It took me a while to leave Austin. I’d forgotten to drop off my Census form so I drove over to a post office off Exposition. School had just gotten out so cars plodded along at a few miles per hour as kids romped around. A shiny silver Jaguar pulled out of the school driveway. I finally got to the post office, dropped off my letter and was officially ready to go. I flipped over to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on my iPod and got ready to make this land my land.
But I was low on gas. I got on Mopac, drove for a little while before it turned into a tollway, and pulled off onto some parkway that cut over to I-35. The two-laned street with a broad median covered in newly planted saplings wound its way through gated apartment complexes and then rows of suburban homes. One subdivision was a farm, another called itself a ridge.
Past it all, I found a gas station. I pulled into the Conoco and filled up my tank but noticed that the tires looked a bit low. The air pump was on the far side of the gas station – 75 cents for 3 minutes of air. But I couldn’t find a tire pressure gauge in the glove box so I walked into the station and bought a $1.99 tire gauge and a $1.99 VitaminWater.
I filled my tires, climbed back in and finally hit the road.
Distant suburbs soon started turning into real farms as the highway narrowed and flowed over the rolling landscape. Texas oaks formed groves on edges of pastures dotted with cattle. The horizon fell gently away to my left, tilled farmland closer to the highway with brushy expanses visible further away.
I drove past Killeen and Fort Hood. I drove through Waco and found a more significant town than I’d imagined. Apparently Baylor University is based there. A fairly wide Brazos River cut through the middle of town, a few bridges spanning its banks.
Traffic came to a halt just north of Waco. We inched along for a few minutes. I used the opportunity to make some phone calls.
Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady helped me along the drive. Jack by now had moved his family to Denver only to see them return to New York, Neal’s mangled hand gave even more character to his pursuits. As they flew across Nebraska in their Cadillac limousine I thought of teams we’d competed against in high school from little towns I’d never heard of.
I finally caught the Dallas skyline a few miles outside the city. The highway grew broader, more traffic seemed to join it. I’d never been to Dallas before and its sheer size impressed me. I didn’t realize it was that big. Tall towers, actually set close together, gleaming windows. I pulled off on Commerce street and wandered through downtown. Hotels, old buildings, new lofts, broad public spaces…but very few people. It was only 6pm on Wednesday – how was the city this empty?
I headed north to find my home for the next few days, a small studio on top of a garage in Bluffview that I’d reserved on AirBnB. A kid next to me roared his Mustang Cobra for 50 feet off every green light only to nail his brakes before the next red light. On Lemmon street, a bunch of restaurants and stores became mental notes. I kept going, driving by Love Field on the left and looking for this street on the right. Finally, I turned right and into a charming neighborhood. I turned right onto Midway and pulled into the driveway behind a big sailboat.
The gate creaked but revealed a lovely backyard full of plantings and a deck. Flowers dangled above the gate. The door on the far side opened to a stairway which led to a little studio apartment. A functional kitchenette, a bathroom, a bed, a desk, two chairs and a TV.
I unpacked my things and settled onto the comfortable futon. The trip was under way.