Caldwell, Texas--She drove up in a faded blue Ford Aerostar with no seats in the back, and a carpet remnant covering the rear floor. A half-dozen mini-dust devils danced in the wake of the van as it rolled through the parking lot, wheezing to a stop on the shady side of a gas station convenience store at the intersection of HWY 21 and some nameless farm-to-market road, 4-miles west of town.
We didn’t mind the dust, or the relative heat, although the shade from the relentless December sun was a relief. Where else but Texas can you run in your shirtsleeves a week before Christmas? We took advantage of the mild weather to take “the scenic route” to see a woman about a dog.
No euphemism here—that was the business at hand.
The transition from Texas Prairie to Hill Country is gentle in the rolling hills between Hempstead and Brenham. We chose a different route that trekked north from Magnolia to the Plantersville junction on HWY 105. That rolling ribbon of bleached asphalt gently snakes its way west to the historic town of Navasota, takes a dog-leg along HWY 6 for a mile, then westward towards Brenham.
This country is the birthplace of Texas.
The road signs proclaim it in no uncertain terms, and the highway flirts with Washington-on-the-Brazos, just a few miles to the south. Just before Brenham, there’s a turn out for HWY 390, “La Bahia” scenic highway. That’s where we separated from the Saturday afternoon parade of pickup-trucks with horse trailers and flatbeds loaded with hay.
North on 390 through more undulating hills with higher tops and deeper valleys, we took a 90-degree turn to the west, towards another historic little town, Independence, Texas.
There are several old stone buildings here, and out a ways from town, a few genteel houses with soaring columns and white picket fences. You can almost hear a stage coach team rumbling towards you over the crest of the next hill…but it’s only a Dodge Ram pickup with a Cummins Diesel, spewing dark smoke from more horses than a stage coach team ever conceived possible.
Just west of the intersection of HWY 390 with HWY 50 are the ruins of the original Baylor College. Four stone columns stand at attention on a windy hill top, dotted with giant live oaks shading the ruins of a kitchen and a couple of outbuildings. The scenic route lives up to its name, winding and rolling west towards HWY 36, where we re-join the mainstream weekend traffic heading north to Lake Sommerville.
This was not a short cut.
But with a brilliant sky and temps flirting with 80-degrees, dropping the top on my “red sled” was a no-brainer as we soaked up the Texas countryside in our 187-horse open sleigh. No snow to dash through, thank goodness, and we arrived in Caldwell early enough to have a little daylight in which to make our meeting.
What was in the back of that blue Aerostar?
Tell you later.