November 24th, 2018
Nobody walks in Texas.
Okay, that is not entirely accurate, but during our visit with Hans and Gabi, I remember seeing only one person walk farther than the nearest parking lot. Texas is designed to be traveled by car. No matter where a person lives, nothing is close. If there is public transportation, it is carefully hidden. I saw no evidence of it in Bryan/College Station. If a person does not have a car, they are screwed.
To be fair, I live in a suburb of Milwaukee where public transportation is also quite limited. However, I often see people walking in our neighborhood. I see people on bicycles. I see people, in the dead of winter, going for a stroll along snow-covered roads. Yes, in Wisconsin we use our cars a lot, but not all the time.
I am a bit prejudiced. I like to walk. I don’t mind going for six or seven miles at a crack. I like it because it gives me time to think and observe. In a car, the world rushes by too quickly. I have to concentrate on driving, and I miss things. I drive past parts of my life. When I walk, I can stop and savor the experience, or at least accept it. I can be there.
When Karin and I were with Hans and Gabi in Bryan, I went for walks. Mostly, I did that alone. I noticed things as I walked along my way. I noticed right off that buildings were spread out in a sort of haphazard way. Land management in Texas is a casual and chaotic sort of affair. I could detect no plan. A structure is built in a the middle of a pasture, with nothing around it at all. Later, other buildings find homes nearby. Even after an area is mostly developed, there are still stray parcels of open land. Those parcels remain empty even as other developments erupt far in the distance. The feeling I got in Texas was that there is a great deal of open space, and there always will be, so just use it however you like.
On one of my walks, I noticed the Boonville Cemetery/Heritage Park. I walked around in the cemetery. I was alone there. The place was empty, even though it contains a number of interesting artifacts from the early years of the Texas Republic. Boonville was originally the county seat back in the 1850’s. When the railroad came through, it was replaced by Bryan as the capital of Brazos County, and this cemetery is all that is left of Boonville.
I mentioned to Gabi that I had wandered through Boonville. She was surprised.
She told me, “I have lived here all my life, and I never even knew that was there. I probably drove past it a hundred times.”
She drove past it. So have thousands of other people: people who were totally focused on getting to work, or going to the doctor, or doing some shopping. Odds are that very few people in Bryan know that the park exists. They just drive past it, maybe every day.
This is why I walk.