We finally emerged out of the bottleneck, and I suggested we take a short detour on U.S. 77 through Waxahachie and take a gander at the magnificent 1896 Ellis County courthouse, a stunning sandstone and granite Romanesque Revival edifice with a massive clock tower (subject of a prize watercolor for my 1994 courthouse calendar). In spite of my enticing promo spiel (concerning the courthouse), Dodi scotched the idea by saying, “Ordinarily, I would say, ‘Let’s go for it.’ But, we lost some time back there, and I told Suzi we’d there by 4 o’clock. Besides, we don’t know if there might be more congestion up ahead.” I replied, “That’s very perceptive, because Austin, even though it has a double-decked interstate through the middle of town, is still renown for its congestion.”
Dodi and I had always reveled in philosophical discussions, and since just a month earlier our paranoid president, George W. Bush, had decided to invade Iraq and dispose dictator Saddam Hussein for his mass execution of civilians, plus an unproven allegation that he had weapons of mass destruction, we had sufficient fodder for a heated, but good-natured dialogue. We regurgitated all the pros and cons of the intrepid invasion, and finally came to the same conclusion – the U.S. had absolutely no business in trying to ram democracy down the throats of people in other countries, especially if that particular nation posed no threat to our “homeland security”. I concluded by saying, “You would have thought we learned our lesson from the Viet Nam fiasco.” Dodi wholeheartedly agreed.
We scooted around Waco on the interstate with yours truly providing a traveling commentary, starting with, “That one tall building you see in the distance (the 27-story ALICO) has been Waco’s enduring skyline for some 75 years! It’s like the town that time forgot. However, it does have its own notoriety, being the birthplace of Dr. Pepper, the first suspension bridge built in America (across the Brazos River), and William C. Early. And get this. Back in the 1960s, HUD set up an office in downtown to promote Waco as a model city for urban renewal, which resulted in a complete failure. It was simply a matter of “too little too late.” She was overwhelmed with my wealth of information.
I jokingly asked Dodi to be my navigator, even though it was a straight shot to Austin on I-35. She grasped the opportunity by recounting a laughable experience with hubby Bill, saying, “And this anecdote will slay you. I brand it the “Big Y Blunder”. We were driving from Dallas to Denver in 1976, and decided to take a circuitous interstate route through Oklahoma and Kansas. As we approached Wichita, Bill asked me to navigate us to I-70 (westbound to Denver). We had been driving north on I-35, so I just assumed we should continue on the same highway. Big mistake! About halfway to Kansas City (in an easterly direction), I took another look at the map and realized we had taken the wrong fork back at the “Big Y” in Wichita, the other route being due north on I-135 to Salina at I-70. We ended up taking some state highway north to I-70, with my loving husband forgiving me for my blunder.” I had to say, “That has to be the most ludicrous anecdote ever in my travelogue memories.”
The asphalt surface was as smooth as glass, and with a brisk north tail wind, the driving seemed almost effortless. We both marveled at the abundance of beautiful wildflowers alongside the highway, and I said, “You know, Lady Bird (Johnson) has really done a number with her roadside beautification program, encouraging the planting of more wildflowers, fencing off auto salvage yards from view, and the removal of unsightly roadside signs (billboards), such as ‘SCHOOL PED XING’, ‘HOSPITAL QUIET ZONE’, ‘HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE’ (at rest areas and picnic tables).” Dodi greatly appreciated my levity.
As we approached Austin’s city limits, sure enough, just as we anticipated, the traffic started clogging up exacerbated by the plethora of 18-wheelers. Dodi chastised me for giving an obscene hand gesture to the truckers (behind the safety of the dashboard, of course). I responded, “I get so sick of seeing all these trucks. Back when we were traffic-jammed south of Dallas, I recalled seeing an aerial view from a local news chopper, showing a complete standstill of traffic on I-35 due to a January ice storm, and almost half of the stranded vehicles were semis. Does that tell you something?” I went on to say, “There’s currently a state-funded project underway to lay a swath of concrete from Mexico to Oklahoma called the Trans-Texas Corridor to divert truck traffic from I-35, which fortunately will include a supplementary freight rail line.” Dodi gave me a submissive smile.