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Trying to get out of Texas


On Texas 385, near the Canadian River

I have good intentions. In fact, I have so many good intentions I will be happy to give you some, if you are short. I'll never use'em all.

For instance, I really meant to get an early start yesterday, and spend the night up in Raton Pass. But of course that didn't happen. Never does. There's always some last minute washing to do, tanks to dump, checks to cash, propane to buy, etc. Hey, I'm retired.

I lingered over some migas this morning, reading about Claudette. Seems like a hurricane with a name like that would head directly for Louisiana instead of going astray in south Texas. Around Georgetown there's nothing but wind and a few sprinkles.

It is cooler, though still soupy with humidity, and that's a good omen for this trip, which is not about being cool, exactly, which is sort of a stretch for me, but at least feeling cool. I'm gonna give high Colorado a chance, despite the torrid temps, even fires, that I see on the news, and then head north and west until I have to use the covers at night. Maybe Vancouver. Maybe Prudhoe Bay.

The COE camp at Lake Georgetown has an almost perfect dump station. There's a paved apron, a V slope toward the drain, a pair of long rinse hoses, and hardly ever anybody there. I've been using the macerator at home, and I noticed the tank hasn't been fully emptied by it. I think the suction of the pump is not as great as with the gravity dump from a 3 inch slinky. At least not great enough to carry all the solids along.

I determined on a little experiment. After the dump slowed to a drip, I removed the slinky and forced the rinse hose far up into the tank, running full blast. An amazing amount of stuff came out of that supposedly empty tank. Mostly clumps of paper. And my tank sensors are actually working now, for the first time in 2 years. How much of this accumulation was due to back pressure from the macerator, I dunno. But I think I've found a brand new semi-annual ritual to give meaning to my life.

O yeah. In case you were planning to visit, be assured I cleaned up after myself. The concrete apron made it easy. Don't try this on gravel, folks.

As I proceeded up 183 into West Texas, I could see there's been a lot of rain. Even way up into the Panhandle, the land was an unlikely pleasant green, and shallow brown lakes lapped up close to the road, where there should be only dusty fields. I hope Colorado got some of this.

I recommend XM and Sirius satellite radio. I've been this way many, many times, but seldom so pleasantly. The plains of the panhandle may be remarkably verdant right now, but this area is a stubbornly arid desert of the airwaves. Of course you could carry a bunch of CDs to while away the miles. I do. The advantage of playing CDs is that you know exactly what you are going to hear. That's also the disadvantage.

Doggone it. I pulled up in front of the Slayton Bakery, southwest of Lubbock, exactly 23 minutes too late. I'm very partial to their pies.

I needed gas in Littlefield, and turned into a convenience store, only to find the pump I picked was not being used by reason of being broken. Instead of driving around and waiting for another slot, I pushed right on up Hwy 385 in disgust.

Big Mistake. Right out of town, the fuel light came on. 21 miles to Springlake. Feeling an unexpected jolt of testosterone poisoning, I plunged ahead with reckless confidence. I rather liked placing myself squarely in the hands of Fate. Brash, romantic, devil-may-care. That's me.

Nothing open in Springlake. Nothing much closed, either. About 7 miles west, and inconveniently out of my way, is Earth. Supposedly. 22 miles straight on to Dimmit. Hmmm. I slowed to 55, which seemed like crawling, engaged overdrive, and turned on the speed control. I began to be passed by all the traffic I had blown by earlier, which is the North Texas equivalent of having your life pass before your eyes. For the first time ever, I saw the indicator actually touch the red line on E. Dimly, ten miles in the distance, the grain elevators of Dimmit rose up like a mirage.

What had seemed like a small adventure now began to take on the hue of Stupidity. I thought about jettisoning the trailer. I thought about heaving out loose objects. I thought about getting a life. I thought about a lot of things, and while I was thinking about them, I rolled right on into Dimmit.

Knew I could make it.

It was about 9:30 when I crossed the Canadian River. Over the bridge and up on the east side, just before Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, there was a picnic area. As the sun was going down, I pulled in there. It's a deep roomy place, with tables and pits and defined places to back a rig into. The drive is lined with whitewashed pilings. Nobody home. A couple of motorcycles came through while I was eating a sandwich, but they moved on, presumably in search of a motel.

I remember this place. The first time Jan and I took the boys to Colorado, we stopped here on the way back. Sean and Cory were about 6 and 12. They scampered into a dome tent as soon as I got it raised, barely ahead of the rain. Jan and I climbed up under the camper shell.

It gets right windy along the Canadian, sometimes, and that night was exceptional. It howled. The truck lifted and shook. Rain pounded sideways on the windows, and lightning flared in the sky. Somewhere in the middle of all that I remembered I hadn't tied down the tent. If the boys wanted to climb in with us, I'd have to get out there and collapse it. I dreaded having to do that. But it was okay as long as they were in it.

Came the bright sunny morning. Jan noticed right away the tent was gone. We found it fifty feet away. The boys were sound asleep in their bags, lumped up against the ceiling of the upside down tent. The dome shape was still perfectly intact. Apparently they had done a continuous slow sleepy roll and tumble during the night. They might have made it clean to the road if the fence hadn't caught'em.

After my sandwich I rolled up a throw pillow, turned out the lights in the trailer, and went outside. I lay back on top of the picnic table and smoked a small cigar. The concrete was cool. It felt good against my back.

Boy, there's a million stars up there. Occluding swift black shapes flickered across them. Bats, I think, out foraging. I could hear trucks laboring up from the river. The park is about 100 yards deep, about the same distance from the road as my upstairs bedroom window was, when I was a boy. Sounds about the same. Somewhere in the distance there's a train.

I wish I knew more about the stars. Even something mundane. I can pick out the dippers, and the pole star. Occasionally I can even spy a small red spark that is arguably Mars. That's about it.

There's an intermittent meteor shower tonight. And I can see a satellite ticking across, off to the south. Remember Sputnik? What a sense of wonder that was, to know something man-made had entered that immensity. Still is.

It's 77 degrees. It's a lot drier here than back home, and with the fan on it feels almost cool. Been a long day. Eleven hours on the road. I've made good time. And had a good time, too.

Time now for a lullaby. One of the best, which popped in my head while I watched the sun go down, goes something like this:

"Day is done.
Gone the sun.

From the hills,
from the lakes,
from the sky.

All is well.
Safely rest.
God is nigh."


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