Notes from An American Road Trip: Out of Gas in Texas

Tripping Content Manager Katy Birnbaum is currently on a 2 month road trip across the country, and we will be getting dispatches from her as she makes her journey. Click here to read all of them!


On a 10,000 mile road trip, you are bound to run out of gas at least once, right? Well, here is my tale of misfortune that really wasn't that unfortunate... So yes, Texas is big--very big. Driving from New Orleans, Louisiana to Austin, Texas I was able to see the greener, rolling hills of Southeastern Texas on my way in--much more lush and beautiful than any storyteller lets on when talking about their drive through the monstrously large state. pagebreak During my mid-week stay in Austin, I attended two movies at the fabulous Alamo Draft House franchise, which features a full menu, beer, and wine with first-run movies. Not only do the tickets cost the same amount as a regular theater, the food and drinks also cost about the same amount as a regular restaurant, officially making it my favorite movie theater ever. Unfortunately, they have not franchised out to San Francisco, but I am crossing my fingers.Also, I was able to pick up a pair of 1970's cowboy boots from one of the forty plus vintage stores in Austin, take in a concert at the Saxon Pub, eat gourmet farm to plate tapas from a trailer restaurant, gorge on decadent doughnuts with graham crackers, bananas, maple syrup, and pecans from another trailer restaurant in the same parking lot, and wander around the botanical gardens and Zilker Park as they were preparing for the pandemonium that is the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Leaving on Thursday morning, I was in mesa country to the west by late afternoon. The occasional abandoned looking town raced by every so often as butterflies floated helplessly across the highway. An hour outside the last recognizable city, I realized that the tank was close to the last quarter. Though not worried quite yet, I did begin to look diligently at every exit for any signs of a gas station. Exits onto country roads with no service signs stacked up as the gas needle dipped lower and lower. Finally, just before the light switched on, I saw the telltale pole of a gas station off the highway. Confused by the exit, I accidentally passed it and had to loop around, burning up precious fuel with every extra inch. The map indicated that there was an actual town closer than the gas that I had passed, so off to abandoned town #1 I went. No gas to be found. Back another six miles to the highway and the gas station I had passed. It was abandoned. Back onto the highway again headed west only to realize there was no gas for fifty miles. Turn around again to get back to the exit for Iraan, Texas, which is a good fifteen miles off the highway. Racing down the road to Iraan, I had a surge of confidence and exclaimed to my traveling companion, "We're going to make it!" About a minute later, the engine went silent as every red light on the dashboard burst on. We were out of gas. I slowly rolled the car onto the side of the road with the final putter of momentum. I picked up the phone, which delivered the last bit of the bad news--no reception. So now comes the waiting part... Five minutes later, an older gentlemen with two very adorable puppies in the back of his pickup truck pulled over and offered to take one of us back to town to get gas. My travel companion hopped in while I waited with the car. I took the time to poke around the bushes on the side of the road and for dead butterflies--I know, a little morbid sounding, but they were beautiful. During the half an hour they were gone, about five other people pulled over to ask if I needed help. Apparently we had run out of gas in one of the kindest communities hidden away in the sprawling desert of West Texas. When they got back, I had a ten minutes of puppy play time while they managed to get the gas into the tank. And then off we went into the dusk, somehow feeling better off having run out of gas in the middle of nowhere Texas. -Katy