Marlene in the desert

Crossing Texas

Marlene in the desert

Marlene in the desert

Often seemingly insignificant decisions can have major influence on the course of our lives. One of those occurred on the cold morning of December 22, 1973.

For the Christmas holiday, I had planned an adventure trip to see the snow peaked mountains of Colorado. As the time to depart drew near, I had some apprehension concerning degrading weather conditions. Loading the car for the trip, both plastic shoulder harness hangers broke due to the cold.

“If plastic parts break like this in Louisiana cold, what would it be like in real cold,” I thought. For fear of nightmarish travel conditions, I switched to Plan B. We would cancel our trip out west and go to the mountains of Arkansas. Little did I know that it would be twenty-two years before I would venture west. My desire remained, but one obstacle stood in my way, the Lone Star State. If it were not for Texas, the West would be next door.

November 1995 presented us with the gift of a second chance. With the decision to have more children came the opportunity to dream. If we can do this, we can do whatever we desire. In this new life, we would be free to take what we learned in the old life and improve upon it.

Finally in May of 1996, we would at last see the West. This was the first of many trips to find where we desired to raise this new family.

Outside of Dallas, we took the turn north into a drought stricken Texas panhandle. The dryness, the wind, and the vastness welcomed us to this strange new land. At a truck stop near Wichita Falls, the relentless wind blew Sweet Mom’s dress nearly over her head. The aroma from cattle trucks and feed lots further stimulated our senses. In my mind I would hear repeatedly, “Land spreading out so far and wide. Take Manhattan, just give me that countryside.”

Leaving Texas, an ominous blackness loomed on the horizon. So fearsome was this towering thunderstorm that every single vehicle pulled off of the interstate into the sanctuary of a rest area. After sizing up the situation and gathering the courage to proceed, we would, one by one and in little groups continue on our journeys. In our case, it was to discover the West.

As was to become our custom, we drove sixteen hours and one thousand miles to the motel town of Tucumcari, New Mexico. We had conquered Texas! Waking in Bayou Country, we would sleep in the Desert Southwest. Energized by the climate and the scenery, we continued on to Durango, Colorado and then to Mesa VerdeNational Park. This is where we experienced our first real mountain hike. In this eighty-minute walk, we found ourselves woefully inadequate.

On we traveled to face the winds of the Four Corners Monument and then to the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.

At some point in our adventure, I realized that I was traveling with a different woman than I had started with. This one complained less, had limitless energy, and a look I had not seen before. What could cause such a transformation? Some of the possibilities include:

a. the climate
b. the altitude
c. the natural beauty
d. a trip without children
e. pregnancy (1st in 19 years)
f. all of the above

On we traveled to see the wonders of Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest, and Carlsbad Caverns. Finally my new wife and I made the turn to again cross Texas. This time we took the southern route. At last we returned home to humidity and our normal selves. Our normal selves with a difference, that is. We had seen a little of the West and needed to see more.Of our travels, Sweet Mom will tell you, she feels like she belongs out west. Often I have said that I had never seen Sweet Mom happy until that first trip west. Perhaps she had been happy before, but what I didn’t recall was seeing her filled with wonder.

I can only wonder what a different path we may have taken except for that cold morning thirty-five years ago.

©04/11/09

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