While U.S. Highway 290 actually extends to west of Fredericksburg, we won't be covering that. After all, if you keep following west, you'll have to take an exit at Brenham to continue west. The road will go north as Texas 36, including the terminus of FM 60 (University Drive). There are actually five distinct segments of U.S. Highway 290 between its two access points off of either end of I-10 (which itself is a different distinct segment).
Our story actually is between Hempstead and Houston. As a younger person, going to Houston was somewhat of an adventure. Rarely did we actually stop in Houston (mostly a pass-through en route to Galveston) but Houston represented more than that. While Florida (see my other blog for a reference to that) and Louisiana were more exotic in their own ways , Houston was more of a superior example of what my town could be, with pretty much everything that College Station/Bryan had but much much more. Every type of store and fast food restaurant could be found there, there was more trees, skyscrapers, and generally what my town could aspire to be. My mother, of course, was horrified at these prospects, and frankly, with the historical high crime and pollution (as well as the ever-present contemporary problem of traffic, something that BCS would gain soon enough), she had a point.
Getting to 290 was the first part of the journey, and required a 35 mile trek through predominantly rural highway. And then we would see it...a ramp, jutting three full levels up into the air and curving the entire way into 290 East. Today, they have little dividers to mark the ramp (those didn't appear until some point after spring 2008 but not much longer afterward). Symbolizing this great change from the rural Highway 6 to the wide, smooth environs of Highway 290 was the massive Lawrence Marshall Hempstead car dealership. "We clobber big city prices!", they bragged, advertising to Houston and College Station while giving the Hempstead economy a big boost. Well, that didn't work out when the auto industry imploded. LMH closed in February 2009 and over the next several years, I would watch sadly as the place started to deteriorate, as the banners of the auto makers faded and eventually fell off (you can see them with the slider feature on Google Maps Street View). There was also a large electronic sign to be seen as one accelerated onto the highway. As of August 2016, there is now BARRY Fleet Services taking up part of the Highway 6 side of the vast complex.
Still, you could see a large McDonald's/Exxon sign in the distance, and the adventure began...
Next Exit: FM 1488 (or scroll down)
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