Saturday, February 09, 2013

Road Trip: Day Five

Location: Lindale, TX to Pecos, TX
Miles: 1336 - 1888
Weather: 50 - 76 degrees. Misty all morning until we passed through Ft. Worth, then clear and bright. 
Soundtrack: Miles and Miles of Texas (Listen while reading, they put it better than I can.)

Staying the night in Lindale, just north of Tyler and only half-way between the Louisiana border and Dallas, put us a few hours behind schedule. By "schedule," I mean the sketched-out plan we'd proposed that would break up the drive equally. We'd hoped to be to Ft.Worth instead, which was still 120 miles in front of us, with a big hump of Dallas in between. We had time to make up!

Toby is enchanted by his first cow sighting through the morning mist.
In such a misty morning, I had flashbacks of news stories past: "50 car interstate pile-up said to be caused by heavy fog." It didn't help that the route was so heavily traveled by 18-wheel big rigs, and bordered by those darn concrete Jersey barriers that I just know will take me some day when I sneeze while driving 75 mph on the highway. Or get distracted by a bee that suddenly comes in my window. But again... that's just me. My husband had the wheel this morning and fortunately he isn't as paranoid as I am. 

Texas started to look very much like it should, or like I'd imagined. Ranches are larger, with painted white metal-pole fencing surrounding grazing herds of horses or cattle. Grand stone archways marked the entrances, the name of the ranch declared over the broad tree-lined driveways. Why here are people more prosperous, when just a few hundred miles back the scene was completely different? Instead of trailers, the ranch houses were predominantly low brick expanses with large eaves to shelter the house from the relentless, drying sun. 

The next notable difference was the explosion of mall-sized mega churches. Not one or two, but one after another after another, and all with interstate frontage and massive parking lots. Towards the edges of Ft. Worth, and out of the urban zone, the "cowboy churches" began. Besides the church hall itself, there was also a riding arena alongside, complete with the cloverleaf barrel pattern set up, roping chutes and livestock pens. A little prayer, a little riding - integral parts of the Texan fabric, apparently. 

Seen on a billboard: "Fried pie! BBQ ribs! Open at 7 a.m." 

I'm not sure what bothered me more about this: the idea of taking a perfectly delicious pie and deciding that it would be better if immersed briefly in boiling grease, or the fact that there was enough early morning demand for this delicacy, along with ribs, to require someone get up at 5:30 am to open the shop, greet the customers and provide them with this wholesome morning meal. 

Texan roadside humor
Outside of Ft. Worth, we saw the first highway sign listing El Paso on the distant horizon, 545 miles away, to be exact. It was about noon, and we figured that if we just pushed and pushed - we could be there by 9:00 tonight. But the idea of nine more hours in the car, with three of our members crossing their legs until the litter box stopped moving was too much to expect. 

The landscape was changing now that we were out of the urban area, too. The land was drier, with cactus and small, scrubby gray trees that looked like even in a good, soaking rain they'd never come back to green lushness. We saw our first tumbleweed, but it was disappointingly stationary. And let me not forget the oil pumps, their bird-like heads bobbing up and down everywhere. These began dotting the horizon as soon as we entered Texas, but now seemed to be common backyard features like kids play equipment. Further west, the ranches were now dilapidated, sand-blasted gray wooden houses, looking 100 years old, but were probably only 20. The trains  stretched out longer and longer, and farms of wind turbines broke up an otherwise featureless horizon. 

Approaching Odessa-Midland the oil and fracking industry took over and we were hit by the distinct frontier town feel. Nearly all the vehicles sharing the interstate with us were  shiny chrome-grilled, full-sized trucks: Fords, Chevys, GMCs and Dodges only. It reminded him of Dutch Harbor, Alaska and the fishing industry there, in that the scene was dominated by testosterone-driven, masculine professions. Aesthetics not important here, just the pursuit of hard work and a big paycheck. Due to this industry boom, and the need to import huge quantities of workers, the hotel rates anywhere near Odessa and Midland shot from the usual $70 per night straight up to $250! We knew this coming in, and had planned not to stop until Pecos, which promised a government rate of less than $100 per night. We pulled into Pecos after covering over 500 miles and found the Quality Inn alongside the interstate. No government rates were being offered anymore, the receptionist told us, and so for $179 we shared a fairly smelly and nasty hotel room with the obligatory toenail clippings stuck into the carpet beside the bed. Ewww!  The staff were very friendly, and our fellow residents were all the oil and fracking industry workers with their company trucks parked outside the rooms. The inside courtyard rooms offered access to a sunny patio area overlooking the closed pool containing a few feet of green, littered water. This view could be enjoyed from your very own plastic lawn chair, along with your own rusty coffee-can ashtray. No expenses spared!

Pecos oil pump at work just outside our motel
We had dinner at the motel's "Joe's Italian Restaurant" just off the lobby. The menu offered all the classic Italian favorites, and we were surprised with a pretty good, spicy pasta dinner. Down the hall, we had an after-dinner beer at the "Red Iguana" bar/nightclub. We weren't the only ones in the bar, as there were a few tables of single or two men together, all derrick workers, killing time before going to bed and starting all over again early tomorrow morning. We struck up a conversation with the cocktail waitress who told us that she and the bartender drive in from El Paso each week to work the busy bar (apparently the weekends get pretty crazy - I could only imagine!) and stay in an RV in the motel's parking lot. I'm not sure why there were no capable Pecosians available for this work that the owner felt the need to import the staff, but that is apparently the case. 

The next morning, we enjoyed our free continental breakfast in the same "Joe's Italian Restaurant" dining room. I thought the Texas-shaped waffles were pretty clever, but really - they're just copying what Colorado has been doing for years. We got an earlier start, and before packing up I wandered around the motel, hearing pairs of ring-neck doves cooing, adding a soft touch to the otherwise bleak and rugged landscape. 

The final push to El Paso will be a short one, and we should be pulling into our new city by just after lunch!
Miles and miles of Texas!


  1. Have done the drive through Texas, through El Paso, and on to New Mexico. Hope you get to catch a sunset there - so spectacular with that open sky. Two words of advice as you continue on though. As tempting as it may be, DO NOT TRY TO CATCH A TUMBLE WEED. We found out the hard way that they look cool and cute but are really nature's version of a bundle of concertina wire and will mow you over with the slightest provocation of wind. Also, hold your breath, turn off the vent, and drive quickly past the ranch/slaughterhouse/steak hall places. You will smell them coming and should have plenty of warning.

  2. Hahaha - that's great advice! I would have tried exactly what you've described here. I imagine they're like koalas - they look fun and cuddly but will scratch your eyes out if you try to hold one.

  3. Same advice goes for when you drive past a feed lot! Bad, bad smell- those feed lots are!

    How you are you guys liking C.J.? I can't wait to hear what your impressions are of the place.