On a Dark Desert Highway

As prologue to this post, I’ll share some private aspects of our journey. People ask (in jest, in nervous fear?) if Holly and I are still married now that we’ve lived in a hundred square foot can for seven months. I can say with candor that we are quite happy and content, in fact still pinch-ourselves stunned that we can, and do, go exactly where we want when we want. And, as I type this parked for the night at a rest area on US90 just east of Alpine, TX, I can report that our pace has been luxuriously slow. We have had a consistent string of unexpected joys – usually in the shape of people living their true lives. It happened again today. The first desert and western mountains have shown themselves. This post then is about leaving the coast and finding our desert footing.

I’ll back up a bit to report that in fact, one can drive a bus on a beach and stay for free. We did that on Rutherford Beach in Louisiana, and again on Bolivar Peninsula in Texas. Louisiana was otherworldly – deathly remote, beautiful and battered. Bolivar was doleful, and we were eager to leave.

Free camping on the Rutherford Beach,Creole, LA.

It took unusually long, once driving west, to leave what Texas calls the Coastal Bend. We drove and drove, and I think it was in the town of Victoria, TX that we felt the gravity shift inland. Maybe its pivotal place on the map is the reason, but Victoria was quite charming.

Here is Sandy tucked into some trees at the Victoria, TX municipal (yes, municipal) RV Park. This little town has art galleries and four disc golf courses.
Abandoned, but spotless, gas station for sale in Victoria.

The next leg of our travel took us to Del Rio, TX, where we stayed at Rough Canyon in the Amistad National Recreation Area. This part of the Rio Grande River is the second biggest lake in the state and home to many bass, none of which I caught. This part of Texas finally felt Western. We’ll be following the Rio Grande Valley all the way up to El Paso.

The Amistad Reservoir of the Rio Grande River, at Rough Canyon – part of the Amistad National Recreation Area.
This is an unused fueling station at Rough Canyon.

From Del Rio, we moved a short distance to Seminole Canyon State Park. The area is known for its ancient rock art, dating back as long as 9,000 years. We had a windy, primitive campsite overlooking the desert. No mountains were yet visible in the landscape, but we did see our first impressive canyons. Seminole Creek Canyon was dry as it made its way to the Rio Grande, which itself in this area was barely wet. A local Texan described that Mexico controls the water level of the river, but I haven’t looked into that. I mountain biked the entire Canyon Rim Trail. We also had a wonderful guided tour of rock art in the canyon. Our guide – Sandy! – gave a thoughtful introduction to the area, showing knowledge and acceptance of those who occupied the land before we did.

Our guide Sandy leading us to rock art. Sadly, this area is only open to guided tours. There are signs saying it is illegal to deface ancient art.
Ancient petroglyphs at Seminole Canyon.
“The Bringer of Peace” shows a shaman conveying his learning from Spirit World to the Physical World.
Seminole Creek as it meets the Rio Grande.

The drive from Seminole Canyon to Alpine, TX we knew to be full of interest. We heard all about it from Andrea, whom we had met at a laundromat in Del Rio. Follow her blog on FB, DEAR Kitty: Journal of a Journey to Freedom. This part of Texas includes the crossing of the Pecos River, Langtry – home of Judge Roy Bean, Eagles Nest Canyon, and the lovely town of Sanderson. There, we met people living full of intent and grace, including Travis, proprietor of Z-Bar Trading Company. His shop is a wonder, where one can buy literally anything. He helped us with the right couple of parts for a plumbing project. Between him and the coffee/art shop Ferguson Motor Company, we were thrilled to see people living authentically. We are very grateful to be spending so much time and distance away from interstates.

This is the west side of the Pecos River on US90 in Texas – where we are thus subject to the law enforcement of Judge Roy Bean. This is me smiling.
The “Opera House,” home of Judge Roy Bean, Langtry, TX.
Metal dinosaur at Z Bar Trading Co. in Sanderson, TX.
1/100th of the merchandise at Z Bar Trading Co.
Travis, proprietor of Z Bar Trading Co. Portrait by Holly
Sandy parked in front of Ferguson Motor Company, an art and coffee shop in Sanderson. This was a car dealer going back to the days of the Model Ts, which arrived in crates via the freight rail line out back.

In Sanderson, and later in Alpine (which I will write about when we have spent more tine there), we were happy to see the abundance of local art and local artists doing their true work. We’ll be out of internet and cell service for a bit as we go to Terlingua and Big Bend. We will probably return to spend more time in Alpine, then head to see friends in Marfa, and to El Paso for a fly-in visit from our daughter Natalie, who will bring our forthcoming grandchild as carryon. Until then . . .

7 thoughts on “On a Dark Desert Highway

  1. Hi Joe, on a dark desert highway …. Don Henley ? Interestingly, he grew up in the area you may have crossed. I enjoy your blog post that you generously share. Maybe there’s a book in there somewhere? Wishing you safe and happy trails…. Ciro

    On Tue, Mar 8, 2022 at 3:49 PM A Bus Named Sandy wrote:

    > Joe Whiting posted: ” As prologue to this post, I’ll share some private > aspects of our journey. People ask (in jest, in nervous fear?) if Holly and > I are still married now that we’ve lived in a hundred square foot can for > seven months. I can say with candor that we are quite ” >

  2. Articulate reporting Joe and Holly….thankyou so much, and you both look great…I’ll be looking forward to photos and comments about Marfa…xo

  3. Enjoy your stories. If you get a chance, we stopped at the little town of San Elizario off 10 near El Paso. Great Harvest Host, parking at Pistolero’s del Adobe but it looks like everyone is welcome. Part of the Camino Real with a beautiful mission, church, presidio. Beautiful quaint area.
    Safe travels

  4. I think Texas has so much to offer- well it is a big state, so it makes sense. But I love that area on the Rio Grand. There is a great story about a prize fight on a sandbar in the river during Judge Roy Bean’s time. I don’t recall all the details but I recounted on my blog years ago.

    Hope you have a wonderful first visit with your new grandchild!

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