Our AAA agent tapped her finger on the map spread out on the counter. “Now here’s an interesting little town. Port Arthur. Janice Joplin was born here and there’s a Gulf Coast Museum.”
And just like that, Port Arthur, Texas became a stop on our 2,400 mile drive to deliver my daughter’s Honda Civic to Austin, Texas from Bethel, Connecticut. We made many stops along the way, the subject of future blog posts. Posts I’d planned to write by starting at the beginning of our journey.
Instead, I’m starting at the end…
Little did I know, as I drove from New Orleans to Port Arthur, that my trip would return to me a just two weeks later while I watched Hurricane Harvey wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast from the comfort of my home. Harvey swirled and twirled along the very path we drove on during one of the final days we’d traveled. A day so hot and dripping with clingy humidity that each time I left the cool air conditioning and went outside, I had worried I’d spontaneously combust.
Port Arthur, TX (near Beaumont) was unlike any place I’d ever seen before. The plains were flat as paper and pockets of water collected everywhere the eye could see, some large waterways necessitating bridges. Every so often, we’d encounter lines of oil rigs jutting from the earth, towering over the land like angry transformers during the day, but glistening with lights in the evening. An almost magical sight one minute, yet a little eerie the next.
As you can see from this map, there’s a lot happening in this small town.
Later we drove through Houston, a city that went on forever, and ever, and ever. Flat. Man-made. Large. New. At least newer than your typical Northeast city.
Now, just over two weeks later, as I sit here in sunny Connecticut watching the news, a hurricane is hitting many of the places I saw or visited in both Louisiana and Texas. Normally, a tragedy like this would make me sad for the residents. And I am sad. But a thin thread has connected me to these places, mainly because of the people I met while I traveled.
I find myself wondering if they are riding out the storm without problems, and even feel worried for them.
Like the informative director of The Gulf Coast Museum, who greeted us with open arms and a friendly conversation about the famous people from Port Arthur. He’d introduced us to his staff, a former elementary school teacher and a security guard. The museum was a quiet place, in fact, we may have been the only people visiting that morning. But we enjoyed what it had to offer, and they’d made us feel at home with the kind of hospitality a traveler always remembers.
Or the two twenty-something sisters we met while waiting for a table at a roadhouse in Port Arthur. They told us the roadhouse had the best fried green tomatoes around, worth driving from their hometown of Beaumont to enjoy. (yes, they were delicious!)
When we said we were from Connecticut, one of them said, “It’s a small state right? Near New Hampshire?” Yup, all of New England could fit inside of Texas.
Are they all safe? I wonder, but I’ll never really know.
My daughter is in Austin. Thankfully, the city has weathered Harvey’s blow. As for those impacted, the rest of us will do what we can to help, along with assistance from FEMA.
And I hope that people who believe in less government take a moment to see that sometimes we NEED an overseeing parent organization to help us in a crisis. Our federal government is there to assist by using our tax dollars to restore life to normal when tragedy strikes. Because that tragedy could happen to any one of us, depending on Mother Nature’s plans.
This tragedy feels a little more personal after having been so close, so recently. I met folks from a state very unlike mine. What I learned is we have more in common with each other than we don’t, no matter if we are from a red or blue state. It’s a good take away from any adventure. In fact, I’ll always remember the really nice people I met along the Gulf Coast and am glad the AAA agent suggested the detour.
Time to move on Hurricane Harvey. You’ve done enough damage…
Keeping all those impacted by this storm in my thoughts and prayers.
To help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, visit these websites: