‘HDP’ syndrome keeps traveler from goal

Mike Brown

Somewhere in one of my desk drawers, or behind a book on a shelf at home, or lost down my black hole of a bedroom closet is a road map of Texas.

It’s just one of those nice, big fold- up maps that the Texas Department of Transportation gives out, except this one has yellow highlighter on it.

A lot of yellow highlighter.

I once thought that at some time during the course of my life I would visit all of Texas’s 254 counties. And I started marking them off.

I think I’m up close to about 200, but it’s been years since I marked off a county. There are a lot of reasons for that but really only one supreme reason.

We live in a biiiiiiiig state!

I keep traveling over the same counties again and again. Every once in a while I actually have deviated from a planned route just to say “I’ve now been to Loving County!” Except Loving remains one of the 50 or so counties I haven’t visited. Do you know where Loving County is? I’d tell you but you can’t get there from here. You’ve got to go somewhere else, then you can go to Loving County.

Loving is the least populated county in the United States. Its 2010 population was 82. It has no incorporated municipalities and only one community, Mentone.

The rumor that Mentone used to have a suburb named Womentone, that I just started, is untrue and silly.

Back in the 1970s I saw a story about Loving County which consisted entirely of an interview with one man.

He was Loving County’s sheriff, postmaster and pastor of its Baptist Church. I’m not making this up.

Also in the 70s I remember getting a press release about Loving County officials applying for a grant to install an automatic flag raising and lowering machine at the courthouse.

The reason? There are so few people in the county, and such little reason for county government, it didn’t make sense to hire someone whose sole duty would be to come to the courthouse twice a day to raise and lower the flag.

Now, I can name people who would be glad to have a job like that.

Actually, I can name people in my family who would be glad to have a job like that.

I’ve been to every county that surrounds Loving, namely Reeves, Ward and Winkler. I’ve been close to the Loving County line several times, but never crossed it. US 285, between Pecos and Carlsbad, NM, hits an intersection with Texas 302 that must be all of five miles from the county line.

Yet I’ve never taken it. And it’s easy to explain why. The handful of times I’ve been by that intersection I’ve either been starting or finishing a 550-mile driving day.

I either want to get to my destination and rest or think I can’t spare the time at the start of a long driving day.

At least that’s what I tell myself. But it’s probably just HDP syndrome.

Do you know what HDP syndrome is? Stands for Highway Driving Patterns. Our transportation patterns are based on where we live and where we go. We carry around little Mapquests in our brains and we’re not inclined to change the program.

Here’s an example. Texas 36 between Milano and Cameron.

I’ve lived in Rockdale most of my life and I haven’t driven that stretch of road more than six times, I’ll bet.

Now I’ve been to Cameron a bazillion times and to Milano a bazillion and three times but, from Rockdale, we don’t drive through Milano to get to Cameron. And vice versa.

In physics there’s a law called inertia. It means the tendency of objects in motion to stay in motion or objects at rest to stay at rest. Like me on my couch in the sixth inning of a ball game.

I suspect that’s really why I haven’t gotten to Loving and Nacogdoches and Sulphur Springs and Clarksville and Spearman and all those other places in those 50 counties.

I suppose I’ll get to all of them one day.

But I probably shou ld go through Milano and Cameron first.

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2011-09-22 digital edition

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