The morning was cool, but not uncomfortable. Dhar had slept in the navigator’s chair again, but for once wasn’t awake before me. Not having relieved myself the night before, my bladder was now rather tight feeling, the call of nature was screaming in my eardrums. As quietly as possible, I climbed out of the van (possible only because Dhar wasn’t blocking the side doors) and hiked down to the KOA Office.
The KOA office was a fairly large two-storey building. The front was the office itself, facing the road. At the back of the office were the men’s and women’s washrooms and a pool (also closed for the season). I found this closure rather interesting considering the camp looked rather full, and the limited facilities were sure to cause problems.
I first went to the washroom door to see if it was locked during the day. As I reached it, the door swung open and one of the other KOA guests left. I shoved my foot in the door and headed directly to the urinal. Feeling less pressured and bit lighter, I went around to the other side of the building to find the office.
A husband and wife team ran the camp, the wife sounding like an immigrant from England. I politely asked for the washroom combination so the others could get in when they woke up. I explained that we had arrived during the night, and hadn’t had a chance to use the facilities yet. (Which was essentially true.) The woman understood completely and provided me with the important information.
By the time I got back the others were rising. It was shower time. I grabbed my things and headed off to cleanse myself of several hundred miles of grime. The showers were best described as "weird": they had all the necessary fixtures, with cinder block dividers between the three stalls. No, that isn’t the strange part. Unlike all the other places we stopped, the dividers didn’t extend all the way to the wall, leaving a foot-wide gap and allowing one person to see into the adjacent stall.
Hello? Who on earth would do something like that? More importantly, why?
I took the middle stall (for no particular reason), and was joined on either side by Stefan and Dhar about five minutes later. All three of us joked about the rather odd construction of the showers. Cleaned and dried, I headed back to the van to carry out the rest of the morning’s duties. These included emptying and refilling the fresh water tanks (the newness of the plastic tended to lend a rather unpleasant taste), getting the seats back in their original positions, and buying more postcards to send home.
Albuquerque isn’t exactly the garden spot of New Mexico, but it’s a nice place (I just wouldn’t want to live there). Trees and small plants gave some shade within the campgrounds (although not a tenth as nice as the campground in Las Vegas, but better than the ones in Colorado), amidst the wilting and dried out grass. But the grass next to the van would look nice within a week or so of us leaving, the additional water would help replenish the moisture.
A knock at one of the doors announced the arrival of one of the KOA staff. He informed us that we moved during the night, to which I vehemently (but politely) insisted we hadn’t. After a brief explanation of what happened when we arrived, the middle-aged and overweight man apologized, suggesting that someone else had created some confusion, and went off to find out who.
This was only the first encounter of less-than-average intelligence at that KOA that morning. I don’t know if it was just the staff, or if it was the result of living in New Mexico. Either way, there were some seriously intelligence impaired people working there.
My next encounter was buying postcards. That in itself wasn’t so bad, but when I got around to buying stamps things went to hell in the proverbial hand-basket. Everywhere else we had been had required $0.40 to send a postcard to Canada. Yet for some reason the English woman insisted that the cost was $0.50. I assumed one of two things: 1) Because of Albuquerque’s remoteness, the cost was slightly higher, or 2) The cost had gone up in the past couple of days. I pretty much ruled out the second possibility, since Americans would have a fit over a 10 cent increase in postage. The first possibility wasn’t particular plausible either as far as I was concerned, but an extra $0.40 overall wasn’t going to destroy my budget.
As it turns out, the stamps were supposed to cost $0.40, as Rebecca found out when she bought stamps about a half hour later. (The woman would later apologize for her mistake.) But I wasn’t the only one to have to deal with all the strange goings-on that morning. When Stefan went in to get the late check-in squared away, he also had to deal with what appeared to be a rash of moronic behaviour. Some of the aforementioned demeanor was the result of a guest leaving the campground and returning to a different spot, messing up all the scheduling and reservations, and pissing off a motorhome arriving for its reservation.
Breakfast that morning was oranges and the last of our fruity loops (the equally as sugary Kellogg’s knock-off). Having four people crammed around the table in the back of the van was not a wise idea — there was hardly any elbow room, virtually no leg room, and if you had to get out you were pretty much screwed unless you were the last person in.
We wasted little time, and pulled out just before 11:00. On directions from the KOA clerks (surprisingly accurate ones), we traveled north along Juan Tabo Boulevard to find the Valvoline lube shop, about a mile or so north of the I-40. Stefan’s keen eyesight picked it out at a fair distance, and soon enough we were parked around the back waiting our turn in line.
