I spent last weekend in Paris. Would you ever believe an old country boy like myself would ever venture that far from home? I had a wonderful time. The food was great, the people were even greater, and yes, I did see the Eiffel tower, since you asked. I really enjoyed my visit, but it sure was a long drive to get there!
Paris...Texas. Rest assured this old goat will never see the Eiffel tower in Paris, France. No need to now, I've seen it in Texas. I also was wowed at the sight of the Campbell's soup factory, but time constraints prevented me from actually taking the tour. I don't know if they offer tours, anyway. But I must tell you, the most impressive sight of my entire visit was the Red River Valley Veteran's Memorial, which sat next to the Eiffel tower. When my daughter and I left our motel that Sunday morning, which happened to be Veteran's Day, we were on one sole mission, to see Paris, Texas' very own Eiffel tower, adorned by what may be the world's biggest cowboy hat perched atop it. We were caught completely off guard to discover the most inspiring veteran's memorial that either of us has ever seen. The community of Paris has honored each and every one of its veterans from every war since the Texas Revolution. What are the odds, I asked myself, that we would stumble on such a touching tribute to America's veterans on, and I checked the time imprinted on the photos, precisely 11:00 on November 11. As I wandered through the massive display, I fought back tears as a lump formed in my throat. From this Veteran's Day forward, I will always remember this place on every Veteran's Day to come.
We didn't pick Paris, Texas out of a hat on some spontaneous urge to take a road trip. My daughter, a young college student with no fear and a quest for adventure, had received a wedding invitation from some acquaintance who had briefly passed through her life at some point or another. Well sure, she announced at the supper table one evening, she would just set out on a seven-hour drive across Texas to attend this thirty-minute affair. I rolled my eyes and uttered a deep sigh. Here we sat, at the western edge of west Texas, a mere thirty-minute drive from New Mexico, and Paris Texas according to Siri, was located just shy of the Arkansas border and within spitting distance of Oklahoma. No, I protested, that was simply too far for a young woman to drive alone. And that's how I ended up on this adventure.
Those of you familiar with Texas understand it's vastness. For those who don't, allow me to give you some examples. The ski slopes of Colorado are closer to my house than Paris, Texas. I could probably fly to Paris, France in less time that it takes to drive to Paris, Texas. So, you get the picture. I must confess, as an individual who balks at the thought of a twenty-minute drive to the nearest Walmart, the notion of such a trip across the entire state of Texas was daunting. But it had been quite a while since I had ventured any further from home than Walmart, so I reluctantly forced myself to pack for a whirlwind adventure.
Paris, Texas is located in regular Texas which is comprised of cities such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. We live in west Texas, made up of bustling cities like Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland-Odessa, and San Angelo. Between west Texas and regular Texas lays...nothing. A no man's land separates the two and anyone who dares venture into this vast void is taking their lives into their own hands. When I asked Siri to plot a course from here to Paris, she hesitated and then replied, "Are you sure you want to chance that?"
According to Siri, the fastest way to regular Texas was by route of a trail used by the wagon trains of the old west. Little had been done to improve the roads since those days. Between here and regular Texas, many dangers were lurking behind the millions of mesquite trees. Coyotes and wild hogs blocked the primitive roadways while buzzards hovered overhead. If God forbid, your vehicle broke down on this foreboding trail, you were nothing more than buzzard meat, for no sane man would travel this path. You'd never be discovered, your bones glistening in the sun as a warning to future foolish travelers.
I questioned Siri about a route via Interstate-20 which lay two hours to the south of us. No, she told me, we were heading north. The old west trail was our only way. So, early Saturday morning, I took the reins of my daughter's Ford Focus and we headed into the wilderness. Gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, I dodged tumbleweeds the size of John Deere tractors and road kill that would fill a man's freezer. I held my breath and prayed constantly for three hours, seeing not another living soul along the way. Finally, we arrived in Wichita Falls an hour behind schedule. I relinquished the wheel to my daughter and took my place in the passenger seat, assuming the fetal position, whimpering and fighting to regain my sanity.
Well, I'm home now and all that is just a foggy, surreal memory. I had a blast and now ponder the idea of perhaps another road trip in the nearby future. Maybe I should go west to the mountains of Ruidoso, New Mexico. Wait a minute...that hundred and fifty miles of desert between here and Ruidoso makes the road to regular Texas look like an interstate. Obviously, I need to work on my courage. After all, I yearn to become a man of adventure! Perhaps I shall fly to the moon, which is probably closer than Paris, Texas. To infinity and beyond! Siri says she doesn't know where Infinity, Texas is...