Friday, November 15, 2013

I Will Buy You a Garden, Where Your Flowers Can Bloom

Today I traded in my shiny new North Carolina driver's license for a newer, shinier, Texas driver's license! I only had the wretched thing for five months before ditching it, despite the eight years I had to pay for. We definitely cannot move for a long time now, because I am pretty much done with the DMV for the foreseeable future.

See, to get a license in Texas, you have to have your Texas registration and your Texas title all in order (expensive!) and to get your registration, you have to have your vehicle inspection done (annoying!) and then you will be granted the right to a) put stickers all over your car and b) sit at the DMV for a couple hours and wait until your ticket pops on the random number generator. Being as how I have been feeling lousy all this week, I put everything off until today and had to do it all at once, with Robert in tow. But it's done!

Laredo is a weird city for driving. It's a weird city for a lot of things, but today I was feeling the driving weirdness especially. It's a really long city, and we live at the very tippy top of the north end. The city is bisected by an interstate highway that terminates in a couple of international bridges that can sneak up on you quickly if you're not careful. (So far I have only had to do the oh-crap-there's-Mexico u-turn once, but I'm pretty sure it'll crop up again.) The interstate highway is a series of bridges we call the loopy-loops (interstate overpasses in Texas look like someone started tying a fancy bow and forgot what they were doing halfway through), with ground-level areas that are on-ramps and exits, then bridges that go over the actual streets. On each side of the loopy-loop highway runs a three-lane one-way surface street, where you have interstate traffic entering and exiting in the left lane and businesses and driveways laid out on the right. Every mile or so is an underpass with a dedicated u-turn lane so if you find you're going the wrong way (which is often) you can zip under the interstate and try again. As a result of this unique setup, many of the north-south roads stretch for miles through the city, with the result being that you can look at an address, think "hey, that street is near me!" and come to find out that your destination is six miles away.

While 35 and its loopy-loops complicate my life in the north-south direction, the rest of Laredo seems content to confuse me with the endless mysteries of the Bob Bullock Loop. This is (as you may have guessed) a loop road (though not a loopy-loop road) that runs from pretty much the northwest corner of the city, across the top, down around the eastern edge, then bisects the southern portion of the city 2/3rds of the way down. There are a ton of businesses and offices on this road, as well as the airport, so it's an important and very busy artery. And for some reason, neither Kathy the Tom-Tom or Siri the iPhone can make heads or tails of any of it. I think it's just too big and goes in too many directions. That time I mentioned, when we almost ended up in Mexico? That was a terribly unfortunate confluence of the Bob Bullock Loop, Interstate 35, and Kathy's total inability to understand Laredo's peculiar traffic. Doesn't really help that a lot of the time the streets are very busy, oftentimes with huge trucks. This is a very big area for huge trucks, it's not rare to go into a grocery store parking lot and find a few dozen semi trucks, with and without trailers, chilling at the back of the lot or along the driveways.

Honestly, the thing that makes this driver's license blogworthy may be the fact that it signifies me driving at all. Up until now, I have avoided driving in Laredo wherever possible. M has the car most of the time anyway, but even when it's available, I've been sticking close to home and the few shops near us. Just the fact that I can name the major streets that are flummoxing me is a step in the right direction. Sure, Robert and I spent a lot of time today chasing our tails down one way streets ("Mommy, we're going in circles!"), but we got to every place we needed to go! I even made time to get to Target and pick up a bunch of the things I need to finish unpacking the house. Maybe what I'm really doing is making a note of today because I hope I'll be able to look back and see when this strange land started to feel like home.

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