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The eighteen-hour trip

And now, the full story…

Yesterday, I learned of a new way to measure gasoline consumption. We left the house at 10:30 AM with a full tank. Six hours of mostly idling while the AC ran later, we were in Spring, 20 miles away. The gas gauge was pointing to the 3/4 mark. Things did not look good for making it to Dallas.

Thankfully, we had a gas can with 5 extra gallons in it, courtesy of Tiffany’s dad. While we paused for awhile in Spring at the home of Tiffany’s aunt and uncle – we figured we’d wait until dark, so we could mostly go with windows down – we emptied that reserve can into the tank. That just topped it up, meaning we’d used nearly a gallon an hour. At highway speed, that’d make for great mileage. Not in this case.

We got lucky once more when we saw on the news that the contraflow lanes had reached as far south in Spring. A little reconnaissance showed that the southbound entrance at Cypresswood, where we were, was just opening to northbound traffic. We hastily packed up and headed back out, just before 6 PM.

For the first 12 miles or so, we flew along at normal speed. We knew it wouldn’t last, though, and by the time we were in The Woodlands, both sides of the freeway were crawling along. It was a teeny bit faster than before, but that’s like saying that molasses pours out faster than ketchup. At 9:30 PM, when a cranky and overheated Olivia finally fell asleep (we had stuck to our plan of limiting AC usage, and could see the difference in the tank indicator), we’d made it to the north side of Conroe, about 30 miles away from Spring.

And then…it was all clear. We actually hit 40 MPH and more. Some people had exited in Conroe, which was a shelter location. Others were pulling off to the shoulders and median. How many had run out of gas, and how many were taking a break, I couldn’t say. We saw many more people do this all the way to Dallas. As midnight came and went, I saw more people sleeping, in pickup truck beds and on the grass. One such grouping of cars with sleepers was just south of I-20; by this time, it was close to 3 AM.

We drove at highway speed to Hunstville, where both sides of the freeway bottled up again; this continued until we were north of the state pen. That was the pattern in almost every town with an exit – some cars got off, others pulled over. Same thing at rest stops.

Beyond that, we were delayed by construction zones south of Corsicana (which I swear was in the same state the last time I drove to Dallas in 2001) and around Ennis, where the southbound lanes returned to their normal state; this is about 200 miles north of where they began. Say what you want about TxDOT (and I surely do), I think this was a hell of a feat to accomplish in one day. We also paused to stretch our legs and walk the dog in Corsicana, at an exit that was surprisingly uncrowded despite the marquee announcement two exits earlier that there was gas available there. Tiffany took over driving at that point – I’d been doing that since we began, some 15 hours before.

Murphy, where we’re staying, is to the north and east of Dallas. We passed through Dallas proper on US75, then into Richardson before getting to our destination. We arrived a little after 3:30. Olivia woke up and was full of energy while we unpacked. I sat up with her for awhile to let her wind down (this also gave me the chance to post and email about our journey’s end), then we all fell asleep by 5.

So here we are, for what I hope is a relatively short stay. I’m glad to see that Rita is weakening and that current projections are a bit more favorable for Houston. I’d like nothing more than for all this to have been unnecessary. I’ll be more than happy to have been proven a fraidycat. (More on that subject in the next post.)

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  1. Rich says:

    Forget ‘fraidycat. You have a baby (well, 2-year old) and a dog. Just try and think of it as an “adventure”.

    I’ve been through some stuff – didn’t make it through a hurricane, like Fischer, but did sit through TS Allison, which dumped so much water in Houston that on my drive home from Compaq on (shepherd?) the water was up to the door handles on the truck.

    Things that are OK as a single guy become foolhardy as a husband/father since your responsibility is no longer to yourself.

    I’m glad y’all are ok, and I also hope that it wasn’t necessary for everyone who is sticking around.

  2. The eighteen hour trip

    The eighteen hour trip

  3. B. K. Oxley (binkley) says:

    Glad to hear you guys are safe. Rebecca and I took 21 hours to get to San Marcos after initially trying for San Antonio and bailing out in Luling. 2 of those hours were waiting in Luling to refill at the first station with gas the whole trip. I never realized that $3 gas looked so good.