Tag Archives: Austin

So Big. Lost in Texas. Formerly Mexico.

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.


Road Trip: North Carolina to Austin, TX to Oaxaca, Mexico

Destination Austin, Texas.  I’m packing up La Tuga (short for La Tortuga or turtle in Spanish), the 2004 Honda Element EX manual transmission I just bought that will be the car I drive in Mexico.  Well, I’m not exactly packing yet. I’m thinking about it.  In three days, on December 12, 2013, I will set out to begin the 1,306 mile, almost 22-hour road trip from North Carolina’s Piedmont to south-central Texas, about half-way across the country.  Mapquest tells me I will spend a little over $700 in gasoline and at least $49 a night in lodging.  Food doesn’t calculate, I guess.

Do you have any suggestions for the route?  I’m planning I-85 South past Atlanta, then connecting to I-20 West, through Vicksburg and Shreveport, to Waco, then dropping down to north Austin, where I’ll be staying for a few nights with my cousin Norm, who left his hometown of Chicago years ago, but is loyal still to the Cubs.  Then, flying off to Oaxaca.

I’m making a list of what I need to take that I can’t fit in a suitcase.

Anyone have an older model, small bowl Cuisinart food processor in good working condition you’d like to sell and get to me be Wednesday this week?  This might come in handy in Oaxaca, I think, for making salsa and chopping lots of onions!  Or, if I decide to make a fresh fruit tart and need to whip up a crust, I have a proven Cuisinart crust recipe.

The list also includes:

  • wood chopping block
  • printer and printer cartridges
  • sheets and towels (100% cotton)
  • candied ginger
  • 6 lbs. undyed merino wool roving for felting
  • knitting supplies, especially wood needles
  • good used clothing and shoes to distribute
  • spackle to repair wall holes where I’ve drilled by mistake
  • a few more good books

I can’t think of anything else, can you?

I’m living more simply there.  No television!  No CD player!  I do have a basic kitchen with a good set of knives, blender, plates, utensils, Master Chef cookware, cloth napkins and dishtowels from Camino de los Altos, and Studio Xaquixe recycled drinking glasses!  Never mind that the kitchen sink water drains into a large paint bucket that I carry outside each time it fills up so I don’t waste water and have enough to give to thirsty trees and flowers.  Jajajajaja.

In Austin, I turn the car over to my agent, Justo, who will drive it the rest of the way to Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.  But, first, we will buy Mexican insurance in Austin, then he will legalize the car for Mexico.  In fact, that process has already begun.

Admittedly, making this road trip on my own is both exciting and somewhat daunting — a new experience for me — although I fly everywhere independently.  I’m open to sharing the driver’s seat with the right person, if anyone dares go with me.  I would need to know you or have a great recommendation.

Stay tuned for the next installment.  Of course, I won’t have commentary on the Austin to Oaxaca leg.  I’ll be at the other end waiting for delivery.