It was a fairly quiet night at Chateau Walmart. We woke up, got ready, synchronized our FRS radios, and hit the road.
This is where my pace slows down a bit. Both Amy and I independently blasted across Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas on the superslab. This was partly to make time, partly because there really isn’t any other route to take, and partly because there isn’t a lot to see along this part of I-10 anyway. (I still need to explore New Mexico properly, as I’ve said before.) But now, we’re adopting Birgit and Tom’s preferred method of setting Google Maps to “no highways, no tolls,” and taking the back roads instead. It’s slower, but that lets us actually see the places we’re passing through. It’s also why I left Quartzsite earlier than planned, so that we’d have more than two weeks to meander across parts of the southeast I’ve never seen before while still getting me to the Forgotten Angels campout on time.
I much prefer this more relaxed pace. It’s less stressful than the highway, and easier on my van, which I had to push fairly hard just to get close enough to the high speed limits out here to not get mowed down. Plus, I’m traveling with three good friends (plus another cat and dog). Solo travel has some advantages, but a convoy like this is a lot of fun, too. The shared experience is enjoyable in itself. Cue the appropriate music:
Our next goal was to completely avoid the traffic mess of Houston. Birgit had plotted a course using Port Arthur as an arbitrary waypoint, and a northern route to avoid the city entirely. It was good enough for me. Our first priority was to get out of San Antonio. This didn’t take long, since the Walmart we stayed at was already near the outskirts of town.
Soon we were into the open fields and occasional forests. We’ve definitely left the desert now. It’s great to see green again, as well as the brightly colored wildflowers that Texas is famous for. From time to time, we passed through a quaint small town. I was finally getting the full Texas experience that the superslab didn’t give me.
One town in particular, Gonzales, drew us in. We decided to first drive around the downtown area, then stop for a while in the park at the center of it all. This gave me a chance to catch up on some work, and the others a chance to relax, wander, and explore the town. (The nice public bathrooms didn’t hurt, either.) I did some exploring of my own when I was done working.
Having lived in New England my whole life before hitting the road, I find Civil War history interesting when presented from the other point of view. This monument in the center of the park commemorates fallen Confederate — and not Union — soldiers. In contrast, at the Old North Bridge in Lexington, Massachusetts — site of the “shot heard round the world” that started the Revolutionary War — while most of the attention is rightly on the Americans, there is a monument dedicated to the British soldiers who lost their lives in that battle.
Two rows of four plaques lead up to the monument from different directions. One row details the Civil War history of the town, how it helped the Confederacy, and how it was affected. The other row details African-American history as it relates to Gonzales. One talks about a particularly well-loved teacher. Another explains how, after the war, Texas was required to permit education, but did not provide any funds to hire teachers or build schools, either.
After an enjoyable break in Gonzales, we set a course for Chateau Walmart in Brenham, about 90 miles away. This was a similarly enjoyable drive through vast ranch land and small towns. Eventually, we made our way through the crowded gas station to top our tanks (at the cheapest prices I’ve seen in years, well under $3/gallon), then settled in for the night.
We hung out for a little while, then retreated to our respective vans for the night around dinnertime. I’m particularly enjoying connecting my router to Walmart’s free WiFi at night, which means I don’t have to set up Starlink or use any of my hotspot data. I fell asleep early, then woke up early to get some work done. I’m still settling into a new routine, and adjusting to traveling in a group. I’m the only one of us who has to stop and work, so our timing pretty much revolves around me. But I don’t want to hold us back any more than I need to, either, so I’m adjusting when I work to accommodate our travel better. Fortunately, in my new role as a full-time freelancer, I don’t have regular meetings that should be an email to blow a big hole in the middle of the day and restrict my schedule. That’s a nice perk.
The Great Journey of Life continues…