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Waltz Across Texas

June 6, 2019
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Welcome to West Texas

Texas began scaring the hell out of me as soon as I got there. Right at the Texas border, the wind kicked up hard – 30 to 40 mph. Gladis turns into a sail during high winds, and driving is more like bronc riding. We swayed and bobbed toward El Paso, my white-knuckled hands clutching the steering wheel.

Down in the West Texas Town of El Paso

El Paso was not nearly as charming as the song would have one expect. I missed Rosa’s Cantina and Felina whirling completely.

Crazy Saints Among Us

Traversing the rutted path that passes for Interstate 10 in El Paso, I saw a wall of brake lights pop on in front of me. Me, Gladis, giant tanker trucks, delivery vans, all screeching from 60 mph to 0. Smoke from brakes. Truck tractors weaving around, trying to keep their trailers from overtaking them.

Directly in front of me, a tiny man opened his door and emerged from an old Nissan Sentra with Mexican plates. He boldly walked into the traffic lanes where trucks were already starting up again and slowly wrestled a large orange plastic traffic control barrel to the side of the road from where it had been bouncing around in lanes, which is what caused the panic. I gave him a big double thumbs-up for being the bravest person in all of Texas at that moment. Crazy dude. God bless him.

Rolling, Rolling

I was determined to cover as much ground in Texas as quickly as possible. West Texas is just gigantic and there’s not much out there (in one spot, it was 110 miles between any type of towns). I put on some podcasts and munched on Sabritas Japoneses (my one real addiction) and drank kombucha and put the pedal to the medal. Well, halfway to the medal, since Gladis hums along best at 60 mph.

Leaving a rest stop with Heather Armstrong on the “With Friends Like These” podcast, I noticed giant clouds on the horizon. About 20 minutes later, my radio burst to life with a squawk.

“WAH WAHN WAH WAHN. The National Weather Service has issued a severe weather alert…”

Haha, but not near me, right?

“One and one-half inch hail and a possible tornado on Interstate 10 between mile marker 257 and 265…”

I looked at the next mile marker. 245. Oh. That’s…close. My heart pounding, I tried to remember tornado etiquette. Something about interior rooms and bathtubs. I started looking for an exit, an overpass, a gas station, anything. Nope. I was shaking with fear.

A few miles later, a lonely exit appeared with no buildings nearby. I crossed the freeway and found only a locked gate leading to a Bridgestone tire testing grounds. I parked by the side of the road and wondered what the heck to do. It was the most scared and lonely I have been on this trip.

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My view from the roadside

Frantic, I consulted my storm watch app, StormShield (damn right I have the paid version), which told me the storm was blessedly moving away toward the northeast at 30 mph. I don’t know what I would have done had it been heading for me.

A couple people leaving the tire place for the day stopped to ask if I was ok – they thought I had a mechanical breakdown – then they left. I sat by the road for an hour by myself, waiting for the storm to move on.

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The storm later that evening

The Honey Badger

When I thought it was safe, I drove on to Fort Stockton, home of the hilariously named Honey Badger RV Park. It was a gravel parking lot with fence around it, but the owner, Naomi, was warm and eager to get me parked and out of the storm.IMG_20190517_191705_993

“That name,” I said, “It has to have a story.”

“Haha!” Naomi laughed. “It’s named after my ex-husband. We were married 38 years, and he was like the honey badger. He just did not give a shit. A good guy, but he didn’t give a shit.”

Saint Anthony Protected Me

I have always loved Saint Anthony, but his namesake town, San Antonio, tried to kill me twice within about 10 minutes. The first time was a swerving, lane-ending detour indicated only by about 8 traffic barrels before it actually happened – which would have been inconvenient if I could have seen it, but traffic was heavy and a huge RV was right in front of me, and they didn’t swerve until the last second, so suddenly I looked up and the barrier was RIGHT THERE and I had to swerve at a high speed and almost take someone’s door off and DAMN IT THAT WAS TOO CLOSE.

Then a couple minutes later, freeway traffic came to such a sudden stop that I had the brakes floored and realized I was going to rear-end a tiny Toyota in front of me unless a miracle happened, then I magically found 1/4 inch more brakes and missed hitting it by about 4 inches. I probably left a couple inches of tire rubber on the highway.

Everything in Gladis flew toward the front, including all the fridge contents, where a jar of olive tapenade exited the door, which had flown open, and across the RV, breaking and spewing broken glass and tiny greasy olive bits EVERYWHERE. I have been finding olive pieces ever since.

But we survived, and so did the people packed into that Toyota. My heart is not strong enough for Texas. I was shook up and ready to leave as soon as possible.

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Nice job on the roadside wildflowers, though! Thank LadyBird Johnson for that.

 

 

 

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2019 05:29

    When Chris and I talked about places to move too, he was adamant that it would not be Texas.

    • June 6, 2019 10:08

      I did not like Texas much and it sure did not like me. Austin was the best part, but of course I did not hang out long.

  2. June 6, 2019 08:23

    I love love these snippets from the road!

  3. Christine Voth permalink
    June 6, 2019 12:24

    Here’s a song about El Paso by the late great artist, Michael Johnson. Hope you enjoy. Something of a social commentary.

    Sent from my iPhone Christine Voth ________________________________

  4. June 6, 2019 20:46

    Been all across Texas too often back and forth too many times to count. Lived in Corpus for a while and Houston a while longer. It’s like five different states rolled up into one and as you drive east on I-10, it gets better. West Texas? Not unlike Dante’s 7th circle of Hell…

    • June 7, 2019 18:21

      Yes, there were different zones of Texas! The closer I got to Cajun country, the more I liked it. My goofy hippie self would probably fit in best in Austin, but I’m too wimpy for that weather.

      • June 7, 2019 19:33

        It’s an acquired taste. I acquired it for quite a while… but I missed the autumn leaves… and the winter. Good luck.

  5. June 11, 2019 16:04

    West Texas is indeed a wild place. My grandmother is front there, from a little town called Loop located outside Lubbock. I hadn’t ever been until her funeral and while the occasion was sad, I was glad to have the chance to experience the area. Also, I’m glad Texas didn’t kill you.

    • June 11, 2019 19:14

      I am loving your blog, too! You have been having some great adventures.

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