The next morning was spent enjoying a breakfast of eggs and toast thoughtfully scrambled up by my hospitable hosts. I commented on what a peaceful night it had been falling asleep listening to the chirping birds through the open skylight. We bid farewell, and instead of taking the hectic interstate out of town, I opted for a leisurely drive down Austin Ave. through the moribund downtown and across the wide Brazos River, which incidentally, was the first river in the country to be spanned by a suspension bridge (yes, even before John Augustus Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge). I connected with the old Dallas Highway (U.S. 77), which turned out to be a most depressing stretch of road with scores of abandoned bars, liquor stores, motels, and eateries on a once thriving strip of highway that had now been victimized by the circuitous Interstate 35. It was a sad testimony to so many other mid-sized towns (and small ones, too) across the country that had seen their Main Streets deteriorate due to the bypassing interstates.
I deplored driving on any stretch of I-35 between Oklahoma and San Antonio mainly because of the inordinate amount of 18-wheelers transporting either cheap Mexican cargo or illegal immigrants. I managed to find an “escape route” by way of State Highway 31 that led me on a northeasterly course through the tiny town of Hubbard and a lot of pastoral farmland. Sixty miles later, I arrived in Corsicana (pop. 21,712) and turned north on U.S.75 through the middle of town, which incidentally, appeared to be fairly active, having suffered little ill affects from the circumventing interstate.
A few miles outside of town, I finally had to merge with I-45, but I had bit the bullet by avoiding the interstate for more than half the distance to Dallas. As I was cruising down the super highway, the sun finally broke out (after a week of pleasant cloudy days), which proved irrelevant since ol’ sol was directly behind me. The drive was relatively comfortable compared to what I would have been subjected to on the nerve-racking I-35, due mainly to the reduced traffic, particularly the big rigs, which made I-45 more-or-less a lightly-trafficked “commuter” interstate between Dallas and Houston.
I was in the homestretch of my eight-day odyssey, so I scotched the idea of detouring through Ennis (pop. 12,110) just so I could check out their Main Street – I had had enough of that business. As I approached Big D, I passed the Hawn Freeway exit reminding me that I had come full circle. Soon afterwards, I-45 became elevated allowing an incoming motorist a bird’s-eye view of the lesser side of Dallas, an amalgam of salvage yards and decrepit commercial buildings, a far cry from the thriving and pristine North Dallas Forty.
The approaching drive into downtown Dallas from the south was as dramatic as any in the country, affording a view of the dynamic skyline that resembled a miniature lower Manhattan. Whew! That sounded like a blog from the Chamber of Commerce. I cruised north on Central Expressway, which I called “The Big Dig”, referring to the massive excavation required to construct a below-grade, 8-lane divided freeway for some seven miles out of downtown. Within minutes, I was pulling up in front of apartment 415, and after turning off the engine, I rested on the steering wheel, giving thanks to The Lord for a wonderful and safe trip. It had been an eight-day, 800-niile journey, and true to my pre-trip convictions, I had driven only 60 miles on the interstates with 50 of those accumulated just to get back into Dallas. As I reposed in bed that night, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the unforgettable time I had with the Chandlers. God bless you, Lewis.