|Tuesday Jan 24
We depart from the comfortable confines (and extremely economical rates) of Patty and Dan’s RV park to continue our journey west to Californ-I-A. We make it an easy day by only going about 271 miles or 4 ½ hours plus an hour for gas and eat stops.
West of the Pecos River, Texas starts to grow mountains—about 5,000- to 6,000-foot range and very pretty. I am surprised that they are so big but, then, what isn’t big in Texas? Of course they are not the Tetons or the Colorado Rockies, but still mountains. In fact, they actually are the Rockies, just the tail end.
We stop for lunch in a small, one-café town (Sanderson, Texas). Twenty years ago a 3,000 people-plus town until the railroad station closed down, now only 700 population. A story repeated time and again for many dying towns. Railroad lines (and now major highways) are lifeblood arteries that once gone, mean a slow death.
Our waitress tells us that she moved back here after living in Virginia. She likes the small class size—6--for her kindergarten-aged child. Six? I would worry that would be a bit too small for a well-rounded education, but I guess it didn’t bother the folks who moved west for the last 150 years for what Daniel Boone called more “elbow room.”
We rest our heads at Balmorhea State Park. Like Fort Clark Springs that we just left, Balmorehea is a spring oasis in the middle of miles and miles of a semi-arid desert of rock and dry brush—land that supports goats, cows, dying little towns and an RV park here and there.
This park has the biggest pool I’ve ever seen. Built in 1935, it holds 4.5 million gallons of spring water, changed every four days, with a constant spring water temp of 72-76. We are walking as the sun goes down and with air temps dipping into the 30s tonight, Rob and I decline the temptation to dip anything more than our pinkies.
The park ranger warned us it might snow overnight so when we wake to a no-show of snow, we think we escape the white scourge. We hadn’t even unhooked the Scamp from the car, so we are able to make an early getaway. Unfortunately, we hit “thick” rain that keeps getting thicker. By 9:30 we are traveling through a blizzard, wishing we could pack it up and send it north to our ski trail back home, which we hear has bald spots and as yet not skiable.
We keep pushing to El Paso, two hours away, where Rob reads that it’s sunny and will be 60. En route, we have a “small world” encounter. Rather than stop for gas in a town off the highway, we randomly pick a next-to-the highway gas station—the kind that sprout out of nowhere with signs almost as tall as the mountains.
As we pull up to the pumps, Rob says,”Hey, that car is from Wisconsin.” As we pull up a little closer, I see the driver. “They’re not only from Wisconsin, they are from Voyager—that’s Rod!”
Rod is a Voyager golf member and once a course ranger. They are on their way to Arizona. What are the odds we run into Rod in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard?!
By the time we reach El Paso, it is indeed sunny and 60 and we hope we don’t “enjoy” snow again in 2012 (or ever).
We enter the Mountain Time zone and like a present handed down from the gods, are given an extra hour. I ponder that we could theoretically delay our aging process if we keep going west forever and keep gaining hours. I’m not sure if Rob looks at me like I’m having a senior moment or if, after celebrating her 59th, she’s wondering if it might work to delay the next “big one”!
We reach our destination of Las Cruces, NM, where we will stay for two days. We are within walking distance of an historic old town of Mesilla, that once held Billy the Kid in its courthouse jail, but now caters to a more refined crowd with art, jewelry, souvenirs and eateries. We stop not for a shot of whiskey but a banana/mango smoothie. It seems both we and the West are not as wild as we used to be.
Near freezing temps at night, but sun and upper 60s during the day. The pipes don’t freeze, thankfully. We met people from Hayward who winter here. Rob and I both agree we have no buyer’s remorse with our Brownsville purchase where lows are in the 50s/60s and highs in the 70s/80s.