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Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

“Er, I’ll take the right and the left, please. Oh, and the bottom, too, if you think it’s appropriate.”

Sorry, I’ve always wanted to say something like that, but once again I just couldn’t pluck up the nerve to say it to today’s stony-faced Kentucky Fried Chicken employee. Especially as he was about to interrogate me on whether I wanted white or dark, my coating classic, grilled or flambeed, and exactly which Pantone shade I wanted it coloured. “Look, just put some protein and lots of greasy fat on a plate and we’ll call it chicken, shall we?”

I set out into a different world today. Yesterday was hot, sunny and arid; this morning I drove under gloomy skies, through lush vegetation and over creeks that actually had water in them. I’d assumed that Junction, Texas, was named after a road or rail junction, but maybe it’s a junction between two universes.

Theocracy for the Masses

Bringing theocracy to the masses

Uh-oh. Rocking chairs on porches, black people in menial positions, humidity, pickups and Paul’s Epistle to the Romans… I’ve a horrible feeling this parallel universe I’ve just entered is called the Deep South.

The gloom has overtaken me today. I’ve had enough now. I want to go home. I want to unpack my bags, put my feet up, know where things are and find my own hairs in the sink. I want to take my eye off the road and sit on a chair, not a bed. I want appliances and tools and books and boundaries. I want to eat real food and not have someone shout “Housekeeping” in a Spanish accent every time I’m about to take a shower.

Oh, no, wait. I don’t have a home to go to. That’s right, I forgot.

All my world is contained in this laptop. All my photos and important documents. All my friends are in there too. I don’t know what I’d do if it broke or got stolen. Imagine what it must be like when you feel that way about the contents of a plastic carrier bag. Being rootless is a lot more unnerving than I would have guessed. I’m glad I found that out, but I want it to stop.

Ah well. I think it’s probably time to stop updating this blog, at least. I’m on I-10 now, which just plummets in a straight line towards Baton Rouge. I’m so dreading going back to Louisiana that I wouldn’t pay any attention to the scenery even if there was any, and so I don’t really have anything left to talk about.

I’ve booked the car in to be fixed on Monday, so until then I’ll just be lurking somewhere far enough away that my wife isn’t likely to bump into me and be embarrassed. And immediately after that I need to be heading for a new life, either by plane or rental truck. I just wish I could make up my mind where that new life should be. I’ll let people know once I’ve sorted things out. It’s all just practical stuff from here on.

Anyway, I just want to say a HUGE, HUGE THANK YOU to all my friends and my family for being so supportive and encouraging over the past few weeks. This blog has been my lifeline to you and it has really made a big difference for me. I’m ever so glad I wrote it. Thanks for tuning in.

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East of the Pecos

The good thing about driving across Texas is that you have plenty of time to think. The roads are as straight as arrows, there is no traffic and there’s nothing to look at. You can steer with one knee, so basically you’re just sitting in a box all day while the scene shifters pack away Carlsbad, New Mexico, and replace it with Junction, Texas.

The other great thing about driving across Texas is… No, wait. Don’t tell me. I had something. It’s… Oh yes, the fact that you have plenty of time to think. Although maybe I already mentioned that.

360 degrees of nothing

360 degrees of nothing

I’m kidding – there were also some mesas with some really nice rock strata. I sat in a road cutting for a while and read the story from the rocks. I’ll precis it for you.

As far as I could make out, nothing much would happen for two or three thousand years, just the gradual accumulation of wind-blown dust. Then a small creek, which fed a warm inland sea to the East and had until that moment been writhing away invisibly to one side, would suddenly decide to snake across the area, cutting a channel and leaving small mudbanks on its edges. And then nothing would continue to happen for another millennium or two.

At one point there was great excitement, as a local earthquake tilted up the ground surface and caused subsequent seasons’ winds to wear it all down again at a slightly different angle. But then the sea moved in and life got a bit dull. If there were intelligent life-forms around at the time and a great, enlightened and long-lasting civilisation had grown up nearby, then there would have been a small brown smudge in the rocks to commemorate it. I didn’t see any, so that probably didn’t happen.

Oh, I was lucky enough to pass through Loving County this morning. According to a pop-up in Google Earth, the seat of local government there is a village called Mentone, on account of it being the only settlement in the entire county. The population of Mentone is a healthy fifteen, presumably making council meetings a rather boistrous affair.

This was definitely ghost town country. Even the living towns I passed through were obviously moribund. Whatever brought people to this area clearly doesn’t cut it any more. Few modern humans can stray far from the oasis that is Walmart.

And it rained today for the first time on this trip. For almost seven seconds. Flooding is not thought likely.

30°30’34.54″N, 99°46’29.87″W

Today’s sensations: I went on this trip to find myself and I haven’t. But it suddenly occurred to me overnight that it’s because I’ve been looking in the wrong place – part of me is in Wells and the other part is in Saint Francisville.

