From Fort Stockton to Texarkana—600 miles of rain

February 24, 2016 00:54 – 00:54

I’m at the Comfort Suites in Texarkana. This is my 3rd room here. No, not my 3rd visit. My 3rd room tonight—this visit. In the first room, the toilet was broken (tank wouldn’t fill, so it was unflushable). In the second room, the heating/cooling unit cover was off, and there was a note on it saying that it didn’t work at all. I finally hit pay dirt in try #3.

The internet download speed here is excellent. The upload speed is acceptable.

Today, I drove the 600 miles from Fort Stockton to Texarkana. It rained most of the way. The GPS gave my driving time as 9 hours. It actually took about 8.5 hours, even given some slow-downs through the DFW area. But, I drove into a headwind most of the way, and the speed limit was mostly 75 (which means everybody does 80, minimum), so fuel economy wasn’t great. My normal 42 was reduced to only 38 MPG.

Tonight for dinner, I traversed the parking lot and made my first-ever visit to a Cracker Barrel restaurant. The food was decidedly meh. I ordered the roast beef plate—the one that they say cooks for 14 hours so it’s nice & juicy. It was grainy and not at all juicy. The veggies were lukewarm. And, the pinto beans had some kind of strange meat in them. As I was paying, another customer was saying that the pinto beans were spoiled. Um… so, if I get sick tonight, I guess I’ll know what to suspect.

Yesterday, I drove down to Big Bend National Park. It’s about an hour and a half to the entrance from the Candlewood Suites. At Panther Junction, I split off to the right and drove down to Burro Mesa Pouroff (4 in the map shown). Then, I turned around and drove to the other side of the park to the Rio Grande and Boquillas Canyon lookouts (2 and 3).

Heading down, the sky went from menacing to sunny. “Road may flood” signs worried me, as did the flood gauges.

Later, heading back north, the reverse happened. The sky went from sunny, to ominous, to lightning, torrential rain, and hail. The sky opened up right as I entered Fort Stockton city limits. I’m beginning to understand why most folks here have pickup trucks with enormous ground clearance. Although, the pizza woman said that it never rains here. The weather has varied wildly here this year though—they even got 10 inches of snow this year. Did I mention that Fort Stockton is in the desert?

The parking lot at the Candlewood looked like a used pickup truck sales lot. Seriously.

The good thing was that most of them were gone by the time I loaded my car up at 9 this morning. So, I wasn’t as hemmed in as I might’ve otherwise been.

For dinner last night, I ordered pizza for delivery from Pizza Hut. Right as my pizza should’ve been arriving, they called to tell me that they weren’t doing delivery because their delivery person wasn’t there. That would’ve been lovely to have heard when I placed the order, rather than when it should’ve been delivered. That was the only delivery option for Fort Stockton, though, so I called Pizza Pro and ordered for pickup. Their pizza was actually quite good—probably better than PH’s would’ve been. I would’ve gone with them to begin with, had I not wanted to venture back out into the flooded streets of FS. I was very glad that my car didn’t stall out as I forded the main crossroads to Pizza Pro & back to Candlewood.

Back to Big Bend… Big Bend National Park is quite picturesque, but not as picturesque as Zion or Arches in Utah, and way less picturesque than the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. But, BBNP ain’t no slouch.

As you enter the park, it looks much like this—typical high desert scenery. The parts I visited were mostly between 1,800 and 4,500 feet above sea level. The temperature ranged from the 60s to the 80s.

In this shot, you can see a range of the different layers. This was taken at one of the transition points along the drive, as I was going from lower terrain to higher.

Parts of BB have a painted desert quality to them. I liked the contrast of the yellow, green, and iron-based reds.

The guide paper highlighted several trails as being good for birds. Alas, except for a black vulture in the sky, other bird views were fleeting—too fleeting to photograph.

The Blue Ranch Trail was supposed to be good for birds. I heard plenty, but saw none. I did see the abandoned ranch, though.

Fortunately, I didn’t see any mountain lions, tigers, or bears (oh, my!). But, I did see a number of warnings like this one.

BB being desert, there was also quite a variety of cactuses. I don’t know what any of them are called. I just enjoyed looking at them.

One of the most interesting pieces of landscape was this large lizard-like upthrust.

I finally did manage to see the Rio Grande. It’s not nearly as grande as it was thousands of years ago, but it’s impressive enough.

On the other side of the river lies Mexico… equipped with coyotes to transport folks across the border by horseback. I don’t know how they get away with it. But, personally, I would love to see open borders all across North America, similar to the borders throughout most of western Europe.

Tomorrow morning, the rain is supposed to be ending. As you can see here, the back end of an enormous (and strong) low pressure system is approaching the Texas-Arkansas border. Hopefully, it’ll be dry and increasingly sunny for my visit tomorrow morning to the Pond Creek NWR, about 30 miles north of the hotel. I’m in the very northeast corner of Texas.

After visiting Pond Creek NWR, I’ll hit the road east. I’m reserved tomorrow night at a Springhill Suites in east Memphis. Hopefully, I can find some good BBQ for dinner tomorrow night.

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