The following was written in June, 2003 during a trip to Weslaco, Texas. I’m preserving it here so that it won’t die when the Geocaching forum on which it was posted eventually purges it.
This week, I found myself in South Texas for the second time, thanks to a balky DSP module in a console mainframe that wouldn’t work until I personally blessed it (out). Having had a lot of fun hitting all the caches within 20 miles on my last trip two weeks ago, I decided to hit a few more distant ones this time.
I wasted my weekend … picked up a nasty cold on Friday and spent the weekend recuperating. Realizing the only caching time I had left was nights after the 6PM newscast, I decided to make the most of it.
It’s Wednesday night, and I’m back in my hotel room after the last of three such adventures at sunset, and it was probably the most eventful of the three. I thought I’d share it, for those of you who love a good comedy.
Now, they say that everything’s big in Texas, and I’ve found that to ring true in most cases. There’s a great burger chain here, a Texas tradition known as Whataburger. There are more Whataburgers here than McDonald’s, and it’s a good thing — the burger compares favorably with some of the very best, including LA’s “Astro Burger” and “In-n-Out Burger”. A big ol’ slab of char-broiled beef on a Texas-sized bun.
After today’s Whataburger, I decided to hit some caches in the South Padre Island area. After days of drive-by, historic-marker virtuals, I discovered some traditional caches to be had near the island. After hitting a quick virtual on the way in, I arrived at “The South Won This One” (GCBE47).
I was relieved to see that there wasn’t a lot of brush or scrub to slog through to get to this one. Snakes I don’t mind … I saw a coral snake (red touch yellow, kill a fellow) on a hunt earlier this week. Eight-legged critters and I, however, do not get along. By that I mean that if I saw a spider walk by and there was a priceless Ming vase at hand, I would instantly and reflexively grab the vase and use it to smash the spider to an unrecognizable pulp. I once found a wolf spider crawling on my shoulder and slapped it so hard I left a bruise. Pure, abject, irrational horror is hard to rein in, or reason with.
Bouncing across the critter-free sand without a care, I quickly found the cache, sat down and signed the log, sealed everything up, and hiked back to the car. What a beautiful place — right alongside the Rio Grande, cacti everywhere, mesquite scrub in the distance … picturesque. I hopped into the car, fired it up, and started to pull onto the pavement.
That’s when I saw it. There it was, standing on the yellow line of the highway, defiantly, daring me to drive past it. It was … the WhataSpider.
I do not exaggerate at all when I say that this spider was the size of my hand. I call it the WhataSpider because it probably weighed as much as the burger I consumed earlier, a burger that was now signalling its interest in returning the way it came. The spider, front legs in the air, was clearly of a mind that a Chrysler 300M was no match for it. It was probably 5 yards in front of the car and I could clearly see its fangs. It was solid black, and appeared to be wearing the pelts of small mammals it had eaten for breakfast. It waved its forelegs, wiggled its fangs, and just generally tried to look evil.
I rolled down the window … after all, I had to confirm that this wasn’t some sort of optical illusion. “Look … I don’t want any trouble!” I yelled, trying to sound friendly. There was no reply. We were only a few hundred yards from the border, though … “Mira! Mira! No quiero te molestar!” Still no response. The nearby water park is called “Schlitterbahn”, so perhaps this spider spoke German. It stood its ground.
I wasn’t about to run over this thing with the car. In the first place, I am an arachnophobe, but I’m not merciless. In the second place, running over it it might have only made it mad. In the third place, I could envision myself running over the bugger, and NOT seeing it in my rear view mirror, and wondering where it was … dead, or hitchhiking in the wheel well, knowing I’d have to get out of the car SOMETIME, and plotting its revenge.
I willed the Whataburger to stay down, steered for a wide berth around the eight-legged roadblock, and headed out. I watched it in my rear-view mirror as it ambled off into the weeds. I watched the road ahead, too … all the way back to Weslaco, every speck in the road looked eight-legged to me.
I passed an agricultural inspection station on my way out, and the border patrol guys gave me a good, hard look, wondering why I was sweating bullets in an air-conditioned car, and why my face as white as the sand. They took a brief look at the car and, finding that I was smuggling nothing more harmful than Whataburger wrappers and a travel bug, sent me on my nauseated way.
Hidalgo County, Texas, has the distinction of being the original US entry point of the Africanized “killer” bee. Naturally, I had expected that if I were to experience any critter attacks while caching, they would be of the air-superiority fighter variety. I was watching the skies, oblivious to the ground threat. I didn’t expect an eight-legged tank.
Next time, I’ll be ready. A propane tank full of Raid Ant’n’Roach ought to do it. Or a shotgun.
Totals this trip: 9 virtuals, 2 traditionals, 8 legs, 1 major creep-out.