Sometimes you drive and just meander along, not really trying to get anywhere in particular. On other occasions, you are in one part of the country and want to be in another part, preferably soon.
Then you drive trying to cover as much territory as possible. That’s what we are doing now – trying to get from Florida to out west.
We’re really not missing much – we have driven Interstate 10 (the southernmost transcontinental highway in the American Interstate Highway System) back and forth so much we don’t’ even have to look at the map anymore to know where we are and what’s nearby.
We started out Friday morning on the east coast. By “east coast,” I mean Jacksonville Beach in Florida, so close to the ocean that you can hear the surf noise late at night when the traffic on Florida State Road A1A dies down. Florida is a deceptively wide state east to west when you start in the northeast corner and want to go out the west end of the panhandle – almost 400 miles.
We started out at dawn because I am partial to daylight driving in my old age, and wanted to drive until sunset to get as far as we could. My goal was to get across the river, out to where the radio station call signs start with K instead of W, and we did, ending up in the Atchafalaya Visitors Center just east of Lafayette, La. for the night. This is a favorite overnight parking spot for us, and we were tired and ready for a good night’s sleep when we got there.
Up again at dawn, across the last 120 miles of Louisiana, and into Texas – we always stop at the welcome station to contemplate the enormity of the task ahead of us. Texas is 880 miles east to west, and we were going to drive every bit of it.
One boring thing about heading west on I-10 from where it starts is that the first thousand miles or so is all the same ecosystem – Gulf coastal plain, alligators and Spanish moss and pine trees and mosquitoes. We finally got our break from the monotony between Houston and San Antonio as the plains opened up and the trees started to disappear. As we made the shortcut across the top of San Antonio on Texas state road 46, we actually got to see hills and exposed limestone outcroppings, and the gulf coast gumbo yielded to a stony, dryer soil. We began to see the Texas wildflowers, even though it was early – bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, a deeper red one I didn’t recognize, and splashes of yellow ones. Not bad for an area which saw an ice storm only a few weeks ago.
I picked out a few places we have stayed at on the stretch of I-10 heading out to Fort Stockton to pull into when the time was right – Kerrville, Junction, Sonora, and Fort Stockton itself. Fort Stockton didn’t happen – after the usual traffic foolishness around Houston and San Antonio our expected arrival time would have been 8:30 PM, long after it ceases to be safe to drive in these parts. All the deer come out at dusk here, and you want to get off the road about an hour before sunset.
An hour before sunset happened at Junction. Fine with me – Junction is a nice little town with a city park along the Llano River, and they welcome boondockers who want to spend the night in their RVs at the spillway. It makes a pleasant sound as the dusk settles in. And you can look up and see the Milky Way, right here in the heart of downtown Junction, Texas. Can’t do that back east in the places we have been staying. We really miss the west.