I’m re-posting this because today, exactly one year since I made my long trek to Eagle Pass from Montana . . . I’m back again. The drive was just as long as before, but I’m back because the folks in the Eagle Pass School District are pretty darn fun to hang out with. And so here’s the original post from last year:
It’s a very long way from Missoula, Montana to Eagle Pass, Texas.
This epiphany swept over me after the early morning Missoula to Denver flight and after the Denver to San Antonio flight and right about when, after driving from San Antonio in a rental car for about an hour, I finally saw a green mileage sign that said: Eagle Pass – 95 miles. I just laughed out loud. And even though I was all by myself, I said, “It’s a long way from Missoula to Eagle Pass.” This is just a small taste of the profound thoughts I think while traveling alone.
But time and space are relative and so I entertained myself by listening to a radio station, en Espanol. Given that I have the Spanish vocabulary of a toddler, I was quite delighted with myself when I discerned that I’d tuned in to a Christian radio station. The repeated use of the words, palabra, familia, and Dios helped me make that revelation. I also monitored the temperature via my rental car thermometer and happily observed that the outside temperature never rose above 104 degrees during my drive from San Antonio to Eagle Pass.
I like to think of myself as navigationally skilled; then again, it’s also good to remind myself that denial is more than just a river in Egypt. What I did manage to efficiently find were the Texas road construction crews. Getting to my hotel was harder. I had planned to use my internet telephone GPS, which would have been a great idea had there been internet access in Eagle Pass. This prospect began dawning on me when I passed the sign saying: Eagle Pass, pop. 26,864. At that point it was still unclear to me exactly how the Eagle Pass School District (conveniently located on the Rio Grande River) decided to have me come from Montana to do a full-day Tough Kids, Cool Counseling workshop. But, given that I’d never been to Texas before and they happened to want to pay me and then they decided to purchase 45 copies of Tough Kids, Cool Counseling, I found myself faced with an offer I couldn’t refuse.
And so, I decided to engage in a bit of disoriented driving, while studiously avoiding the bridge to Mexico. I finally found a man from India at a random hotel, who spoke English in addition to Punjab and Spanish. He was kind enough to let me use his Internet because he’d never heard of the hotel I’d booked. Then, a few wrong turns later and following an episode where my rental car transformed itself from an automatic into a manual transmission, I finally made it to the bargain Microtel hotel where they obviously take the term “micro” very seriously. Staying there required that I change into my secret Ant-man identity, thereby shrinking my expectations for Internet access, pool length, fitness facilities, and room into the size of an ant while retaining the physical strength and intellectual functioning of an adult male (I should note that I intentionally selected this hotel because it’s relatively green and was happy with my choice, despite my lightly mocking tone). The good news was that Taco-Morales was right across the street and I got to experience some authentic fajitas and red rice at prices an ant could afford.
The next day, in a coffee-free state (there are no Starbucks in Eagle Pass), I found my way to the Eagle Pass Junior High library (home of the Eagles—what a surprising team name!). That was when I discovered how they’d chosen me as their School Counseling Workshop leader. As it turns out, Montana Street is just a block or two from Eagle Pass Junior High and so they had apparently thought I lived right there ON Montana Street (and not IN the State of Montana). . . which is probably why they chose to pay me a flat rate and let me cover my own travel.
But very soon I discovered everything wonderful about Eagle Pass. I got to spend the day with Mr. Salinas, Ms. Gutierrez, Mr. Lopez, Connie, Karla, Luis, Toyoko, three women named Dora, and just enough School Counselors to scoop up 45 copies of Tough Kids, Cool Counseling. This was a group with immense compassion and dedication to making the lives of their students better. They teased me, laughed at my jokes, gently corrected my Spanish mis-pronunciations, asked for me to sign their books, and treated me with mucho mas respeto than I could ever deserve. By lunchtime they began talking about when I’d come back (I gently suggested January instead of August for my next visit). After lunch, Luis beat me at the Hand-Pushing game (I was depleted and distracted from all the energy it took to keep intermittently changing into an ant-sized person to fit into my hotel). However, one of the three Doras made an excellent volunteer for my mental set riddles (thank you Dora, for demonstrating in front of your peers that, in fact, learning can happen).
In the end, I return from Eagle Pass with renewed and sustained faith and hope in the human race. The big hearts and amazing dedication of the Eagle Pass School Counselors was inspiring. Thank-you Eagle Pass, for helping to expand my world. . . while simultaneously shrinking my expectations for hotel accommodations.