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Far West Texas

Our campsite...

This weekend was amazing. It was more fun than i had imagined and was a great overview of everything i love and will miss of Texas. I wish i had more photos to share, but somewhere in the middle of the trip i was liberated (“no, don’t get the camera, come on”) from the overwhelming need to capture EVERYTHING we were doing. Although i didn’t always have my camera, I did manage to send out some tweets while i was still within range of cell towers.

i need to run some errands (fill tires, buy food, pack car, eat lunch…) and start the long drive into vacation-land.
11:40 AM May 22nd from web

I had quite a bit of gear to pack for this trip: camping gear, cycling gear, camera gear, hiking gear… and little guitar i never got around to playing. This was the first time in a while that i’ve gone camping with bikes, so, i decided to learn from past car packing problems and reconfigure my homemade in-car bike rack.

As some of you know, i drive a Nissan Pathfinder (that desperately needs to be washed) and had built a bike rack for the inside with a plywood board and some truck bed bike mounts. How it works is fairly easy: take off the front wheel of the bike and push it into the car (which i should call an SUV) backwards until the fork lines up and into the truck bed mount. I strap the wheels to the side of the vehicle and pack the rest of the gear around the bikes. Originally, i had the bikes next to each other and centered in the middle, leaving very little space to toss duffel bags and storage containers, so i decided to move the bikes as far over to the right as possible to leave room for gear on the left. To get the bike that is furthest to the left to fit properly, i have to loosen the quill stem and turn it all the way to the left, but it is overall just as easy to take the bikes in and out as before.

Anyway, i packed up the big three duffels full of gear next to the bikes and hit the road. Since we had both been so busy, it had been a while since Alana and i had a chance to really relax and chat about politics and life and stuff, so, for a good amount of the 7 hour drive, we just talked. No music. No podcasts. It was vacation time, and even though there was a good amount of driving to be had, we didn’t have anything to worry about for the rest of the weekend. Near the end, we did end up listening to the Rachel Maddow Show and This American Life, but, for the most part, we talked.

It was a bit after 11pm when we pulled into Balmorhea State Park. We found my name on the announcement board with our campsite number and headed off to get ready for bed. When I reserved our site, the woman on the phone said there was only one spot left, an RV site, and asked if that was okay. “Well, as long as I can pitch a tent there, we should be fine.” I had spent quite a bit of time in this park and figured that we could put a tent anywhere; little did I know what was reserved for us was a pull through RV site who’s little bit of earth and picnic table turned into a bowl of mud when it rained. Unfortunately, it had been raining. Fortunately, it didn’t rain more. We pitched our tent on a small patch of grass by the picnic table and curb so that, if it did rain, only our feet would get wet.

Our previously flooded campsite

Children loud. This rv campsite was not made for a tent. If it had rained, it would pool up. 6:45 AM May 23rd from TwitterBerry

I woke up in the tent to the sound of kids playing loudly. Very loudly. Little running feet, little screaming voice, little kicking sounds were coming from all over the camping area. I knew it was going to be crowded being that it was Memorial Day weekend (spring break for adults), but i didn’t think about all the little kids and youth groups that would be “relaxing” side by side with us at the pool. I had been spoiled by taking trips during weekdays, declaring that “weekends suck” because everyone else had them off, and used to basking in the solitude of state park weekday mornings. Now, after the 40 hour work weeks and constant moonlighting, I was just glad to be close to the mountains, no matter how many kids were chasing the pretty animals around me.

Father 2 son “Logan, leave that rabbit alone!” Its really beautiful out here despite screaming kids. 7:54 AM May 23rd from TwitterBerry

I got up and decided to go for a walk while Alana continued blissfully sleeping away amidst the noise. I grabbed my cameras and found this:

The ants of Balmorhea, Texas

Giant ants! sweet! I’ve been interested in seeing how well my video camera would fare against such small creatures!

We hopped in the pool after coffee and oatmeal and enjoyed the sun until the weather turned sour. Thunder and lightening signaled our time to relocate to the Davis Mountains State Park. The drive from Balmorhea to Fort Davis on 17 is beautiful, especially when its been raining. The roadside is surrounded by the short but intense jagged mountains. In some areas, the rock is exposed in a way that makes it look like a choir singing to the heavens as they wait patiently for the end of the world.

so, yeah, its pretty.

We set up camp, napped and drove to the observatory to find it had closed for the day only to re-open later for the star party. On our way back down the mountain, we stopped at a rest area, cooked dinner, and contemplated the cloudy weather. It didn’t seem promising for a good star party, so we decided to head down to Marfa and see what was happening down there.

Padre's in Marfa, Texas

At padre’s in marfa texas. Place is hopping! 8:59 PM May 23rd from TwitterBerry

It was dark and chilly when we got there. We drove up and down the empty streets until we came across a place that seemed to be pretty busy. It was almost hard to find parking! (In a place like Marfa!) There was a $10 cover at the door (!!!) along with the owner of the place. He said “Tonight, this is the place to be” and with the commotion inside, he appeared to be right. From the deserted streets to this was like night and day. We came to find out that the venue is called Padre’s, it used to be a funeral home, and this was its opening night as a bar. There was a Tejano band on stage (captured above with crappy Blackberry camera) and a reasonable sized line to the bar. I ordered a Turbodog (love!) and Alana got a margarita served in a pint glass. We weaved our way outside to find old arcade games, a foosball table and a fire in a metal-drum-turned-to-butterfly-chiminea with benches. We chatted with a few people and discovered that most everyone our age there were visiting from either houston or dallas. Overall, we had a great time and i hope come back next time i’m in the area.

They stop serving breakfast at 930 at davis mnts sp black bear resturant. In town at the chuck wagon. Yum. 9:54 AM May 24th from TwitterBerry

Upon waking, we fantasized about pancakes and omelettes as we hiked to the Black Bear Restaurant, only to find that they had stopped serving at 9:30 am. I looked at my watch and saw it was 9:45 am. My tummy grumbled. What to do for breakfast? I was much too hungry for oatmeal and coffee. We decided to drive out to Alpine and see if they had a breakfast place. Luckily, just in town at Fort Davis, the Chuck Wagon was still serving. The “Open” sign was glowing and my heart filled with skeptical joy. Alana got an omelet and i had two biscuit sandwiches with bacon, egg and cheese.

Yum indeed, but it didn’t do me much good when I was trying to ride 40 miles through the desert on the bike from Fort Davis to Marfa. I seriously bonked out after just 8 miles, so, we turned around. I felt horrible and I’m still not sure why. I rode really well the previous weekend, why not now? Alana and I had been eating the same food and she’s raring to go, whats wrong with me? I took a nap and then a shower. Over dinner, we decided to leave the park and head out to Alana’s Dad’s dude ranch in the Texas Hill Country.

During the trip so far, Alana and I have been talking about how much we are going to miss Texas, so, heading out for one last tromp on the ranch before moving far away made a lot of sense. It wasn’t on the itinerary, but, hey, this is vacation! We can do what we want!

It took about 6 hours to get to the ranch in Mason, Texas. When we got up the next morning, at breakfast, Alana’s dad mentioned something about 4 wheelers. “They’re easy to drive, I’ll show you.”

Alana still in her PJ’s and I without my camera (fail), headed out 45 minutes of 4 wheeling bliss! It was great. The landscape out there is so beautiful. We rode from the Llano river and up into the hills. I had never gone 4 wheeling before, but now I’m hooked. Don’t know when I’ll have a chance again, but count me in.

Overall great weekend! For more information about the places we visited check out the following:

Author: mimi

Category: life stories, photography, travel

Tagged: , , , , , ,

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