For the first time of the trip Mabel slept at my feet and it just happened to be on a bed. I am not sure why she chose this time to do it, maybe she found the bed as comfortable as I did. It was a beautiful morning and no bugs so we sat outside looking at the pool. Sherry and Chris have a wonderfully landscaped yard and I was happy I stopped to pay them a visit. Good times and I know we would see each other if I was still in Texas or they were in Minnesota. But West Texas was calling my name and I was excited to see it. Sheri and I ventured West years ago for a friend’s wedding in Hereford, somewhere up in the pan handle and that had been the only time for me in that area. The route would take me through small towns and small roadways, but that would be the only thing small about it. I passed through Georgetown and picked up HWY 183 heading Northwest stopping at Lampasas for some small-town flavor. They have a neat Government Center in the middle of their square and we got out to experience small town Texas. Back on the road I started thinking about gas and when I should get it. My tank is only 14 gallons so I have to be mindful of its level. Sitting at half would be okay during normal times but I didn’t know how far out from Austin was seeing fuel hoarding. We pull up on a small station and I top off, another contributor to the artificial panic, and I may be wrong, but I wasn’t going to be out of gas. A woman at the next pump tells me in a slightly exasperated voice that they were out of gas in Leander and she was glad to find it here. Wherever here was and it couldn’t have been more than the gas station and small store to pay in. It hit me that I might have problems getting gas or paying a higher amount than I planned. I talked to Mabel about it and she said to press on, so we did.
There was a 1990 movie called Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will, that I somehow saw in the theater when it came out. I like going to the movie theater, there is something magical about the time spent in there. S.E. Hinton summed it up in the beginning of The Outsiders and it resonated with me when I read it back in Elementary School. Anyway, in the Daddy movie, one of the characters accuses another of having a face that looked like “5 miles of bad Texas road”. I am thinking about this as the odometer spins on this leg of the journey because the road is in good shape. In fact, most of the roads I have encountered, Tim McGraw’s hometown the exception, have been well maintained. Trash doesn’t look to be a problem either, the roads have been tidy and passable. Another gas stop in Winter, the checkout lady wearing the local high school’s band shirt. Her son plays in the band and she tells me there is a football game tonight. I don’t know how they play in this heat. Mabel gets out and sniffs around finding a chicken bone; I watch her around gas stations for this very reason. Probably some kid in an old Trans Am had chicken on his lunch hour and didn’t want to walk back to the garbage can so he tossed it in the grass. Mabel looks at me with sad eyes when I take it away, “sorry” I tell her, “we don’t need any Vet visits.”
HWY 70 takes us towards Sweetwater where we will eventually hit HWY 84 to Lubbock, our destination for the night. I am thankful for the many rest stop/picnic areas that are on our route. They give Mabel a chance to get out in an area bigger than the chicken bone infested grassy patches by the local gas stations. She sniffs around and finally finds the right spot to leave her mark. Some of the stops are nice, some are no more than a picnic table. I keep an eye out for snakes and other critters as she moves around as I don’t think she would know what to do if one came her way. It’s a Friday and I am not sure of camping availability so I call and make a reservation at the Lubbock KOA. Another use for the rest stop.
We are seeing a lot of windmills along this route. Not the old type propped up by the barn, their ancient rudder a peeling advertisement for a defunct seed company. Something Paul Newman would have walked by in the movie HUD, his smile trying to charm his way out of his latest troubles.
These are big windmills, taller than the ones we saw in Maine, all in various states of rotation. Some not rotating at all and I wonder how each windmill is programmed. Do they all turn at the same time or is it the electrical need that determines which windmill is used? Where does the electricity go, who gets to use it? We see a very large farm near Snyder that goes on for miles and houses hundreds if not thousands of windmills. I am amazed at the engineering and wonder how many birds are killed by the rotating blades. It is quite a site.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, I actually thought it when I came in from Shreveport, and it is true out here. I see miles of fences surrounding ranches where I can’t see the houses. Some have grandiose gates marking their entrance, something James Dean in Giant would have walked out from behind, others are just a rusty pipe with an old chain. I realize now how expansive Texas really is. There is a massiveness about it, as though the land will go on forever and cannot be tamed. These ranchers have tried to fence it in, but you can’t. Texas is its own rugged state of mind, and you are either a part of it or you’re not.
I realized this while reading Travel’s with Charley when I first got to Bergstom AFB. I can remember sitting on my bed in the old cinder block dorm and reading Steinbeck’s description of Texas and what it meant to be a Texan. It was almost like I was looking down at myself realizing I was now part of IT, even if not a Texas Native. I was now experiencing the essence of Texas, all the bravado, the ruggedness, the independence that comes with living within these state boundaries. I knew then I wasn’t in Sag Harbor anymore.
Just before Lubbock, the land turns from ranch to cowboy country, like something you would have seen in the old movies. I remember this from our trip to Hereford, and am as amazed now as I was then. The soil is different, a red and white type with abundant striations segmenting the colors. It really looks like cowboy country, I almost expect John Wayne to come over the hill and personally guide me on my way to Lubbock.
I realized that for some odd reason I have felt obligated to listen to country music on this leg of the trip. Maybe it’s because there is only country or Spanish stations to listen to.
The KOA offered a shady spot so I was happy. They also had an indoor pool which I took advantage of while Mabel chilled in the camper’s A/C. It felt good to stop, the confines of the KOA welcome after so much bigness in the country. This was a lively KOA, people coming in at night, kids riding lighted boards while pulling a stroller. The first camp in a long time with kid activity and it was kind of nice. I wasn’t too hungry so looked at pictures and then went to bed.