Texas is big, bold, and beautiful. It might as well be its own soap opera. With its immense size, varying landscapes, and torrid history, Texas has many season’s worth of drama already on the books.
As a northerner, born and raised in true Yankee fashion (which is confusing, I know, considering that I was raised in Red Sox Nation, which is certainly not Yankee fashion, but whatevs), my impressions of Texas were mostly based on what I’d seen on TV or in movies. And I’m not going to lie, most of that impression was unfavorable. But then something happened. A little show that could. A little show with some of the best acting you ever did see on the boob tube. A little show that was about Texas and football and made me think.
You may not believe in the medium of TV. Perhaps you’re a book person or a Kindle/Nook (<— reminds me of snuggling) person, but if you’re reading this, you gotta know that I truly believe in the power of visual media. When a TV show is good, when the writing is tight, interesting, and risky, the medium soars. Characters come alive, locales become believable, and you might even start to become deeply interested in Texas.
Even if you’re a Yankee, a raging liberal, a proud vegan.
So, it was only required that my recent road trip include the Lone Star state. I wanted to see open stretches of flat road.
People said I’d be bored. I said that there’s always something to see. People said we’d never find anything to eat, that we’d only see cattle fields, BBQ, and whole milk. I said I’d find food, even if it meant Subway in a town where there was Subway and nothing else. I said I’d have vegan BBQ if it required going out of the way (Memphis, TN won that particular bet). And I said I’d bring my own coffee creamer, which I did. All the way from Whole Foods in Arlington, VA.
I was pretty confident I’d conquer Texas.
Then Texas conquered me.
Dallas/Fort Worth, with a headache-inducing maze of concrete ramps and steamy highway lanes, broke my air conditioning. Our meandering and desire for BBQ in Tennessee, made a 12 hour trip from Nashville to Texas more like a 20 hour trip. We were hungry, full of empty calories that can only come from Subway’s freshly baked bread, really couldn’t take seeing another cross dotting the road like mile markers (only .25 miles until you’re in hell), and the novelty of OMG-there-really-are-only-religious-radio-stations was wearing off. When we finally made it to our chain motel in some Texas town I can’t remember, in the middle of what we were told was hill country, right next to a Sonic, we were too tired to care about the prospect of driving through hot ass Texas sans AC. Plus, there really were a lot of cattle farms and meat factories. Yummy.
The next morning, as is the case with the magic of road trips, it felt like anything was possible. That’s not hyperbole, because really, that is the beauty of being on the road, where you’re suspended between two coasts in an America that is more beautiful and tortured than you could have ever imagined. With a fresh optimism, we went off in search of rainbows.
No, dear readers, I haven’t lost my mind.
We were headed here:
To our own little Texas sanctuary, the Rainbow Hearth Sanctuary.
Where we’d eat vegan food.
Converse with strangers from around the country. Finish books and drink two many cups of tea while sitting on our little porch:
Ponder the meaning life at the foot of a beautiful lake.
Realize, with surprise, that we were in Texas.
Feel like anything was possible again, just by virtue of the fact that this place existed.
Right before arriving at the Rainbow Hearth, a mechanic (henceforth known as Mechanic Buddha) in one of Texas’ many small towns – one that might as well have been Dillon – said something that I’ll never forget. But before I share his wisdom with you, you should probably know this about Texas: nothing, not a one thing, is open on Sundays. Those Texans sure know the meaning of “day of rest.” Mechanic Buddha’s claim to fame was being one of the only auto body shops open on Sundays (only til 2, though) for 75 miles. No. Joke.
Donut shops aren’t open either. Aren’t donuts inherently Sunday food?
Moral of that story is don’t break your air conditioning in Texas on a Sunday. ‘
Moral of this story?
Don’t be afraid of venturing into the unknown.
While my BFF/Driving Companion/Partner in Crime/Writing Partner/Love of my Life (after J.D. and Louis Pug), Tommy Bean, was off getting a verbal history lesson from the madame of the town’s Billy the Kid museum (for the love all things Texas, do they ever love Jesse James and Billy the Kid), I was worried about the loud and fiery sermon happening in the church just behind me. I hoped Mechanic Buddha would quickly work his car magic.
With the steam of the air conditioning whozitwhatizt stuff (car expert right here!) billowing behind him, Mechanic Buddha knew I wasn’t from Texas.
I said, “Nope. Right now I’m from nowhere.”
“Based on the amount of stuff you got in that car, I’d say you’re gonna be from somewhere soon.”
“Yep, hopefully L.A.”
Silence. Well, except for the holy roller music and cling-clanging behind me. This could so have been a scene from a Quentin Tarantino film.
“Uh. Hey. You do know you should probably be on the 1-10, it’ll take you straight to Hollywood…this place is sort of not on the way.”
Man, do I really look dumb enough to be so lost?
“Oh, I know. We’re headed out on a different route. Taking the long way.”
He nodded and wiped his greasy hands on his navy blue uniform. There couldn’t have been a more perfect action or costume for this character. And I thought that was it. Then, as I was about to pay with my shiny credit card, he looked at me, staring me down.
And then he said it:
“I always dreamed of packing it all up and moving to California, but I never grew enough balls to actually do it. Now I’ve got a life here and can’t just run away. I so admire you. Make sure you get there.”
Make sure you get there.
A lesson for all of us. When you want something, don’t let your lack of…ahem…balls deter you.
Words to live by.
Because if I can make it all the way through Texas without air conditiong, surviving on old hummus purchased many states ago, anyone can. And if you unexpectedly run into the most spectacular site you’ve ever seen, where windmills stretch across the flat grasses, twirling in the hot sun, like giant flowers in bloom, you’ll be so incredibly glad you’ve got the balls to get you there in the first place.