Growing up, I understood that it was redundant to say that Texas is big. It’s possible to spend one’s entire life in the state and to find new horizons daily.
So it seemed at the end of our first week on the road with Arby. We entered the state near Amarillo in what seemed like one decade, only to leave it in another age when we learned about the approaching end of the world while we boogied past Beaumont. Our first notice of the predicted beginning of Final Judgment (on May 21, 2011) was posted on a billboard as the highway from Houston leveled off toward Louisiana. It certainly seemed like we’d been driving in Texas for much of a lifetime.
In the expanse of Texas we sampled its range of roads and spaces, from the Farm to Market county routes to the urban Interstate exchanges in Dallas and Houston. While most of our nights were spent in cities, our first Texas evening was spent on the Texas prairie, virtually alone. Because there are few RV parks between Amarillo and Fort Worth, we targeted Copper Breaks State Park as a convenient breaking point in the long drive.
|The Copper Breaks in the prairie.|
There we saw our first live armadillo beside the road as we entered the park at sunset. And we were surprised by the vacancy that surrounded us. No rangers attended the check-in booth, nor did we find any campers on the grounds. After docking Arby, we did notice one camper on a pickup at the far end of the RV lot.
|Arby alone at Copper Breaks' campground.|
A couple of days later when we left Frisco, Arby didn’t particularly care for the freeway system through Dallas and points south. Moving rather cautiously in the mid-morning traffic, we headed south in the right hand lane of the Dallas North Tollway. Then nearing the core of downtown Dallas we merged rather suddenly with the left lane of Interstate 35E. At least, I think those are the names of the two freeways that jolted my attention by the blind angle of their fusion. It’s quite unsettling to be moving along at 55 in Arby with Toad attached behind and to be forced into the swifter flow of the left lane of another freeway. Even so, Arby managed effectively.
Navigating our subsequent shifts in Dallas through the maze of mergers, we still faced the challenge of Texas freeway exits and re-entries involving the frontage roads—or feeders, as they are apparently called. The ramps connecting these parallel, one-way roads are short and often lack the routine line markings that indicate lane disappearance. So when we got to Austin after driving through the eternity of Texas south of Dallas, we were glad to anchor for three days, joining Jonah, I am sure, for an experience in the belly of the big fish. From there—Austin, not the fish’s belly—we could daily tether in Toad to Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Round Rock without having to uproot Arby.
For our jaunt to Corpus Christi, we sought a change of pace, routing Toad along blue highways. That course took us through Lockhart, where the courthouse dominated the cityscape and where “Black’s Bar BQ,” a block away from the town square, posted its hours as “Open 8 Days a Week.”
|The courthouse in Lockhart.|
From there, we meandered farther south to an anomalously named, seemingly anonymous Texas town, one called Nixon. Finally, I understood the size of Texas: It’s big enough to embrace a Nixon, a Bush, and the memory of LBJ.