By the time we roll out, the rain has stopped and it’s just overcast. Are we past the Freeze Zone?
Cows look much more content in these parts – they have real grass to munch! The houses in the rural areas are on giant lots with fancy entrances and long driveways but the homes themselves are modest-looking. They look like regular ranch style homes inside a grassy park.
Sprockets eases out of Terrell and down towards Hillsboro. It is mellow driving down a country road, past open fields, grazing cattle, giant rolls of hay and tiny towns with populations ranging from 100+ to 600 or so. Each one has a water tower. (We keep thinking of the opening sequence for the TV series “Friday Night Lights.”) Every once in a while there will be an old-timey water tower. These water towers, along with silos, are the only things that rise out of the mostly flat, vast expanse.
One small town after another. They look like the ones in Footloose. Some towns have more houses in need of maintenance than others, with yards littered with cars that don’t run. In other towns, all of the homes are clean, neat and tidy.
I’ve learned a new term: shunpike/shunpiker. Is it an RV term or east of the Rockies term? Californians don’t talk about “turnpikes” much.
“That’s what we are,” I announce to Big Dog. “It’s what we’re doing. Shunning the interstates and taking more local roads.”
Of course, you can’t always shun the turnpikes and today, we are on the interstate between Hillsboro and Temple.
Skirting Waco, we get to Bastrop in the mid-afternoon. Crazy M lives here and Big Dog has been trying to reach her for days, first by email, then Skype. Unable to connect, he calls his old buddy S to get her address and now we’re there, on her property. No sign of M, though.
“She could be gone for days,” I say, but notice that there are cats and feeding bowls. A neighbor could be feeding them…
“Her car is here and unlocked,” Big Dog announces after a brief prowl. The whole thing makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. We shouldn’t be prowling around someone’s place while they’re gone. “There are keys inside.”
Now I’m really uncomfortable. What if M is in the house…dead?
Big Dog’s imagination is not nearly as active as mine and he is happy to just park and sleep where we are. He pulls out the bench seats that fold out into a bed while I get out the sheets and sleeping bags. It will be our first night inside Sprockets.
M’s place is just outside of Bastrop, next to the State Park which suffered a huge forest fire a couple of years ago. All the trees look burnt. M emailed us then about how the fire came to the edge of their property but did not burn their house, unlike some of her less fortunate neighbors who lost everything.
Bastrop is a lovely small town with a quaint 2-block downtown area. The Colorado River (not that Colorado River?) runs through the town and there is a river walk, a boat launch for canoes and kayaks. It is a sweet stroll along the river with the afternoon sun casting a warm glow.
Are we finally done with Temperature Torture?
Tonight’s dinner is not at a chain restaurant but Paw-Paw’s, a catfish diner. The entrees are too big and the catfish is not very good, but there are real cowboy types and the place feels very local and very authentic.
We check out the local free paper while waiting for our meals, laughing at an ad for an upcoming gun show.
“GUNS, GUNS, GUNS,” they advertise. Along with “FREE MARGARITAS!” Great. A bunch of firearms and drunks. That’ll make you feel safe. They also offer courses on concealed weapons, ammo, etc. Texas seems to have a lot of places offering courses on concealed weapons, according to the billboards we’ve seen along the way.
The Gun Love makes me worry about 1) we’re actually NOT at M’s place but someone else’s, they return, freak out and shoot us; or 2) we ARE at M’s but neighbors see you and either shoot right away or call the cops who shoot you.
Back “home” we struggle with the bedding for a while, watch Rango (perfect choice for a night in Tejas!) on the iPad, roll around and try to sleep. Although the temps have dropped quite a bit, the sleeping bags are pretty warm. That’s a good thing. Peeing in M’s yard is not. Note to self: get a bucket.