|God Bless Texas! Part 10: Goodbye Love. (Odessa to Houston to DFW)|
Odessa, TX to Houston, TX (Map) - 496mi/799km on Day 11. 262mi/423km on Day 12.
(This car was parked next to mine as I left the motel in Odessa.)
I had a 9 hour drive from Odessa to Houston ahead of me today, so I already knew that I didn't have much time for anything else. In planning this trip, I only allotted time for one stop this day: a brief explore of Midland.
The funny thing is that I split up a 9 hour drive, by stopping 20 minutes into the journey. Midland is really close to Odessa.
Midland's nickname is The Tall City, a reference to the great number of skyscrapers within the city. It was home to the tallest skyscraper between Fort Worth & Phoenix...and it still is, as it built an even taller skyscraper to top its own roof.
The reason for so many skyscrapers in an area where a lot of cities only have a couple, is that Midland greatly benefited from the oil discoveries in the Permian Basin. Midland became the base of West Texas oil exploration, with many of the oil companies constructing skyscrapers or renting out several floors of already constructed buildings.
George W. Bush lived in Midland and worked in the oil industry. He had an office at the Permian Building - a 6-story building which the city destroyed in 2008.
The thing about Midland is that since they boom & bust in direct correlation with oil prices, they've had 3 or 4 periods of boom & bust since that initial 1920s boom. The funny thing about this, is that they seem to construct skyscrapers every time they have a boom - so they'll continue to use some of the old ones, but even though they have more than enough floor space, it's always time to construct a new skyscraper.
This is great for a person who likes skyscrapers, but it's a bummer for a person who doesn't like old skyscrapers to be threatened with demolition.
Thankfully with T-Payne working downtown, there is money flowing into the economy!
In reality, away from the Bush presidential families, Midland is the birthplace of Woody Harrelson and the childhood home of Tommy Lee Jones.
The courthouse seemed as good as any place to park & go for my walk around Midland. I could see that the temperature was only 41° from my car's thermometer, but it actually struck a chord as I got out of the car with only a t-shirt & shorts on. It was time to break out the winter jacket, which I happily hadn't used up until to this point. I only brought it because some of the places I was going do get quite cold in February; even if they hadn't on this trip.
Walking around in a heavy winter jacket and shorts is always a funny look, but I seemed to be in more comfort than a nearby bride & groom, who were having pictures taken downtown amongst the buildings. She only had her wedding dress on and I gave her that sympathetic, wincing look as I passed.
I didn't cover that much ground because of the cold & the hurry I was in. I believe I left the bike behind in the car because I simply wanted to walk around and appreciate Midland, which was what I did as I strolled over a few blocks of silent streets and back alleys.
Along my way, I learned that Midland is called Midland because it is the midway point between Fort Worth & El Paso.
For me, it was a worthwhile stop between Odessa and Houston.
Three and a half hours out of Midland, driving & driving along, I couldn't help but make a quick stop for the McCulloch County Courthouse in Brady, Texas.
Richardson Romanesque beauty brought to us in the year 1900.
Noticing an impressive building off the main road, I couldn't help but go photograph the Old McCulloch County Jail as well.
It was in really impressive shape for a museum.
I couldn't help but stop in tiny Pontotoc either.
Reading the history of Pontotoc, it seems they've always strived to become a larger community, but things simply haven't worked out in their favour, leaving building shells behind.
For a tiny village along the highway, I couldn't believe that there were 2 or 3 individual ruins.
One of them was the old San Fernando Academy - a job specific school that used to exist in the town, until a disease epidemic wiped out a large percentage of the population. It then became a standard school, then caught fire after 20 years of that.
That same fire is the reason behind all of the ruins.
I really didn't have the time, but I had to stop in Llano as well. The 1893 Llano County Courthouse? Very nice.
Llano looked like an intriguing town worthy of exploration, but I was quickly learning about the size and the possibilities of exploring Texas; and that 11 days weren't going to cut it.
