Entering Oil Country

I left from Destin on Thursday morning and started making my way across the southern states. I’ve not spent much time down in the south, but despite the heat, humidity, and political viewpoints of those who live down there, it’s actually a very beautifully rich and densely forested region in the U.S. that I’d consider taking time to visit again.

I didn’t stop in New Orleans solely because I’ve been there before and done the whole “New Orleans thing” on Bourbon street.

Texas is a state, though, that I’ve never been to before aside from being inside an airport somewhere within it (and I can’t for the life of me remember which city that was). Nonetheless, I made my way into Houston late Thursday afternoon and met up with my friend who recently moved down there from Chicago.

I’ve heard great things about Texas, but this is mainly coming from Texans whom I’ve realized now after 3 days of being in the state are, like many Michiganders (my home state), die hard crazy about Texas. You can’t possibly drive down the road in Texas and not see a Texas flag, Texas T-shirt on someone, or a Texas bumper sticker on the back of a Ford F150 pickup (which everyone in their right mind drives down here, including my friend and his cousin who is visiting).

Houston is, to my surprise, the 4th largest city in the United States. I was flabbergasted hearing this statistic as it really doesn’t seem to be that big, but after further consideration of driving around the city, I’ve realized that it sprawls quite extensively in all directions in a seemingly elusive way.

Friday we decided to head down to an old battleship monument for the USS Texas south of the city that remains as one of the last WWII ships in the country. Most others have been decommissioned, but the State has taken this one and done a lot of renovations on it to preserve the original look and feel. Most interesting about this excursion wasn’t the battleship, though.

As we drove through the outskirts of the city, it began to dawn on me how extensive and dense the oil and gas industry is Texas. I’ve seen my share of oil refineries in my lifetime, having grown up with one in my hometown, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. As a graduate from a university with a BA in Environmental Science, I was thoroughly shocked about what I saw. As most things in life, it’s really hard to grasp the size and magnitude of something until you see it first hand, and seeing this was no different. I understand now why Texas (and several other areas of the south) are so stubborn on starting to reduce and cut back on oil and gas usage. Alternative fuel use in the U.S. will always have a hard time getting going mainly because of the big money coming in from sections of the country like this. My best comparison to it would be imagining the elimination of the automobile altogether and thinking about the backlash from the state of Michigan, whose entire economy lives and dies off of cars.

The remainder of the weekend was mainly spent hanging by the pool to escape the heat and hitting up the bars and good Mexican restaurants in the area. If you know me at all, you know that I am a fan of all food and will literally try anything once. Mexican and Latin food, though, is by far my favorite type of cuisine, and so being in Houston (and most of the Southwest in general) provided ample opportunity to get my fix for a while.

On Sunday night, my Mom flew in from Michigan to join me over the next four days as we make our way toward Los Angeles. She decided a couple of months back that she wanted to join me on my trip for a little bit, and it’ll be great to add a companion to my car and have someone to talk to for the 20+ hours of driving we have coming up. We plan to stop at the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree on the way before arriving in LA on Thursday evening so I’ll be sure to add in some pictures of those places later this week.