The Real Route 66
: "Highway, we hardly knew ye."

Photo: True color sunrise pinkout of MG TD and a passing truck, west of Albuquerque

I believe this was during the second trip from LA to Little Rock. At something like three in the morning I felt the need to rest at the side of the road. I found a graded area to pull off in, and parked. I sat in the passenger seat, laid into the driver seat, and zipped the tonneau cover closed.

A couple of hours later I woke up. I heard footscrunches on the gravel and started to unzip the tonneau. A voice said, "Hey, there's someone in there! Let's get out of here!" Sound of car leaving in a hurry. What do you suppose they'd have done if the car weren't occupied? If I hadn't awakened?

Look at the thing on the grill. The engine ran cold in cold weather. I bought an English auto repair magazine with an article, "Give Your Rad A Muff." It detailed how to use materials found around the house to make a roll-up, padded, remote-controlled (via pull-string) cover to block cold air. Love those English. There was a sense that WWII's effects had not yet dissipated, that resources were slim. This shirt-cardboard and masking tape effort seemed to work OK. I was prepared with my desert water bag, just in case it got hot.

As I left Albuquerque and headed toward the Continental Divide, I was tempted to pick up a hitchhiker who had a big backpack and bare legs, European style. My assessment was that Mr. Weak-Knee The TD Engine would have its work cut out for it climbing that slope of the Rockies, without adding another person and baggage. I did feel guilty, as I could see the guy expected me to stop for him.

About two weeks later the Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock's Pulitzer-winning daily) carried a feature interview with him, with pictures, detailing his adventures crisscrossing the USA. He was a Brit, and was not impressed with the generosity of American travelers, especially those crossing New Mexico and Texas.

In Texas, which was pretty featureless even in a 60-mph TD, I needed a rest at about nine at night, just as I pulled into Shamrock. I had a cup of coffee and a piece of cherry pie in a cafe that was protected from flash floods (and almost me) by a curb close to eighteen inches high with a regular curb set back from the top of that.

The patrons and waitress in the "Shamrock Cafe" (!) seemed amused but friendly, and made small talk about my trip ("Yep, that's a fur piece to come"), my car ("One a them funny little furrin cars, eh?"), my destination ("Little Rock? Say 'hi' to Orval [Faubus] for me")

This was the first place I remember seeing plastic "glasses." They were the same size, had the same barrel shape with fluted bottom rim as the classic glass glasses I was used to seeing wherever I went. They lacked the heft of glass, so I nearly spilled water on the green linoleum countertop the first time I lifted one.
From that moment I have carried within me a turmoil that roils today: If a glass glass is a "glass," is a plastic glass a "plastic" or is it still a "glass"? Here's a clue to my own tendency: my daughter has called for and offered "plastics" since she could talk. I don't know if she ever knew there's a conflict. Maybe there isn't, or wasn't.

No, I don't want to hear "tumbler."

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