Amidst the rain
Salvaged cars ruined by the hurricane lined up in rows occupied acres of land along the interstates. Debris, downed trees and limbs in western Louisiana and south eastern Texas lay rotting along the roadsides. I by-passed Houston and stayed on the designated “Farm Roads” in Texas road system.
Close to Richards, Texas. Fences, wooden posts and stock tanks–I was back in the West.
All these little towns below presented an opportunity for me, which at the time, I did not take. I would like to go back and stay in the area, talk to the old-timers, learn the history, what has affected the changes, the loss of population, how ranching has changed and influx of “oh-let’s-get-a-ranch-for-the-weekend” folks. So much to learn in the United States. Another time, I’ll get back to these places.
Driving through these towns spotted along Central Texas’s subtle rolling hills that spoke “cattle country”, I happened upon a ranch that had been turned into a State Park — Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park which claims to be the “Birthplace of Texas”. The Star of the Republic Museum, and Barrington Living History Farm, offer the visitor a unique insight into the lives and times of the men who fought and won Texas’ independence from Mexico. It is an informative museum with interactive websites about Texas’s Independence and the life of the early Texas settlers. Trails, picnic tables and birdwatching are there to compliment a day of visiting the museum.
Anson Jones farmed near Washington during and after his presidency. Jones named his farm “Barrington” after his Massachusetts home, Great Barrington. He lived with wife Mary, their four children, his sister, sister-in-law, and five slaves. The family home, two slave cabins, a kitchen building, smokehouse, cotton house and barn made up Barrington Farm. They have been reproduced as reflected by sketches Jones made during construction.
The economy of the farm relied upon the work of the five slaves. Entries that Jones himself made in his daybook show the variety of the tasks, the efforts of the slaves, and ongoing nature of farm work. His words reflect a sense of good fortune and delight in the bounty of his farm. The Barrington Living Farm has demonstrations about life on the farm.
I found it so interesting and informative since it did differ some from my life on our family’s ranch in Arizona. The use of slaves was paramount in its success but they did work side by side with the owners.
From there I drove through Sam Houston’s National Forest, which was amazing in the contrast of rolling plains to dense forest. https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/texas/about-forest/districts/?cid=fswdev3_008443
Easy drive to Austin to see my nephew and family and two days later, back to New Mexico.
Florida’s shells reflection on Mable’s dash!
Loving the sight of the Taos landscape
Watching the Big Horn Sheep’s descent — good to be home
It has been nine months and 45,000 miles later I returned home. Summer was just beginning when I left and winter is sputtering its flame now. It was an amazing journey encompassing a range of emotions, a range of visual beauty and a range of facing fears and forcing myself to deal and go through them. I know now I would not have made the trip without Alice, this little Labradoodle who agreed with everything I said, never said a word about wrong turns or missed roads, and never complained about the bumpy or washboard or rutted dirt roads. She was my companion and I was never alone.
My van became another friend, especially after I humanized her and named her”Mabel”. “Mabel, you can make it up this hill, even at 20 mph.” At times, I felt I was reading the child’s story “The Little Engine that Could” as we climbed those mountains in British Columbia or descended down 14 grade roads. She came through with only a broken windshield and a worn out fuel pump and brought Alice and me home safely.
Me, well, I learned so much about myself and North American continent. I was asked so many many times “Aren’t you lonely?” I have thought a lot about this, having lived a majority of my life as a single parent and single woman and traveling this distance by myself. Being alone is when there is nobody at your home that you know, or never receiving an email or a call or a “like” on a Facebook posting or seeing that 198 people read your blog while traveling. Being alone is when you pick up your phone and don’t know who to call. I would have been alone then. But, the friendships made over a lifetime sustain me in times when connections are needed or wanted or I am needed or wanted. I shared my experiences with new friends on the road and sometimes, kept them to myself to savor.
I learned to put aside the “what ifs”. “What if you get a flat tire?”, “What if the van breaks?”, “What if you get afraid?” and traveled with an openness for all and if something happens, I will deal then. I did get stuck in mud once, stood on the highway and a couple in their all-terrain Alaskan truck (which I envied!) hooked up a chain and pulled me out. I could have gotten killed or maimed or God knows what, but I didn’t and life went on.
This is a gorgeous continent and I understand how much all the inhabitants of our globe have in common. Yet, we all feel we are different, or more advanced or more cultured or more advantaged. On the surface that may be true, but to the Inuviks in the Northwest Territories, going to work in an office and not having nature around them 24/7 and losing their life of hunting and fishing would be a death sentence. To the Alaskans not having their hunting or fishing and being able to sustain themselves during the winter with what they killed and provided their family with would be like being in a jail. To the Newfoundlanders, their independence, brightly painted cottages and families being able to trace the generations they lived in towns alongside other families would present a disconnect that would be unimaginable. The arrogance of other countries to impose what they think is best for “them”/ “others” /”primitive societies” is so short-sighted and is nothing more than incomprehensible stupidity. We bleed, we cry, we love. All of us.
Every place has its own beauty. Mountains that dare you to climb them and might trap you forever in a blinding snowstorm. The clouds, thick with moisture, settle on mountain tops or pass over tall pines caused me to pull over and stare in wonderment. Rivers like I have never seen roared by, cold and unwelcoming, made me feel insignificant. The tundra desolations and learning that it takes centuries for lichen to grow on rocks caused me to forever not step on that little plant.
The tremendous power of the hydro-electric plants in Canada’s Provinces were daunting in their immenseness and left another kind of beauty on the rivers they drained. Recycle barrels in every rest stop made for spotless Provinces — Provinces that took pride in their appearance and a willingness of the people to support beauty. Welcoming looks and nods from all – Canadian Muslims to First Nation People to Inuvik to the service people – it was a comfort. I came away with the feeling of “We are all in this together so we’ll help each other when we can.”
The Eastern US and South presented its own set of challenges. Cars zooming by after 4 months strumming along at 45 or 50, at first, put the fear of God in me! I got used to it-again. Suburbias and cities and arranged nature became uninspiring again. Wondrous beauty of changing fall colors in New England were a delight to my eyes and understood the phrase “some beauty cannot be captured.” The South I want to go back to and really explore. It was a foreign country to me. The Civil Rights Trail and Blues Trail and so many more tiny towns to go to and get stared at as I walk in and sit down knowing what’s going through people’s minds–“Well, where’d she come from?”
I am in Taos, New Mexico and settling into life in this quirky funky town I call home. The world has expanded for me and my love of traveling and driving has not diminished. More lines on my face mark the passing years, more crow’s feet mark the laughter and smiles I have received from life — I am grateful and blessed for surviving the life I have led.
This blog will be continued every two or three weeks with notes on the towns and areas I will continue to explore.
Take good care, Lisa, Alice and Mabel
Lisa, Alice and Mabel
NEXT: REFLECTONS OF “A NINE-MONTH ROAD TRIP”