Everything is not that big in Texas but it’s still pretty big

One of two big steaks we ate

The tortilla chips are the size of your face. The landscapes are mostly flat, even in hill country, and they go on forever. Steaks, more than ample. Everything in Texas is one vast horizontal bosom just lying there waiting. Sure, try, but you can’t ignore it.

A moment with the sunset near Alpine, Texas

Even the emptiness is big. There is nothing left to consume in a place so empty with space, where around every turn there is more and more of nothing around you. And if less is supposed to be more, then less can’t be nothing, and so you exhale your last long breath at the end of the year. And the landscape helps you feel the pull of the horizontal line and you become more and more relaxed, because being vertical would take such a monumental effort.

And you notice there is a big “x” right there in the middle of the word Texas. Which makes you think they don’t really want you here, but really, they are very proud and nice and and always wave.

It’s always good to be neighborly

On our way East, we really tried to avoid Texas, but the darned thing jutted it’s little tip right into our path. We spent a few days in Amarillo, but then got the hell out of the flatness, heading East towards the mountains as quickly as possible.

Heading back West, it is a whole different story. Sure, we stopped in Lumberton and they had just gotten socked by hurricane Harvey, so much so that the state park had flooded to the point of being mostly closed, save for the campsites, useless with no nature to be able to get swampy with. We were still very close to Louisiana.

Our love affair with Texas, it had a slow start. I’m not going to lie. Trying to get vegetables in Lumberton was, no exaggeration, a shit show. It may have been the recent flood, but we knew that several months had passed. It was probably just that the town was already dead. Pineapples were so dried out and petrified that they had become potential architectural details. Searching for greens was like a fishing expedition through green sludge along the bottom of plastic clamshells. So cheese and crackers and cured meats it was. Welcome to Texas.

And then things got really weird.

It might be a coincidence but we did meet someone who believes the earth is flat. Well, not flat, but a disc with a 200 foot ice wall around it that keeps the water in. I know, it’s a really big idea. So what’s on the other side of the wall? Enough resources to restart the earth of course. But before they restart the earth, they need to wait until the human population gets down to about 500,000. I am still not sure who “they” are supposed to be.

Mysteries of outer space, as seen in Seminole Canyon, Texas

Meanwhile, they’re slowly killing us with chemicals sprayed from specially outfitted passenger airplanes. (Seriously, google it.) And if you make it all the way through the freezing cold to the ice wall it is also guarded by men with guns who will shoot you if you try to hop over and see the other side. (Remember this is Texas.)

Try to prove the earth is round by sending space ships into the sky. Fake. Moon landing? Fake of course. Although this is completely believable if you spend a little time around the rocky surfaces of some of the canyons.

But I don’t actually think everybody in Texas thinks the earth is flat. I just think Texas is really flat, and it gets a little confusing where you’re at sometimes.

Of course, then you have Austin, the blue dot of Texas. It’s been that way for a while, maybe since the beginning. (The beginning of Texas, not the beginning of Earth.) And flock to this growing metropolis they do, the cool kids with their hipster tattoos sipping Google fiber by the megabyte. There is no big warm “Welcome to Texas” in Austin because this is one of the fastest growing cities in the US and people seem to have forgotten what state they are in and how they’re supposed to act.

At night the roads in Austin are vague and dimly lit. The highways are wide and the cars make dotted red and white lines on either side. The best thing to do is just relax your fingertips around the steering wheel and let out one long breath and go along with it. You are in Texas after all, and remember the grocery stores are big too.

Seminole Canyon near the Rio Grande
During the Arctic Freeze in early January 2018 near Alpine, Texas. Elevation 5200 ft.

Out in the distance the wild boars roam in the shrubs like mini linebackers grunting and foraging by digging their hooves into the dusty earth. The snakes are sleeping, but you know they are out there, coiled up waiting for the next bit of warmth to unwind. And you look out into the vastness of nothing, where underneath the calm of endless space even the plants grow spines to keep their distance from you. And this quiet sort of fear actually feels good and keeps you safely on the path.

A thin loose dust travels over the entire state and the ground is hard and dry. Houses are colored many shades of beige and they hunker down, staying low to the ground to evade the eventual heat. The grasses that cover the hills and the flat parts seem to be perpetually a pale yellow, that almost white blond that the girls seem to want. The plants show almost no signs of life. Green is just a brief moment in time. The rest of it is just waiting.

It’s a place where the old ranchers wear the stories of every cow they’ve raised on their faces.

Me loading loaves into my friend’s awesome wood fired oven

We shed away traces of our former lives into the sparseness. We exhaled our last breath of last year from the remoteness. And from this state where hats are tipped while saying hello, we welcomed a new year on a vast horizon.

Super Moon over Alpine Texas

Texas Old Corn Chip Sunset Salad

On the road we often have random leftovers, and because we are now in Chip and Salsa Country, I’ve been collecting the dredges of old tortilla chips and storing them in our freezer. They are great to add to salads, and a great thickener for soups.

3 cups greens of any kind, chopped or shredded
1/4 cup of any of these: sliced peppers, tomatoes, chopped onions
2 T chopped cilantro
1 hand full stale tortilla chips and crumbs, crushed
2 T olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
2 T salsa
1/4 cup shredded cheddar (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

Just toss all ingredients together and eat, preferably over a nice sunset or moon rise.

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