The Greyhound drive from Albuquerque to Amarillo was an interesting ride as there was a guy walking up and down the coach asking for food and drink while simultaneously preaching about God, and giving out stickers in return. At one point, a bloke sitting in front of us showed him something and then threatened him to sit down. Walking guy responded in fear “is that real?” and sat down promptly, so we figured that this bloke must have had either a police badge or a gun. Probably the latter knowing the Greyhound. Nevertheless, we arrived in Amarillo safe and sound.
Our favourite bar in Amarillo was Butlers – oh we do miss that place. Partly because of the cheap cocktail menu (I was addicted to the Birthday Cake), but mainly because of the people, particularly Gage. Gage was a fresh-faced 18-year-old bartender who Alice and I befriended for cheap cocktails. We continually screamed “GAGEEE! GAGEEEE!” across the bar at every visit, and in hindsight, I think he might have been a little scared of us.
Then there was Roberto who made us believe in romance again, and Big Dave, who is lovely and extremely chivalrous. ALL of the men in Texas are over-the-top chivalrous, which was frustrating at first, but it didn’t take long before we completely embraced it. Soon enough, I expected men to buy me drinks every five minutes, and I never left for the bathroom until every male in a ten yard perimeter was standing up.
Fortunately for us, Alice’s cousin Michael is a Texan born and bred, and also happens to be a pilot. He kindly took us flying a couple of times which made me feel like I was in the Pearl Harbour movie, especially during our tour around the airport.
The first time we flew, Alice and I tagged along in the back seat of a paying customer’s flight, as he wanted to fly over the canyon to see the bush fire damage. This fella decided to open his window to take photos of the view, which was fine for Alice as she was sat on the opposite side to him. However, I was sat directly behind him which resulted in me being continually face slapped by the wind. Michael then turned the plane on an angel, which upped the air pressure to a whole new level, so it took everything I had to stop myself from passing out. Meanwhile, Alice is oblivious to all of this as she happily looks out of her window at the view. Fortunately, we flew out a second time that week for a flight lesson which was very cool.
I really enjoyed my time in Amarillo; it was filled with sun, pool parties at Big Dave’s, eating out, cocktails and laughter.
One memorable hangover during this trip was in San Antonio along the Guadalupe River. We explored the night life there like any proper tourist should, and of course, we got smashed. I blame the hurricane, which is a lethal cocktail made with a hell of a lot of rum. This resulted in Alice sprinting out of a petrol station with a bottle of Smirnoff, and running loose around the motel surroundings in a hyperactive state. As for me, I managed to stay composed the entire night, only to fall head first into the bath (which I’m pretty sure knocked me out cold for a few minutes) once we were back inside our room. Needless to say, we both woke up feeling fairly fragile.
The domino effect the following morning began within minutes, starting with whacking my thigh on the bedside table while trying to navigate my way to the bathroom. This hurt like crazy, and later formed a lump and bruise the size of a peach which haunted me about this day for weeks.
Michael had planned to take us river tubing so we stopped en route at McDonald’s to force something manageable down – chicken nuggets. Bad decision. The rest of the drive was hot and stuffy, with constant waves of nausea washing over me. On arrival, I rolled out of the car into a heap on the ground in the 40°C weather, and fought my hardest to stay awake. In a bid to beat the pull, I wandered around looking for the toilets. Oh brilliant, it was a portable loo, which is just what I needed today. I even survived the sight and stench of that, so at this point, I was feeling rather optimistic about my upcoming recovery.
However, I stepped back outside and spotted Alice in a crouching position on the floor, chanting “oh my God, I’m going to faint! I’m going to faint!”. “Just take deep breaths and put your head between your legs!” I shrieked. It was a fruitless effort to save her, as at this point, she began to spray vomit everywhere (chicken nuggets included) with a look of pure shock on her face about why this was happening. Being the good friend I am, I ran over to hold her hair back, but being the great friend I am, I began throwing up with her. In between heaves, we were laughing uncontrollably at each other in hysterics with tears streaming down our faces. Fortunately, we both felt better afterwards, and like we had reached a new level in our friendship.
