Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Monday, March 29, 2010

Big Bend Country, New Mexico, Arriving Phoenix

I finally got on my way a little after noon Headed for El Paso – about 450 miles

Friday morning, I’m up bright and early, well, actually, neither bright nor early
I took til nearly noon just to dry out the tent and fly.

We’re still in the Hill country, low rolling hills, scrub oak, just the bare beginning of “Green-up”
New grass just starting to poke through. But I will say that this morning when I woke up at the campground, there was a sprinkling of beautiful little yellow flowers across the hill where my tent was pitched. They were actually very short stemmed, but the blossom was about the size of a silver dollar.

This part of the country is the beginning of the Chisholm trail, they would gather cattle from all over, then drive them up to Kansas, and looking at this scrub oak, it couldn’t have been an easy job.

As I’m headed through this hilly country on a little 2 lane road, headed for Hwy 10, we are now entering mesquite country. We still have the live oak, but they are getting fewer as the mesquite takes over. Very rocky soil and trees as far as I can see. This is so cool, the way the topography changes. This is lonely country – I’ve only seen 1 other car along this route.

I’m approaching Hwy 10, and I’m going to stop at the first rest-stop and rest. I’m tired. I’d like to get another 200 miles today – maybe, maybe not.

The speed limit in this part of Texas is 80 mph. It’s still 200 miles to Ft. Stockton. I’m hoping I can make it that far today, and be able to find a campsite tonite.

I-10 is a 4 lane divided highway headed due west across Texas – as far as the eye can see. Trees, all the highway cuts show limestone below the soil, so this is really poor soil, and rocky.

I’ve finally left the hill country behind, and I’m in Big Bend country, which is high plains, lots of low shrubs, and just goes on forever. There are plateaus - flat topped hills, but not as flat as the buttes in Montana.

Here, spreading from horizon to horizon on the ridge line, is the first wind farm I’ve seen on American soil. The only other windfarms I’ve seen were in Spain. This one is huge!!!

OK – tip to the travelers! For anyone travelling in West Texas, do not have a Big Gulp with your meals. The rest stops are 80 – 90 miles apart, and the towns are not much more frequent than that.

OK, now I am seeing some sagebrush, and more and more desert hills.

Hark! I hear a lonesome whistle blow as a freight train chugs across the plain.
I just keep peddling, and peddling, and peddling some more, but I can’t seem to get out of Texas!!! This is real “cowboy and Indian” country – when I passed a picnic area, the shade awning over the tables were Tipi shaped.

I finally made it to Ft. Stockton – Put up the tent in gusty winds – what fun! I crawled in, went to sleep, and woke up about midnite with a flat air-mattress. Luckily the pump was inside the tent, and I remedied that problem, only to be kept awake for hours by the gusting wind and flapping fly.

Saturday a.m. Everything was dry so I was able to pack up relatively quickly, then went to the laundry room to get on line and re-stock my cellphone minutes. I made a call to my niece in Phoenix, then got the battery low signal. So, now I had about 10 hours of calling time, but still couldn’t call anyone.

I kept peddling as fast as I could, finally made it to El Paso, and crossed into New Mexico. Two days ago – in Texas, I paid $2.57 for gas, today, in New Mexico, I’m paying $3.30. I also noticed billboards for the first time in several days, and realized I hadn’t noticed them so much in Texas – perhaps leading into towns – smaller signs for sites and attractions, but not a couple dozen huge billboards in a row, blotting out the countryside. Ugly, Ugly, Ugly.

Spring is a little slow here in New Mexico. I’ve just passed several orchards, and nothing is even starting to bud. And I don’t see, really, much green anywhere.

The area is beautiful, with the exception of the billboards. Absolutely flat, ringed by dark mountains, starting to turn blue as the sun goes down. They have no trees on them, just scrub and rock.

I’m also driving through areas with dust storm warnings. Lets hope we don’t have one.

I started looking for a campground in Deming, NM – One didn’t have tent sites, the other was on the main street of the town, and the tent site was between the old truck with flat tires, and a rusted out washing machine. I demurred and drove on, but not before I noticed my tire was low, and I put some air in it.

I finally found a KOA in Lordsburg NM – It was nearly dark, my back hurt, so I was an easy sell for a cabin. All I had to do was haul in my blankets and computer. With power, and internet, I charged my cell phone and my computer. I even watched a TV show – an old Highlander episode.

When I woke up, I had a flat tire. Thank goodness for AAA. However, he was so far away from Lordsburg, it took a little over 2 hours to get to me. He didn’t have capability to fix tire – looks like it’s the valve stem – so I had to unload half the car to get to the spare. Thank you Brian, for that tire. I am ever so grateful to have it!!! (It was a gift from my mechanic as his contribution to my trip)

While I was waiting for the tow truck, I walked over to talk with a couple at another site. They were from Oregon, headed to Texas. The two of them on a Harley, pulling a little pop-up trailer. It would be perfect to pull with Madame – couldn’t be lived in – but great for camping and travelling – basically a tent with 2 beds. But at least I wouldn’t be sleeping on the ground.

When the tow truck finally arrived, and changed my tire, I asked if I could take his photo – cause he was “carrying”. He said that one time recently he was called out in the desert to tow out a car stuck in the sand. When he crawled under the car to hook it up, he came eye to eye to a rattlesnake. He started rolling out from under the car, and the snake crawled after him. Every time he stopped to try to get on his feet, the snake struck at him. Finally he managed to get up and emptied the entire clip at the snake. Now he loads with buckshot!

Yep, I’m definitely in the West.

Once on the road, I was only about 20 miles from the Arizona line. I’m starting to see Yucca plants and cacti along the road.

I just crossed the Continental Divide. Not like the Divide I know in Montana. We’re still on flat land, but at an elevation of over 4600. So, I guess it still makes a good watershed divide.

It was quite chilly last nite, and now I see why. In the distance, there are snow-capped mountains. I’m glad I decided to stay on the southern route, instead of going up to Hwy 40.

I’m starting to see wildflowers – drifts of yellow and orange along the roadway, and creeping up the sides of the hills. They are really pretty.

Here in Arizona, the topography has changed again. I’m in low hills, just jumbled with huge, huge boulders. I plan to come back out to this area from Phoenix – there are several places I’d like to stop, but I’ve got to get this tire fixed before I stray too far.

At Wilcox, I saw the first white stone “W” (initial of the town) on a hillside. Couldn’t get a photo cause it was too far away, and wouldn’t show up. I guess that is a western tradition – since I’ve not seen any in the East.

I’m beginning to see saquaro cactus, mostly on the south side of the highway, I saw a few barrel cactus, and a lot of prickly pear, so I’m in cactus country.

I arrived in Phoenix at 4 or 5 pm. I’m not sure, cause I set one clock to mountain time, but….. Phoenix is on Arizona time (no daylight savings time) And, of course Jack tried to take me through town instead of by the highway – but

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

PS - if you think I'm getting wordy, blame it on the tape recorder - I can remember more to write about!!! LOL

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