We were sad to say goodbye to New Mexico but happy to be on the road and closer to our final destination. As we entered Texas, I made my husband stop for another picture. I wanted to hug Texas.
What I needed to do was hold on for dear life!
Not too long after Amarillo, we saw ahead of us a huge wall of ominous clouds. The girls were excited to see a real thunderstorm and couldn't wait to catch up with it. It wasn't just a passing thundercloud though but a huge cell moving across the Southeast and we were moving with it. For over 3 hours, we drove at a snails pace in thunder, lightning, hail and driving rain with an occasional rainbow sighting which brought loud squeals from the girls. Seeing the futility of it, we decided to take our leave at the next exit that looked inhabited: Shamrock, TX. Did you know Shamrock, TX boasts the tallest water tower of it's kind anywhere? Neither did we. We were just happy to see the one and only restaurant still open for business. When we pulled up at the front with the elements churning all around us, the waitress opened the door and motioned us in. The busboy ran out and took Abby for me while Angelina and I ran for the open door. When we were safely inside, we saw an interesting collection of locals hovering around a television in the corner watching the Weather Channel. They were openly concerned. Apparently the storm sirens had been going off. Apparently a tornado had touched down a few miles from there. And apparently it was getting worse. The waitress must have seen my concerned look and said in her thick country accent, "Don't worry darlin', if we get a twister, we have a walk-in. We can all pile in there." By "walk-in", I believe she meant the refrigerator. Now God bless these sweet people for their shelter in a storm and for their concern for the safety of myself and my children and even my dog. (Yes, they asked the owner if they could bring our dog in the restaurant.) But the look of concern she saw on my face was not for the howling wind and hail outside. No. It was for the fact that the air was filled with the long forgotten smell of cigarette smoke. It was the fact that she offered us a seat in the NON-SMOKING SECTION. It was the fact that my eyes had taken in the tiny salad bar containing iceberg lettuce, jello, and some pink stuff that looked like drowning marshmellows. Oh my word! What have we done?!
After my husband joined us, we were seated in a booth in the aforementioned section and perused the menu. As always, my first concern is 'what will I feed my children'. The only non-meat item on the menu was a grilled cheese. I occasionally make grilled cheese for my kids from my home-baked bread and either veggie cheese or organic dairy cheese so it wasn't completely foreign to them. At least they would recognize it as food. When I placed their order, the waitress replied, "french fries, chips er tater tots?" Oh my word! Do tater tots still exist? You mean the FDA hasn't banned them as being a plastic non-food item? The waitress only raised one eyebrow when I asked for a side of sliced tomato instead. As expected, the sandwiches came on Wonder Bread.
Throughout our short and surpisingly inexpensive dinner, we learned from the Weather Channel that the storm was big and it was heading east at the same rate we were so it was no use fighting it, we were stuck in this little town for the night. Fortunately, when the rain subsided a bit, we found a very nice hotel right next door to our sheltering restaurant. We got a beautiful, newly remodeled room for the night and woke up to clear skies.
As my husband often does, he got up before anyone and went about town to gather supplies and get the "lay of the land". He came back into the room just chuckling to himself. In the local grocery store, he asked the checkout girl if it was always this windy here to which she replied, "If it ain't windy, you better write it down." She asked one of the regulars, "Hey Leonard. How ya doin'?" His response, "O, I used to be fine, but I got over it". And as Rick made his way to the door, a large man in overalls, that didn't quite button on the sides, rushed ahead to the door and said, "Here. Lemme get that for ya." I thought about these kind, friendly and genuine folks and their concern for strangers in a storm. Just listening to him relay what he'd encountered and thinking of the kindness we'd been shown the night before, I knew then that we were on the right path. Ok, eating is going to be a challenge, but we've overcome bigger challenges than that and will again. This is our adventure and yes, for a moment, I was worried...but I got over it.