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Poe's North American Tour '99

Episode 12: 'Here, Kitty! Kitty!'

One precedent that I managed to set in San Antonio was to foul up the local weather systems. Texas in mid-June is supposed to be a tad warm, but we didn't get too much sun; instead it monsooned down frequently. And to follow the trend I got to see San Francisco without fog and Seattle without much rain. But rain or no rain, we got out and about.

The Natural Bridge Caverns are were quite stunning, a long walk underground through formations both intricate and vast; the entrance being underneath the natural bridge that named the whole place. I'd never been this far underground before, at least not in anything natural - the chaotic warren of the London Underground feels very different - and I enjoyed it. There were stalactites and stalagmites everywhere, and some had ceased to be either by becoming a permanent link between floor and ceiling. Some, like the Madonna stalagmite looked serene and beautiful, others looked like something out of the Cthulhu Mythos. One could have been the Great Old One himself, dreaming of his inevitable return. Maybe lost R'lyeh wasn't under the Pacific after all...

It was hard enough not to use up all my film on products of nature but I was awake enough to snap a pic of Robin in a large bat cave hehe. Bats were old regulars down here, one huge formation being nothing less than a huge stack of bat guano. Back above ground Dan went panning for emeralds, Robin introduced me to the dubious delights of a Slurpee and I went horseriding. Or was this really a dinosaur after all, not a Texan horse?

Many of my later tour pictures will be recognisable by the presence of a hat. This was acquired in the town of Gruene (pronounced Green), picked out by LadyRobin at the Gruene general store and worn by myself. I can tell that the Natural Bridge Caverns were before Gruene, because that's Dan's hat I'm waving on the back of Grendel.

Gruene is a picturesque little place, most notable for me for the hat but also for the chicken fried steak. This is a Texan speciality that I just had to try. And yeah it was delicious (and huge), but I'll stick to a more traditional steak I think.

Other than the Alamo, which we did visit, San Antonio is mostly known for its Riverwalk, and quite honestly it should be. This is a section of river running through the town that is literally surrounded with a long walkway up and down both sides. At night it's alive, with all the restaurants and bars throbbing with people, and live music everywhere. We ate here at Dick's Last Resort, an interesting place where the waiters are paid to be obnoxious to the customers. The throwing of screwed up little bits of paper isn't just tolerated, it's encouraged - they bring replacement supplies. It was certainly an experience, and hey - only in America...

We'd got used to retiring to MT's room after the events of the day to catch up with Cosmo on his laptop. SouthernFriedBorg was one of a number of handles we used, and it was the one that confused the knight quite pleasantly. Grin.

People drifted off to sleep at points, sometimes even back to their room first, and I think it was the night after the Riverwalk that MT finally kicked Robin and I out at some early hour so he could sleep. Robin looked at me and I looked at Robin and we decided to wander round San Antonio for an hour or two, before heading back to my room to keep chatting. Time enough to sleep when we die.

I think it was about six o'clock in the morning when Robin left for her own room, but she didn't get that far. Outside my room was a cat, painfully thin, wandering along as if lost. One of the things Robin does in real life is rescue ferrets, and she certainly rescued this cat. We fed it water, but we had to wait until 7.30 or so for the hotel's restaurant to open to find food for it. It got used to us within half an hour or so and was happy enough with me while Robin slept for an hour. Yes, that rumour is true - Robin slept in my bed that night. But I wasn't in it LOL! Sheesh. Mia and Foggy were up and about before I got to sleep that night, and Foggy pronounced the cat healthy enough for us to let it go.

We didn't catch up on sleep either, as the next night saw Robin and I camped out in Dan's room watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's not often I laugh that hard, and I remember Robin literally rolling around with aching ribs. It was a Maltese film with a Texan sheriff (yeah, seriously) and the MST dubbing was hilarious. The highlight was the course acting sheriff wagging his finger violently at someone or other, only for the dubbing to kick in with "I'll pick your nose if you scream!" ROFL! Then cartoons and more chat. Dan's imitation of Pa from the Hillbilly Bears is uncanny... It was another wonderful evening not easily forgotten.

Dan had another day in San Antonio after the others had headed home, and I was to head north with Robin to Fort Worth. We adjourned to a sprots bar to play pool and NTN, trivia addicts the lot of us. I can't remember the name of the place I tried a root beer float, but I do remember Dan explaining how he got his handle. Before Cosmo, the PirateDan character started out listening to a radio show, graduating up through myriad requests to end up helping out on the show on occasion. I'd truly love to hear some of those broadcasts. Dan's pirate accent is a classic and his sense of humour is contagious.

Then Dan too was gone and Robin and I drove seven hours north back to Fort Worth. Seven hours to an Englishman is enough to drive the length of the country. Twice. For Robin it was just a drive home. And MT and Dan had still longer drives. I was expecting seven hours to be a long time, but we didn't stop talking all the way and we were in Euless almost before we left. Euless is midway between Fort Worth and Dallas and it's the home of #1Scarlett. I was staying here with Becky for a couple of days until flying out to San Diego and yet another American country.

I'm very glad of that evening with Becky. Robin had driven home and Becky and I headed out to eat cajun style. This time tchoupitalas were the one thing on the beautifully constructed Razoo's menu I could eat and we had to search for a while to find those. But we had time to talk and we talked into the wee hours. We found time to stop off at a bar on the way home and listen to some local live music. We found time for Becky to sing herself too, and she sounds even better in person than she does recorded; and Becky doing country is good, but Becky doing blues is better.

It was a good evening and I'm glad we got that time together because the tacos Robin brought us for breakfast did not agree with Becky at all and she was pretty much out for the count for the rest of my time there. So it fell to Robin to show me around the north of Texas, though we didn't have time to do much. I didn't get to see Dallas but I did get to see Robin's ferrets which is a good tradeoff in my opinion. I liked them so much I forgot to take photos.

It was up here that I got to experience the Golden Corral. I'm still stunned at how these people manage to make money. We paid seven bucks apiece and ate literally whatever we wanted. There was a meat bar with a large selection, a salad bar, a vegetable bar. Whatever you wanted to eat was there. And the price included dessert - anything you wanted. There was even a huge bowl of M&Ms. I'm sure that if I lived in Texas I'd end up too big to move.

And all of this was a mere week. I only spent seven days in Texas and the time flew, but I know now that it's somewhere I'm hoping to return to in the summer of 2000. You did a wonderful job, Mia.

So what of my expectations? Yes, it was big. Everything about it was big. And yes, it's a country all on its own. I was sorry to leave.

Previous Episode: The One Thing on the Menu.
Next Episode: Dead Englishman's Gulch.

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