Friday, May 22, 2009

Travelog Day 3; The Dead Zone

During the night a very strong line of thunderstorms came through. The lightning flashed almost continuously, like a strobe light.
The Ranger came through the camp ground warning everyone that we were under a tornado watch.
I tried not to think about a tornado coming near the van. My recent dream about it was graphic enough.

The rain was loud on the van's metal roof. At one point it hailed.
I sat up for a while watching the weather, then finally fell asleep sometime after midnight when it calmed down a bit.

With the odometer at 146749, I left camp in a light rain, and forgot my stone knife on the picnic table. :( Oh well.
I drove through several lines of thunderstorms as I continued west. The rain was so heavy at times people pulled over onto the shoulder of the freeway to wait it out.
I plowed on at 35 mph.

I stopped to use a pay phone to check in with my 'safety net'. I hadn't had cell phone service since before camping at the river. I had to check in at least every other day. If two full days went by, somebody would start looking for me.

Eventually I passed through all the storms. They were headed east, while I was headed west. As the sun came out the land changed again.

Nothing much grows in west Texas. It is very dry. Scrubby tumbleweeds, the occasional chapparal or sagebrush; even the prickly pears didn't seem to like this area much.

This is when you start to realize exactly how big Texas is.
Nothing for miles.
Not a town.
Not a phone.
Not even an edible plant.
And no cell service.

This is why I brought 15 gallons of water with me.
If I broke down or got stranded out here, it could be bad.

I tried really hard not to think about that.
I just drove.

About 40 miles away from El Paso, I got cell service again.
The amount of relief I felt from knowing I could contact civilization shocked me a little.
Have I become that dependent on this technology?

Maybe I would just make different choices if the technology wasn't available.
Like choosing NOT to travel by myself through the most godforsaken stretch of desert I've seen since I'd visited Nevada.

The sun was low in the sky as I crossed into New Mexico.
I stopped at the rest area that serves as the New Mexico welcome center.

As rest areas go, this one was excellent.
It was set above and well back from the freeway, so noise was limited.
It had beautiful desert landscaping; blooming ocotillo cactus, false bird of paradise, several varieties of yucca, and a few plants or cactus I didn't know names for.

Ocotillo cactus

The area was surrounded by smallish mountains that loomed in the distance, and the setting sun lit them with shades of gold, orange and purple.

I put Bob cat on his harness and let him explore a bit. He drug me through some cactus before getting freaked out and hopping back into the safety of the van.

With the odometer at 147009 and relieved to be through Texas, I went to bed early, and the van and I got some much needed rest.


  1. Yeah, that country west of Kerrville to El Paso, sure does get lonesome. But compared to U.S. 90 going from Del Rio to Van Horn, looks positively thriving.

    Went to El Paso two Christmas ago, I went to that very stop you have pictures of.

    Bummer about the stone knife, but you can make another one, right? Good practice.

  2. Glad to see the travels are going good so far...

    West Texas is a different place, for sure! That's where my land is. Just around Terlingua, not far from the Big Bend area...beautiful!

    Travel safely, my friend!