The day started off so well.
I had finally realised I could get to the bike rally in Creel,
Mexico from Fort Worth in two days.
I was cruising at an illegal speed on the I20 and fiddling with
my GPS to see how much further it was to the Mexican border. I
looked up to see a car going slowly a few hundred metres in front
It looked like it had a roof rack.
Hmm, I slowed down a bit and then realised it was a row of coloured
‘Shit, a patrol car’.
I slowed to the sixty five limit and overtook him on the other
lane. I watched in my mirrors waiting for the lights to start
up. I could see him talking on his radio and I kept going, hoping
he might loose interest. Just as I thought I’d got away
with it all the lights went on.
I pulled in, took off my helmet and readied my best British accent.
'Hi, how are you?’ – Texans are so polite.
‘Good thanks, how can I help you?’.
‘Where’s your licence plate from and can I see your
I opened my top box and showed him my log book. The patrolman
was about thirty and had a very friendly, smiley, face.
‘Can I see your driver’s licence?’.
I went to undo the zip to my right hand pocket but it was already
open. I put my hand straight inside.
It was empty.
A huge surge of dread spread through me.
‘Oh fuck, fuck, fuck’ I said in a reserved and controlled way.
I looked inside the pocket. All that was left was my small notebook.
My wallet was missing.
‘Oh no, it must have fallen out on the highway’.
I explained that I was on my way to a biking rally in Mexico and
that I’d had been planning for this for six months.
‘When was the last time you stopped?’.
I flicked through a few screens on my trip computer, carefully
by passing the one that shows in very large numbers what my maximum
speed was and when I did it.
‘A hundred and thirty three miles ago when I filled up with
My wallet contained my passport, credit and ATM cards, UK and
International Drivers Licences and over a hundred dollars in cash.
I jumped up and down with frustration and anger. I was also thinking
that a bit of hamming it up might get me off a looming speeding
ticket so I jumped up and down a bit more.
I could see the judges holding up the ‘artistic interpretation’ and ‘star
quality’ marks over his shoulder. All nines.
I must have left the zip undone at the petrol station. I'd done
it before but nothing had ever actually fallen out. The strong
crosswind must have sucked it out of my pocket. I was sure I didn’t
leave it at the petrol station so it must be lying somewhere on
It wasn’t a total disaster as I have a second passport and
credit card, travellers cheques and other cash. What was worrying
me was whether I needed a drivers licence to get into Mexico and
so would miss the biking rally. Getting a new ATM card was going
to be a real pain too.
‘You could go back and look for it but it would be like
looking for a needle in a haystack’ suggested the patrolman
I thought it would be a complete waste of time. It was already
nearly four o’clock and I was still about two hundred miles
from the border.
He wished me luck and drove off.
Well, at least I didn’t get a ticket.
I decided to give it up as a lost cause and set off for the border.
Thirty miles later I realised I could ride back, spend the night
near my last stop, then crawl down the hard shoulder looking for
my wallet and still get to the border that same day. It would
be a long, knackering day but at least I would have tried.
After all, it was definitely on the side of the road somewhere,
it was just a case of seeing it.
I pulled off the road and filled up with petrol again using some
emergency cash stash. I told the cashier my tale of woe.
‘That would just ruin my day’, she said in a strong
The only good news was that there had been such a strong crosswind
my wallet had to be on the right hand verge or hard shoulder.
I arrived back at the petrol station in the dark.
Feeling really tired I looked for a parking spot but all the spaces
were taken. I went around the side and rolled into an empty space.
As I stopped I put my left foot down. I trod in a poll of oil
and my foot slipped from under me.
That was it.
With consummate grace and skill I put my right leg down quickly
and hopped off as my bike crashed to the ground with the engine
I turned the engine off and looked round to the slightly stunned observers.
‘Please can some one help me pick it up?’
No one moved for a few seconds. Perhaps they were waiting for an encore.
Then a big guy in a red check shirt came over and we heaved it upright.
I thanked him profusely and explained why I was here. Lonnie was a
lovely man we chatted for about ten minutes. He was a cotton farmer
and described himself as a small guy as he only has one thousand acres
whilst the big boys had ten thousand. He gave me his address asking
me to send him a postcard and my home address and he’d send me
His parting words were that I’d find my wallet.
How could he know?
At the time I thought he was right. After all, it was somewhere
out there, all I had to do was see it and pick it up.
Quite straightforward really.
That night I treated myself to a lovely hot bath but didn’t
sleep very well. In the morning I was feeling really optimistic
as I set off to look for my wallet.
It must be on the right hand side of the motorway.
I started down the hard shoulder at thirty miles an hour and quickly
realised it was much too fast. I slowed to twenty and started
scanning the verge and the whole grass verge.
There was an amazing variety of stuff lying around.
T-shirts, shoes, skirts, loads of cans and bottles, huge pieces
of wood, and lots of bits of paper a similar colour to my wallet.
many times my hopes soared as I thought I saw it but evry time
I doubled back it was yet another piece of paper or cardboard.
The chances of finding it were diminishing by the minute. If it
had fallen out while on a bridge it was definitely gone. The concrete
embankments were so steep I couldn’t see the bottom.
Where the grass was long I couldn't see anything at all. I’d
have to walk through it yard by yard.
Why didn’t they cut all the verges rather than just those
in the towns?
After an hour and a half it was looking futile, more like looking
for one grain of sand in the desert than a needle in a haystack.
At the rate I was going it would take at least six hours to ride
back to the layby and another three hours to Presidio.
Why was I bothering?
I decided to speed up a bit and stuck to my original plan to simply
have a go. If I failed, ok, at least I’d tried. Logically,
I still knew it was just a case of looking in the right direction
at the right time.
After two and a half hours I felt like giving up completely. I
was going much faster past the tall grass and zooming over bridges
After three hours and seventy miles I was feeling hungry and in
need of food.
The road started to rise gently.
‘Oh my god, that’s it!'
I stopped, put the bike on the side stand and ran back down the road.
‘I’m sure it is – I just hope it’s not some one else’s
identical, but empty wallet’.
I picked it up.
It was mine all right. I leapt into the air with pure joy and
waved it at the passing cars and trucks.
I jumped up and down again with pure relief.
After seventy-five miles of looking.
Everything was still inside although the zip was now buggered
because it had been run over a few times. You’d think drivers
might take a bit more care with other people’s property.
I rode into the nearest petrol station and was still bouncing
up and down with joy. I told the two girls inside my story and
they couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
Neither did I.
They then complained that nothing exciting ever happened round
there but now they had a story they could talk about for years.
It would put their gas station on the map. It could become part
of an ‘Interesting gas station tour of Texas’.
Four days later I still find it hard to believe how lucky I was.
Damn, I should have bought a lottery ticket.