My wife, as I might have mentioned, is a native Oklahoman.
When we were first married and she wanted to go visit, I usually stayed home. I wasn’t a big fan of that kind of traveling. Driving for about 18 hours, fueled by pop and all kinds of junk food. With two young kids.
I didn’t think that would be a relaxing time and I thought vacations should be for relaxing. Plus we would be staying at various in-laws. Which is always uncomfortable no matter how nice the folks are.
The first time we went to that part of the country it was for a job interview in Abilene, Texas.
Abilene is a looooong way from Indiana.
Our daughter was in school, so it was just my wife and I and our very young son.
As we made our way through the panhandle of Oklahoma to my sister-in-law’s house in Texas, a snow storm came up out of nowhere. Drifting snow was making some of the roads a little tricky. Finally we got to their house and after a few hours of sleep, we moved on toward Abilene. Our son staying behind.
The road to Abilene was my first experience driving in Texas.
There were two things I wanted to see: tumbleweeds and the Canadian River.
The tumbleweeds thing was just to tease my wife. So, every so often, I would start singing about the Tumbling Tumbleweeds. I am a lot of fun in a car as you can probably tell. But we drove for hours and no tumbleweeds. Disappointed.
But I was sure the river would make up for it.
See, I had watched all those old westerns with the cattle drive always having to find a safe place to cross because of all the water. My mom was a big John Wayne fan. Red River. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. It was going to be great.
Except that….this part of Texas was suffering through a drought.
The Canadian was a trickle. The other rivers we drove over were the same. No water.
I felt cheated.
No water and no tumbleweeds. And halfway there no radio stations either. I had never been in the middle of nowhere, but I can tell you when you get there, you have to bring your own tunes.
The views along the way were amazing. You could see for miles.Over an unforgiving prairie. With a relentless wind. I know I have said this before but I really had a hard time believing there was a place where the wind blew all day and all night. ALL day and ALL night. EVERY day and EVERY night.
Also, on this road, you would go through towns that had managed to hold together and even prosper while others were failing at an alarming rate.
Soon (six hours later) we were in Abilene, Texas. We had two days to interview for the job offer and look around for a possible house to purchase if things went well. The interview went very well. The people we met were very friendly. Even though my wife kept apologizing for bringing a Yankee down there. I didn’t realize people used that expression until we met a builder who said he had built a home for a Yankee once.
We looked at several houses on our last day in the city. I was surprised that most of them didn’t have any gutters or rain spouts. It didn’t rain often enough to go through the expense of putting gutters up.
The grass in the lawns had a gnarly, twisty consistency to it. It is good for that region because it can lay dormant for long periods.
I was walking around looking at all of these different things looking just like, well, a Yankee.
The real estate agent had some good news. The local Wal-Mart was going to be a 24-hour one. The peculiar thing about Abilene was everything closed up around 10:00. I mean everything.
And the strangest thing of all was when 11:30 rolled around, I tried to find David Letterman’s show. They didn’t carry him on the CBS affiliate there. Too radical, I suppose.
Well, needless to say, we didn’t wind up in Abilene. When we got back to Fort Wayne, a job offer equal to the one in Texas came to us and we took it.
The main thing that happened was I lost all of my reasons for not wanting to travel. We enjoyed it despite the long hours of driving. The scenery was amazing and….
I finally saw a tumbleweed.