Since starting my research for West Texas Interlude in earnest, I’ve had to think of some creative ways to start piecing together a timeline of my grandparents’ life in the 1950s so I can plan the itinerary for the road trip portion of the project. I’ve gone through the hundreds of slides, only a portion of which have notes with them so far, and plotted out locations and years based on the number of candles on birthday cakes for my dad and his siblings. I’ll work more on the timeline and maps with my grandmother when I go to Texas in a couple of weeks, but it’s been fun to get started with this part of it.
To further my excitement, I found a couple of Texas road maps from 1954 on eBay for super cheap. I love that one of them is from Conoco (my grandfather’s employer at that time) and has a family standing in front of a 1950s model car — it perfectly captures the essence of this book I’m working on and its journey.
I can’t wait to sit down and pore over the maps and think through the differences between then and now when driving across Texas. One major difference is that I-20 from Fort Worth to El Paso was not in existence when my family lived out in far West Texas — the 1954 map shows the route they would have taken along Highway 80 to get from home to work. How cool that on this upcoming road trip I can look at the same type of map my grandfather might have used, rather than trying to guess at the old roads using my current atlas or GPS.
I guess I had that old map in mind when I went to the book sale at the Kennewick library this weekend — I came home with a book of sketches and trip notes from 1971, Back Roads of California. Later in the day I commented to a friend that I bought the book because it is “inspirational,” garnering a puzzled look and a question from her. Yes, old 1950s road maps and sketches from back road journeys in the 70s are inspirational. So many places left to see, so many roads left to travel. Sketches and trip notes have the potential to send me into a daydream lasting an entire afternoon, the outcome of which might shape the next spontaneous two weeks worth of travel. You never know.