Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Day 7. June 7, 2011-Monahans, TX. Sand Dunes and Best Western
Meet Sue and Mike pictured here smiling calmly beneath the scorching sun of Sand Hills State Park and dunes in Monahans, TX. (I hope I remembered their names correctly. I was so frustrated with the intensity of the heat that I wasn’t listening well). It’s got to be over 100 degrees and not a tree in sight. I chickened out, found a Best Western nearby with the help of their GPS, put my gear back in my car, and said farewell to this brave couple.
Etta climbed the nearest dune and found something rotten in the grass to eat before I packed her back in the car.
This is oil country near the New Mexico border in the western “chimney” of Texas that pokes up into the prairie. The air in places even smells like petroleum. The landscape stretches flat and wide, with a sandy, pebbly soil dotted with small bushes and brush. I stopped for gas in the tiny town of Barnhart, TX at a 2-pump store called the Big Red Barn. A hot wind whipped across the flats and blew the gas cap off the roof of my car as I fueled up. Inside, the place was crowded with physically fit young men who were oil rig roustabouts or tanker truck drivers. Nobody paid any attention to me, but I felt like I had landed in “man-land”.
I walked in wearing my calf-high roll-up summer pants and a yellow ball cap decorated with little Mickey Mouse patterns.
Several times today I humbly acknowledged the presence of the “Road Demon” inside my head. He or she takes the form of a surge of anxiety and loneliness along with the realization that I’m not as strong an individual as I fancied myself to be. At one point on an 80 mph highway I stuck behind an oil tanker that was going 70 just to let him lead. I relaxed.
Earlier in the day, the drive from Austin was a zig-zag of small, sparsely traveled, perfectly maintained 70 mph side roads through the “Hill Country” of Texas. Here is Miss Etta again walking and sniffing the “sights” through this unique landscape of pebbly soil, prickly plants, cactus with flat, oval, spiky disks, and low gnarly trees. It reminds me of the Middle East, but with miles of cattle ranches hidden from view instead of small sheep herds. Sandstone lined the roads in bright white chalk, ochre and rusty tan.
My lady of the Garmin GPS sent me through tiny towns with solid names like Llano, Mason, Menard, El Dorado, Big Lake, Rankin and Crane. The river beds are dried up and signs banning fires abound.
This considerable stretch of land appears to be recovering from a previous year’s fire.
I did not deliver any Hand to Hand Project artwork today. If you are unfamiliar with H2H, find out more at http://www.handtohandproject.com/