Aging Has Its Perks


Age has its perks. It is not always fun along the way, but it does have its benefits.

For a number of years I took my mother to Nashville on her birthday. She was a huge country music fan and so each year we flew out for a show at the Grand Ole Opry and a weekend at the Opryland Hotel. With each year that went by, I noticed she received more royal treatment than the year before. As age took over, she used a walker to maneuver around and the Opry officials would allow our driver to deliver us to the back door of the Opry, where all the celebrities entered.

Mom met many performers walking through the backstage entrance. She easily struck up a conversation with many country music stars. I remember thinking how my mom’s age really benefitted me since I was also able to meet and greet backstage. I was on the receiving end of the perks of her old age.

That story does not have anything to do with TxDOT or building roads except that along with the perks comes a little inconvenience. For instance, the year we sat on the runway tarmac for five hours in a Boeing 747 waiting out a torrential rain event and, as the pilot called it, a “window of opportunity” to land in Houston.
TxDOT is also celebrating a birthday this year. As this agency marks its 100th year, we know that we did not get here without a little inconvenience in the way of construction and delays. However, the public is on the receiving end of the perks in the way of modern, safe highways.

The Lufkin District will be commemorating the TxDOT Centennial in Nacogdoches at 2 pm on Feb. 28. It is fitting that we celebrate the event in the oldest town in Texas. We plan to be on the brick streets of the 300-year-old town with a 27-foot restored TxDOT Liberty Truck. There will be displays of how our agency has grown over the past century and some great speakers on hand to mark the event. You will hear more about it in coming weeks, but I encourage all of you to come enjoy and reflect on our history.

TxDOT has gotten better with age and we are proud of where we have come from. These East Texas roads have carried everything from horses and buggies to mule carts loaded with produce; and Model T’s driven by proud owners on dirt roads to modern-day Interstates and vehicles that drive themselves. The convenient fly-overs and modern divided US highways cut a path through these dense Pineywoods and we are excited as we upgrade them to prepare for an Interstate 69 that will travel through five of the nine counties in the Lufkin District.

These roads have led many to safety as they fled a threatening hurricane or flooding. They have served as a smooth ride for many an expectant father rushing his wife to a hospital for the birth of a new baby. They have provided a way for soldiers to return home to their loved ones and a safe means for bus travel, delivering thousands of schoolchildren each year. They have provided a dependable way to get a nervous groom to the church on time and a solid direction to get to the home of loved ones for the holidays.

These familiar East Texas roads are where many of us learned to drive a car. Today, we continue to trust them to help get us to our jobs each morning even though traffic is congested and we experience lane closures and construction.

For many of us who have spent a lifetime in East Texas, these roads have provided a smooth single lane of travel for a grieving family as a funeral procession slowly moved our loved ones to their final resting places.

I invite you to help us celebrate our birthday and tell us what you think about the progress of roadways through East Texas. We hope to continue building roads for many years to come. We love watching the future unfold while enhancing a safe journey for you. We hope you enjoy the benefits of our old age.

Rhonda Oaks
Rhonda Oaks is the Public Information Officer for the nine-county Lufkin District of the Texas Department of Transportation. A Lufkin native, she is a graduate of Hudson High School and Angelina College. She has a background in print journalism and worked for many years as a newspaper reporter and a freelance writer. She has received eight Associated Press awards. Her articles have been published in many publications over the past 25 years.

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