By The Time I Get To Phoenix

Linda Burton posting from Van Horn, Texas while traveling from Austin, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona – Streets and Trips tells me Phoenix is 1099.7 miles away. The next capital city, the longest drive of the entire Journey Across America, and I’m not even packed. Glen Campbell’s song floats in my head, I’m sorry that I have to miss his show at Austin Rodeo this weekend, his farewell tour.

But it’s time to go. Goodbye Austin, your live oak trees, your live music everywhere, your barbecue; goodbye good-time place. The clock says past 11 before we’re on our way, with half of Texas to cross before tonight. I skirt the city, loop through the suburban hills, the cedar trees and limestone cuts; finally hit the road to Fredericksburg.

I had a birthday there in 1999, ate at Mamacita’s, where waitstaff sang to me in big sombrero hats. No time to stop today, just drive on through this destination town, it teems with spring-break families; Hot Dingo’s parking spots are packed with Texas tags.

Away from people now, I pay attention to the trees. Trees shading cows, trees standing over rocks and cactus plants, trees quirked and crooked in strange survival shapes. Each should have a website of its own, I think! And then I get to flat. It’s dry and sparse, nothing here to stop the wind.

I’m needing gas, one lone station near an oil-well pump, so desolate it doesn’t even advertise its brand, or price. A fancy van is stopped in front of me. Four women slowly chat their way inside, lone man left standing by the pump. He waits; I guess they didn’t pay, just walked around inside, or took a potty break. The lone man rolls his eyes and shakes his head; mime-faces an apology to me.

The women saunter out, still haven’t paid, the man is gesturing, one ambles back inside, the others talk, and piddle, leaning on the van.  Finally the pump is on, the tank is filled. Frustrated Man jumps into the driver’s seat and pulls away, gas-cap dangling down, gas-door open to the Texas dust. I wave and try to stop him, I guess he thinks I’m waving in an angry fit for the delay, but I am laughing; my entertainment for the day.

My drive is grand, the limit 80 mph, the road is flat, the trucks are well-behaved, I pass them all with ease. I’m like Aladdin, on a magic carpet ride.

We’ll have a 7:30 dark; I make it to Van Horn in time to catch the blinding sunset sun, so bright I cannot see the street. Our room is nice, but plain; I feed the cats and drive a mile to Chuy’s, the recommended place. Oh my, inside are photographs and autographs; this place is celebrity. Pat and Vanna ate here just last month! They brag about it unashamedly, the menu tells the story of their fame. John Madden stopped to watch a football game, mentioned them on air, keeps coming back. They’ve named a room for him; named him on the outside sign.


I order chilies rellenos, the No 9, $8.95, the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere. Sitting by the fish tank, munching rice and beans, I wonder what will come my way, by Phoenix time.