Category Archives: Interstate

My History on Interstate 10: From El Paso to Orange, Texas by David Guevara

Interstate 10
Between El Paso and Orange Texas

November 2010: I must have driven the stretch of I-10 Jacksonville Florida to Houston Texas at least forty to forty-five times in last six years. I left Jacksonville after work around two o’clock in the afternoon. I returned home after three, or sometimes four, or even six months of being away because of my job, the military. My deployments lasted six months, but I had to do it since it was part of the contract I had signed. I began the 880 miles journey I was anxious to see my family, but I was soothed by the tranquility of being by myself on the road with nothing to keep me awake but a bag or two of sunflower seeds, a bottle of water, and a pack of gum. The further away from my job and the routine that trapped in Florida I got, the happier I felt. This particular freeway connects from the east coast, to the west coast; it begins in Jacksonville, Florida and ends on Santa Monica, California.  It is the fourth longest road in the United States at 2,460 miles, the longest in Texas, which contains more than one third of its entire length –from El Paso to Orange, Texas.  According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the estimated cost of Construction was 1,446 million dollars from the Fort Bend Country Line to Washington Ave.

When I was stationed in Mayport I left right after work on Friday afternoon as early as possible. If I beat the Jacksonville traffic, I could get home earlier and enjoy my family time, food, and home.  I drove the 880 miles non-stop until I reached Houston around three in the morning the following day, or earlier depending on the hour of departure.

In Florida’s landscape, since most of the I-10 is covered by trees, giving the freeway a clean, and fresh Mother Nature smell, the best part is that there was not much state patrol since Florida is supervised from air-anybody that is crossing the border to Florida can see the signs that say that. One time I was going ninety-five miles per hour at around three in the morning, right after passing Pensacola, Florida, always trying to be careful to lookup to see of there was any planes or helicopters around. Luckily there was nothing; I looked at my rear view mirror to see if there was anybody else, because at that hour of the night I was pretty much alone. Far away in the distance, I saw car lights they were apparently moving pretty fast. My only thought was to take my foot off the gas and not to press the brake, in case it was a cop. I did this until I was soon going once again, to do eighty miles per hour. My heart suddenly started pumping really fast, I felt nervous and scared at the same time. I was expecting to see police lights, or to get hit. My mind went blank for a couple of seconds, but to m luck it was just a car that passed by me. It was a Camaro Z-28 state patrol car doing at least one hundred and twenty miles per hour. As soon as he passed me I felt so relieved and happy that everything was back to normal. I set my cruise control to eighty miles per hour for the rest of the way.

Alabama hosted the giant tunnel in Mobile, which goes under water. I felt like I was driving deeper inside Earth, and imagine the fish and sharks swimming all around the perimeter of the tunnel. The awesomeness was constructed by floating sections that were sunk right next to each other, then the water was pumped out and it was finished.

Mississippi was no big deal. I only passed there for gas and food, and I was in and out in forty-five minute drive. However, I passed Mississippi one Thursday night on the last week of June back in 2005 when I was taking Regular Leave (vacations). I stopped there, got gas, food and some really cheap fireworks that they sold on a little trailer outside a Jack in the Box, which we burned having fun on the fourth of July on San Jancito City.

Louisiana meant every single minute that passed, I was closer to home. But also, I loved crossing the Atchafalaya Swamp Bridge: 18.2 impressive miles of the highway over the swamp without exits or entrances. I never got to see any crocodiles, but I wanted to stop to look for some. Most of the times when I was coming home I was so anxious to get there, and wanting to get home the only fast way was always the excuse to never stop there. Now that I have completed my contract with the military I want to do a trip just to do that, since this is something new to me, but it is going to be from really far away because I am still scared of those animals.

Crossing the border of Louisiana into Texas made me feel that I was home again.  It did not matter that I was just half way. Seeing the big star and the sign that reads “Welcome to the Lone Star State” made me feel good every time I came back. It meant that I had accomplished most of my driving time (at least for that day). It also made me feel sad every time I was leaving it, only to go back to my military life, most likely to go underway once again.

In Houston the speed limit on the I-10 is 60 miles per hour, but it is 80 miles per hour- the highest on the nation- between Kerr and El Paso at daytime. In Florida, Louisiana, and sometimes-even Alabama I used to do eighty or eighty-five with no problem what so ever, once the state patrol stop me a couple of times on the same day, but I think it was my lucky day: I only got warnings.

