Tonight we’re well into central Texas (Abilene no less) and it’s raining. Again. Worse than Manchester on a wet day. And lightning. No risk of Tornadoes today in our neighbourhood as they don’t form this far south and west (Allegedly).
Anyway, How do I describe northern Texas? Flat. Currently wet. Prone to flooding. Full of Wind Turbines. If my British reader thinks East Anglia or Lincolnshire is flat, sorry, the fenlands are comparatively lumpy compared with the country between Amarillo and Lubbock. I have honestly never seen a land horizon so straight. Which incidentally makes for seriously dull driving, even at Texas’ generous 75 MPH speed limit. Mrs S, in the co-pilots seat for this leg of the journey, was chafing at me well before we’d even gone a hundred and fifty miles, but once she’d taken over at the wheel after a placatory Ice Cream, equanimity was restored.
As far as the scenery is concerned, once you get past Lubbock it’s not so linear. As you pass through the oilfields, the landscape is peppered with Nodding Donkey a.k.a. “Pumpjack” engines and the periodic smell of warm oil straight out of the ground. Further south, yet more wind turbines pepper the landscape and brood over the tops of the Mesas. More are going up all the time. We saw a trainload of turbine blades and passed three tower base units on their way south and east on Highway 84.
In my idle moments I’ve been experimenting with collective nouns for huge expanses of Wind Turbines. Front runners are ‘blight’ or perhaps ‘obscenity’, as they sure as hell ruin the view for precious little return. The relative lack of visible transmission lines and some Amarillo folklore also tweaked my bullshit antenna. Apparently the local power grids in Amarillo and Abilene do not get any power from these massive whirligigs. Instead, all the electrickery they produce goes direct to Houston, some five hundred and fifty miles distant. If you understand anything about power grids and transmission, that’s whole a lot of conductivity losses and no mistake. Even at 110kv. Two hundred miles, okay. That’s not too bad, but over five hundred and fifty miles? Ouch. Something is missing from this story.
And if any F4-F5 Tornadoes touch down only twenty or thirty miles west of their usual track, as they have been known to do, there is a risk of serious damage to these big wind farms. While F1-F3 Tornadoes won’t hurt most wind turbines, a big F4-F5 tracking through a wind farm would be a different matter. How often do the big ones occur in this neck of the woods? Not that often, but I wouldn’t underwrite the insurance risk. I guess time will tell, and there will be much wailing, gnashing of teeth and pointing of fingers when it does.
Anyway, at the moment all the downpours mean everything is green and fecund. Even in the desert areas. Whatever happened to General Philip Sheridan’s famous “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell” Civil War quotation?
Then there’s the food. Specifically the steaks and pork ribs. The Texans do meat very, very well. Perhaps even better than that. I’ve taken to tucking into a 6-8oz slab of beef and salad every other day. By comparison, last year we resided in Paris for a month and on several occasions were treated to a splendid plate of ‘Steak Frites’. But the Texan version is better. Much better. Sorry mes amis, but the Texans win the Bill sticker award for serious steaks. Even in relatively average roadside eateries.
So. Do I like Texas? Well so far yes and occasionally no, but it certainly is challenging my preconceptions of the state as a dry and dusty wilderness. We’ll see what San Antonio brings.