Somehow, I got lost or just wasn’t paying attention, as Map Quest and Google kept telling me to turn when I shouldn’t have. Or, maybe it was because I stopped in Buffalo, Texas, right in the middle of the place where I was distracted listening to “The Son” by Phillipp Meyer, whose character Eli McCullough was talking about the very place I was.
I kept going south and found myself in Texas A&M Aggie land when I knew I should have been further west, closer to Austin. I was on a broad, windy plain where black Angus cattle grazed and my car wavered in what could have been 40 mph gusts. The highway signs pointed me to Houston. The 75 mph speed limit was daunting. I pulled off the road and called my cousin. Seems I was an hour south of where I should have been thanks to a good story, GPS, and my lack of attention. I used to navigate in a single engine Piper Cherokee. I should have known better.
As I retraced my path north I thought about the settling of Texas, the loss of Native American culture, the theft of land, Spanish land grants, the Texas that was Mexico and the movement of borders, and the homesteaders who became oil barons. I turned west on Texas Route 21 through the towns named in the book I am listening to, crossing the very rivers where Comanches hunted and camped. I noticed the creeks and the oil pumps. I turned south on Texas 79, bordered by freight lines, passing through small cowboy towns with speed limits designed to trap the unsuspecting. These days revenue is hard to come by. Shut down store fronts everywhere tell a story, too. Out in the flat, open spaces, the 75 mph speed limits tell me again, this state tests muscle, mettle.
By getting lost, I lost three hours of travel time and didn’t arrive at my cousin’s home in north Austin until six thirty at night. But what I gained was knowledge of this vast landscape and her history. Texas became real. This was an eleven-hour travel day. The last four hours were an endurance test.
The Texas sunsets are BIG. The sun is a big red fire-ball hanging in the western sky. I followed it until it sank below the edge of earth and continued on.
Today I wake up in north Austin in my cousin’s house. I will give LaTuga to my friend Justo on Tuesday. He will continue the journey with her to Oaxaca without me. I’m flying the rest of the way.