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MIT staff blogger Mikey Yang '05

So Long, So Long, Front Foot Leads the Back One by Mikey Yang '05

Go on, and it won't be too Texas road trip (Part 1).

When we last left off, I had narrowly dodged Hurricane Ike to fly down to the Rio Grande Valley. The saga continues…

McAllen, Texas
September 12, 2008 – September 17, 2008

I spent a nice weekend in McAllen, eating some great food and hanging out in the Valley. I had cabrito for the first time, which was fantastic. I actually met up with Louann, one of my friends from Michigan, who is down there doing a Teach for America placement at one of the local high schools. She’s starting her second year, and is already teaching AP English classes. We had a great time catching up.

My hotel was right next to a Tony Roma’s (great ribs!) and Logan’s Roadhouse (tasty bread). Tony Roma’s had a special where you could get a 3-course dinner – appetizer, ribs entree, and dessert – for like $15. Mmmmm. Aside from the cabrito, I didn’t really get a chance to have some authentic Mexican food (which I know many would yell at me for not doing), but when I’m traveling, sometimes I’m just so tired that anything more than a 2-minute drive is simply too far.

Anyways, after visiting a few schools, we hosted a central meeting on Wednesday, 9/17 at a place called the Echo Hotel. There was a decent-sized crowd of about 120 students, parents, and others at the meeting. There were even a few people who drove all the way down from Laredo (about 3 hours away) to attend.

I got to meet 3 really cool ECs, one of whom actually teaches math at the same school that Louann teaches English! What a small world. After the meeting ended around 10pm, some of us went to Chili’s (one of the few places in the area that was still open after 10).

Laredo, Texas
September 18, 2008

6am. The crack of dawn. I sleepily roll out of bed, eyes drooping like Droopy the Dog’s cheeks. My legs feel like cement blocks. I slump into the shower, allowing the hot water to wake me up and wash the previous day off me. Feeling refreshed, I get ready, pack everything up, and check out of the hotel.

7am. After gassing up, I start my 3-hour drive up US-83, snaking along the US-Mexico border. One thing that I noticed throughout my time in South Texas (and especially on this drive) is that people generally do not like to exceed the speed limit. In fact, they like to drive 5 miles under the speed limit. I don’t know if it’s a culture thing or if the police are extremely strict or what, but it was VERY different from Michigan or Mass.

10am. I arrive in Laredo, check in to my hotel, and head out to my meetings for the day. I get excited that this hotel actually has FOOD NETWORK (another post on my love for TV to come), but unfortunately I’ll only be here for one day.

11:30am. I’ve been using a GPS unit this entire time to help me get from place to place, which has (for the most part) been extremely helpful. It’s like my new best friend. I even contemplated giving it a name. But in Texas, I’ve run into two main problems:

1) The highways here have service roads that run parallel to them. This poses a problem when the unit can’t accurately detect whether I’m actually on the highway, or the service road next to it. Particularly when I’m in the right lane on the highway, and it suddenly tells me to “turn left” off of the overpass.

2) In fast-growing cities like Laredo, the maps on the unit were severely out of date/inaccurate. In one instance, I was on the highway, and the exit I was supposed to take no longer existed. So I figured, get off at the next exit, and either turn around and go back the other way on the highway, or find my way to my destination. So I take the next exit, and all the while problem #1 is plaguing me because I’m in a spaghetti-type junction, so it starts going crazy trying to figure out which road I’m actually on.

At this point, I actually start yelling at the thing because the voice won’t stop screaming directions at me: “recalculating…recalculating…drive 0.3 miles, then turn ri–drive 200 feet, then turn–recalculating…when possible, make a u-turn…recalculating…recalculating…” I continue on the ramp I’m on (as there’s basically no other choice), and finally see a sign: BRIDGE TO MEXICO.

Oops. Omgomgomg what do I do.

I start to pass all the signs about border policies, firearms, etc. and am furiously looking for an exit to turn around. As I approach the tollbooths, I see out of the corner of my eye this tiny sign pointing to a dirt road that says “Back to U.S.” I merge over 6 lanes, get on the path, and finally make my way back towards my destination.

Once I get to my destination (according to my GPS), I’m basically in the middle of a field. Literally. There are no buildings around. I drive until I find a church, and manage to get directions from a friendly pastor in the parking lot.

I also had a scary encounter where the GPS unit almost guided me the wrong way on a four-lane, one-way highway off-ramp. After that, I made sure to download the latest map update and updated my unit.

Due up next: my trip takes me to San Antonio, Austin, Seattle, and New York City. For the solution to the last post’s title, you can go here. Personally, I was referring to the Chantal Kreviazuk cover, but there are plenty of great versions of that song. Can you guess where this post’s title comes from? (No Googling answers!)

14 responses to “So Long, So Long, Front Foot Leads the Back One”

  1. Stacy says:

    LOL that was hilarious. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I like my home state Texas as opposed to my new home, Boston. The speeding here is absolutely insane.

    On a more unrelated note, is it true that you are coming to my school (Fenway High School) on Tuesday? It seems highly unlikely since your next plans are to stay in Texas for awhile.

  2. Woooooooooooooooooottttt….Second!!

  3. Zaira '11 says:

    Yay! The Valley! Oh, how I miss my beloved Valley! I remember going to several Info sessions, including one at the Echo hotel. My friends and I got lost while driving from Brownsville.

  4. Kasey says:

    Haha, what an entertaining story! Silly GPS.
    I’m looking forward to the NY blog smile

  5. Richard says:

    That’s quite an adventure!

    And no wonder you are so busy haha

  6. deng says:

    people in rhode island are supposedly the worst drivers in the united states…
    I just got my permit and my mom was telling me to go faster when I was already over the speed limit… of all people, my MOTHER

  7. hcs says:

    Holy crap. I’ve read these blogs for so long and never really had much of a reason to comment.

    The song is one of my favorites, So Long by Guster.

  8. EJ Bensing says:

    haha, I guess people in South Texas are quite a bit different from those of us in North Texas. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone going the speed limit on a flowing highway. In fact, we generally call the North Texas Toll Way, “The Texas Autobahn” because the posted limit is 55, but nobody goes any slower than 70.

  9. TWIG! says:

    wadup mikey!

  10. Mikey says:

    @deng – Haha, that’s so funny. My parents did that to me as well when I was learning to drive as people would tailgate me and cut me off as I was going 70 on a 70mph highway…go figure. smile

    @Stacy – Yes, I will be there tomorrow. This post about Texas is way overdue (I’m back in Boston now, but I’m just recapping my travels from September). Hope to see you then!

  11. Khevna Shah says:

    That last bit about almost heading out to Mexico brings back some memories. In July, my cousins from California had come up to our house in Michigan (yes! I am in Michigan!) and my parents decided to plan a trip to Niagara Falls. We were in two different cars because my grandparents, who were visiting from India, had come along. On our way back, my parents and grandparents were in one car while my cousin and his wife, my brother, and I were in the other car. My cousin had ingeniously programed the GPS to not go through Canada because we didn’t have visas to go there. But! My dad had not. We were on our way North (following my parents car) and my cousin kept saying this is not right… And he turned off on the last US exit while my parents kept going and almost were at the toll booth when they realized… “oh wait, that’s Canada!”

    Oh and in response to a previous post, I have also seen every episode of Friends fifty something times.