WEST OF BEAUMONT – Here it is, another green-and-white TxDOT road sign on I-10, but this one contains some shattering news. It advises newly arrived visitors: Beaumont 23, El Paso 857. And remember, this is several miles inside Texas. The sign must give cross-country motorists pause to realize they can drive hundreds of miles westward over several days and still be in Texas. Everyone knows that Texas is big, but how big? In size it is larger than any nation in Europe save Russia. You could put France in Texas and still have room for Louisiana in the Panhandle, which is not a bad idea. The Lone Star State is as large as New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina combined. Here are some more stats we should know: • El Paso is farther from Houston than it is from San Diego, Calif., Provo, Utah, Cheyenne, Wyo., McCook, Neb., Wichita, Kan. and Tulsa, Okla. • Amarillo is closer to Salt Lake City, Buffalo, Wyo., Pierre, South Dakota, Des Moines, Iowa, St. Louis, Mo. and Natchez, Miss. than it is to its fellow Texan, Brownsville. • If you put a hinge on the top of the Panhandle and flipped Texas over, Brownsville would be in Canada, but this would sure flatten Topeka. • Brownsville is nearer the northwest corner of Guatemala than it is to Dalhart. • Dalhart, in turn, is closer to six other state capitals than it is to Austin. • The Lone Star State is 790 miles long and 660 miles wide at its most distant points. (Remember that highway sign outside Beaumont gives the interstate mileage, and I-10 winds through San Antonio as though it was designed by a drunken Aggie or a sober Teasip.) • If you want to travel the distance of Texas’ borders, you will go 2,842.3 miles, or about the distance from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. Yes, the size of Texas is upon us. El Paso is so far west that it’s in a different time zone from the rest of the state. The geographic center of Texas is located in McCulloch County, 15 miles northeast of Brady. Texas covers 268,601 square miles, making it the second largest of the 50 states, just behind Alaska – until it melts. Our land area accounts for 261,914 square miles, while 6,687 square miles are covered by water, making Texas the ninth wettest state. The highest point in Texas is Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet above sea level. The lowest point in Texas is Waco on a Saturday night. No, actually the lowest is sea level where Texas meets the Gulf of Mexico. The mean elevation of the state is 1,700 feet above sea level. There have been days when TxDOT workers were cleaning snow off roads in the Panhandle and mowing grass in the Valley. Incidentally, the TxDOT people who make our highway signs must be very grateful that, when Texas joined the Union in 1845, we sold off the western third of our land to the federal government for $10 million. Otherwise, the highway signs west of Beaumont would read, Steamboat Springs 1,500. Back then, you really could ski Texas. Now let’s talk about counties. The average size of counties in a state is generally proportional to the size of the state. The one glaring exception is Texas. Instead of having a few, large counties, we have 254. For comparison, the next most county-rich state is Georgia at 159, and the average for U.S. states is 64. Our largest is Brewster County with 6,169 square miles, which could contain Rhode Island and Delaware – twice. Loving County has the smallest population of any county in the nation with 60 souls of all ages, which doesn’t explain how Billy Burt Hopper was elected sheriff in 2004 in a run-off, 51 to 38. Based on 2006 data, Loving County had a per capita income of $83,569, the highest of all United States counties. Oil and gas. As for our cities, the City of Houston lies in three counties and in size is big enough to hold the cities of New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Miami. Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, including our pollution. Texas emits the most greenhouse gases of any state. Our annual carbon dioxide emissions are nearly 1.5 trillion pounds. And, if Texas were an independent nation again, it would be the world’s seventh-largest producer of greenhouse gases. Then there are the cases when we are smaller. The state’s spending on the arts is less per capita than all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and Guam: 18 cents per Texan per year. Speaking of the arts, an indie movie, “Coyote Funeral,” is a drama by Houston natives Phelps Harmon and Jason May about two brothers who “take on every bull ride, barbecue and bar fight along the way” while on a 953-mile walking tour through the state. Good luck. There are, by one counting, 8,438 populated places in Texas, many more than in any other state, including California. Texas is also separated into 20 media markets, among the most of any state in the country, with the added necessity of buying advertisements in Oklahoma and Louisiana if you want to cover every corner of it. One little-noticed result of Tom DeLay’s gerrymandering is that our new Congressional districts wander all over the place, necessitating ads in several markets. Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco told a reporter that to reach all the voters in his long, irregularly shaped district, he would need to buy air time in five markets, and that didn’t include Dallas and Houston. You don’t waltz across Texas. You trek. Ashby treks at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..