We were delayed leaving Houston due to late rising, rental car problems and organizational issues while attempting to pack the car. The delay increased when a phone call informed us we had left behind the camp stove as well as the corkscrew, both essentials of any weekend camping trip. We returned to the house, retrieved the missing items and were once again on our way.
A system of freeways resembling a plate of spaghetti spirals around and also carries one out of Houston. Once clear of the subdivisions and strip malls one finds themselves in a flat landscape which appears to be barren of any life form other than cows. Small pockets of civilization occasionally appear offering up gas and fast food to the traveler before they once again set out upon the highway.
It is when you turn off the main highway that the beauty of the Texas hill country becomes apparent. On either side of the road tangles of woodlands are interspersed with fields of brilliant wildflowers. Gates announce the location of ranches, their commodious houses half hidden behind stands of tall, old trees. Cresting the top of one of the gentle rolling hills affords one a panoramic view of forest, meadows and hot, clear, brilliant blue, sunlit Texas sky. Bright red cardinals, turquoise blue jays, huge black hawks with formidable wingspans and white cranes fly and roost in this pastoral landscape. Bird calls echo through air so clean it feels as if their songs could carry for miles.
On that weekend rain showers tempered the usual heat. As they passed they left remnants of gray and white in the topaz blue sky.
We went into the nearby town of Navasoda for supplies. A sign at the city limits informs you that the population stands at 7049. A question passes through my mind. Is there a designated person whose responsibility it is to run to the edge of town, paint over and amend the sign if there is a birth or death? 9 months after the local high school's prom do they change the sign on a daily basis or just wait until all the new arrivals can be added at once? The buildings along the small main street are solid stone structures. The town mandated that new construction be fireproof after a blaze destroyed a portion of the town center in the mid 19th century. A small section of the hamlet contains the grand Victorian homes of the well to do. Their large wrap around porches and lacy frills once again speak to the southern influence on this area of Texas.
It is unfortunate, as I have stated in previous posts, that a local Walmart has taken over the commerce of this town as will as many others like it across the U.S. In it's wake it has left a trail of dusty "antique" shops and empty store fronts along their venerable main streets. It has destroyed some businesses that had perhaps been held in the hands of the same family for generations. Although through the efforts of those engaged in historic preservation we have the buildings, the spirits of these towns has been damaged irreparably.
We returned to the country road. The hill country is quiet and serene, a world away from the frenetic, noise filled city world I am accustomed to.