There seemed to be a large number of people wanting to change their oil that morning. I had hoped for a simple drive-in, drive-out spending all of about 20 minutes. Unfortunately there were two cars ahead of us in both bays, meaning that at best we were there for at least 40 minutes. So we sat back, listened to the radio, and waited.
One of the oil jockeys came out after a few minutes and had me fill out some information about the van. This necessitated a quick flip through the owner’s manual to make sure I got the information correct. Another jockey had an elderly man in a pickup truck and us switch sides to keep the order of first-come, first-serve in perfect shape.
Dhar and Rebecca went off to find coffee and camera film. I needed film, and asked Dhar to grab some for me, and I’d pay him back later. To keep in check with the film I had used so far, I asked for Kodak film, preferably 400 ASA. I got my 400 ASA, but it was Fuji instead. I don’t mind Fuji film, but I’ve always believed Fuji film takes different pictures than Kodak film.
Only moments following Rebecca and Dhar’s return to the van our turn came for an oil change. Guided by one of the half-dozen high school dropouts (or so their appearance seemed to be) that ran the place, although in a very professional manner, I drove the Behemoth into place over one of the massive oil changing pits. There seemed to be almost a military manner about the way business was carried out: precise motions, strong team dependence, and a curious habit of repeating yelled orders so that every employee was aware of what was going on even if that employee wasn’t directly involved.
The hood was popped as the oil pan plug was pulled. If there is such a thing as an automotive enema, I’m certain the Behemoth received one. At first we were all in the van, but almost immediately Stefan and Dhar climbed out to watch the lube jockeys go through their steps.
Observer’s Log: Traveldate 960427.1175
We hit Albuquerque late last night and actually managed to sleep in for a change – 8:45 to be specific. Three hours later, we’re now changing oil. After that, we’re getting abducted by aliens. We might get to San Antonio tonight.
My father was very specific about the type of oil that was used in any of our family vehicles — always 15W40 grade. Neither Stefan or Dhar (acknowledged automotive fanatics) could understand it, neither did any of the lube jockeys. To be honest, I never did either. All I knew is that the oil my dad usually put in was made for diesel engines and was excellent at keeping the carbon levels low.
But in the heat of the south, 15W40 is hardly ever used. The most popular grades were literally kept on tap — three gas pump-style hoses provided quick and easy access to refills. Our rather odd order had to be yelled down to the storage area (although yelled all over the garage at the same time, as if in disbelief that some yahoo was actually ordering such a thick oil), and five quart bottles had to be tossed up.
Everything that moved was greased. Every fluid level was checked. The filters were changed. While we waited for the last of the bottles to be filled, one of the station’s employees struck up conversation (almost unavoidable when you’re driving a motorhome with Ontario license plates). Mostly where we had been and where we were going — standard fare for us by that point. Then he asked us who we thought was going to win the Stanley Cup that year.
Although I immediately answered: "I haven’t a clue!", it took me only a moment to realize the irony of the situation. Here I was, a devout Canadian, from what many believe to be the true home of ice hockey, and I don’t follow what many would call our national pastime. (As a side note — hockey is so popular that the theme for CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada has been repeatedly recommended as our new national anthem, mostly because O Canada doesn’t sound good at hockey games.) I was in a state where the only ice they probably saw was floating in drinks, yet they eagerly watched hockey.
I guess I’ve always had this odd objection to warm climates taking a liking to ice hockey. I have this peculiar train-of-thought that says places like Dallas, Miami, and Los Angeles should never be allowed to have a hockey team, especially when needy cold places like Quebec City are more deserving. In my opinion, any place that doesn’t see snow for more than two months of the year should not be allowed to have an ice hockey team. Yes, I know that proper conditions can easily be maintained in arenas, but that’s beside the point. It’s the principle of the matter. Ice is nice.
Anyway, a few minutes later and a $25 charge to my VISA card, we hit the road to see if we could get abducted by aliens. Our major destination of the day was Roswell, about 200 miles south-east of Albuquerque.
For those of you not familiar with the name Roswell, you probably don’t follow UFO lore. In 1947 newspaper headlines touted the crash of an unidentified flying object — the first, and most certainly not the last (though probably the most credible) report of any such incident from 1947 to the present day. Theories abound as to what happened. Some, like the US Army, contend that the object was a weather balloon. Others think it was one of the number "black projects" the United States government ran (and still run). But X-Files diehards (referred to as X-Philes ... pun intended, I assume) and UFO-ologists believe that the object was a spacecraft of some kind. Many reports also seemed to indicate that passengers were recovered from the ship. But this much is known: the government denies anything other than a weather balloon crashed outside Roswell.
