Day 8 - First Flat Tyre. Already!

It was still windy when I woke up. Nevertheless, I packed and head out for Lost Maples. Once again went to Jack in the Box. Didn't get lucky this time- no African Americans or Hispanics at the counter :p

I had decided not to curse Ray anymore. So took the route with fewer elevations- the one via Ingram and Hunt. It ran mostly by the Guadalupe river and I wanted to get to know that river better.

On the outskirts of Kerrville, there was an AT&T store. I have not been able to make calls from my India number that is on roaming and relies mostly on AT&T's network. So I decided to go in and request them to do something about that. The customer care personnel at the store were so cordial and eager to help. (Vodafone India should invite AT&T to train their staff!) They tried to fix the problem even though I was not their direct customer. They even let me bring Brownie inside. While I was waiting for them to investigate the issue, a lady in her 50s somehow got to know about me. We spoke for a while. My name sounded like "Jonathan" to her. So we stuck to Esteban. I told her I was figuring out my needs and my wants and had almost eliminated my wants from my luggage. She smiled and asked me if I was taking care of my nutritional needs. She clicked my picture and was like "You'll soon be on Fox News and when that happens I can tell people that I met you!" I told her I would not want to be on the news for this. I think she became suspicious of me after that. I wanted to tell her that one should not live his/her life trying to be on news and not do things for being famous. But she was not interested in the conversation after clicking my picture. I noticed that a man overheard our conversation. He must have been in his late 50s. He came up to me and said, "I have four doctors. Three out of them are Indian. I would not have been able to walk had it not been for one of those Indian doctors. So keep sending those good doctors from your country." I replied, "I wish they'd stay back in the country." He then asked me, "Aren't you scared of the narcos and the drug cartels in South America?" I am not sure what I said. Jon, the customer care person who was assigned to me, could not resolve the problem. (His colleague asked me if I spoke Spanish. Jon commented that most Americans speak only English. His wife is Thai and his father-in-law can speak nine languages and dialects.) I bought a US number with the $2/day plan for seven days. I will need to be able to make calls if there is an emergency while biking through the Texan desert between Langtry and Marathon. They sold me the number only after ensuring that there was sufficient network in that area- they used a pretty cool software for that. It was almost 2:30pm when I left.

Ingram was about four miles away. I was biking against the wind. It felt like pulling the weight of a massive ship. Brownie had given up. I was wondering why and when I just about reached Ingram it occurred to me that I might have a flattie. Oddly, as soon as it occurred to me, I started feeling a bump each time the back tyre completed a rotation. I was close to an Exxon gas station. It did not have a mini store like most other gas stations. I went up to the only guy whom I could spot there. He was working on a car and looked like a mechanic. I requested him to let me use the space behind the station to fix the flattie. He looked too young to be in-charge, but he said I could. I unloaded all the stuff, turned Brownie upside down and started fixing the tyre. I took the tyre off the rim and then thought of surveying the station to make sure that I was safe. I noticed there was a car repair shop in the station and there were four guys and a woman working there, including the guy whose permission I had sought. He probably told his boss because the owner of the repair shop, Mark, came up to me and asked me to remove my stuff from where I had placed it. It was apparently somebody else's private property- just a small unfenced green pasture! Anyway, I followed his instructions. I had spare tubes from Yellow Bike but they weren't new. I thought I was still using the old tubes that Brownie had come with. It did not make sense to replace the punctured old tube with another old tube from Yellow Bike. I wanted a new tube. I thought Mark or the teenage apprentice might have one since there were bikes as well in their shop. The bikes turned out to be theirs. But they said one of them could drive me to the nearest Walmart. Eventually, one of Mark's staff, a very old man, drove me to a bike shop. It was almost 4pm. I had to wait till their day got over- 5pm.

Ben, the old man, used to be in the navy. He worked in a big city for some time but then started missing his hometown- Ingram. He left his girlfriend who did not want to live in the country. He now works as a car mechanic and caretaker of show-horses. He showed me the horses he was responsible for. He does not mind the lower wages in Ingram- a "city" with about 1300 people. I could see why anyone would want to move to Ingram- spellbinding natural beauty!

We got a new tube. He asked me where I was going to sleep. He suggested a few camping spots and advised that there were only two cops in Ingram so I did not have to worry. He was concerned that it would become extremely cold so he gave me his number and asked me to call him if I needed any help. He dropped me back at the gas station. 

Mark and his staff had left, it seemed. The station looked deserted. However, none of my stuff was stolen. I replaced the old, punctured tube. It was 6:30pm. I just wanted to camp on that unfenced green pastured behind the station. But I did not want to get into trouble for being on somebody's private property. While I was weighig my options, Mark appeared from nowhere. It turned out that he lived in the RV (a home on wheels) that was parked between the station and the green pasture. He asked me a lot of questions- if I had managed to fix the bike (he seemed a little impressed that I had), where I was from, what I was doing there, where I slept usually, etc. He also warned me about the drug cartels in Mexico. He was like, "You don't watch the news, do you? It is extremely dangerous out there. They are creating this safer image of Juarez to attract tourists, but things haven't changed." I told him I had a friend there and it would be all right for me. Finally, a little flabbergasted at what I was doing, he offered three cans of Coke and even said that I could camp the night behind the gas station. Not sure why he wanted me to remove my stuff from the same piece of land earlier. He also offered to bring some dinner.

I set up my tent and continued reading Peter Camenzind (nearly finished it). At 10, it became extremely cold. There was no sign of Mark. I was hungry. So I bought tortilla chips, bean dip, and cherry pie (after a detailed survey of everything that they had and I did not want to spend more than $4) from the store next to the station that I had not noticed earlier.

I watched two episodes of Breaking Bad and went to bed.


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