Down a Texas Road

On a whim, I decided to go on a road trip by myself when I was in Texas. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But adventures needed to be had. I had an highway exit number, a phone number, and nowhere else to go for the night. I packed up the SUV, filled up the gas tank, and left in the night to head down the lonely stretch of highway. In my daydream, the one that convinced me to take the trip, I imagined the wide road meeting up with a radiant black-ink sky filled with millions of stars twinkling against the backdrop of the heavens. It would be a glorious experience, having the stars look down on my tiny blue SUV as sped along the gray-ribbon of highway. I would have deep epiphanies about life on that trip, figuring out just what needed to be done in my life to get it back on track with how I wanted it to be. I’d also stop my car, turn off the headlights, and take a slow-shutter picture of the heavens, capturing the stars dance across the sky.  It would be a beautiful, moving experience.

I think I dream too much.

The trip was more and less than I thought it would be. The sky was charcoal with dark clouds that choked out any view of the stars. The highway kept unfurling before me seeming to go on forever. I had gone without a GPS or map, so I had to rely on my sketchy knowledge of East Texas geography to track how far I had yet to go. Once I crossed into Louisiana, I saw drunk men lurching across the highway and casinos flashing their false promises of wealth like megawatt smiles. 

I had only told a handful of people that I was going to drive that night. I had thought about it for all of five minutes before committing myself to it. I got a few text messages and phone calls from friends worried that I was crazy or that I would fall asleep and get myself killed on the road. It’s lovely to feel loved.

There’s not much that you can do on a lonely stretch of road. I stopped at McDonald’s once for some food and Starbucks before that. A lovely couple had given me two gift cards earlier that night so I indulged my sweet tooth and caffeine cravings. But back in the car, it was just me and God. In that way, it was good just to get away and drive for hours. Road trips give you distance from your physical problems but the ability to tackle the emotional and relational ones head on. You grow less mysterious as the night marches on. Suddenly, you are faced with the fact that you aren’t doing anything amazing. You’re just driving. In the middle of the night. Thousands of miles away from familiar terrain. It’s all quite stupid when you look at it that way.

I thought about a lot of things when I was driving. I thought about spirituality and politics and how everyone thought that they had a monopoly on truth. Conservatives and liberals, all of them want to be valued and loved at the end of the day. They want to feel as if people have listened to them and that they have made a difference in the world. I thought about books about writers going on road trips and how I would make a dismal travel writer. Then my mind wandered and I wondered about the people who had settled in Texas. Did they ever imagine that somewhere down the line, it would only take people one night to cover the ground that took them weeks to travel? I thought about relationships and how we all want love at first sight to happen to us. We want to feel special.  I thought about how everyone is human and flawed and how terrible love stories happen to people. I thought about digging up the small amount of roots that I had put down and wondered if I would be happy as an English tutor in South Korea. It’s amazing what your brain thinks about when you have an open road before you.

I stayed in Louisiana a brief 12 hours before turning back and racing towards Dallas. The way back seemed longer in the daylight. As I drove past the Lake of the Pines area, I realized why some of my friends from Texas thought earth tones were vibrant. The landscape was beautiful but sadly muted. God seemed to have painted the area with a soft pallet of sage and loam.  As I drove past pine trees with my windows rolled down, I longed for the heat of summer to prickle my skin and the smell of juniper berries by the river to fill my senses. That’s something I’ll have to keep waiting for.

I don’t think I solved any of the world’s problems when I was driving. I didn’t have enough time for that. But I was able to think and pray about some of the issues that have been burning on my heart for a long time. Issues that I had always pushed to the side, never fully confronting face to face because I was always afraid of what I would see. It felt good to see them for what they were – stupid insecurities, misplaced goals, and relationships that were shadows of what they once were or could have been . Some of the issues needed to be chucked out the window while others need to be picked up and washed off. There aren’t too many like the latter. I left a lot of junk on the side of the highway.  And it felt good.

One Response to “Down a Texas Road”
  1. Isaiah says:

    I used to drive 14 hours home from college in an old chevy truck through a lot of empty high dessert. It’s amazing the thoughts I’d have on those trips. I almost miss them… but I don’t!

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