Mind you, until 1995 the United States government also denied the existence of Area 51, a not-so-secret Air Force base at Groom Lake in Nevada, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. This is despite many photographs and video, Russian satellite photos, and large groups of people who go to the site to watch "black projects" go through their paces. Many in-the-know also believe the crashed UFO and some fully-functional UFOs are stationed at the Groom Lake facility.
I resumed my stint behind the wheel, and we pulled back onto the I-40. This time we headed west again for brief time, until we picked up the I-25 going south. This was by far the easiest and the fastest route, taking about an hour and fifteen minutes to reach Socorro. From there we would take Highway 380 to Roswell. Socorro was also known for some rather interesting activities in the night sky, all denied by the government, of course.
Despite the general lack of just about anything interesting in New Mexico, we managed to find a few objects and places that put the state in my "Strange Places To Visit" category (reports of UFOs aside). For starters, there’s the prison warning signs along the road. We missed the first one we passed, I barely got a good look at it. But we pulled over at the next one we found so I could get a good picture of it:
Do not pick up hitchhikers. Prison facilities.
Never before had I seen anything like that. I haven’t seen anything like that out of New Mexico ever since. Along that same stretch of the I-25, I also saw a VW Bug. Remember them? Yes, I know that’s not impressive, and I totally agree. The fact that this VW had an enormous pair of bull horns mounted to the roof completely amazed me. Not only did they look absolutely ludicrous on the tiny vehicle, they must’ve constituted a safety hazard in the event of a car crash.
The desert opened before us very quickly, leaving only the brown and beige vastness to see. The only break in the monotony was the Rio Grande, which the I-25 ran along side. On the banks of the mighty river stood luscious trees and large bushes. The vegetation seemed to form an impenetrable wall, preventing the harsh conditions of the New Mexico wasteland from harming the delicate life giver.
When we turned east onto Highway 380, that little slice of green quickly disappeared behind us. I expected us to start crossing through sandy desert at that point, but was surprised to find many low hills and shallow valleys rippled the land before us. The only indication that we were in or at least very near a desert were a few signs that warned of sandstorms in the area.
But perhaps the most serious sign that we saw was for the White Sands Missile Range. More secretive government work, yes, but not the most significant reason ... at least not for me. I knew that somewhere to the south of Highway 380 was the location of the infamous Trinity Site. There, in the early hours of July 16, 1945, humanity decided to try to beat God at His own game and crack the atom. For a brief instant the sky became brighter than day, and the nuclear age began.
I wanted to see the site. But the AAA TourBook indicated that only two tours were made each year: one at the beginning of April, and one at the beginning of October. The Trinity Site is in the northern end of the White Sands Missile Range, but may still be in an active fire zone. Another possibility is lingering radioactivity, fatal to prolonged repeated exposure.
New Mexico is the birthplace of Smokey Bear. How did we find this out? We passed by the Smokey Bear Historical State Park. Several signs hinted at a monument of some kind that told the story of the Great Firestomper, but we never found it.
We stumbled across another rather interesting curiousity somewhere between Capitan and Picacho, a distance of about 29 miles. One minute we were passing through a sea of dust, sand and small dark green shrubs, the next minute we were surrounded by a basalt lava flow. All around us was a massive black bumpy patch of rock. We pulled over for a moment t get a good look at it, to make sure we weren’t seeing things.
Another reason we pulled over was to see if we could find a replacement for our lava rocks in the barbeque. The ones that were supplied with our little grill were horrible, barely large enough to keep from falling between the cracks (and sometimes not). But almost as soon as we pulled into what appeared to be a state park entrance, we saw the rules posted in large friendly letters for all to see: "Do not remove any rocks from this area."
So we pulled back out onto the road. But I pulled out a little too quick, and the CD player slid off the "doghouse" (the "doghouse" is an extension of the engine housing into the passenger compartment, creating a large bulge between the driver and navigator) and smashed into the floor, breaking the lid off. I was a little annoyed, mostly at myself for pulling out so fast. Fortunately, Dhar the engineer fixed our music supply and returned it to working order. One thing I’ll say for Sony, their CD players will take a burning, and keep on turning.