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Today I had breakfast in Arizona, lunch in New Mexico and dinner in Texas. And if it wasn’t such a hassle with passports I could pop over the Rio Grande this evening for a Margharita in Mexico.

Tonight I’m in El Paso, which is just inside the Texas Panhandle. It’s continuous with the city of Ciudad Juarez, which is in Mexico. 80% of the population here is “Hispanic or Latino”, as they say in the Census Bureau (which I couldn’t help pronouncing as Thensoos Bureau, after trying to get my tongue around Ciudad Juarez).

It's been a day for mirages

It's been a day for mirages

I almost took a detour to Silver City in New Mexico, to spend a day or two camping, looking at the cliff dwellings, and generally hanging out in the hot springs, but after a few miles I realised I’ve been here three weeks now and I really should be heading back, so I turned round. I want to see Carlsbad Cavern while I’m down here, so I shouldn’t take any more side trips.

I’m in the Wild, Wild West right now. This morning I passed over a granite intrusion, not far from Tombstone, Arizona, the site of the famous bun-fight at the OK Corral gift shoppe and tea rooms, so here’s a photo of the granite for Ann, to remind her of Joshua Tree.

granite2

31°50’24.38″N, 106°34’22.04″W

Today’s sensations: Complete mistrust of my memory of the past. Disappointment that I couldn’t follow my nose to Silver City. Oddly intrigued by all the fanous wild west stuff I’m passing, since I was never at all  interested in cowboys and injuns.

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Did I mention that Texas is big, at all?

It’s cheap, though. It seems you can buy an acre of it for less than $1,000.

electra2

Electra's thriving business district

Another stiff 400-miler today, heading North and West towards the Kansas border. I tried to call in at a city called Wichita Falls, but judging by the downtown area it was abandoned in about 1950. I think the residents must have fled up the freeway ramps to safety.

Since that didn’t work and I was hungry, I drove into a little place called Electra instead. It still actually WAS 1950 here. Electra had nowhere to eat, or indeed do anything else, but I did discover it is the “pump jack capital of Texas”. So I’m glad I’ve seen that.

In Louisiana you can always see another McDonalds from the one you’re standing in, but not so in North Texas. Places to eat are few and far between. I started looking for lunch around 11am and finally ate it at 2pm. The roads were empty and long, and I once drove more than 25 miles with my arms folded. The scenery is now dry prairie, but at least it’s undulating.

I’m currently sitting in a Motel 6 in Amarillo, which is apparently also known as the Yellow Rose of Texas, and hence is immortalised in two songs. I haven’t been to look around yet but I’m just off out to treat myself to a Texan steak, before I leave the state. I don’t think I’ll have one of the steaks advertised outside a nearby steakhouse, though – they weigh four-and-a-half pounds!

 35°11’31.15″N, 101°47’15.78″W, 850 miles

Today’s sensations: Hypnotised, from listening to chill-out music on long, straight roads. Searching my soul, trying to figure out everything I did wrong. Measuring clouds by driving across their shadows. Aware that for the first time in ages I have plenty of time to think, but unsure what to think about.

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Long road to nowhere

They say Space is big, but the astronomers have clearly never seen Texas.

Today I’ve been piling on the miles (over 400 of them) to get out of the Deep South and its memories and temptations, and make some progress towards the Rockies. Actually most of the miles were in Louisiana, rather than Texas, but now I’m tucked up for the night in Terrell, a small town near Dallas.

Apart from a bit of shopping for essentials, I’ve not done anything today other than drive and eat. I worked my way up the leg of Louisiana’s boot, through Alexandria and Shreveport, then along I20 towards Dallas. If there was anything to see then I missed it, but that’s not surprising given the mileage. Plus it’s an awful long way between towns. The flowers are pretty though.

Swamps have slowly given way to prairie, and downtrodden black people have slowly given way to downtrodden Mexicans, but apart from that it’s the same old McDonalds and the same old Walmart.

The only useful fact I’ve learned today is that every major city in Louisiana seems to have (by dint of embarrassment, possibly) a road dedicated to Martin Luther King. These are usually called something like the Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Freeway, which I imagine the locals prefer to shorten into something snappier, such as Doctor Luther King Junior Memorial Freeway (as in “Go down Doctor Luther King Junior Memorial Freeway, and if you reach the end of this sentence, you’ve gone too far”).

  32°42’14.45″N, 96°16’37.79″W  ~420 miles

Today’s sensations: The nagging feeling that someone is expecting me home at any moment and I’m really late. Self-consciousness, from talking to myself out loud in the car. A lingering smell of perfume. A heavy heart adding seriously to the fuel consumption. Sincere gratitude that I wasn’t born in Reliable, Louisiana.

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