Greetings from the Road: East Texas to Arkansas

Bayou-LO-RES

Right from the outset, I wasn’t too keen on traveling through East Texas after my brother told me the KKK still had a stronghold in that part of the Lone Star State.

But, set out we did, under an overcast sky swollen with rain. Heavy drops pounded and splattered over the windshield as we drove up Rte. 19. On the side of the road in a town called Hubbard, we pulled over when “The Lost Herd Cowboy Church” came into view.

The rain let up for a bit and J.C. got out to take a picture.

CowboyChurch1-lo-res As he snapped away, a pickup truck driven by a man in a cowboy hat pulled up to the locked gate J.C. was standing in front of.

At the same moment, a young boy swung open the side door of the tin structure that housed the congregation, and waved his arm.

CowboyChurch2-lo-res

The cowboy in the pickup truck got out and scowled directly at J.C. He knew better than to stick around any longer and capped his camera and left.

Next, we passed through a town called Corsicana and saw this cool sign:

Bar-B-Q-E.Tex.lo-res

Too bad we don’t eat the stuff.

Shortly after that, on the side of the road in a town called Kerens, we saw a faded blue pickup truck with these words spray painted in white on the back:

“PURE COUNTRY REDNECK”

Okay, that was scary.

Practically every corner in East Texas had some sort of church on it: mostly, Baptist, but we also noticed Pentacostal, Grace, and various manifestations of Evangelical.

East Texas is a depressing, poverty-plagued section of the state, with tar paper shacks and houses made of tin and wood. Businesses have folded, windows are boarded up, and the population is predominantly African American — who seemed to have been relegated to this section of the state.

We stopped for a bite to eat in Texarkana (reminded me of a line from a George Strait song: “Rosanna down in Texarkana / Wanted me to push her broom…”). The home of Texas A&M University, it sits on the border of Arkansas. Texarkana is the most un-collegiate seeming college town I’ve ever been in. Dismal.

After a meal of Mexican food (for the record, I’m really getting sick of refried beans and enchiladas), we bid goodbye to East Texas. Forever, trust me.

Next stop: Arkansas – Birthplace of Bill Clinton (Hope, AR)

We drove and drove until it was dark, heading for the Hampton Inn in Little Rock. What we discovered in its place was the Baymont Inn. It had been bought out.

I have to bring up, once again, what my friend ME always said about finding a good parking space in the beginning of the night and how that translates into a good time for the rest of the night. I mention it because that theory also works in reverse.

The Baymont Inn was unclean and Feng Shui-challenged to the nth degree. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we awoke the following morning and had NO HOT WATER.

A hot shower jump-starts my day, so I wasn’t quite awake when we learned that we weren’t the only guests calling the front desk. The receptionist was under siege.

The plumber, she told us, was supposedly on his way. But, like her, he also lived two hours away from the hotel. So did the hotel manager.

We checked out, shower-less and cranky, and made a beeline for the I-40.

Billboards promoting Christian messages frequently appeared on the side of the road. One of them said: USE THE ROD ON YOUR CHILDREN AND SAVE THEIR LIFE.

We drove through Little Rock, which didn’t appear to be much more than two tall buildings and several stout ones. We stopped at a Starbuck’s for coffee. The super-caffeinated barrister handed me two sample cups of fresh brew and practically demanded that I taste them both and then tell him which one I thought might be “instant coffee.”

I was not in the mood, but he was so hyper, I was afraid to refuse.

He rewarded me with a one-dollar coupon for my opinion. We got out of there asap.

In Forest City, AR, we stopped at a Walmart to buy drinking water to keep in the car and to also use the bathroom. This was one sad city. Obvious poverty and many morbidly obese people.

As I was washing my hands in a long sink that resembled a horse trough, a woman entered the restroom pushing a supermarket-size shopping cart with two kids in the basket.

The door slammed behind her and her cell phone went off. Her ringtone was “Dixie” (Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton…).

J.C. reported that the guy next to him in the men’s bathroom said, while running his hands under the water, “Boy, that feels good. This is the first time that I’ve had warm water today.”

We grabbed a case of OZARKA brand water. The name of it made me a little fearful. I hoped it hadn’t been pumped from the river of some coal mining town in Appalachia.

At the checkout line near my feet sat a cricket – or maybe was it a black grasshopper. Does it really matter?

grasshopperwalmartBefore leaving Walmart, we filled up the tank at their station. Gas was only $2.15 a gallon, compared to the $3.05 we’d left behind in L.A. A public service announcement targeting methamphetamine addicts was posted above the gas pump.

Judging from the proliferation of Waffle House diners in the area and the sudden appearance of “Sweet Tea” on restaurant menus, I knew that East Texas was far behind. We were now in the “South.”

What else can I say? So much for Arkansas.

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One Response to “Greetings from the Road: East Texas to Arkansas”

  1. Hawk Says:

    Texas A&M University is in College Station. Not Texarkana. Come see us…I think you’ll like our little college town.

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