Monday, April 14, 2008

No Better Place

The best place on earth. I'm writing this from inside an Arby's at the Love's truck stop in Kingsville, Texas, home of the largest ranch in the United States (at 1289 square miles, it's larger than the state of Rhode Island). But the fact that I'm in Texas – anywhere – means that I'm on my own personal hallowed ground. There's no place I'd rather be than Texas. Even as much as I love it further west, especially Montana, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, nowhere else is Texas. I love Georgia, have my roots there, and most of the people I love most in this world are there; but Texas has an exalted place in the mythology of the sacred in my life.

I first came to Texas in August, 1983, on my way fresh out of high school, on my way to college, the ministry, and changing the world. Coming down I-20 and seeing the Dallas cityscape rise up out of the flat spaces suddenly over a rise awed me as an 18-year-old. It was so big – bigger than anything I'd ever seen. I was inspired.

Over the course of living in Dallas for almost nine years, I became in my soul and marrow a Texan. I never uttered words more proudly than in response to the question, “where are you from?”: “I'm from Dallas, Texas”; or the variant after I'd been there a few years, and loved all of what Texas was, all that it represented, and not just Dallas: “I'm from Texas.”

I moved from Dallas to Chicago in 1991, and loved living there, but never felt like I belonged to Chicago or it to me, in the same way I imbibed Texas. I was a Texan living in Chicago. When I married and moved to Florida, even after ten years, I never grew attached to the place, though I liked it, enjoyed my life there because of Charlotte and her family. But the moment my marriage was wending its way to its sad end, I left Florida, and have not missed it, though I have ached for Charlotte millions of times.

Texas is in my blood, my thoughts, in a way I cannot fathom myself, much less explain. But I am not alone in this experience: Terry, who is from Oklahoma, has a similar love affair with this place. He was here in this same place only last Friday (yes, this very place; he delivered to the very same place I'm going tomorrow). He stopped here to take a short break; I stopped here for the night, especially after our talk: “ You've got to stop at the Love's in Kingsville. There's this girl up at the front register ...”

And so there is.

Since last time. Last time I wrote to you (for you know it is to you I write, don't you? Only you.), I was on my way to deliver a load to Macclenny, Florida, just west of Jacksonville. After that, I picked up a load in Jacksonville that was going all the way to Los Angeles, but I took it only as far as the Schneider drop yard in Reserve, Louisiana. The rest of the way, it would probably be taken by a team.

On my way through Florida, I was able to stop and have breakfast with my Daddy and his wife, Hilda. We enjoyed our short visit, and once more I was amazed at how lucky I am to be able to see people I love all over the country as I travel. And, you may recall (but probably not since your poor noggin has more to keep up with than the comings and goings of the Lonesome Dove Xpress), I had just seen my Daddy the week before up in Chicago when we both happened to be up there.

I made it to Reserve on Friday night and stayed there until Saturday morning. Schneider has a small maintenance facility there at the drop yard, and they have a small area where drivers can relax, watch tv, bring in a book or laptop, do laundry, or whatever. I took my laptop inside to check e-mail, read some blogs, and maybe do some writing.

There were several other drivers in there, and we all started talking. It was a most enjoyable time. One driver, who was the only person inside when I went in, and I talked about ordering a pizza. His truck was in the shop, I was already out of hours to run (which meant I couldn't even drive my truck for food legally), and there was no company car available. And we couldn't find a place that delivered to Reserve (where there was literally nothing).

But, at last, one of the other drivers who wandered in and heard us talking of our desperate plight, a young lady named Mary, offered to take one of us to pick up the pizza. I got the assignment, and off we go. Mary is a bulk driver for Schneider (bulk drivers haul the tanker trucks, like the ones that deliver gasoline and other things you've probably seen on the road), and it was cool hearing her story. She had a brand new Toni Braxton CD (greatest hits, I think; “Unbreak My Heart” is my favorite of hers), so we jammed to that on the way Papa John's.

We had called Papa John's earlier on the suggestion of another driver who had come in and was from that area, and they at first had told us they would deliver it. Then they called and said they couldn't – it was too far.

When we got there to pick it up, they told us that because we had to come get it after they had told us they'd deliver, it was no charge. Free pizza, new friends, and pleasant conversation on a Friday night – what could be better? (Only if it happened in Texas.)

Saturday morning, I was given a load to pick up in Zachary, Louisiana, just north of Baton Rouge, going to Pennington, Alabama, in the southwest part of that state. I delivered the load on Sunday, and picked up a load at the same place going to Weslaco, Texas.

As I mentioned above, Terry delivered to this same place last week. Talk about bizarre!

Speaking of Terry . . .

Terry. Terry came back on the road last Wednesday, and we've talked most every day since then. He had a great time off, was able to get his truck from Dallas up to Arkansas, and has been living the high life with his recent loads to Texas, and then to California, where he is now.

Terry is doing well, and would surely send his greetings to you if he knew I was writing you at this moment.

Miscellania. I finished the Journals of Lewis and Clark I was reading, and am now a good way through a collection of writings by Henry Thoreau, the largest of which is Walden . Thoreau's call to his readers to “simplify, simplify, simplify” their lives, his sometimes solitary retreats into a simpler life, and his credo of individualism (making choices, taking responsibility) resonate with me. I haven't read anything by Thoreau since college (that I remember; and I probably would), so this is a welcome journey for me. On deck is Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson , which I have never read. At 1700 pages, it will be with me for a while.

I'm loving, like a newfound toy on Christmas morning, listening more to XM Sonic Theater, enjoying audio books and dramas while cruising down the road in my big orange truck.

More I can always find to write, but the seat here in Arby's is getting awfully hard and I'm getting awfully sore. And, in such a way I am motivated to part company with you until next time.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . .

Allan from Texas

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