The Last Dance: 5 Days, 4 States, 3 Timezones, 2 Emigrants and 1 Slice of Pizza
The last pizza. Garlic, black olives, fried eggplant, mushrooms, green peppers, broccoli, half anchovies and extra love.
On our last night in Austin, Erin and I walked hand-in-hand to Home Slice for one more pizza. We brought the staff some Gourdough’s donuts to thank them for serving us so well, which were promptly devoured back in the staff room. We decided to go out in style by adding wine and salad to our usual pizza order. During the meal, the Homeys kept giving us hugs and saying how much they’d miss us. Every time it happened, I looked away to avoid eye contact, lest I dissolve into a teary mess. We savored our last, sad pizza. At the end of the meal, the hugs and goodbyes reached a teary crescendo. A whole bunch of folks signed the pizza box that carried our last leftovers.
We were so incredibly sad. Home Slice has been much more than a pizza place to us, leaving it felt like leaving home. We cried on the walk back to our apartment, and spent the rest of the night packing for our big drive to California starting the next day.
The plan was to eat the leftovers quickly, since they supposedly wouldn’t keep long in the car without refrigeration (especially the anchovies on my half). But I couldn’t bear to close the Home Slice chapter of my life that fast. So while Erin finished her pizza over the next 24 hours, I kept one slice with me to eat at fun stops along the way, one bite at a time.
We had planned to spend the first night at Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, but we ended up leaving too late to make it there in time. So instead we drove I-10 and stopped at Balmorhea for the night. The natural springs, not the band. We camped in the crisp, desert air, and woke up to a refreshing morning dip. Thus began my drawn-out goodbye to my last slice of pizza.
We hit the road and aimed to have lunch in Hatch, New Mexico. After a brief stop somewhere in West Texas so Erin could try her first Dairy Queen blizzard while still in the friendly confines of Texas, we arrived in Hatch around 3pm. We had some really good chile-laden food at a Mexican place. And I had another bite of pizza.
Erin’s was especially exuberant during our two hour stay in Hatch.
After stopping in Truth or Consequences for the express purpose of getting a postcard from a cool-sounding place to send back to Home Slice, I convinced Erin that we should get off the big roads to explore some quaint country roads. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the map well enough to discover that I was taking us along a dirt road. Luckily, some friendly locals helped guide us along the way. They weren’t too interested in the pizza though.
We spent the night at an awesome little state park. We set up camp, sat in our crazy creek chairs, cracked open a box of wine and watched the stars. The next day, we excitedly passed through Pie Town. That’s its actual name. It was on a cattle trail, and was known for having the best pie around. The name stuck. Sadly, all three pie places were closed when we passed through (but not the cut-outs!), so I had to make do with a slice of my quickly-crustifying pizza pie.
An hour or two later we got a flat tire that Erin quickly blamed on our dirt-road adventure the previous day. I found a local who helped me change the tire, and off we galloped to Gallup. We got a proper tire, some awesome food, and headed for Arizona. We stopped at the Petrified National Forest and the Painted Desert, both of which Erin found tremendously boring. Until she found the hungry, pizza-loving dinosaurs at the end by the gift shops.
We tried to get to the Grand Canyon by sunset but failed. We set up camp in the dark and woke up early to catch the sunrise over the canyon. I brought the pizza box with us to the rim, and a number of people made approving comments about my breakfast of choice, as they huddled over cups of coffee. They might have thought differently if they knew how long it had been since the pizza had been made (84 hours) or last refrigerated (72 hours).
We drove Route 66 through the rest of Arizona, and then battled through 10 hours of California to make it to Santa Cruz just before dawn. We had seen unparalleled feats of geologic glory, and embarrassing displays of American hubris. So with my feet in the Pacific Ocean, I took my last bite of the nearly week old pizza. The slice had hardened considerably, but it softened my heart as I took a final bite.
Somewhat amusingly, winning the HOES competition has become a fairly large part of my identity. It’s how I’m introduced at parties, it’s discussed during job interviews and it dominates a Google search of my name. While it’s not every little boy’s dream to win free pizza…I maintain tha-….well, actually…free pizza might be every little boy’s dream.
Other establishments might not have taken such a shine to me. I ate up over $1250 in revenue (ha!), created complicated orders, distracted the busy waitstaff, bartered their product, increased the wait for other (paying) customers and broadcasted my experiences without their consent or editorial input.
In spite of all that, they welcomed me into the family. It felt like my Cheers, a place where everybody knew my name. Even though I no longer live on the same block (or in the same time zone) as Home Slice, I still feel like it’s a second home.
I wish Home Slice the best, and proffer up my undying love and gratitude to Slicey and his merry band of pizzaiolos. Fare thee well in life, love and pizza.
Total this year: $1,258.50