Okay, okay. I’ve been procrastinating for a while now, I know. I haven’t felt like writing this. Probably because I’m sick and tired of remembering it. But I’ll give it my best shot.
We left Grandma’s house in the morning, filled with a delicious breakfast and supplied with plenty of homemade cinnamon rolls. We headed west.
Texas is a big place. We camped that evening at Balmorhea State Park, a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert. Near our campsite was a crystal-clear creek chock-full of fish and huge red-eared turtles. After observing them for a bit, we went for a swim in the “pool”, which was really more of a man-made lake (it had fish in it too). The air was so dry that when I got out of the pool, all I had to do was sit there for two minutes and I was no longer wet. I’m not exaggerating here. It was cool.
That night, we fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the campers next to us watching Terminator 3 and hooting loudly whenever Arnold did something cool. Loren hadn’t seen it before, so I tried to narrate what was happening based on the audio, but that got real old after a while. Somehow, we eventually slept.
Morning came again, and once again we headed west. Briefly. A few miles from the park, we realized we desperately needed gas, and we weren’t seeing anything resembling a gas station. We turned back and scouted the tiny town near the park. There was one gas station, named something like “Paco’s Gas ‘n’ Feed” or “Jim-Bob’s Fuel ‘n’ Grub” or something. They only sold 87-octane gas. The WRX can get by on 87, but it really needs 91 at a minimum if you want it to run efficiently. We bought half a tank of 87 and headed for the next town.
The next town did indeed have a gas station with 91-octane gas…but it was closed and abandoned. Ditto with the town after that. Finally, after finding several eerily abandoned gas stations, we found one the was open and filled the tank.
Carlsbad Caverns. Fun place. I bought myself a badass hat at the gift shop (you can see me wearing it in the video), then we spent three hours or so walking every single trail in the caves. I had been to Carlsbad as a kid, and I even recognized a few things (the bottomless pit is forever seared into my memory…I seem to remember someone threatening to throw me over the edge…). The caves explored, we hit the road once more.
Our campsite that night was a state park somewhere outside Las Cruces, in the middle of the scrubby New Mexico desert. While setting up the tent, Loren and I noticed these little holes in the ground all over the place. At first I thought they might be ant lions, but there weren’t really enough ants to justify so many of them. Then, we saw a largish flying insect dart into one of the holes. Bees or wasps of some kind.
Since these holes were everywhere, we had no choice but to cover some of them with the tent. I hoped it wouldn’t prove fatal. As it turns out, we were fine, although I did hear frantic scritching noises at various points during the night.
Morning arrived yet again, and we trudged onward. By this point, nobody was really having much fun. Anna in particular was not really happy at all. Too much driving and not enough going to churches and bars is how she put it (although not quite in those words). I’m sure that made sense in her head, but it left me puzzled and it put Loren in a weird place, being her boyfriend and all. And she wanted to go to Santa Barbara to visit her parents.
This just wasn’t going to happen. So she decided we would drop her off at a Greyhound station in Tucson and she’d catch a bus to Santa Barbara.
We dropped Anna off at a Greyhound station in Tucson and she caught a bus to Santa Barbara.
Loren and I then proceeded to get ourselves lost in the middle of the desert. Luckily, the GPS knew where we were, and the computer was able to plot us an escape route. Oddly, however, it had us driving through unnamed, unpaved, virtually untouched-by-man desert back roads for a good hour. Since these roads, nay, trails weren’t named, we had to rely on the GPS to tell us when to turn. If anyone had been there to see us, it would have been quite a sight: Loren driving determinedly onward while I held the GPS out the window and consulted the computer on my lap, huge plumes of dust billowing up behind us and saguaro cactus everywhere the eye could see. Thank god we were in a rally car.
As usual, things eventually worked themselves out and we made it to the campsite at Alamo Lake State Park.
The next morning was a slightly different story. The computer’s recommended course had a variety of problems. It seems that most of the roads the computer thinks exist in the park don’t actually exist. We drove up and down steep hills, through ditches, between trees, over rocks…but we never found our road. Once again I was grateful for the WRX; short of an SUV, no other car would have been able to go where we went and come back.
We finally just backtracked to the highway we wanted and headed west once more.
California sucks. We were there. Then we left.
Hooray for Oregon! After camping in California, Loren and I did a marathon 14 or 15 hour drive back to Portland. We really wanted to be home. And we made it. Thank God.