My travel companion and I were restless for adventure. It’s been a long time since we put pen to paper and logged our journey. It is true that we have traveled abroad since our last post, most notably to the Paris of South America – Buenos Aires and a trip cycling the Cantabria Mountains. But it seemed unsatisfying somehow and not worth chronicling. No, these and others were all missing something and we put our finger on it while catching up on episodes of Orange is the New Black. We missed the adrenaline, that very adrenaline that comes from an element of danger.
So we decided to car camp the U.S. and Mexican border in a stylish convertible Mini Cooper.
Eventually we would make our way north to the Grand Canyon and finally our destination, Moss Beach, California. But that was just icing on the cake.
We pack our mini, which is aptly named Jolie after my companion’s post Tomb Raider girl crush, and make for Big Bend, a National Park on the border of Texas and Mexico. We stop along the way in Sweetwater, TX and find a small Mexican food restaurant surrounded by pickup trucks.
It’s no surprise to me that Sweetwater is host of the largest rattlesnake roundup in the world. According to this year’s schedule, Thursday afternoon kicked off the event with the Rattlesnake Preview Parade followed by the Miss Snake Charmer Scholarship Pageant. The following day, the guided hunt registration started at 8 am. Snake weigh-in lasted all day. The kitchens offered fried rattlesnake meat from noon to 4pm. The rattlesnake dance started at 8pm.
Lunch was good authentic Mexican and well, if you’re ever in Sweetwater, look up Las Casitas.
Our next stop was Fort Stockton, a few hundred miles along a desolate road with no cell service. Desolate as in there-is-no-way-anyone-would-find-our-rotting-stripped-of-all-their-valuables-bodies-alongside-the-road desolate. I would just have to hope that the carrion would leave enough DNA behind so that authorities could notify family and friends.
In today’s debate over gun laws and the Second Amendment, I will admit to leaning a bit to the left of the conversation. My only gun I have ever owned is an engraved Italian over-and-under shot gun that I bought to look more Texan. I don’t hunt with it — I wouldn’t want to get it dirty. Out here driving in what looked like a red zone in Iraq with no way to defend myself felt a bit creepy. I fantasized about having four – two for me and two for my long legged blonde travel companion wearing a short summer dress — German made M27’s with their free floating gas operating piston and a few 30 round STANAG magazines strapped to our chests.
Fort Stockton was a pass through for us and we only stopped to get gas and a good look at the biggest roadrunner in the world.
Our next stop was Marathon; this is the last town before entering into the Big Bend National Park. Between Fort Stockton and Marathon we drive right through the Sierra Madera Astrobleme, which as anyone knows is another name for a meteorite crater. This is very cool. If you could take a freeze frame of a pebble hitting a surface of a pond you would see the impact create an elevated ring around where the pebble hit and a more pronounced elevated splash of water in the middle. That’s exactly what we drove through but in rock form. The crater is 6 miles in diameter. The central uplift rises to over 4,000 feet. The meteor impacted the earth sometime during the Cretaceous period.
It’s interesting to think that the park we are entering is formed at the same time as the meteor with volcanoes erupting and calderas while Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Triceratops roamed scavenging. The fossil of the second largest flying animal in the history of the world with a wingspan of 4 automobiles was found in this park. Tiny little Marathon – a flea on the windshield in south Texas – is perversely hip with coffee houses and artsy motels. I’m sure everyone is a cousin, but hey.
We are now driving along the Comanche Trail that I will talk about in our next post as we have to back track along this route tomorrow when we leave. Picture a basin that is the bottom of an ancient caldera, and we are driving hours to reach the rim which raises five thousand feet above us. The 100-degree heat is attenuated with a summer shower as we drive and make our way up these beautiful rock mountains littered with chaparral and ocotillo. We drop down on the other side of the rim and pass Panther junction.
I wonder why they call it Panther Junction? It is because according to the pamphlet we got at the ranger station, there are 22 known mountain lions that roam this 200 square mile side of the park.
The rain has stopped and the smell of the wet rock and earth is intoxicating. We can go no further. We are at the U.S. and Mexico border along the Rio Grande. We make camp.
My travel companion and I are experienced outdoorsmen and are prepared for every contingency. It’s with that experience and logic that we decide not to bring food or water with us, as any provision stop would hinder our forward movement. Instead, we convince ourselves there will be a camp store and we can purchase groceries there for dinner and breakfast. Our logic and experience were spot on. There was a market. But it was closed.
Our nerves are frayed being this close to the front line of the drug war waging on and we panicked. We found a lodge with a small restaurant, which we caught about 20 minutes before closing the kitchen. We calm our fears over a few bottles of Malbec along with a Chinook salmon salad and a medium rare New York strip over looking the valley below.