Reflections

I wrote in one of my posts that solitude was one of the things I looked forward to on my rides. And though that’s true, I ultimately wanted to share my experience with you: friends, family, and other fellow travelers. So thank you for following along on this quest. 

Here are some numbers that summarize my journey over the past 4 years:

  • 254 Texas County Courthouses visited
  • 15,200 miles ridden
  • 0 accidents or break downs
  • 330 gallons of gasoline (approx.)
  • 52 days of riding
  • 11 single day rides
  • 11 multi-day rides

Here’s one more stat: A few months ago I realized that there was one article of clothing that I had worn on every ride. It was these boots. So in addition to my trusty Yamaha, I want to honor these reliable and comfortable boots. 

I’m often asked “what are your favorite courthouses?” My next post will provide an answer to this question, but here’s a hint: My favorite courthouses are the old ones. I’m amazed at the attention to detail and the public investment that must have been involved. But I’m also aware that some of these older courthouses–as was the case with the Texas State Capitol in Austin–may have been built with convict labor (essentially, slave labor). That certainly helped offset the cost.

In a sense, I have regarded this journey as kind of a baptism into my adopted home state. To call it a full immersion might be a stretch, because I feel I’ve still only scratched the surface of this big, beautiful state. As with anything, a true and lasting love only grows with keeping your eyes wide open. Texas is a vast and diverse state with a long and complicated history. Inevitably, this involves contradictions.

“Texas” comes from a Native American word meaning “friend,” yet in 1859 Texas told all the Native American tribes that they were no longer welcome in the state. To pick on my own home county: In 1861, Williamson County was one of a few counties in Texas that voted against secession from the Union, and our courthouse has a statue of Themis (“Lady Justice”) on top of its dome. Yet the Williamson County courthouse still has a Confederate monument standing in front of it, erected in 1916, just as the KKK was gaining power in the south.

But the contradictions reside within me, as well. As I rode across Texas, one of the most unpleasant smells I encountered was large dairy farms and feedlots. Yet I personally enjoy beef and dairy products, so I contribute to that smell. But there’s a bigger one that hits closer to home.

The most unsightly aspect of the Texas landscape, in my opinion, is the vast infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry found in every part of the state: pumpjacks, flares, storage tanks, and refineries. It’s an eyesore, but that’s not the worst of it. The unlit flares, the toxic spills, the petro-chemical fires, and other environmental destruction, to say nothing of the danger to our climate that comes with it all. Yet I could not have enjoyed this experience of Texas without the gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine in my motorcycle. I’ve estimated that my ride of more than 15,000 miles produced about 6,600 pounds (3 metric tons) of CO2.

But there are so many things I love about Texas. The wide open spaces and the vibrant cities. The pine forests, the mountains, the canyons, the productive agricultural land, the prairies, the rivers. But more than anything, Texas is nothing without its people. In my experience, the typical Texan is friendly and hospitable, takes responsibility for their own actions, yet is eager to help the vulnerable and less fortunate. Seeing Texas the way I have over the past few years makes me want to live up to those ideals, to live with fewer contradictions in my own life, and to help Texas live up to its ideals as well.

Thanks again for following along, friend. I’ll see you somewhere down the road.

4 thoughts on “Reflections

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