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Friday, March 6, 2009

Waltzing across Texas. In a rented Pontiac.

The drive from Houston to Eagle Pass, which I did on Sunday, March 1, is long (about five hours) without a lot to look at (unless you like dirt and scrub brush). It's a setting that screams mind-numblingly boring. But I find it adventurous.

Driving around the country, in my opinion, is the bast way to truly experience all the variety our nation has to offer. So while the deserts of south Texas are harsh, they're also brimming with adventure and some nice scenery.

I met Karen Smith 95G at a gas station on the outskirts of Eagle Pass. To find her, she described her vehicle. "It's the dirtiest blue van you've ever seen!" she said.

And she was right. The desert dust was caked on her Honda Odyssey so thickly that it was tough to determine its color. (It's blue, but you really have to look closely.)

"I live in the desert," she shrugged. And she also put a lot of miles on the van, which was donated by a reverend in San Antonio--190,000 as of this week. Smith often drives back and forth across the border several times a day--most of the border guards and toll plaza attendants know her by sight and always greet her warmly.

Anyway, that was Eagle Pass. And the experience was unforgettable. As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be cranking out some more material about it in the weeks to come. But the journey to the Rio Grande was memorable, too.

One of the ways I like to remember trips is through the music I hear on the journey. If I hear a certain song (frequently ones I hear for the first time), I can close my eyes and be taken back to where I heard it. It's a great way to relive a trip (The song-bringing-back-memories thing is hardly exclusive to travel, but you know what I mean).

As much as possible I like to listen to local radio stations. I'm a constant flipper, so I can keep track of five or six at a time. Surfing the dial in San Antonio, I found 92.5 The Outlaw, which specializes in Texas country music (Texas country a little harder than its Nashville cousin and not naturally found in Georgia ... the country stations here are pretty much Rascal Flatts and Kenny Chesney all-day/all-night). It's like you can almost taste the dust on the guitars sometimes.

92.5 The Outlaw had a nice, strong signal that carried me almost all the way from San Antonio to Mexico (about 100 miles). Most of the songs played I'd never heard before. A lot them I really liked. My favorites are listed below. I'm sure you can find them on any one of many online music stores, none of which need any promotion here.

- Rich O'Toole: In a Minute or 2
- The Bois d'Arcs: Dead & Gone
- Cory Morrow: Texas Time Travelin'
- Reckless Kelly: Hey Say May (this is an older song)
- Micky and the Motorcars: Long Enough To Leave

Sometimes a setting requires a certain type of music. Texas south of San Antonio--covered in dust, leafless scrub brush, and slowly bronzing cacti--just aches for the gruff beauty of the songs above. Sight and song bring out the best in each other.

--Eric Rangus, director of communications, EAA

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