A little under a half hour later, we entered Roswell. We didn’t know when we entered Roswell, as there weren’t any "Welcome to Roswell" signs. Less than a quarter mile after entering what I assume to be the city limits, we found ourselves in a time machine set for the 1950’s. It seemed aliens had taken over the city and prevented the citizens from building anything new.
Despite the marker of a major city on the New Mexico map, Roswell was really nothing more than a large town of some 45,000 people buried in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Highway 380 formed one of two main roads running through Roswell, the other being Highway 285. Where they crossed, the intersection almost resembled one out of a major city ... only without the traffic. It was one of a small number of intersections with traffic lights.
Roswell seemed dead. There was hardly any life to the place whatsoever — virtually no moving cars, hardly any pedestrians, no animals or birds that we could see or hear. Even the vegetation looked stunted. Another temporal distortion seemed to surround the city, just like the one in Kansas, only not as severe. Even our breathing seemed to slow slightly. Little did we know that we found the home of unconcern, stoicism, and apathy.
What we were looking for, we didn’t know. Asking someone about the UFO crash would illicit one of two responses: annoyance (derived from all the other curiousity seekers’ constant badgering), or bewilderment at such a stupid question. So we simply drove along Highway 380 looking for something, anything, that might give a hint as to Roswell’s infamous past.
In a motion that was nearly suggestive of pregnancy, Rebecca declared that she wanted ice cream. I say ‘nearly’ because I was also guilty of such a declaration (even if I didn’t vocalize it), and medical science still hasn’t caused pregnancy in men. But do you think that we could find a single ice cream parlour? What it was with Southerners, I don’t know, but they seemed to have some strange aversion to cold foods.
Before we knew it, the desert reappeared. Half of us wanted to go back to Roswell, and half of us wanted to go forward. So we compromised and continued going forward for a little while. The eastern side of Roswell was certainly more scenic than the western side, but when you compare a scraggly shrub to nothing, the difference is still significant (at least in a mathematical sense). After a few minutes we stumbled across the Bottomless Lakes State Park. The arrival of the dinner hour elicited a group decision to find a place to settle down and eat, and the park seemed as good a place as any.
We turned onto the park road and started driving down its long, winding route. We drove for what seemed like endless miles. We began to wonder if the park had any lakes at all, if they had dried up like all the rivers we had seen in our travels through the dry states. Turn after turn, bend after bend, mile after mile, and nothing but some short grasses and bracken.
But as we rounded a hill after about ten minutes, a body of water came into view. It looked like there was maybe two feet of water in the deepest portion. Evaporation had left huge white and gold rings of mineral deposits where the water had one been. It probably couldn’t support any life, partly hinted at by the lack of vegetation around the pond (which was pretty much what it was by that point). The park was rapidly beginning to be known as "Lakeless Bottom".
But we did eventually find it, about a mile away from the other lake bed. Oddly enough though, we didn’t immediately see it — it was surrounded. On the north side of the lake was a steep cliff. On the west side were trees just tall enough to shield our view. On the east and south sides was a picnic cum trailer park the state park service had erected. Unlike most of the other parks we had visited thus far (excluding the ones containing historical sites), this had a pay-for-use system ... even if you only wanted to use the picnic area. We weren’t too keen on this aspect, so promptly turned around and hit the road again.
In a few minutes we found ourselves at the top of the cliff on the north side of the lake, and received our first good look. Barely larger than the other dried-up lake we had seen earlier, some 100 to 150 metres in diametre and roughly circular in size, the lake would be considered a pond in most circles. As to its claim as being bottomless, we couldn’t really tell. It was a dark lake, but even a shallow lake can look dark.
At any rate, the spot was a good place to have dinner. It was a gravel-laid lookout point for the lake next to the park road, surrounded with chain-link fencing to keep visitors from falling down the 80 metre cliff to what would probably be certain death.
I hopped out the driver’s door, flipped up the running board flap, and turned on the propane. Rebecca delegated herself to cooking dinner — spaghetti with some mighty spicy tomato sauce. While we ate, several vehicles pulled up, usually families, to look over the cliff to the tiny lake below. Several families of flies visited us directly, an annoyance we could have done without.
Just as we were finishing, a police car showed up. I began to panic. If this doesn’t say why I don’t like colouring outside the lines, I don’t know what does. I’ve been paranoid of the police for years, and I really don’t know why. I guess I was frightened that the police would come over and declare we were not supposed to be there, nail us with a large fine, and suddenly decide to search the van. In doing so they’d stumble across something that wasn’t supposed to be there, they’d confiscate the van, and I’d disappear into some deep dark prison never to see the light of day, and become the plaything for some a 230-pound rapist and mass murderer named Bubba.
