Tag Archives: Piney Woods

Where are the signs?

BEAUMONT, Texas — Having just driven through what I suppose you could call “The Heart of Trump Country,” I am surprised by the lack of what I expected to see on my five-plus-hour trek through Deep East Texas.

I didn’t see a single banner, or yard sign on any residence or business. Indeed, I saw only one decal plastered on the back of a Tacoma pickup, and I had to squint to read it on the rear window.

What does this all mean? Beats the bejabbers out of me.

I surely saw nothing extolling the candidacy of Joe Biden. I didn’t expect it, either. However, the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee is supposed to be exhibiting “grassroots strength” in communities such as Jasper, Kountze, Lufkin, Rusk, Huntington and Jacksonville.

Didn’t see a thing out there. Maybe I’ll see it on the way home, if I take a different route. My Ranger pickup GPS guided me through Greenville and then south along U.S. 69. The drive was gorgeous. The trees are lush, the grass is deep green. The pavement was dry. When I arrived at where I am staying overnight, though, I was greeted with that oh-so-typical Southeast Texas humidity.

I must be home. My family and I lived here for nearly 11 years. I came back to attend a funeral of a man I loved very much. Our friendship hit the skids a few years back over political differences, but it never negated the feeling I had for him and the friendship we forged during our time working together for the newspaper in Beaumont.

I just felt the need, though, to offer a bit of a surprise observation as I trekked south through the Piney Woods.

It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I didn’t have to grind me teeth for 275 miles.

Happy Trails, Part 75

The time has arrived for me to start thinking about what I am going to miss about the Texas Panhandle.

Our retirement journey this week took a big step forward to the next place.

This place, though, has been good to my wife and me. We’ve called it home for 23 years … plus a couple of months. As we prepare to move on down the road, I am filled with many memories.

One of them slapped me in the face the first time I ever laid eyes on this region. It occurred in late 1994. I flew from Beaumont to Amarillo to interview for a job at the Amarillo Globe-News, which had a post to fill: editorial page editor of both papers, the Daily News and the Globe-Times.

I landed at Amarillo International Airport, walked into the terminal and met the man I hoped to succeed. Tom Thompson was about to become press secretary for the newly elected congressman from the Panhandle, Republican Mac Thornberry.

We walked out to the parking lot and I noticed right away: Man, this place looks so … big!

I could not get over how far one can see here. We walked to Thompson’s car and even riding from the airport toward downtown I couldn’t take my eyes off the panorama.

I don’t recall my precise words to Thompson as we drove into the city, but I think it was something like, “I cannot believe how big and spread out everything looks.”

If you’ve been the Golden Triangle, or seen the Piney Woods of Deep East Texas, you get what I meant. The pine trees and the dogwoods are lush. The highways that course through the woods, however, do tend leave one with a bit of claustrophobia.

Not here, man! You see the High Plains of Texas for the first time and you feel, well, sort of liberated.

Yes, I will miss that feeling here. I will miss the big, beautiful sky that I’ve said before is God’s payback to the region for neglecting to grant this part of the world with purple mountain majesty.

I’m like to have more to say in the days and weeks ahead about the many friends my wife and I have made here. I’ll offer a word or two about the professional fulfillment I received while working for nearly 18 years at the local newspaper. I might even say something about how I managed to navigate my way through a community with a significantly different world view than the one I carry with me.

Today, my mind takes me back to that first glimpse of the wide open spaces this region provides. One’s first impression of a place often is the most compelling. So it was when I first cast my gaze on the place we would call “home.”

Journey coming to an end

at the beach

COLORADO CITY, Texas — It hasn’t been the Trip of a Lifetime.

My wife and I have experienced a couple of those already in our 44 years together.

We did, however, answer a key question: Are we able to spend more than, say, a long weekend on the road in our fifth wheel travel vehicle?

Our answer? Yes … absolutely.

It’s our final night on the road. We’ll get up in the morning, unplug the water and the electricity and head to Lubbock for lunch with two of our best friends in the world. Then it’s home to Amarillo.

We’ve had a wonderful time catching up with some old friends along the way. We saw family members … including our precious granddaughter Emma.

We have nearly completed the big circle that covered roughly have of our huge state. We’ve taken in a good portion of Texas’s amazingly diverse landscape: from the Caprock, to rolling hills and the lakes, the Piney Woods, the Gulf Coast, the Hill Country — and tonight we camped out at Lake Colorado City State Park, which feature the cactus and scrub brush common in West Texas.

Our pets — our dog and cat — proved to us that they’re both excellent travelers. We took a gamble with our 13-year-old kitty, Mittens; she didn’t let us down. Toby the puppy? You know about him. He’s the coolest customer … ever!

Our latest journey is about to end. My wife and I are convinced more than ever that, yes, by golly — we can do this when the time comes to quit working for a living.


A whole other country … indeed

gulf of mexico

ROCKPORT, Texas — We’re learning first-hand what the Texas travel industry has been saying since, oh, seemingly forever.

The state is like “a whole other country.”

That’s how it goes. The idea is to tell visitors about the physical diversity of this huge state. Politically diverse? Not really, but that’s a subject for another time.

My wife — and our dog and cat — and I are halfway through a two-week journey through much of the eastern half of our huge state.

Texas comprises more than 260,000 square miles. We’re going to see most of its physical diversity by the time we arrive back home on the High Plains, which I refer to affectionately as the Texas Tundra.

We’ve traipsed across the treeless Caprock, camped out among the thick forests that surround Lake Texoma, motored through the Piney Woods of East Texas, endured the stifling humidity of the Golden Triangle and again just west of Houston.

Tonight we’re camped out along the bay that comes off the Gulf of Mexico. We’re about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. Rockport’s a nice town, but we intend to enjoy the gulf water as much as is humanly possible.

The nice part about this latest stop on our intrastate journey is that it’s cool enough during the day that we can go without turning on the air conditioner in the fifth wheel we’ve hauled from Amarillo.

Does it get any better than that?

In a few days we’ll head toward the Hill Country, where we’ll see even more lovely countryside.

I doubt we’ll be able to go without the A/C but, what the heck, you can’t have everything.

We’ll be back home on the Tundra soon enough.

The journey across this vast state, however, has given us a treat we’ll carry with us for a very long time.