I wish I could say this was the end, but there’s more. Michael wasn’t going to let us of the hook that easily so ten minutes later, we were floating down the river with a crate of beer to battle through on an empty stomach. I fully recommend tubing by the way; drifting along half unconscious in the sun for five hours is definitely the life. Not long after this, we were back at the bars of San Antonio for round two. On the drive back to the motel, I had a sudden urge to throw up from my newly acquired drunken state, so I calmly began to unload items from my bag into Alice’s lap. She was looking at me in puzzlement, trying to figure out what I was doing, by which point I was aiming my mouth towards the open, now empty bag. “Stop! Stop the truck! She’s gonna hurl!” she screamed at Michael’s friend, Mikah. He slammed down on the breaks at the side of a freeway where I gracefully hopped out and vomited for the second time that day. Lovely.
Once in Austin, we ventured out onto Sixth Street which was alive with commotion and live music. People watching while walking between bars was entertainment in itself – there are some right characters out there! There was one particular bar we enjoyed that I don’t even remember the name of, but it had dirt-cheap drink prices and one Tina Turner esp of an amazing woman singing her heart out. I got talking to a couple of guys here who were supposedly in a band which obviously pushed the right buttons for me as apparently I kept repeatedly saying to Alice, “they’re in a band Alice! A band! A BAND” Oh dear.
This is also the night we met Tucker Max, or so we think. Michael introduced us to his book a few days before and to give you a quick summary of his character, this is how he describes himself. “My name is Tucker Max, and I am an ass hole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.”
In his bid to contribute to humanity, he shares his adventures with the world, known as the Tucker Max stories. I’ll add here that he currently resides in Austin. So back to the story, Alice took a trip to the bathroom and had been waiting for a while when this stranger of a man offered to guard the door if she would like to use the male bathroom. She gladly took him up on this offer and thanked him. Later on, he approached us and struck up conversation. He was such a lovely guy, and he was genuinely interested in listening to our travel stories. Now seeing as Michael is his biggest fan, he recognized him as Tucker straight away when he returned from the bar. Max flat point denied it though and ran away into the crowd. Wouldn’t an innocent man laugh about it, maybe even joke that he was? We did see him again on our way out and shouted goodbye over the music, but it’s a crying shame that we’ll never know the truth behind this mystery of a man. The next day, we flicked through his book, looking closely at the pictures and all three of us are adamant it was him.
Next, we headed to the Cayote Ugly bar. Oh my days, I LOVE this movie so this was pretty much a dream come true.
Now here’s a small back story before I go ahead. While in Amarillo, I became addicted to one of Michael’s magazines, The Week, and one day I came across an article about Navy SEALs. I don’t know what it was exactly, but something about these magnificent men just triggered my utmost interest. I unknowingly absorbed and memorized every fact I read about them. Back at the Cayote Ugly bar (where I was now quite drunk after those dirt-cheap drinks), I spotted a guy who I thought looked a lot like how I imagine a Navy SEAL soldier would look. This is how our conversation went:
Me: Oh my God, are you a Navy SEAL?!?!
Him: Erm no.
Me: Yeah, but you are though.
Him: No really, I’m not.
Me: Wow! I can’t believe I’m talking to a real live Navy SEAL.
Him: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Me: Don’t worry mate, your secret is safe with me *wink*. BUT DID YOU KNOW…. a Navy SEAL is expected to spend up to 300 days a year in deployment… and DID YOU KNOW… they only get paid up to $54,000 a year – ridiculous!
I think in the end, this guy finally ‘admitted’ that he was indeed one. Result. I fulfilled my dream of dancing on a Cayote Ugly bar, and to top of a fantastic night, Alice and I spotted a bicycle taxi with a rather good-looking young man ‘driving’ it. We jumped on board and demanded that he cycle us around for free, which he did, through the back streets of Austin where we saw some very unusual scenes. So much love for Texas!
Update: Big Dave was found guilty of murder shortly afterwards.