|Harper Community Park, Harper, Texas|
Yahooo! I'm heading west again, my first road trip in a year. And I've missed it sorely. I'm headed to Lake Havasu City for the annual Western Pyrotechnics conference I so enjoy, and will then make several other pleasant stops as I meander further west to San Francisco and then home via Big Sur.
Driving across I-10 through west Texas, especially when you've done it a number of times, is an affair mostly to be endured with only a few notable places to break the journey. I decided to pause in Ozona (so named for its plentiful good air) to see what I might find since my previous relationship with the town centered entirely around gasoline. On the northern most edge of town I spotted an intriguing little stone house with all sorts of fancy and imaginative brick and rock work. I especially liked this trio of arches with their rakish caps.
I circled back and parked on the town square so I could check out a few of the old buildings I had seen earlier. When I popped my head into the laundromat as I passed by, I was reminded immediately that I was deep in the heart of the oil patch of Texas - "No rig clothes" read the large red letters above the washing machines. Imagine pulling your chiffon ballroom gown from the washer and finding a crude oil ring around the collar! Honestly.
On another corner of the square sat an intriguing looking boarded up building evidently constructed in the early 10s or 20s. I finally located a small weathered sign out front that read "Hotel Ozona". A smaller sign had been added later - I'd guess the 50s - that read "TV - refrigerated air". You definitely want and need refrigerated air in the west Texas desert. A good bit of the commerce in Ozona once centered around the discovery of rich oilfields in the area, and the hotel was likely used by company men sent to check up on rigs and such. The photo above is the back of the hotel, a wild tangle of parched branches and rusty fire escapes.
I circled, but couldn't find a way to penetrate the exterior - the real estate company that owned the building had secured it soundly, though I had trouble imagining it would have gotten much traffic if it had been left completely open. Not to worry, though. I had just watched a Gothic horror movie about a creepy old house the previous evening and wouldn't have dared go in by myself, even if a red carpet had been rolled out for me.
The taggers had left an either tragically hip or hopelessly clueless piece of advice for me: "Fuk haters", wisdom worthy of a pillar along the path to West Texas enlightenment.
I drove a short while longer and pulled in to bed down in Fort Stockton. A bone chilling wind blew through me as I ran back and forth from the car to the room unloading my personal effects. The first day of driving always merits a bit more tidying than usual to set things right. Tomorrow the rhythm will begin in earnest. In the meantime, I'll lay in bed and happily listen to the cold wind whistling outside my window.