There is a direct route from Minneapolis to the eclipse path in Texas—just take I35 to Austin and turn right. It is not a terribly interesting route, and you’ll be sharing it with the trucking industry, but it is fast—at least where there isn’t construction.
The cool rainy weather of early May in Minneapolis gradually became warmer as I drove south. By Iowa, my jacket was no longer needed, and wouldn’t be again. By the time I got to Texas, the temperature would be 100 degrees, and reached or exceeded that temperature every day I was there.
I was trying to cover the miles quickly, so I did not take on the overhead of overnight camping, instead staying at traveler’s hotels, where I still struggled to get a good sleep—perhaps the combination of too much coffee and caffeinated non-alcoholic drinks. But I did get “free” breakfast and recharged my cooler with hotel ice and continued on, not quite reaching my destination goal each day. I stayed at Emporia instead of Wichita, Waco instead of Austin.
As I drove along the interstate, I noticed that the roadside rest areas, which are reliably spaced every 50 miles or so in Minnesota, became infrequent, and then completely absent after Iowa. Missouri and Kansas had none, and Kansas Interstate 35 was a tollway! It had “service islands” for gas and snacks, but I didn’t find them very appealing and did not stop at any. I saw one rest area in Texas, but by the time I saw the sign, it was too late to exit.
Near the Oklahoma border with Texas, I stopped for a ham sandwich at a local stop. Outside was a sign listing mileage to cities in TX and OK. No entry was there for Austin. I asked the two women running the shop “Why no Austin?” In her distinctive (and pleasant) Oklahoma accent, one replied, “Maybe no one wants to go there.”
I reached Waco in the late afternoon and spent more than an hour in construction, moving 0-5 mph. As I sat in traffic, I discovered that the radio had many stations but they were mostly bible channels, gospel and country music, and conservative talk shows, which were intense with abortion discussions (the Supreme Court decision had recently been leaked). There was one public radio station. I caught up with the news until it went out of range.
I am often surprised at the miracles of modern consumerism. In preparation for this trip, I discovered at the last minute while packing, that I needed a specialty camera cable. I could order it from Amazon to be delivered in two days, but I was leaving the next morning. Ah, but I could also have Amazon deliver it somewhere else, along my route. Evidently this type of “remote shopping and delivery” is not uncommon, and Amazon has created special pickup lockers for just this purpose. I was notified that my camera cable was delivered to a locker in Austin and received a QR code to access it. I drove to a (grocery) store in downtown Austin, picked up my part, and got my parking fee waived for doing so! Amazon may be evil, but it is really convenient.
After my pickup errand in Austin, I headed west to start exploring “Hill Country”. My general plan was to start at the northern end of the eclipse path in this section of Texas and work my way south, but the errand to Austin had taken me farther south than necessary and so I had to backtrack slightly to San Antonio, and then drive west where I intersected the eclipse path at “Enchanted Rock State Natural Area”
I had a picnic lunch at Enchanted Rock in a pleasant and shaded area, but the rest room facility had been closed due to the water shortage. Evidently much less water is needed for the two rows of porta potties that replaced it. I went on an afternoon hike and then headed to the visitor center to ask about the park and its plans for the eclipse. I am two years ahead, but I was two minutes too late. The visitor center had closed for the day.
Pingback: Eclipse 2024 Reconnaissance | Thor's Life-Notes
Pingback: Texas Road Trip: Start at the Top | Thor's Life-Notes