Is this living, or what? An overcast sky holds the last rainbow of dawn as we pull out of the hotel parking lot in El Paso. Getting on the I10 is a matter of minutes. The INS sweep the bushes on both sides of the road – fresh tire tread marks on the sandy sections of the Mexican border side of the freeway are clearly visible. Miles later hawks circle in dirt devil formation, pulsing in and out while following an invisible target. Then the 80 MPH sign appears – step on the gas and wipe that tear away!
This is “Big Bend” country – and the road is an embodiment of the title, driving 80+/= MPH, powering each curve in the road as it ribbons out to nowhere and everywhere. All the Rest Stops have free Wi-Fi. And they are pretty clean. Every so often a lone mail box holds vigil on the freeway frontage road. Signs offer 20+ acres for $16,500. Yucca trees dot the roadside, pointing their bloom towards the sky. Border Patrol politely but firmly guide you through a checkpoint barricade – provided the dogs haven’t sniffed anything untoward and you answer the questions correctly. Wide-load trucks carry strange cargo. Outside Fort Stockton a lone voice posts a question in a hand-lettered sign – “IF YOU DIE TODAY, WHERE WILL YOUR SOUL LIVE FOR ETERNITY?”. Is the answer the highway signage planted firmly beside it that announces “OZONA, 100 MILES”? Pyramid shaped hills dot the horizon. Road sections blaze through exposed stratified layers of color and depth – evidence of their previous life as hills. There may be “nothing” for miles, but there are unlimited moments of life expression. Don’t blink or you might miss the tiniest nuance that tells a story.
Once Bexar county line is crossed, the speed limit drops to 75. Then 70. Then 65 as the local traffic picks up and now you can be in anywhere Urban USA. San Antonio covers a pretty large area, and its population size is pretty close to that of Phoenix. The mix of people is similar to El Paso – Mexican, African-American, White, Asian/Indian. Everyone has an equilibrium of interaction as they go about their business. The Alamo is one of the main attractions. It is the figurehead of the Riverwalk, which meanders for eight miles below street level in the center of town. Old and new architecture blend in a comfortable way, as new shoes pair with broken-in jeans. The planners certainly did a great job with the layout and architecture of the Riverwalk. But I can assure you that is it as touristy as Disneyland, without the admission price. Market Square, which was nearer to our hotel, was also vibrant with activity. The Farmer’s Market is the lynchpin for Market Square, a celebration of the Mexican heritage prominent in the area.
What a great feeling to stretch our legs in the city, after all those hours of driving, and soak in the sights while there was still daylight. And tomorrow is Austin, less than two hours away, with time to explore!