Here in Houston the I-10 is known as the Katy Freeway between Katy Texas to Downtown Houston, and as East Freeway from Downtown to Beaumont area.  Three of the main accesses are the Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros located in Downtown Houston replacing, the Astrodome in the year 2000 and since the year 1964 having a Major League team in Houston playing in natural grass, other main attraction is the University of Houston-Downtown campus on the Houston area, located in 1 main just minutes away from the Minute Maid Park and with a full view of and from the I-10 that passes right next to it, this University was founded back in 1974, and is the 13th largest public University in Texas and, the second largest University in Houston area which of course this is where I take my classes since it is really close to where I reside, and the rest of Downtown Houston, which now days have changed a lot, one of the things that made it extra easier to commute, and I tried it once is the Metro Rail, which is really fast and fun to be on

Now that I have finished my military life and returned back to Texas, I drive every single day, Monday thru Sunday, going to work and back. The I-10 brings me memories, of the times that I been there, of all the time and miles that I drove on that freeway that seemed endless, that every time brought me back to where I wanted to be, that brought me back home. Yes, it is also true that sometimes I did not wanted to back to work, because I felt so good being back at home, but this silent, yet dangerous road that took me to the places where I wanted to be, one of the sections that I see it is renovating now days, is before I get to I-59 going from east to west, closing the exit to University of Houston Downtown, luckily for me, I drive on the feeder, making it easier for me to commute to my classes and back. Once this last piece is completed it will be another nice piece of road to drive around, and does not matter that I am back home or all the money that was put in it. I will enjoy driving around the Inter-State 10, now most likely more that when I was away, and this could be because of memories. Or could it be just because it is required for me to drive around? Well I guess the answer to this question is probably a little bit of both, but one thing for sure, I will enjoy every single time that I drive around there, or through there just cruising, unless I am or get stocked on traffic.

Maps:

Links:

Texas Department of Transportation

City of Houston

Author bio:

David Guevara is a Mexican-American, Veteran of US Navy, doing a tour on Asia during the “Enduring Freedom” tour as an Engineer working with the main engine onboard USS Sacramento (AOE-1) stationed on Bremerton, WA, and a tour serving as Personnel Specialist on the “Operation Enduring Freedom” onboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) stationed on Mayport,FL.  First year on college with a Bussiness Management as a major.

Guandi Temple: What religion are you? by Tri Hoang

2089 Milby St.
Houston, Texas 77003

January 2004–In many ways religion does not matter to me unless someone wants to discuss or preach me their beliefs. I get extremely annoyed by claims that “God” will grant you salvation if you are righteous, and condemn you if you are sinful. I say this to not to offend anyone but to acknowledge that there are people of different religious beliefs, and we must respect them for whatever they may believe in. As for me, I’m a Buddhist and one that believes that there are many gods, not just one all-powerful one. The Buddhist religion is also split between two beliefs. The first is the belief that gods watch over the people, control the weather, and fight against the evils. The other belief is in the enlightenment of one’s mind and body through acts of righteousness and the fulfillment of self-happiness. I have been raised to respect higher beings shaping the world. I was raised to go to temple and pay my respects through lighting incense and murmuring chants. My religion, like many other religions, is part of a customary routine that everyone follows. For instance, going to church/synagogue/temple to reassure yourself of your religion.

Temples are places of holiness and salvation for many Buddhist followers. They pray under certain gods hoping for good welfare and blessing from the gods. Recently, I have been going to a temple near the University of Houston, next to I-45. The temple can only be seen if you drive carefully and on a course to it, because it block by run down buildings close to the highway. As you arrive at the temple, to the right you’ll see the pavement parking lot with patches of grass growing on top. Surrounding the temple are steel bars protecting it from intruders during the day and night. Across the parking lot are the temple gate and a circular pond of goldfish behind the gate. A 12-foot statue of a goddess made of clay and painted pure white stood on the edge of the pond looking toward the gate. She is holding onto a tall slender vase pouring water from it.

The temple has three buildings: the main temple building, a cafeteria/kitchen building, and another building for storage. The temple grounds are paved in cement and on the border of the temple grounds are trees and bushes planted near the steel bars. After passing the circular pond you reach a short stair leading up to the temple’s main doors. There are three doors on the front side of the temple: the main large doors, and two smaller side doors.

The temple is highly decorated with red and gold. On each side of the stairs statues of Chinese gods, all made from clay and decorated in white hue. On the porch are green plastic tables and white chairs for the many people to sit on during holiday events. To the left and right side of the main doors are large golden circular Chinese emblems. To the left of the door is a showcase of photographic pictures of monks chanting for ceremonies. On the right is another showcase of old newspaper clippings of stories involving temple monk doing miracles. The temple’s main doors are composed of hardwood, painted with a black background and a painting of a Chinese general dressed in a metallic scale armor of the old Chinese empire.

As I enter the temple, the custom of taking my shoes off is necessary to show respect. About ten feet from the doors is the first altar of Buddha and two gods to his sides. The Buddha statue is sparkling gold and wears a golden sash across his chest diagonally and around his waist. His hands are in the praying/chanting fashion. The altar itself is well decorated with long red candles, a red tablecloth, and a giant golden bowl in front of the statue used for placing incense, and beautiful flowers with long stems in white vases. To the right side of the altar is a copper bowl shaped gong used for meditation. To the left and right of the center altar are smaller altars in tribute to different gods that bless for good fortune. These are decorated very much like the center altar but with less grandeur.