Yes, my mind wanders frequently. I often worry that one day, when I’m not attentive, it will wander into the road and get squished. Then I’d be in trouble...
The cops sat there in the patrol car, looking in our general direction, then after a few moments drove off. I breathed a sigh of relief, much to the curiousity of the others, who hadn’t come close to being fazed by the presence of the long arm of the law.
The dishes and the pots were cleaned, the leftovers heaved in a nearby dumpster. While Dhar and I got the van ready to be rolled out again, Stefan and Rebecca shared a moment outside, staring into the impending sunset, into the vastness of the American south-west.
For some reason unknown to me then, and still a mystery to me now, I wanted to keep driving. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tired of driving — I actually wanted to keep driving. I don’t know why. But little argument was raised, so I resumed my position and we headed on our way out of the park. Fortunately the way out was much shorter than the way in.
Rebecca and Stefan took refuge in "their" place in the back, Dhar rode shotgun. As we reentered Roswell, Stefan came forward and asked quietly if we could keep an eye open for any place that sold ice cream. (He wanted to make sure Rebecca’s desires were fulfilled.) It was a difficult request to fill, as there were no ice cream parlours of any kind to be found.
No ice cream parlours, but that bastion of American cheap food, brusque service, and blatant commercialism happened to have a branch office in Roswell. We pulled into the McParking Lot®, went in through the McDoors®, and waited in the McLobby® so one of the under-paid McEmployees® with over-applied McMakeup® could take our McOrders®.
Several years ago, the Canadian branches of the McFranchise® had switched from milk-based ice cream and milkshakes to low fat versions. This meant the ice cream was now frozen yogurt, something which I considered so artificial I was never keen on eating it. However, in a trip to TCBY a couple years following the switch, I found I didn’t mind it so much. Ever since, I’d made quick work of the McHot Fudge Sundaes®.
What the American branches of the McFranchise® use, I have no clue. All I do know is that the McHot Fudge Sundae® certainly didn’t taste like a McHot Fudge Sundae®. It might have been the fact that the McServer® had to scoop the McFudge® out of the McDispenser® when the McPump® broke. Her hand was coated with the chocolate goop, and said goop didn’t appear normal ... at least to me.
Complaints aside, Rebecca’s craving was diminished, if not satisfied, and our mission to Roswell had come to a close. Still retaining the driver’s seat, I took us out of the McParking Lot® and drove to Highway 285 for our trip into Texas.
We still hadn’t quite figured out what we were going to do in Texas. One thing we had all wanted to do was find a beach on the Gulf of Mexico and spend the day soaking in the sun’s harmful rays, receiving sand mite bites, sucking in polluted salt water, and paying too much for a watered-down Coke. To do this, we were going to drive through the night until we got to Houston, at which point we would head south to the beach. I kept suggesting we visit the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, but received only lukewarm response. This was the extent of our planning.
First things first however, and we still had 92 miles until we even entered the Lone Star State, let alone set course for the beach. The sun was scraping the horizon as we drove south. The sunset was like nothing we had seen on the trip to that point (nor would we see anything like it during the rest of the trip). As it set, the light on the horizon showed us a landscape so flat, it looked almost like a totally calm and smooth lake — perfectly flat, save for the odd bush that created a small bump. But unlike Arizona or Kansas, the flatness didn’t bother me. It was oddly calming ... though I wouldn’t want to see it every day.
With the coming of night came a better view of what was on the horizon. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Throughout most of New Mexico that we saw, and probably a good chunk of Texas, were oil wells. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound too spectacular, but as you travel down Highway 285, bright spots appear on that flat distant line. Oil wells and refineries, their lights burning through the night sky. The wind only confirmed our conclusions, the smell of petrochemicals could be easily smelled even as far as 60 miles away.
Each night in Carlsbad, about an hour south of Roswell, there is a spectacle that draws huge crowds. At one of the natural entrances to the Carlsbad Caverns, millions of insect-eating bats take to the sky at sunset to feed. Seeing Carlsbad Caverns would have been an interesting addition to the day, and I so desperately wanted to see the bats. Unfortunately for me, and for all of us, the sun had fully set by the time we were less than 30 minutes from Carlsbad. No bats that night.
