Monday, June 21, 1993...

Drove from Jackson to Ft. Worth, mostly through heavy rain. The worst came in western Louisiana, where I was almost forced to pull off the road for a bit; for the next three hours I drove past flooded creeks and through puddles on the side -- and occasionally the middle -- of the road. But even in better weather, I wouldn't have had much reason to stop in Louisiana, home to some of the worst poverty I've ever driven through.

I crossed the Mississippi at Vicksburg on the old US 80 bridge: a real throwback to the old days, a two-lane bridge only 18' wide that also carries railroad tracks! 80's recently been re-routed around downtown Vicksburg, which might've been worth a brief drive-through if the weather had been better. The eastern-Louisiana segment was benefitted by the Interstate mostly because it keeps outsiders from seeing just how bad things are. From Minden to Shreveport, US 80's a four-lane, divided highway paralleling the Interstate...a change from Mississippi, which never bypasses anything. Shreveport marked the regional dividing line between East and West. An oil town, it's much more in tune with Texas than to the rural agriculture of the east-Louisiana delta. And once in Texas, there was no doubt I was in the West.

Salt Palace, Grand Saline, TX

Stopped in Grand Saline, TX to photograph the Salt Palace - no, not the Texan answer to South Dakota's Corn Palace, but a soluble structure topped by an insoluble protruding roof to prevent melting. The interior displays dozens of salt-related items, from mining equipment to table shakers. Grand Saline sits atop a vast salt dome, containing enough sodium to double the world's blood pressure for the next thousand years. Then continued on to Dallas-Fort Worth. US 80, which once ran clear to San Diego, now officially ends just east of Dallas; for the rest of its path to the Pacific its Interstate numbers gradually shrink: I-30 to I-20 to I-10 to I-8.

In Dallas, I stopped to survey the site of President Kennedy's assassination. The Texas School Book Depository's display -- known as "The Sixth Floor" -- was closed for the day when I arrived, but there was extensive signage on the street and no shortage of people inspecting the area. Someone standing where Oswald did would've had a clean shot at Kennedy as his car approached an underpass; moreover, the terrain has some of the worst acoustics imaginable (a concrete underpass, built-up shoulders on both sides, buildings of various sizes and consistencies everywhere else), so anyone claiming to have heard the shot coming from anywhere else has to be taken with a large grain of salt. (Grand Saline salt, preferably.)

Winner of the Least Appetizing Connotations prize, Grand Prairie, TX

On the west side of Dallas, US 80 branches off from the Interstate again as SR 180, passing through Grand Prairie and Arlington on its way into Fort Worth. This stretch is mostly rundown-commercial, with many of the motels offering weekly rates for transients; the newer stuff, like Six Flags, was built a mile or two north along the parallel Interstate. Out of Fort Worth, the road's schizophrenic: the Bankhead Highway on Rand McNally's map, Route 80 on the street signs, and SR 580. The map on the desk of the motel where I stayed still showed it as US 80 as of 1989 -- it must've been decommissioned at the same time as the stretch in southeastern Arizona.

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