We just completed a three-day, 1,000 mile drive between campgrounds. On Saturday, we left the hugeness of Texas behind after our longest day of driving – 380 miles across a yawning stretch of country. West Texas is a seamless stream of changing landscape that morphs from limestone, scrub oaks, and sandstone; wide and shallow rivers and ghostly versions of both; juniper and mesquite.
Dotting the unpopulated land were random oil wells, natural gas farms and the servicing centers needed to transport both. It’s a landscape where the sky reaches down and wraps itself around the earth and freight trains reach improbable lengths as they crawl steadily along straight paths, mostly parallel to Interstate 10. Our stops took us to little cafes and truck stops where burritos and coffee are the most popular menu items.
On day two, the most sobering part of the trip came as we passed through the sprawling city of El Paso with a population of 850,000. It sits right on the border with Mexico and the tiny ribbon of the Rio Grande River marks the huge divide. The Interstate was bulging with traffic on a sunny and hot afternoon. Construction vehicles would narrow lanes and switch traffic patterns without notice. Aggressive drivers would pass us on the left and the right. But the most sobering site was the view of the Rio Grande, in a canyon below, with the fence that now snakes along its border. We could see it running along the local streets, the service roads, over the tops of the mesas, and dipping into arroyos. The literal wall separating two countries. Such a simple gesture but filled with such significance.
Just north of El Paso, Texas we entered New Mexico and pinon started to appear, and then the encyclopedic range of cactus – ocotillo, prickly pear, barrel, agave, many of them in bloom. The elevation is 4,500’, the air is dry and the sun intense. We passed acres and acres of pecan orchards. We passed huge feedlots for dairy cows. Peter estimated we saw 50,000 cows in about a dozen lots – sheds of hay. This is a huge place.
Today, on day three, we crossed into Arizona. Earlier, we went through a border patrol check point outside of Las Cruces. The most memorial question of the day came after an apparent malfunction of the handheld screening device that the officer held up to our car which led him to ask, “Have either of you recently been injected with radioactive materials like those used in medical diagnostic procedures?” Hmmm…
The highway signs here warn of dust storms, dangerous cross winds and extreme conditions for brushfires. One time, years ago, we got caught in a sandstorm just outside of Tucson and the grit blew right into the car, the visibility was zero, and crazed tumbleweeds burst out of the sand like madmen. The desert is a fierce place.
And right now, it is in bloom. There are huge swatches of bright yellow and orange Mexican poppies (shown here). Evening Primrose and some kind of tiny white asters are tossing their little faces into the sun. It is an awesome sight. Off to our next campground in Patagonia, Arizona so we’ll be in touch soon.