Leaving Houston, a road sign told us that “Lumberjacks Make Great Teachers. Come to our University”. Not quite quick enough to avoid the after-work commuter traffic, we had plenty of time to read all the signs on the road and on the buildings.
Oil tankers, flatbed trailers filled with pipes, trailers with horses, and transport trucks of every variety held us captive as we crawled out of the city onto 10 West, headed for Junction, TX. We had begun our journey through Texas with typical easterner attitudes: who do they think they are? Why do they think they are so special? Are they really that big? And then we were surprised by Houston, so huge and colorful. And in the “not to be outdone” category: “Baylor was a university before Texas was a state!” Wow! “Lumberjacks Make Great Nurses.” Choices. Choices.
As we detoured for gas into Columbus TX, the great flag of TX furled in the wind next to the US flag—also red, white and blue, but with a huge, white single star glowing from it. The One Star State, for sure. We were surprised again by what a treat the local Shell station was. A charming, young Hispanic guy worked the register with his right hand, holding his left hand, covered with a plastic glove, away from the money.
When Allie asked him if his hand was OK, he said, “Oh, yes. But I use it to make the pizza.” Now there’s a restaurant you could love. Columbus, population 3,655, was burned to the ground by General Sam Houston in 1836 in an attempt to deter the Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna during the Texas revolution. But the good souls of Columbus were not deterred and they rebuilt the town to include a post office, school, town hall and an opera house.
This part of Texas is empty of people and animals. One tiny town shows up every once in a while and the rest of the time it’s all trees, fields, orchards, and oil rigs. But there, just as we were ready for lunch, was Comfort, TX. Who wouldn’t stop in Comfort? The McDonald’s chicken wrap turned out to be really good—all no-no’s for me and all yes-yeses for Allie. Clean, filling, safe—that’s Comfort.
And the hit of the day: We were beginning to appreciate Texas even more. The speed limit, normally 75, turned to 80 mph in Kerrville. Allie was in cowboy heaven, doing a legal 80 mph the rest of the way to Junction. And there we were in an RV camp, which had not seen rain since November. Everything was grey and brown, but a nice breeze was blowing and we were very comfortable.
Still in Texas the next day—it’s a long, long state—the map showed 7 towns on the 300-mile route. There were a few other towns in between those on the map, but not too many. Could have been a dull day. There are three kinds of “pull off the road” areas in Texas: a Parking Area—just park, a Picnic Area, just eat and use the trash barrel, and a Rest Area with all the accommodations. There are more of the first two, so it’s a good idea to stop at a Rest Area when you see one. But hey, we were not in Florida any more.
Crossing areas of desert—grey dirt and brown grass, speckled with white desert flowers (anyone know the name of a tall, spindly stalk with a clump of white flowers on top?) and lots of sagebrush. It could have been a boring day, but we decided to just enjoy the scenery and soak in the environment. The road was great, having been blasted through big rock mountains, whose sides show striations of beige, grey, brown, black, and white. Beautiful. With Johnny Cash singing, “This is the Last Cowboy Song” on a disc, we thought we were making a movie. Viewing this terrain, it was easy to understand the “Don’t Mess with Texas” attitude of the state. Everything is hard and people need to be resilient, hard working, tough and independent. Only John Wayne was missing.
We were intrigued by the number of wind farms planted with thousands of windmills (American style, not Dutch) on the highest mesas, and want to holler “Yeah, Texas!” In between were the hundreds of oil pumps, which keep the economy going, at the lowest levels.
Ft. Stockton beckoned, sounding like a good place for lunch and a view of the old fort. The fort was sad, needing hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring it up to visitor shape, but the history was presented in two videos, which were interesting, The Indians “preyed” on the settlers and the US Army, although no mention was made of the fact that we were impinging on their land.
The Dairy Queen for lunch was an upgrade from McDonalds—a really delicious grilled chicken breast sandwich for me while Allie enjoyed chicken fingers. He spotted a man in a ten-gallon hat and asked, “Hey, fella, whereabouts can I get a hat like that here?” We were directed to the Pecos Feed and Farm Supply store where he bought a hat to go with his 5-days growth of beard. Smashing.
When “World War II Favorite Songs” came up on the disc, we began singing along, remembering all the words of those songs. Does “Goodbye dear, I’ll be back in a year” ring a bell?
Our final night in Texas: Van Horn had the most comfortable KOA RV Park with gracious people, the Sacramento Mountains for a backdrop, a café with home-baked chicken, hold the gravy, Texas toast, and a fresh baked peach cobbler with ice cream. Nice comfort food. An excellent shower and clean laundry room completed the picture. After a good night’s sleep, we headed out of Texas, having just gotten to know her and love her, and were on our way to Silver City, New Mexico, where our wonderful head counselor of many years, Bobby T, waited for us.