t thinking coherently. As we headed back to the motel Cindy saw a Denny’s Restaurant. Back then Denny’s was Cindy’s comfort restaurant. She begged me to pull in, so I did. The food wasn’t as good as at the German restaurant. But we ate and then drove back to the motel. Tomorrow we were leaving El Paso.