In the last past decade, I've been more tuned into my route to Houston from 290, and have come to recognize things along the way (a friend of mine recently fell prey to the fancy-looking entrance to Prairie View as a sign of getting closer), but things have sure changed in the last 10 years. I remember going down the stretch of 290 outside of Fairfield returning home from a school field trip, desperately regretting not going to the restroom before leaving (I managed to make it in time). At the time, the road was a divided four lane highway with a few exurban subdivisions but not much beyond that. Then it became a divided highway, and now there's a giant interchange there that's not even complete. The subdivision has grown, there's a huge new H-E-B, a huge new-ish outlet mall, and restaurants continuing to build. And that's not even the part that depresses me. Things that I had come to recognize: super-high fast food signs at Beltway 8 and 290, holding a Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Wendy's, the same stuff I can get at home, but so much cooler because of where they were. And there was some stuff that wasn't that I came to recognize anyway, like a rice milling facility, a sign manufacturer (a deteriorating McDonald's sign can be seen outside, I've known it for the last past six years), and much, much more. Too bad most of that is coming down for a highway expansion, and it will never be the same again. There used to be a large car dealership in Hempstead, Lawrence Marshall Hempstead, which featured billboards (in the car lot) displaying six brands of cars they sold (Chevrolet, Hyundai, etc.)
Over the years since it closed 5 years ago, I've seen the fabric on the signs fade and fall off. It's depressing, because at one point in the not-too-distant past, every trip had a sort of mystique to it. Despite the somewhat grimy appearance of the continuing inner trip, it really felt like you were going somewhere cool. Heck, looking at the list I created in response to this change that I've posted recently, just hearing something like this while looking at those high-mast fast food signs brings something back.
It's a rather strange situation, since the times when I felt best about these things weren't the best of times. 2008 was not a great year by any means, but because of the trips I took to Houston (and Galveston) masks that. Remember when I admitted that I tended to look back fondly on my high school years, even when the actual evidence suggests that I'm lying myself and scrubbing out some key portions? Stuff like that, for sure.