Sunday, April 4, 2010
Day 105: He's Up, And He's Good!
Brownwood to Santa Anna. 20.9 miles/1965.8 total
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I’m setting out from the parking lot of Walmart in Brownwood on Highway 84/67, going west through Bangs to Santa Anna.
It’s completely overcast and it looks like rain. That’s not predicted, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen. Temperature’s in the high 60s and expected to get into the high 80s.
As I make my way out to the west end of Brownwood the highway remains devoted to commercial activity, but of a more tacky kind. Dumpy little second hand stores, auto repair shops, local restaurants. I stop at an Exxon station to get a coffee.
I walk into a little fleabag flea market, just to see if they have any knives worth looking at. They don’t. On the way out I catch sight of a video cassette with a picture of Mick and Keith on the front from about the early ‘70s. The title of it is “Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.” It so happens I have a VCR as well as a DVD player in the motor home. So I go back to look at it, and on the back I notice this sentence: “This video contains no music performed by Mick Jagger or the Rolling Stones.” Wonder what it does contain? I'll never know.
Someone once mentioned that I don’t talk about food much in the blog, and that’s true. My diet on the road is somewhat guarded, except on the rare occasions when I’m with people I know and we're dining at restaurants. I eat in restaurants sometimes on my off days, but in general I hate eating alone in restaurants. Also, I have a knack for finding bad places to eat. If there’s a choice, I’ll make what turns out to be the wrong one. By the way, don't bother to go into a Chinese restaurant in Texas. I've always had a theory that the farther away you get from either San Francisco or New York, the worse the Chinese food is likely to be. And Texas is about eqidistant from both cities.
In truth I have a bit of a fear of getting dysentery and being laid up or at least greatly compromised while by myself in the motor home. It hasn’t happened yet and I credit that to the fact that I eat a pretty nondescript and reliable diet of mostly processed food. It’s not that I don’t love to eat many different kinds of things, but I must say that doesn’t preoccupy me as it does some people.
So my regular, fairly rigid, diet remains oatmeal, coffee and a banana for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich on a tortilla and an apple for lunch, Nature Valley oats and honey bars and one or two bags of peanuts for snacks during the day, and more coffee. At night I usually eat a Banquet TV dinner (I can hear gasps from the food snobs). My two favorites are Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and corn and grilled meat patty with noodles and gravy. The meat patty purports to be a combination of beef and pork, and who could ask for a better combination? Then in the evening I might have some popcorn or saltines with peanut butter and jelly. So it’s a quite a bit of protein and not much fiber. Fiber is overrated, in my opinion. Or, as one of my sons-in-law says, “That ain’t food—that’s what food eats.” I tend to agree.
One of the great things about us humans is that we can adapt to almost any diet available and thrive on it. So there's really no ideal human diet, in spite of what some people say. Living in the arctic? Eat whale blubber and seal meat. Living where there's no meat? Eat veggies and grains. Lots of milk-giving animals around? Eat cheese. Live by the ocean? Eat seafood. Not enough iron in your diet? Eat dirt. Of course there’s always someone to tell you that what you’re eating is all wrong, or that you should have such and such a combination of things, but those people are never satisfied with anything, in my experience. And more to the point, they’re generally wrong, or they’re only right until the next set of trendy expert opinions comes along. Here are two things I know about food. First, if you enjoy eating what you eat (and I do) you’re going to be better off than if you don’t. Second, there’s no surer way to get rich than to sell people a new diet, which most of the time is just an old diet dressed up differently.
Out at the edge of town, past the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, the highway begins to go uphill at a pretty steep rate. At the top of this hill I can look back and see all of Brownwood, a view I didn’t have on the way in from the east.
In a couple of hours I enter Bangs, population 1,620. Bangs sits on a flat expanse of a mile or two along Highway 84/67. It was named after Samuel Bangs, who was given the land for his services as a printer during the Texas war for independence. The town got rolling when the railroad came through in the 1880s. Today Bangs has junior and senior high schools and the mural on the side of the field house building says it’s the home of the Dragons. Go Dragons.
Bangs has several gas stations with convenience stores—Allsup’s, a Shamrock, and an Exxon. I opt for the Exxon again and get some coffee and fill up the water bottle. I also get a bar of chocolate, which I usually don’t do. But this is Easter, and nothing begs for chocolate more than the resurrection of the Lord. There might be a connection, since the scientific name of chocolate is theobroma, which means “food of the gods.” The Aztecs drank chocolate from golden cups, it was considered so special. So I guess it’s somehow appropriate that we should celebrate our civilization's chief god with some of the stuff. So this chocolate’s for you, Jesus.
In churches everywhere today people are singing songs of the resurrection. And here in Texas, where religion and football and country music all sort of merge, it seems appropriate to remember, on this holy day, the words of that great old hymn of the church, written and sung by Bobby Bare:
Drop kick me, Jesus through the goal posts of life,
End over end, neither left nor to right
Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
Drop kick me, Jesus through the goal posts of life.
Outside of Bangs to the west I can see, for the first time, the twin mesas, known as “Santa Anna’s peaks.” Just a couple of low, flat hills, but they stick up above everything else, and Santa Anna is built between them, some nine miles away. The clouds are beginning to disperse, and it's getting hot.
In a few hours I arrive at the little upland city of Santa Anna, population 1,081, built alongside the two mesas. Santa Anna was not named after the Mexican General Santa Anna, but a Comanche chief named Santa Anna, or maybe even after Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus.
Santa Anna has a real old west look to it as I work my way into the center of the town, where the motor home is parked. The buildings look very much as they must have seventy-five years ago or more, except that now many of them are either empty or given over to crafts and antiques and similar stuff, and not to businesses that cater to the daily needs of the residents of the town (except their need for cash from people passing through, which is important).
Before becoming a railroad town along the Santa Fe line, Santa Anna was a camping spot for Texas Rangers. Also cattle drives from the south to the northern markets would go along a road between the mesas. So it really does have that western feel to it. I realize I’ll probably be able to say that about most of the towns from here on out, but it’s always fun when you see things for the first time.