Since leaving the Hill Country we have encountered the good, the bad, and the ugly of life on the road. Let me assure you dear followers that we are both fine. All of the wheels are back on the wagon and we are winding our way due east out of Texas and into Arkansas. Here is the story.
The Good. Visiting friends on the road is one of life’s delights. From the Hill Country near Austin, we wandered up toward Fort Worth, visiting friends we met in the 1990s during our days in the art furniture business. We haven’t seen them in years and it was a happy weekend reunion at their lovely ranch home. These are two of the most artistically creative people we know. Buckeye, a painter and sculptor in the traditional Western style, and Tona, who explores jewelry making and decorative arts, live in a custom home/barn that is beautiful and joyful.
It was a joy to hear about their new grandson, nearly 3, and witness the delight in their voices when talking of him. Becoming a grandparent is one of the great gifts in this life and one of the most mysterious of love affairs.
We toured the Dallas Museum of Art and the special exhibit, “Mexico – 1900 to 1950” which chronicled the modern cultural identity of Mexico through painting, photography, sculpture, drawing and films. It included art by the most famous artists of the period, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Jose Clemente Orozco, and introduced me to many more.
This fifty-year period immediately followed the Mexican Revolution, which had an enormous impact on the country’s political, historical and cultural formations. The Revolution took many lives and “changed the country’s social structure and … its national visual language”, as one of the museum brochures stated. The murals of this period were one expression of this new national language and along with the film clips, were among the most powerful of the entire exhibit.
More good. We visited two more presidential libraries (Bush #41 and Bush #43) while in the Dallas/College Station neighborhoods. George W. Bush (#43) cited his library on the campus of SMU in Dallas. We continued to enjoy the benefits of being a member of the Friends of Eisenhower Foundation. By supporting the Foundation back in May 2016, we earned free admission to all the presidential libraries in the National Archive system for one full year.
My one comment on the visit to #43 centers on the exhibit dedicated to 9/11/2001. It was immensely powerful. The installation was beautifully created, the timeline and the video clips overwhelmingly emotional for me and the entire gallery maintained an aura of reverence and solemnity that was so appropriate.
The other presidential library we visited was George H. W. Bush (#41). His library is on the campus of Texas A&M, in College Station. As I write this, Bush #41 is still hospitalized in Houston with chronic bronchitis, which at the age of nearly 93 can be pesky. There was much to learn here about his life and his length of public service. His life, in stark contrast to the poverty of LBJ, illustrates the diversity of a nation where service can take many forms. The take-away memory from #41 was the gallery on the Gulf War, which was rich in important detail and well-presented. And in an understatement made all the more evident these days, in spite of his popularity, Bush senior lost the 1992 election to a young former governor from Arkansas who convinced the American electorate it was “time for a change”. Sounds familiar.
The Bad. Whenever we unhook and hook-up, Peter performs a thorough check of the mechanical systems that keep us safe – tire pressure, lug nuts tight, tire wear, electrical systems – and in spite of the best of safety checks, stuff still happens. Yesterday morning, about one hour after leaving our campground at Yegua Creek in Somerville, Texas we got on state highway 6. Truck traffic was present and there were the not-unusual shredded tire rubble along the road. All of a sudden there was a loud “bang” which sounded like a rock had hit the side of the truck. We both said, “What was THAT”? and a second later the dashboard displayed a sign saying “TIRE FAILURE”. Fortunately, there was a shoulder wide enough to pull over and Peter got out to assess the situation. He found the left front tire on the truck flat as a pancake and noted that in his 55 years of driving, this was his first blowout of a front tire and the Ford-150 handled perfectly.
And so we began the call and wait ritual which, mercifully, we rarely had to experience with AAA. After one false dispatch (the guy thought we needed a battery change, not a tire change), a visit by one Texas State Trooper, two good Samaritans who offered help, and three hours by the side of the highway waiting for the tire changer to show up, we were whole once more.
More bad. While Peter was trying to get the information he needed off the other good tires (in order to find a place down the road to buy and install a new tire) he stepped into a fire ant hill. Ugh! I had just read about these nasty little devils. He quickly removed his sock and shoe, poured water on his left ankle to get rid of the ants and I went into the trailer for rubbing alcohol and hydrocortisone cream. Happy to report the “bites” (which are actually stings) numbered less than two dozen and after the initial redness and swelling, have stopped itching. He seems fine. Thank God.
The Ugly. Friends who know me will not find this statement a surprise. I don’t like bugs. For the past couple of years we have minimized our interface with insects to the really manageable. There has been an occasional tiny spider, two invasions by mosquitoes in Louisiana and the panhandle of Florida, houseflies around farms and livestock pens, one cavalcade of tiny little ants who dropped from overhead trees in Alabama. But that’s been it. Until Bryan, Texas. This is mating season for some flies that look like what we used to call “lighting bugs” or “fire flies”. Here they are called “Lovebugs”, because they fly while mating, male and female, and they were everywhere. “It’s not usually this bad,” one of the locals commented at the convenience store, “but we had a lotta rain and they hatched.” Yea.
We drove through black sheets of them for about two hours on our way to our campground. They plastered the windshield, the front bumper of the truck and the Airstream with their carcasses, which turn hard and crusty in the hot sun. The first night in Yegua Creek we scraped the truck down and washed the Airstream, removing all the remnants we could. On day two, after visiting the library, we repeated with the truck. And last night in Tyler, Texas, our final clean-up of truck and Airstream because we are optimistic we are outside of the breeding territory of the flying critters.
And we are called to remember that along with these events, life on the road also is rich with moments like this one from our last campground in Texas at Tyler State Park.