The old cliché is true when it comes to road trips: Half the fun is getting there. Sure, driving hours on end can be tedious, a chore sometimes regretted when it’s already too late to turn back. But more often than not, traveling the highways and byways offers great possibilities for discovery.
I can stop when and where I wish, never worrying about missing something that caught my eye, and the adventure unfolds so easily because I have no schedule, no rigid agenda, nobody to answer to.
So last month as I drove toward the southernmost part of Texas (on the same weekend I saw the ocelot), I found myself on some obscure two-lane thoroughfare leading through beautiful hills and plateaus. About three hours of sitting in the car demanded I pause to stretch my legs. So I pulled off onto the shoulder and slowed to a stop.
Unintentionally I found myself beside one of those jumbles of equipment used in the natural gas business. Not wholly uncommon in Texas, these roadside menageries of metal tanks and cogs and pipes usually pop up once in a while along non-major roadways. (For example, there’s one on the tiny rural route that leads to the family farm in East Texas.)
I was casually aware of the structure as I slipped the car into park. The whole eyesore stood surrounded by chain-link fence, a sort of parenthetical notation on the side of the road.
Before I could get out of the car, though, movement near the fence caught my eye. I glanced out the passenger window and saw this:
A greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). The little devil was hunting along the metal barricade. And it was quite active.
So I rolled down the passenger window, put the car in drive and slowly followed the bird as it scurried along.
Sure, I hate that the fence was in the way, but it was fun to be a stone’s throw from the bird without it worrying about me. (Had I gotten out of the car, that situation would have changed.)
I can’t imagine the fence was more than about 30 feet/10 meters long. The bird was covering that distance quickly, dashing forward in fits and starts, stopping to investigate things in the grass, running ahead several steps at a time.
Once both of us reached the corner, the roadrunner turned right and continued its hunt along the side of the fence stretching away from me.
I watched it a few minutes before driving ahead far enough to give the bird some comfort. Only then did I finally get out and stretch my legs.