Sarah Hepola

You were right about the
stars. Each one is a setting sun.*

Deep in the left arm of Texas

Last July, Texas Highways magazine asked if I had anything to write about, well, Texas highways. Oooh, I did. At least, I had an idea for a trip I’d like to take — out west, where the stars burn so brightly in the sky they look like pinholes punched in black velvet. (A line I used in the story I wrote, btw). I spent three days driving toward the squiggly perimeter of the state that runs alongside the muddy Rio Grande near Big Bend national park, serious no-man’s land where a woman like me can finally find some peace.

Read about my adventure here. This is how our story begins:

“One sunny morning in July, on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday, I slide into the driver’s seat of my car and head south. I pull onto the highway, a map of Texas in the passenger seat, like an ancient rune from a time before GPS, and I watch as the billboards turn unfamiliar and disappear. Big-box stores and strip malls turn to metal silos, oil refineries, and  wheat fields.

I wonder if such a small act of freedom will be unfathomable to future generations. You know, when robots have taken over and no one actually drives anymore, and we all just plug into the cloud of immersive reality or something. I wonder if stories like this one will sound as impossibly ancient as the pioneer wagons did to me when I was growing up in the ’80s, flipping through old-timey Westerns on the couch with a sleeve of Ritz crackers in my lap. Long ago, little girl, there was a thing called a road trip, and brave Americans took to the interstates in a machine filled with gas and good guesses—not because they had to, but because they could.”

* line from Wilco, “Jesus, Etc.”