Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tour de Texas

During 2009's Tour de Texas, we've done a lot of driving. As Texas is an enormous state, we generally opt to fly. This time I had plenty of internal flights booked with only a few short driving segments. When swine flu first hit the USA, there was a media frenzy and heaps of hype. As a result, I opted to cancel a few of our internal flights and make the same trips in a car instead. This seemed a sensible precautionary measure at the time. As more became known about the flu and the hype died down (and you could finally purchase antibacterial hand gel in the stores again) my choice to drive rather than fly seemed extreme. Some might say, stupid (especially given the long distances and the two small children factor) but in the end I'm glad it worked out the way it did.

By taking to the roads, my kids saw more of Texas than they ever would have from a plane. If you ask them, they probably saw more of Texas than they ever cared to or would ever care to see again. I, however, take comfort in the fact that one day when they are sitting around and complaining about what a lame job I've done as a parent, they'll recall with particular disdain the time, "Mom dragged us across Texas in Pop's car and we saw nothing but tumbleweeds for five hundred miles." It was really only 300 miles, but they'll exaggerate for effect. Teenagers do that. "Yeah" the younger one will reply, "That was so BORING!! What was she thinking?"

Maybe I'm giving their little 2 and 5 year old memories too much credit. Perhaps they'll never remember it at all. I guess that just means we'll have to repeat the exercise annually until they reach an age of awareness. Guess that sorts our holiday plans for the next five years.

Seriously, I think we all enjoyed our drive even though the scenery was at times, repetitive. You know, for like 300 miles. Personally, I grew up making the long drives across Texas to visit relatives, although it's probably been a good 10 years since I've done such a long road trip across Texas myself. I'd forgotten the vastness of this state I so fondly called home for most of my life B.A. (Before Australia). I'd forgotten how the landscapes are so varied and extreme from one side of the state to the other. I'd forgotten the names of the little towns that dot the long highways between the metroplexes. Gems like, "Van Horn", "Welfare", "Ozona". I'd forgotten how I could rely on these towns for their Dairy Queens. I'd forgotten all about the blizzard and the Hunger Buster.

In 10 years, not a whole lot had changed along a stretch of road I traveled with great frequency during my younger days. Same gas stations, same arid landscapes--although I was pleased to see a new massive wind farm perched on the mesas that give some texture to the barren far West of the state. Finally, I thought, something useful in this sandy, wind prone bit of desert. The giant windmills were a welcome distraction for the little people in the back seat as well. It's truly a pity the Handsome Australian wasn't with us to witness them too--he LOVES a good wind farm. Even took me on a tour of one in Australia once. Yes, I'll tell you all about it one day or perhaps you could just have a root canal--it might be just as interesting.

I don't know if it's my age or simply the time I've spent away from Texas, but I really soaked in so much during these drives. I took note of things I'd never noticed previously. I wondered things I would never have thought about in my youth. I appreciated the simple beauty of the landscape--I stopped to smell the flowers. Okay, so maybe I didn't stop for the flowers, but it's been my experience that cactus isn't particularly fragrant--that and can you imagine the first aid disaster that would be two little people covered in cactus prickles?

I did stop for a coffee at the McDonald's in Van Horn, Texas. I ordered a latte from their new coffee menu. As we drove away and I sipped on my latte from Macca's (as we call them in Oz) I thought to myself, "Wow. This is a good coffee." After which I immediately thought, "Wow. I've been away from Melbourne for far too long."

I guess time away from "home"--wherever that may be--makes you appreciate it all the more when you return and sometimes, you might even see things in a different light.


KLS said...

Inquiring minds from Atlanta and Portland still want to know where you dined in Houston.

I have heard that McDonald's coffee is rated by coffee snobs as being better than Starbucks, so maybe you're not too far removed from Australian coffee?

Hope you have more safe travels!

Erin said...

What a wonderful post. I completely agree. I didn't fully appreciate the US until I was gone. Now I go back and I photograph EVERYTHING. I take in every little detail because I don't want to forget anything. I eat foods I never ate when I lived there, just because we don't have them here. I also spend more quality time with people because my visits are so infrequent and you just 'never know'... Like you said, being away from home, wherever that is, does make you appreciate everything more. For me though, it never settles the emotional pull I feel between two countries. It just seems to highlight it. Hope you've had a fantastic time!

suzinoz said...

KLS-We had Buffalo Grill for breakfast. It was okay, but loud. Wasn't particularly impressed with the food, but I can see why people like it. Went to Prego in Rice Village for dinner. That was NICE. Loved it. Reminded me of the restaurants in Melbourne. Best restaurant food I ate while here in the USA. So that's the scoop!

Erin-Thanks for your lovely comment. I completely agree!