By JESSICA PRIEST
June 8, 2011, 9:56PM
It started with a missed exit.
Headed to his daughter's house off West Road, Salomon Gasca, 78, along with his wife, Lorenza Gasca, 73, turned east onto Interstate 10 and kept going.
Three hours later, they knew they had gone too far. But they kept driving.
Salomon Gasca, who doctors say displays the early onset stages of Alzheimer's, suffers from poor eyesight. His wife cannot read. Neither could read the road signs indicating they had crossed several state lines.
Nearly 30 hours after they left their grandson's graduation party and 500 miles past their daughter's house, the Gascas pulled into what they thought was a rest stop.
"We'll be safe here," Salomon Gasca assured his wife. "There's police."
After circling the parking lot for several minutes to get situated for a long night's rest, the Gascas finally attracted the attention of one.
"They circled the parking lot as if they did not know what they were doing, so an officer went to check on them," said Ben Burns, captain of the Florida Department of Agricultural Law Enforcement. "He immediately keyed in on the fact that they were disoriented."
Trials along the way
The officer escorted them to a hotel where they rested before reuniting with their daughter, Beatrice Flores, who flew to Florida to retrieve them Tuesday.
The couple recounted their journey Wednesday as their family prepared to take measures to keep them safe.
They said that when they stopped for gasoline in Mississippi, exhausted and hungry, a clerk credited their $20 to the wrong pump, then refused to refund the money or to allow them to use the bathroom.
With their money dwindling, Lorenza Gasca became desperate.
"I told her to give me my dollars, and she said, 'No, I'm not going to give it to you.' I said, 'Well, I'm not going to leave. Call the police. I will sit here,' " Lorenza Gasca said.
But a stranger stepped forward to help.
"There was a lady in line who was waiting, and she said, 'You know what? Here's $20. Give her the damn gas,' " Lorenza Gasca said.
Strangers twice drew maps for the Gascas after they confessed they were lost. But they proved to be little help as both drawings only represented I-10 as a straight line. Salomon Gasca couldn't figure out which direction led west, took a chance and continued eastward.
"It's amazing what one little missing letter can do," Beatrice Flores said later.
Glad 'somebody cares'
Clutching a silver cross hanging around her neck and resting on her brother-in-law Rico Garcia's couch in his Jersey Village home after enduring a nine-hour drive back to Texas, Flores breathed a sigh of relief. Her parents had been missing for 30 hours.
"Honestly, after that many hours, you feel like almost hopeless," he said. "I'm amazed and so proud of my father for keeping himself safe and finding a place to get themselves home."
Flores also thanked those who aided in her parent's recovery.
"I know people like the (Mississippi gas station) clerk don't get paid much, but people are looking to find home," she said. "If you don't want to help them, ask them to call someone, let them use your phone. ... Florida was very wonderful to our parents."
The Gascas echoed this sentiment.
"We appreciate that everyone worried about us," Salomon Gasca said. "We're glad that somebody cares."
"God helped us, too," Lorenza Gasca added.
The family suggested that they would limit their parents' driving in the future as well as take precautionary measures to ensure they can be located easily in case of another accident.
In: Regional News
Tags: elderly couple, wrong turn, Houston we have a problem,
Location: Houston, Texas, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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