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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at 9:17 PM
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Deciding on which direction to go

A STORY WORTH TELLING
Deciding on which direction to go

On the road again, goin’ places that I’ve never been, Seein’ things that I may never see again, And I can’t wait to get on the road again — Song lyrics written and recorded by Willie Nelson

I’m thinking about going in the opposite direction.

Geographically speaking, that is. This trip I’m thinking about could be made going two different directions. Center is only 17 miles from the Louisiana border, so going north for 127 miles would take me to Texarkana. And 134 miles of windshield time would find me looking at the city limits of Beaumont.

Whichever way I venture from home, the initial leg of this proposed journey would be only 1/24, or roughly 4%, of the entire journey.

Traveling the perimeter of Texas.

An episode of Texas Country Reporter featuring three ladies who did that three years ago started me thinking.

They spent nine days on the road, covering something like 3,100 miles of Texas roads less traveled. Avoiding all interstate highways.

Learning of their adventure sent me searching, looking under the seat in my car for that 1999 edition of the Cracker Barrell Road Atlas, Nationwide Store Listing and RV Guide.

And, trying to decide whether I would follow their route traveling clockwise or take the opposite direction and circumvent the state counterclockwise.

Regardless of any direction, such an endeavor didn’t cross my mind until last week when, ironically, friends in two different parts of Texas sent me a link to the Texas Country Reporter blurb. One of them adding, “This sounds like something you and Oscar would have done.”

Oscar Elliott and I met at Mount Pleasant’s South Ward Elementary School in 1959. At the bicycle rack during lunch. It was my first week as a fifth-grade student in N.A. Mattingly’s home room class, recently transplanted there from way out west at Seymour.

“Haven’t seen you before,” Oscar said. “You new here?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I live on Redbud Street.” We mounted bikes and headed home for lunch in the same direction. When I dropped off at my house, he waved and continued to his house on Stella Street.

That two-minute two-wheeler trip began a 57-year friendship that would include many two-wheel rides. Before Oscar’s earthly journey ended a few years ago, we logged motorcycle miles on summer trips to sunny Florida. When Panama City Beach was known as the Red Neck Riviera. When budget bike riders stayed at high-class joints like the Barney Gray Motel.

We went to wintery Colorado, waking up in legendary burgs like Leadville to find bikes covered in overnight snow. And crossing 11,000-foot mountain passes. In the snow. We made short scenic trips through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Saturday trips that were often well underway 15 minutes after a “What ‘cha doin’ today” phone call about coffee time a.m.

All on motorcycles.

But traveling the circumference of Texas never crossed our minds. Which might seem odd because road trips, most with little notice, are always on my mind.

My mother’s family gene pool has a basic unit of heredity that just can’t sit still. With five minutes’ notice, anyone of us is good for a trip across Texas.

Like a few weekends ago when Abilene cousin Derf called. “What are you doing this weekend?” he asked. Everyone calls him Derf; that’s Fred spelled backward, but that’s another story.

Said his wife was planning a girl’s weekend with the daughters, and he needed to get away.

“Nothing,” I replied.

“Come on.”

So, he drove five and a half hours — one way — to spend the weekend in Center helping me with my kitchen remodel.

Then drove five and a half hours back home.

That’s our family. We’re like that, and I love every one of us.

Will I make a trip around Texas? First, I’ve got to decide in which direction to start.

Border-to-border, the longest distance across the Lone Star State is 801 miles from north to south. Going east to west, it’s 773 miles.

While we’re elaborating on geographical data, real estate contained within the 4,137-mile perimeter of the state totals 267,339 square miles. That’s 7.4% of the nation’s total area.

Less important is deciding how long it will take. After mapping it with the tattered but trusty road atlas, I’m somewhat certain my trip could take longer than the ladies on Texas Country Reporter.

Depending on which way I turn at El Indio near the border or whether I try to include the Big Ben area by hanging a left at Marfa for a couple days’ diversion.

Maybe I will do it.

Just because there are some things people should do when they reach my age. The trip likely won’t happen on a motorcycle, however.

Just because there are some things a person should not do when they reach my age.

One thing for sure, the trip will be dedicated to Oscar’s memory.

Because it’s one direction we never thought about going.


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