Or so I thought. In the New Mexico desert, even on a clear night the amount of ambient light is pretty minimal (at least from inside a vehicle). Things along the roads are pretty hard to see. As we reached the area of Carlsbad Caverns, we encountered a few fledermaus. At first it was just glimpses of the winged mice as they avoided colliding with the Behemoth. But a couple of the more adventurous types decided to settle in the roads looking for a meal. I’m not scared of bats, but when one of those suckers takes off a few feet in front as you travel at 65 mph towards it, you’re bound to be a little startled.
But nothing was nearly as nail-biting as our encounter of the fuzzy kind. Jack rabbits. Hundreds of them lined the highway. We didn’t notice them until one shot in front of the van as it crossed to the east side of the roadway. Dhar and I immediately developed rabbit radar, constantly scanning for the furry little buggers. I love nature, I don’t like driving over top of it, or smacking into it snapping vertebrae.
At first, we thought it was just one or two. But after a couple minutes, we saw hundreds of green glowing eyes peering back from the scraggly grass at the sides of the highway. If we had been characters in a Stephen King novel, I’d be scared out of my wits at the sight of all those bewitched bunnies. The odd one would hop around, but for some reason most stared at us as we drove by. I suppose it’s the old "caught in the headlights" shtick, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still creepy. I could almost hear Alfred Hitchcock’s "good evening" echo in the van.
We weren’t the only ones who knew the jack rabbits were there — we spotted a wily coyote prowling for dinner. I figured that with that many rabbits, he (or she) shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a bite to eat.
The rabbits continued to the New Mexico / Texas border, then seemed to vanish. As we crossed into our 11th state of the trip, Rebecca promptly asked if we had been abducted by aliens. According to our clocks, no time had passed. I couldn’t find any hole in my memory, nor could anyone else. We all sighed dejectedly — nobody wanted us.
Highway 285 started into a south-easterly direction once inside Texas. By this time, it was so dark the only way we knew we were in Texas was the sign welcoming us, and the dual speed limits: one for cars, and another for trucks driving at night. At first I assumed that the limits were only for the state highways, since they weren’t as well protected from animals as the Interstates. As it turned out, the limits were universal.
Then one of the possible reasons came to light — deer. In Canada, large animals are a problem when driving through the boonies at night. If you’re not careful, you can say good-bye to your car, and if you’re particularly unlucky, your life. Moose are the worst problem, they’ll demolish large buses and walk away unscathed. Deer tend to explode a little more on contact, but are capable of a great deal of damage.
We Canucks are very aware of these dangers (as a country of barely 28 million people and huge expanses of wilderness, we tend to be fairly in touch with nature), but Texans probably need to be reminded that they’re not invulnerable (as if The Alamo wasn’t enough of an explanation). Dhar and I still had our radar on full, so we felt pretty safe as we traveled towards the I-10.
I drove until we arrived in Fort Stockton, where we picked up the I-10. It was only our second sign of civilization since Carlsbad. There we filled up with fuel before continuing our trek across Texas. The Flying J gas and convenience stores were becoming a regular sight to us. We could fill up not only on gas, but also on drinks and food for our seemingly endless driving.
Most people told us that the driving would be hell, and we’d hate all the driving we were doing. To me, that wasn’t the case. Okay, Kansas and Arizona were hell, but beyond that the driving was actually fairly interesting — we were seeing parts of the continents we had never seen before. In only a week we had traveled through half a dozen different climates, each one containing a unique beauty.
Texas seemed to have a climate very different from New Mexico. At Fort Stockton, we were over 500 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, yet the air was terribly sticky from the humidity. This was a new experience for me. Sure, I’d been to Florida before (see [[Music Trip to Orlando, Introduction|Music Trip to Orlando]]) and felt the ocean’s influence on the moisture in the air, but Florida is less than 200 miles wide and surrounded by massive bodies of water. Fort Stockton is very much land-locked. I never once expected the air to be so humid so far away from water. If anything, the trip was also becoming very educational.
The gas wasn’t terribly cheap, but we now knew the reasons why. I paid for the gas (having to turn over my credit card even before beginning to pump gas) while the others made use of the restrooms and purchased more supplies for the odyssey. Then it was my turn to get some sleep. I had been driving for over 10 hours that day, and I was exhausted.
Observer’s Log: Supplementary
Roswell was uneventful. If we did get abducted, we don’t remember. We had dinner at Bottomless Lake, which for a while we thought was Lakeless Bottom. (This was partly due to the sheer number of dry river beds we’ve seen.)Dhar and I navigated through several miles of vicious Texas jack rabbits, vampire bats, wily coyotes and a few of Bambi’s relatives on our way into Texas. We’re about 5 hours or so outside of San Antonio.