“I thought I knew Texas pretty well, but I had no notion of its size until I campaigned it.”
— Former Democratic Gov. Ann Richards (1933-2006)
DEMING, N.M. — Not much to say about a 688-mile drive through West Texas and southern New Mexico. I listened to a lot of music on my iPod, got a toxic dose of talk radio, saw one of the world’s largest arrays of wind turbines at Sweetwater, Texas, and a large, frisky dust devil at Van Horn, Texas.
I also saw a lot of empty, barren country and reflected on the immensity of the United States and the formidable challenge of crossing it by bicycle — even by the shortest route through the southern tier of states.
At one point during today’s drive from Fort Worth — via Interstates 30, 20 and 10 — I saw a sign that said, “El Paso 545 miles.”
The first time I saw such a sign was sometime in the mid-1970s when Texas was relatively new to me. I and my family were on home leave in San Antonio, my wife’s hometown, and we were driving on Interstate 10 from San Antonio to Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country. Not far out of San Antonio, we saw a sign that said: “El Paso 550 miles.”
I was struck by the vastness of the state, and the memory of that sign has stayed with me. Here we were, starting out from a city in the middle of Texas, and the state’s westernmost city is 550 miles away. At the time, we were living in Britain, where you are never more than about 70 miles from the sea.
A bit of Texas trivia: El Paso is almost as close to Los Angeles (710 miles) as it is to Houston (670 miles). El Paso is closer to Needles, Calif., (516 miles) than it is to Dallas (571 miles).
Today, by car, I got out of Texas in about eight hours. Next month, it will take considerably longer.
I made good time this first day on the road, leaving Fort Worth at 8:45 a.m. and getting to a Super 8 in Deming, N.M., by early evening. Tomorrow, after driving across southern New Mexico and Arizona, I hope to get to some town — perhaps El Centro, Calif. — a couple of
hours from San Diego.