Today I spent a hour-and-a-half driving to the Houston VA hospital for a shot. Yes, a shot, in my knee that they couldn’t give me for whatever reason at the Beaumont VA Clinic. Fortunately, I went to their “Injection Clinic” which is held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and although I waited about 45 minutes, it was more because I was early and I was ultimately done with my 1:15 p.m. appointment around 1:25 p.m. Then, back in the >160K-mile-plus Tacoma for another hour-and-a-half drive back to Beaumont. That was four-and-a-half hours that caused me to completely rearrange my week. The final shot next week will also cause me to rearrange that week, plus this week as a VA appointment in Beaumont scheduled for next Tuesday when I get that final shot had to be rescheduled for Friday. Between my part-time job with Uncle Sugar and my seemingly-never-ending medical appointments with the Department of Veterans Affairs I seem to answer my own question as to why I can’t get any of my work accomplished in my profession as a freelance writer. Horse pucky, as my old Navy senior chief Ron Smith used to say.
Driving to and from Beaumont-to-Houston and Houston-to-Beaumont on Interstate 10 has never been a joy. As a matter of fact, for a kid from the East Texas piney woods the journey left me for a long time with the twisted thought that the Texas Coastal Prairie was nothing but flat, butt-ugly, seemingly never-ending series of rice fields bordered by oil company service shops or crop-dusting hangars. I had to live in the area for awhile to recognize the beauty of the grasslands bordering the western Gulf of Mexico. Indeed there is some beauty in the grasses and the marshlands.
That trip of some 80 miles one way still is not the most exciting. The small towns that seem like no more than exit ramps from the Interstate — Winnie and Anahuac mostly — seem to thrive as stops for travelers either on I-10 or en route to the beach. The bridge over the Trinity River seems like a pretty good climb until you realize everything around you is flat. Nonetheless, the crossing does offer a pretty good vista of the big river where it becomes Trinity Bay. In recent months, the continual construction on I-10 to widen it to three lanes from Houston to Beaumont, seems pretty much done for now save for the Trinity Bridge itself.
The steep, 50-year-old bridge was torn down and drivers are now traveling over a new span until another span 10 feet away can be finished. The two spans will then carry the nearly 50,000 vehicles a day over separate, three-lane, east and west bridges, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. You drive by the workers toiling away on top of the newest span and look down then you realize that is the last thing that those workers should want to do.
A bit more to the West and you get into the Lynchburg and Baytown areas. It seems the marine industry has certainly grown around Lynchburg or whatever they call the area near I-10 with all the barges and tug boats these days. I don’t remember seeing that much activity in years past. What I remember most about the area is you can look to the south most days and get a full view of the 575-foot San Jacinto Monument, which Guinness lists as the tallest monument column in the world. I have never been up in the monument to the observation deck. The monument itself, being Texan, is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument. I have visited the area and toured the USS Texas, the nearly century-old battleship.
Preliminary work is underway to “dry-berth” the battle wagon which has long been nestled in the slough where in 1836 Sam Houston and his Texan Army of about 900 men defeated the more than 1,300 Mexican forces of Santa Ana. The victory established the Republic of Texas, which less than 10 years later was admitted as one of the United States of America.
Back to this century though, Baytown just a ways from the bay, surely has grown over the years. I remember it in my younger days as mostly the “Humble” later Exxon and even later ExxonMobil refinery. There was also the first highway tunnel I ever experienced there. It was later scrapped for the magnificent cable-stayed Fred Hartman Bridge over the Houston Ship Channel on Highway 146 between Baytown and LaPorte. Today, Baytown has almost 70,000 people and a good bit of development out to the Interstate.
Just outside Houston to the east, the Anheuser-Busch brewery still stands tall above the prairie even though it seems to have lost some of its luster. I suppose what I most miss is the rotating neon sign perched on top of the brewery. The sign had a logo that morphed into a colorful flying eagle. It was there that I saw, I believe for the only time, the Budweiser Clydesdales. My Dad, Mom and I stopped by there on the way back home. It think it was after my Uncle Ted’s funeral — my Dad’s brother — if I am not mistaken. We got a chance to look at the magnificent horses and my Dad got to drink a complimentary Bud, which I am sure he appreciated.
Of course, the skyline of Houston has grown over the years. Also developed over the years is a second city center in the Southwest Houston near the Galleria Mall, the old Astrodome and now newer Reliant Stadium. Of course, the latter is all close to Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo as well as the world-class Texas Medical Center. The latter place is where I seem to be spending so much time these days as the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Hospital — where I have to travel for “specialists” (don’t get me started) — is at one edge of the gigantic medical complex which has some of the world’s best hospitals.
As for the traffic, which is in the headline, I had nary a tie-up or bumper-to-bumper this trip. It’s kind of unusual for a visit to the nation’s fourth-largest city, no matter what time of day. Nor was there any similar problem on I-10 to-from-and-through Jefferson, Chambers and Harris counties. Oh, but “Smokey” was out earning a paycheck today, especially in Chambers County westbound I-10. Within a three mile stretch I encountered two Texas Highway Patrol traffic stops, both appeared to be so-called “drug interdiction” pullovers since troopers were looking through people’s belongings in the trunk of the stopped cars. A third stop within that three miles found a big rig was stopped by a “license and weight” trooper.
Well, that is what I got out of my drive to Houston and back. That and a shot in the left knee. It hurt for a nanosecond and then it was over although my knee hurts this evening, I think it’s from the arthritis. Most of the shots I have had so far in the knee don’t hurt. Neither do the trips to Houston. They just leave me stiff and in need of more gasoline, which seems to be getting more expensive every day.