Continuing along past Llano, I found myself back on the TX-71, which I took to get to Marble Falls from Austin four days prior. Whereas it was so foreign at the time, it was strange to double-back and now recognize the billboards, ranch gates and exit signs.
Anyway, eventually the country & Christian radio music started to change into that heavy-bass, clever lyric, Houston style of rap. I could see the skyline of Houston for miles, but as is well known, it is a giant, sprawling city. I must have driven on their heavy-traffic interstate for a 1/2 hour before I actually made it downtown.
Not wanting to worry about driving at the end of tonight, I had found a hotel in downtown Houston which was more expensive than those motels of West Texas, but still reasonably priced for its location. The reason it was so reasonably priced was on account of the small rooms, as the hotel was originally the 1929 Texas State Hotel (the above picture just barely leaves out the wall on the right side of the room).
I didn't spend much time in the room anyway. I salvaged a clean outfit & was back onto the street within 20 minutes.
I knew Houston had BYOB restaurants, something we never had in Ontario or Michigan. Being able to bring whatever malt liquor or strange beer to the restaurant...WITH ME? I was greatly enamored with the thought of this & I had to make it happen!
I had looked up a Vietnamese BYOB restaurant while at the Austin library and now I set sail from my hotel in its direction. I carried my 40oz of 211 through the dark streets. Unfortunately though, I didn't realize I recorded the address with my other camera, so I didn't have the actual address with me as I wandered the Houston streets.
I tried to go off of memory, but it didn't work. I remembered the restaurant was east of downtown, but I ended up going northeast in reality, confused with the map of Houston in my head. At one point I found myself on a peninsula of land defined by rivers, with the interstate above me. I tried to cut right, but ended up in some parking garage, trying to get through the building.
I made a correct decision after the parking garage, by going west to correct myself, but I then found myself in an enclave of a neighbourhood, with limited streetlights, small art galleries and dive bars.
This wasn't looking like the Vietnamese restaurant neighbourhood at all. I gave up & realized I was running out of time. I returned towards downtown.
Luck would have it that I stumbled upon a random Greek restaurant that was BYOB! They even had the Kansas basketball game on...what a fantastic turn of events!
I was the only person in the restaurant and the owner/cook took complete care of me. First, he brought the spanakopita, which was tremendous. Then it was a basic gyro, but I ate it ravenously as I pulled from the 211 and cheered on the Jayhawks.
Noticing I was watching the basketball game, he told me I could stay as long as I wanted, but I had somewhere to be.
I walked out of the high-density downtown into the surface parking lots near Minute Maid Baseball Stadium. There was a college baseball game going on & I longed to see the inside as I've never been. Continuing along, I passed a long convention center, before coming upon vacant lots near the Toyota Center. I could see police stationed near the arena, so I finished off my 211 while I was still a couple of vacant lots away from them.
It was then time for Radiohead inside the home of the Houston Rockets.
Radiohead might be my favourite band. To see them in Texas? To finally check off 'see Radiohead in concert' from the list of things I've wanted to do my entire life? I was gosh darn excited.
Thom Yorke awkwardly greeted the crowd with "howdy" before the set :D
Anyway, I'm not much of a concert-goer as I've only been to 14 concerts in my life; a life with a large amount of time spent right across from a major American city where every musician plays. That being said, I had such a good time at Radiohead this night, that I wish I could have changed my plane ticket & followed them to their Oklahoma City show 2 nights later.
I had a 4.5 hour drive to the airport in Dallas tomorrow, so it was right back to the hotel bed after the show.
I went to bed as early as possible to give myself time to stop at the amazing skatepark in Conroe.
The weather was immaculate, the park was empty & I landed a couple of things I was happy with.
It was a solid end to an amazing late February jaunt.
I was back in Newfoundland within 12 hours; wearing shorts at the local airport.
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1 - Midland, Texas - Wikipedia
2 - Pontotoc, Texas - Wikipedia
3 - Pontotoc - TSHA Online