Saturday, November 6, 2010

Driving The Box Truck to Buda

The Friday before the election I spent a half-day driving the battered box truck from our Cedar Park office to the company printing plant in Taylor, then down to Buda. We had a commercial printing job that needed to head south — to be trimmed and collated, and our regular driver was out of pocket. We have a small staff. I was the only one available. Besides, it was a lovely autumn day for a drive, especially since the toll road is open.

This trip would not have held any allure before the opening of Texas 130, which takes motorists from north of Georgetown and neatly deposits them at Cabelas in Buda. Eventually it will end further south, in Seguin. Of course, it costs money. On this afternoon, I wasn’t paying, the toll being recorded electronically by the TexTag on the windshield of this bug-spattered Mitsubishi.

Before, driving to Buda from Cedar Park via Taylor would have been a nightmarish trip down I-35 through Austin, a highway most of us have learned to avoid traveling through the city whenever possible. It would not have been possible to avoid before the toll road when traveling to Buda from Taylor. I suppose I would have tried going down MoPac and cutting across or some other alternative.

The toll road turned this into a pleasant drive — stress-free, windows down, driving the speed limit, the only downside being that this truck will rattle the fillings from one’s teeth. After 120 miles on this trip, I was sorely in need of a masseuse and possibly a neck cracking from a chiropractor.

No matter. I enjoyed traveling a sparsely traveled road thus far. It reminds me of when MoPac first opened, back when I was in graduate school at UT in the early 1980s. Man, I would get on that vast expanse of pavement in my 1974 Austin Healy and feel as if I had the road to myself — because I did. Most everyone else was still stuck on I-35, either out of habit or because they were skeptical this route would be faster.

I arrived in downtown Buda past lunchtime, my stomach growling but with no time to revisit Casa Alde, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. Along Main Street there were more political signs packed into a few blocks than I have ever seen. Folks were handing out leaflets on this last day of early voting. I’ve read there have been some hot races in Hays County.

Glad to see the two-party system is still alive in some parts of Central Texas, which leads to one of my biennial rants. Why in the world do we require county commissioners, county judges, and other local elected officials to run under party labels? It’s silly. When choosing someone to represent a given precinct, for example, mainly you’re trying to find a person who won’t steal, has some common sense, cares about helping folks and has a sense of humor. I could care less whether that person is a Republican or Democrat, at the local level.

OK, I’ll step off the soapbox now.

The drive down the toll road reminded me of my several trips to and from Kansas, during my five-month stint working there. I never got a K-Tag. Fact is, I never changed my driver’s license or plates. Kansas and Oklahoma have hundreds of miles of toll roads, which means I would set off on each trip with a couple of rolls of quarters. My happiest trip was the one I made about three weeks ago. I knew, as my pile of quarters grew smaller, that I was that much closer to being home.

I took in the Texas countryside as I drove to Buda and back, watched firefighters battle a grass fire alongside the toll road, enjoyed the distant view of the Austin skyline about halfway down the highway. I didn’t expect to spend half of Friday driving a beat-up box truck to Buda and back, but it was a nice way to spend an autumn day in Central Texas.

Originally published in the Hill Country News (Cedar Park, Texas), November 4, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment