There is no Kent, Texas... anymore. There are five abandoned houses, a one-room schoolhouse with no roof that, despite what Pharrell says, is not happy, and a desolate, deserted gas station with above-ground fuel tanks behind which - after first removing non-phantom, human excrement - we camped.
Why camp next to toxic gas tanks amid a sea of shit? Well, I'll tell you:
- the temperature was just below freezing.
- night was coming on.
- it was 60 kilometres to the next human habitation.
- but most of all, and trumping all, those five freaking houses were HAUNTED.
Remember going up the stairs from the basement as a kid, with monsters trying to grab your ankles and drag you back down, head thumping, fingernails clawing? The merest nothing compared to these houses. It wasn't even dark yet. but the vibe of these houses was BAD and WRONG. Not breaking bad, but horribly well-established bad. Terrible things must have happened there, so much so that the evidence of relatively recent homo sapiens stool next to the George Bush Memorial Fuel Museum had Seb and I pitching a tent instantly, reassured that the ghosts at least let you take a dump before freezing your soul (Author's note: now that we've survived the night, I realize we may have actually camped on Horrorville Ground Zero, where poor saps convulsively shit through their pants in their last, agonizing moments of compos mentis).
I write from a McDonalds in Alpine, Texas, comfortably distant from Stool City, but faced with the late-afternoon decision of pitching a tent behind a gun range, or paying a nominal sum to set up camp between two RV's. I'm guessing the verdict will probably depend on whether or not Texans are using nylon-piercing ammo at the moment.
We've got about 200 miles of general nothingness left before we enter an area of Texas that doesn't have, for example, special boxes on the map reading: No Services for the Next 50 or 70 or 90 Miles, but does have, for example, cellphone service. T-Mobile has evidently decided much of Southwest Texas just ain't worth the trouble. The prudent carrying of gallons of extra water, while fun as an exercise in pannier pyramid building, is something we'll be okay with letting go.
Seb and I keep passing these historical markers that read something like this:
"Elmer and Henrietta White established the first pioneer homestead in Culver County on this spot in 1847. They lived happily until 1873, when a bunch of goddamned Indians ambushed and tortured them to death one mile north of this marker. We honor them for their contribution to settling the Western States and establishing order where only chaos reigned."
In every case, these markers are pockmarked with bullet holes. Who would ever do such a thing?
On that happy cultural note, I shall bid you adieu.
A la prochaine,