The largest altar lies in the back tributes to three gods. The god to the left side of the altar bares a very dark face, and is dressed in a golden scale armor shimmering of colorful jewelries. The middle god has a bright red facial expression, a long black mustache, and is dressed in a golden scale armor covered by a green robe with multicolor jewels. The god on the right has a skin-textured face wearing a Chinese style robe with hues of orange, green, and red. This god holds a red pouch with Chinese lettering on the pouch. Three bowl-shaped pots hold incense, each pot representing each of the three gods. This, altar, too has two smaller altars to the side of it of more different gods. All altars are decorated on a red background with golden borders. Finally a table on the left side of the temple wall used for fortune telling, a woman’s main attraction.

An old story of how those three gods became gods started thousands of years ago when three powerful men ruled China. The middle god, Quan Cong, was once a very distinguished general whom many people had respected. He had made a brotherly pact with two other generals. He was the second oldest of the two. When the oldest became the king of China, he became a loyal general to the king. All that knew him respected his loyalty and sternness. He was not easily persuaded into temptations or emotions. The god on the left, Quan Binh, was once a master thief. He met Quan Cong one day and out of admiration became his follower. Chau Xuong, the god on the right, was the son of a former general. Chau Xuong was an illegitimate son and follower of Quan Cong. Quan Cong was lured into a trap setup by the king of a neighboring nation and his head was chopped off. The neighboring king ordered Quan Cong’s head be presented before him. Upon seeing the gruesome head of Quan Cong, the king became crazy and later died. The people of the kingdom started seeing the spirit of Quan Cong’s headless body searching for the person who had killed him. Quan Cong’s restless spirit terrorized people by stripping people’s head from their bodies. His spirit finally met a monk, and the monk taught him that the people he killed will look for him for revenge. After hearing the reasoning of the monk, Quan Cong’s spirit rested in peace. Quan Binh and Chau Xuong also died with Quan Cong. People started to realize that it was important to pay their respects to Quan Cong and his followers. Quan Cong’s personality and his followers’ loyalty became the basis of loyalty and honor for men. They became gods to the people that had worshipped them, and are place in many temples.

During important Chinese holidays, men and women wander into the temple grounds speaking to the monks and praying with them in moments of silence. They pay their respects to the gods by lighting incense, saying a little prayer and placing the incense into an incense bowl filled with sand. After paying their respects, usually women ask the wise monks for their fortunes at the table to the left of the temple. With the strong incense smell filling the room as more people light incense and pray, one eventually adapts to the smoky smell and the murky streams of smoke coming from the incense. On religious days and Chinese New Years, the celebrations become a festive time for people of all ages.

Chinese New Year celebration starts with the dancing of the lions. The lions are made of colorful cloth and flexible bamboo. The lions require two youths to operate. One of the youth plays the tail of the lion while a more talented youth plays the head of the lion. The youth that controls the head must be expressive as he operates the head of the lion. Opening and closing the mouth and eyes of the lion requires training and friendship of the partners. Usually there are two to four lions performing. They perform to the beating of drums, moving and dancing to the beat of the music. The youth must work in unison to move like a real lion’s body.

As they perform, long fireworks are lit and loud explosions fill in the excitements of the audience. Monks come and go during holidays because there is no place for them to live in this temple, but they travel back and forth from their monastery. They may make trips to other temples in Houston. There are caretakers of the temple doing the job voluntarily. As I said, this temple has a cafeteria and people donate their cooking in a huge potluck so the children and hungry adults can eat after the celebrations. Most of the time the food is vegetarian, made to look like meat. For instance, meat stuffed eggrolls become cabbage stuffed eggrolls and barbequed pork becomes barbequed tofu. Tofu is a main ingredient of most of the vegetarian dishes served at the temple. The taste and flavor of the meat look-alike is unnoticeable to even the best of chefs. Many people just come and pay their respects and leave, similar to my family, because we don’t need such excitement. However, when we have little kids in the family it is hard to resist their happiness. The importance of the celebration is for people to enjoy themselves in their accomplishments or failures.

The temple shows how important a place to worship can be for all people. Different religions do not mean that people do not share the same desire to believe. Different religions allow people to express themselves in the multicultural environment of the world. Some religions are too expressive and some are hardly noticeable. Sometime I think of religion as the destruction or the unity of the people as the effect of how people act. So it matters not what religion you are, but by the way in which you choose to express yourself as a representative of the religion.

Map:


Links:

1.buddha

2. houstonchinese

3.csmonitor

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