life in the city / travel

Adios, Texas (day one and two of my Oregon Trail)

I’ve lived in Texas for the vast majority of my life — 23 years, minus the 36 months spent in Indiana for college. I was never fond of the state, hence my paying a higher tuition price to go out-of-state.

But as I drove across Texas for the last time — some 740 miles over 11 hours, and the most I’ve ever seen of Texas on the road — I felt unexpected regret that I didn’t see more of this state while I was there for so long. I never visited many of its parks, not even the ones close to Houston. I only visited Austin and San Antonio once each.

I felt pretty ambivalent about Houston, too. But when you live anywhere for twenty years, leaving it behind is no small thing.

last picture of the Houston skyline, including Williams Tower, where I worked for the last 17 months

last picture of the Houston skyline, including Williams Tower, where I worked for the last 17 months

I did feel fond and proud of my neighborhood, the Heights, where I lived for the last twelve years. It’s changed a lot in that time, as all places do, and I didn’t like the way real estate prices have shot up and all the quaint and old homes were torn down to be replaced by multi-story condos crowded together so close that a resident in one just has to open a window and reach across to touch the neighboring house. But I’ll particularly miss the oak trees arching over Heights Boulevard and the rotating art installations lining the median.

from the balcony of my apartment in Houston: watching the moving van load up my worldly possessions

from the balcony of my apartment in Houston, watching the moving van load up my worldly possessions

Will I visit Texas, Houston, the Heights again? Of course. There are too many people I love there. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be driving my own car around, so my real opportunities to explore Texas are gone.

Unless I choose to move back, of course. But that’s not too likely right now. After all, I was there for over twenty years.

Here are some photos from that last long drive out of Texas: on 290 to Fredericksburg, then I-10 all the way to El Paso. The scenery surprised me, especially the abundant windmills on the mesas (not pictured, sadly, but you can see them here).

My mother and I took these pictures, whoever wasn’t driving at the moment (mostly her, I think). She’s a great roadtrip companion, by the way. And my cats were pretty chill in their carriers in the backseat, too.

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heading northwest on 290, out of Houston

Fredericksburg, Texas. A quaint tourist town

Fredericksburg, Texas. A quaint tourist town

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gas stations along the interstate had pretty aggressive signs, even outside Texas. It's sensible to discourage robbers when you're that isolated.

gas stations along the interstate had pretty aggressive signs, even outside Texas. It’s sensible to discourage robbers when you’re that isolated.

One last look at Texas bluebonnets.

one last look at Texas bluebonnets.

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And then the landscape began to change.

and then the landscape began to change.

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Our second night, we stopped in El Paso and had an excellent dinner (really, the best Mexican food I’ve had in ages) at a restaurant bearing my mother’s and my initials.

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Our restaurant’s street in El Paso

cemetery across from the restaurant

cemetery across from the restaurant

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L&J Cafe, since 1927

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The next morning was bright and clear as we crossed the border out of Texas, heading toward Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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This is my favorite song (okay, also the only one I know) featuring Las Cruces. Be patient, it gets going about a minute in.

Coming up next: New Mexico and Arizona, crossed in a single day.

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