Freeway Free in Texas: On the way to the Back of Beyond
OK, I’m cheating a little. We actually spent quite a bit of time on the freeway on our way to the Big Bend area of west Texas – there is no other way to get there.
W picked me up at the Austin airport in a giant white 4-door truck which we have christened Moby Dick. It has mirrors that can fold in electrically so you can squeeze through narrow spots, and a backup camera, and a hands free phone, and a beeper in front and in back if you are about to hit something. You can adjust the seat back and forth and up and down and the brake pedal and accelerator also up and down. It took W awhile to figure out how to turn on the windshield wipers without turning open the windshield washer, and there are a few more bills and whistles we probably didn’t notice. And most importantly, it has four-wheel drive and rides high off the ground. (This last is a bit of a challenge to W and me, who are both on the short side. We have learned to vault up to our seats with the help of a grip on the window frame, and slither down to the ground carefully to avoid jolts to our knees on descending.) Moby Dick seems very out of place driving through the well-manicured Austin suburbs; we might as well be driving a Sherman tank.
So off we go out of Austin and past places that we have visited before, into the unknown spaces of the Big Bend country of southwest Texas. We move out of the area where bluebonnets and scarlet paintbrush are blooming and into an area where odd geological formations punctuate the skyline like very broad pencils with sharp tips. Scattered yuccas bloom like pale torches among the scrubby bushes. The occasional farm augments its income with pumpjacks in the valleys and windmills on the ridges, hedging its bets between the old energy and the new.
Knowing that our access to fast food restaurants will be scarce, we stock up at a Lowes market in Ft. Stockton on raw veggies, hummus, oranges, pears, grapes, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, tuna fish, sardines, and crackers – good for several breakfasts and dinners, we hope.
And finally we abandon the cheery red line on our Texas map, and head south on the black lines. Our first stop will be at an amazing oasis in the Back of Beyond, so stay tuned!