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I grew up back east. I accept no responsibility for that fact. It was an accident of birth.

 

The Last Back East Autumn ©SR Euston

But after nearly three decades of Manhattan-centric living, my soon-to-be husband, a native Los Angelino, and I fell victims to President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Great Recession. Stripped of our jobs, we loaded our worldly goods into our modern day prairie schooner—a used 1979 cherry red Ford Fairmont wagon complete with roof rack and four-on-the-floor—and joined the millions of pioneers who’d  hit the Trail before us.

We were “Heading Out West.” Destination San Francisco. Traveling a territory I’d never really explored.

It’s true I’d done the business trip fly-by to California on more than one occasion. A stolen afternoon’s visit down the Big Sur coast, especially Point Lobos, had evoked vague stirrings of life’s possibilities unfolding in an alternative geography. And Alaska, well, that visit had showed me an unfinished landscape, a geology occurring before my eyes. A place that got, not into my heart, but under my skin. A place filled with space, not people.

(True fact: No one is ever really alone in north Jersey.)

This time I was crossing the country at eye level and a rational pace, not at the jet-propelled vantage point of 33,000 feet.  There was so much I wanted to experience en route, especially the Southwest.

 

Texas in the Cactus ©SR Euston

We plotted a course that led us diagonally southwest across Texas to see a national park not even my western husband had visited, Big Bend. We soon discovered  this east to southwest route across Texas was not for the faint of heart. Texas really was a VERY VERY BIG state. And no one but a diehard Texan could ever call it scenic.

I panicked. What was this West I was coming into? (to be continued…)

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