Evolution of the Island Road
You’ve heard of Route 66, the Spice Road, the Alcan Highway, the Natchez Trace, Great North Road and the Cooktown Highway? They are all world-famous roads with storied histories, famous in literature and lore.
Add the Island Road to this list in my book! Although I don’t commute along our historied highway like many do, I drive that road so frequently that it looms large in my lore. But how does one find adventure, variety, or things to look at along an 18-mile straight, flat road? (OK, 13 miles of dead straightness from the slight bend near the Beachwalks to Zahn Road).
When I started driving the Island Road in the mid 1970’s it was Park Road 53 with no shoulders and just about nothing to see along most of its length: There were no condos, no state park, no big power poles (except old wooden ones distant from the road), no big billboards (except several small ones offering land for sale). In fact there was “nothin’ to laff at at all”*
Being new to the area however, the Amoses marveled at the coastal prairie dunes, the green marshy flats near the end of the road, spoonbills and herons in the ditches, and at night we would do mental arithmetic to estimate how far away headlights of approaching cars were. Then, there was so much of nothing to see that car headlights were the only beacons in the dark driving the 18 miles.
Now, as I drive State Hwy. 361 on my way to get various beasts for the ARK (“masked booby, looking for masked booby, laughing gull, common loon, softshell turtle, dead masked booby” as recent entries in my truck log show), I still observe the dunes, the flats, and the occasional hawk, but also note construction of fences, new billboards, houses and condos, the ever-changing telephone and power line configuration and the ghastly patch of melted road that reminds me of how dangerous driving a long straight road can be.
I also note the price of gasoline and wonder how many of my fellow Port Aransans do what I did yesterday; I saw $2.79 and knew that in Aransas Pass it was $2.64, so I made an ill-advised detour to drive the other part of State Hwy. 361 with which I am very familiar with only “3 miles left to empty” showing on my dash. I made it without running out of fuel, and felt smugly satisfied – except it took a very hot hour to do and if I did the mental arithmetic this time, I would surely find out it was not an economical move.
My late brother Eric was an artist and cartoonist and this recently found example of his work illustrates our memories of an event that occurred when we were evacuated to Devon during the V-1 bombing of London. In the oneroom schoolhouse I got caned for doing something naughty and dust came out of my trousers with each blow of the cane. I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but next week I’ll start a series: “Three Very Naughty Things I did as a Young Child.”
*In “Albert and the Lion,” a poem by Marriott Edgar made famous by the great English humorist Stanley Holloway (I’m getting’ married in the mornin’ – My Fair Lady); a stanza goes like this:
They didn’t think much of the Ocean:
The waves was all fiddlin’ and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact nothing to Laugh at at all”
Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the ARK (Animal Rehabilitation Keep).