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.
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.