I’ve romped, driven, waltzed, and ridden my motorcycle across Texas many times over the years. Living in California and visiting friends and relatives back East since the 1970s, one does not escape the “Lone Star” state. In fact, once you set rubber or your feet in Texas, it’s days before you’re out of there. So this post will consist of Texas moments and memories from several trips.
On journeys where Texas was not my destination, I remember (and can still feel) how fierce winds caused my motorcycle to lean sideways as I rode through Amarillo in the panhandle. What’s a motorcyclist to do in a situation like that? Hold tight and keep going.
But, in March of 2001, Judy and I drove to San Antonio so I could attend a conference. We spent a week in this town of The Alamo, taking in the River Walk and other nearby sites and eating our fill of Shiner Bock black bean soup at the Zuni Grill.
En route from Bakersfield, our drive took us through a landscape shot with color. Lavender runners of bluebonnets lined our pathway as we passed through desert scenes. The foothills crinkled into Sharpei furrows, breaking up the flat lands of the western desert. Yellow rocknettle and desert marigolds spread out over the landscape mingling with the bluebonnets. Many of the yuccas were in bloom, and we also saw red and green prickly pear cactus.
While taking a break at Study (STEW-dee) Butte, I visited with a local man who told me about the Texas road across the highway that was the “2nd best motorcycle road in the country.” Judy and I looked at the sign and at our map and saw that the road would take us right down to the Rio Grande in under twenty miles. So, we detoured onto it. Route 170 led us past Terlingua, which boasted a restaurant called “When Pigs Fly BBQ” and into Lajitas. Yep, there was the famous Rio Grande; in this place, merely a narrow strip separating the U.S. from Mexico. We flagged down another tourist to take a picture of us with the Rio Grande in the background. As we posed, an SUV entered the water from the Mexican side and drove across to the U.S., right behind us. So much for border control.
A cross-country driving trip in the spring of 2002 found us spending two full days on I-10, getting ourselves across Texas. Mid morning on the second day brought a welcome diversion as we rolled in to the heart of Davy Crockett County and the little town of Ozona. One cannot leave Ozona without stopping to see the David Crockett Monument, which is on the east edge of the town square. This town square also boasted an inviting gazebo and a number of pecan trees that had shed ripe nuts all over the ground. Like kids, we bustled around, gathering up pecans and stuffing them into our jacket pockets then posing for photos in the shadow of Davy’s statue.
Next, we hit the capitol city of Austin, home of the LBJ Presidential Library and host to an amazing Mardi Gras celebration. After touring the Texas Capitol building and LBJ’s impressive library, we made our way to the Driskill Hotel. This historic hotel opened in 1886 and was the site of the first interstate telephone line use, in 1899. LBJ kept a suite there throughout his political life and spent the 1964 presidential election night at the Driskill.
Our last night in Austin, we joined the Mardi Gras revelry. A six-block-long section of downtown was closed off for the event. Humanity filled the streets, including a very large and comforting presence of Austin’s finest – in cars, on foot, on motorcycles, and on horseback. We also saw EMT’s on bikes.
Getting into the spirit, we stopped at a “cigar shoppe” to pick up some Mardi Gras beads. Others had multiple strands of varying colors, sizes, and designs – some with lights. We wound our way through the crowd, noticing some folks wearing masks and others sporting jester hats. Teenage girls sat atop guys’ shoulders and vied for strands of beads that the crowd threw at them. These girls would grab the beads and put them around their necks. Then they would lift up their shirts, baring their breasts for the cameras that flashed like crazy. Now, we decided, we had officially seen everything. Texas was living up to its reputation.
The most gorgeous West Texas sight came as we drove toward home. A magnificent sunset with pinks folding into deep fuchsia and vibrant reds presented itself across a dark blue sky. In the foreground, the silhouettes of palm trees stood tall overlooking the lights of El Paso City against the backdrop of the blue-gray Franklin Mountains.This captivating scene was a perfect ending to our time in Texas.
~ xoA ~