Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On The Road to San Antonio

It's quite a drive from Southwest Virginia to San Antonio, so much so that it made sense to break the trek into two parts. With no stops and no slow-downs, it requires more than eleven hours to make to what is roughly the halfway point--Hattiesburg, Mississippi. But of course, there had to be stops for gas and food, so the first half of trip ended up taking more than twelve hours. After a night in Hattiesburg, an early start found me again on my way. After another twelve hours of car time, I was glad to finally be welcomed to the Lone Star State.

Crossing into Texas from Louisiana, this sign greeted me.

Before our largest state, Alaska, was admitted to the Union as the 49th state, Texas held the honor for size. Back then, it was common to hear the expression, "Everything's bigger in Texas" as as  you drive across the state, you quickly realize that, indeed, Texas is huge and there are a lot of big, big things here.

What words come to mind when you think of Texas? Oil? Ranches? Cowboys? Tejano culture? Dallas football? Longhorns? How much of what we think we know about Texas is accurate? Too often, we rely on what we see on TV or what we know about sports teams to define a place. Texas is so big and so diverse that describing the state in a few words is not possible, and it is easy to rely on cultural stereotypes. And because I will be visiting only San Antonio--sometimes called San Antone--I will be giving you just a snapshot of one city in a large and diverse state. However, there are many excellent sources available to you to learn more about the rich and fascinating history of our 28th State.

This lone star is a symbol of the state of Texas.
Whenever I'm on a driving trip, I enjoy making notes about interesting things I see. As I drove along I-10 to San Antonio, the sun began to set and I saw the loveliest sunset. As light faded away, the horizon first turned a vivid red and then orange and yellow until the sky was dark. And because the land in eastern Texas is fairly flat, the sky seemed huge. Then there were the oil refineries; there were so many I lost count. Miles and miles of flat land with few trees defines the drive from western Louisiana to San Antonio. A pass through Houston revealed heavy traffic in our nation's fourth largest city. I neared San Antonio and saw a sign that made me laugh out loud: Woman Hollering Creek. How do you think it got its name?

The lone star on the Texas flag indicates that it was once a republic, an independent country. Have any other  states been independent countries? How did Texas, a country, become part of our United States?

Tomorrow I'll focus on what makes San Antonio a special place.