Friday, May 7, 2010

From Big Bend National Park to Carlsbad, New Mexico

We left Big Bend National Park a half day early because it was too darn hot to do much of anything – 106 degrees of dry desert heat is not to be fooled with! Instead of sitting in the Trek with the air conditioning blasting, we decided it made more sense to pack up and head towards our next stop: Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Rather than leave the way we had come in, we took highway 118 out of the park toward Alpine, Texas. Although longer, this was a good route to take as we were able to see parts of Big Bend we had not viewed before, and then pass through Study Butte and on to Alpine. It was a hot but beautiful drive! Up to this point, Alpine has been the most “substantial” town we’ve driven through since entering the Southwest desert. The main campus of the Sul Ross State University is in Alpine and this small town provides a lot of services and support to Big Bend. Interestingly, our housesitter, Mary is from Alpine and so are the couple that bought the camper van from me in Tennessee just a few weeks ago. Considering the population of Alpine is less than 6,000, these are interesting coincidences!

We gassed up in Alpine and were somewhat relieved to see that the gas price was a little more reasonable than what we paid in Marathon a couple days before – “only” $3.05 a gallon versus $3.35! Gas prices in west Texas have been an unpleasant surprise. We’re used to paying less than $2.70 a gallon back home in Tennessee but, since leaving Houston, we’ve been paying over $3.00 a gallon. When you’re driving a gas-gulping RV with a large tank, gas prices become meaningful. Anyway, we agreed there is no point stressing out over gas prices because this is something over which we have no control.

We drove on until around 9 PM, when we reached Pecos, Texas. After Alpine, the desert flattened and the air temp finally started to cool as the sun dipped toward the western horizon. I actually enjoy driving during the evening, although this is when many animals become active and so we run the risk of hitting a deer or some other desert creature.

We went to the Wal-Mart near I-20’s exit 42, but this is a small store that closes at 10 PM. With no other RVs in the parking lot, we were uncomfortable spending the night there and so we went to a nearby Flying J truck stop.

This was the first time we overnighted at a truck stop and it wasn’t too bad, although it was noisy being right next to the Interstate. I guess my first choice for overnighting is a Super Wal-Mart but it’s good to know that truck stops are also an option.

The next morning, with less than 90 miles left to go, we finished our drive to Carlsbad, New Mexico in a just a couple hours.

Click here to see more photos and stay tuned for more about our travels!

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