Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trespassin' on T. Boone's Land!

Nathan made a trek similar to mine in the early summer. He thinks automakers should produce a device that is to be mounted to cars in the US: similar to a GPS unit but much simpler. Once the car gets too far out of San Antonio, TX, it's shuts the engine off. Then it proceeds to check with you via IQ test to make sure you do want to continue to West Texas and that you are insane enough to try.

I understand now why this device should be in place, and yes, I am insane enough to try!

'Nuff Said! (and I zoomed out quite a bit on that too)

But from the beginning: Kingwood, TX. Chris' house is in a suburb of Houston in northeast of the city in Montgomery County, TX. I couldn't help but release a slight chuckle as I realized that I went from Montgomery County, Alabama to Montgomery County, Texas on day one.

However being on the northeast side of the city caused problems when I slept through my alarm, well alarms.. three of them. I had planned on getting out of Houston by 6:30 am but didn't wake until 7:45. I was on the road shortly after but it put me in rush hour traffic from then all the way until Katy, TX adding about an hour to what is already the longest drive on my trip. ... But man I needed that sleep!

Once you leave Houston on I-10 heading west you begin to see billboards advertising a convenience store called Buc-ees. But they start about 160 miles before the store is reached. They each have a different little one liner or advertisement, usually around there logo which is a beaver. My favorite was:"IF IT HARMS BEAVERS, THEN WE'RE AGAINST IT!"

At first I found it odd to advertise so far out, and then I laughed at their jokes. Later I got fed up with the signs and they became an annoyance. It was a weird déjà for 2 and half hours! I was so glad to reach the exit where it was because it meant the signs were done and no more Buc-ees... but I was out of gas and decided what the hell.. let's go in and see what the fuss was about. It was the first road side store that actually had departments. Yeah the typical snacks and sodas, but you could also pick up collegiate wear for local Texas universities, home furnishings like leather couches, all sorts of Texas themed souvenirs and outer wear, electronics, and even cowboy hats. So I got a cowboy hat! Probably not a truly authentic cowboy hat, but it joins a collection of regional specific hats I pickup in the respective region.

The turn off to pick up Jason in Canyon Lake went through New Braunfels. Instantly I started to whiff because of a strange smell. The area of Texas I was in had the distinctive smell of kibble. Then I saw this guy:

Well there's your problem.

New Braunfels also provided me with a few revelations. The high school, NBHS had a unique mascot. It was plastered all over the local water towers and the city was well supportive of the teams. But me personally, I wouldn't want to wear purple while sitting in the stands “It’s Great... To Be... a Braunfels Unicorn!" haha... One Horn Pride!

I thoroughly enjoy irony, and one of the local cafes was the epitome of my type of humor. It was called the 'Clear Springs Cafe.' I’m sure it's a fine establishment; being in small town USA, especially in Texas, in must have good food. But the 'Clear Springs Cafe,' on the day that I passed through down, just happened to have a septic tank overflow. There was a cleanup truck from a septic tank overflow service in the front yard. I wish I had snapped a photo, but I was laughing too hard.

Northwest of New Braunfels, I came upon Jason. It was the midway reunion of our cross country paths. He was three hours into my 16 hour drive so he and I had a good long time to be together. His Aunt's property north of San Antonio was amazing. I'll tell you she was at the top of hill with a view over the lake one way and a view into a valley the other side, but I'll just show you pictures.

The beginning of our journey together.

And strictly because it's me and the opportunity presented itself, I took this photo also, a place to hang your hat:

So Jason and I set off on our path through the desert. The scariest part of the trip was the right turn onto I-10. I enjoy this GPS unit, without it the trip wouldn't have easy. Finding Jason in Canyon Lake was a cinch, and Aunt Buffy's house too. It would have been a nightmare to be looking for street names in the dark after being on the road for what felt like forever. I tells you the, what street to turn on, then how long to continue until your next turn. The right turn onto I-10 was given as... "Take ramp on right to I-10 west, then continue for FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY-ONE MILES" That's almost two tanks of gas for me! And WOW was it an interesting drive.... not!

Most of the drive, I find something interesting every few miles. In west Texas, it all looks like this:

At one point Josh texted me and asked how the drive way. I replied "You know that drive we do every once in a while to D.C.? Now imagine something a little longer, but completely flat, and all in the West Texas Desert!" I think I even got excited when I saw a tumbleweed, but only because it was something other than sand, rock or cacti.

The countries green initiative has given us alternative fuels and energy sources. In west Texas, they have found ample space to litter the valleys and plateaus with wind mills. We've all seen them on TV, but this was my first chance to actually see them in person. The slowly rose off the horizon, and then before we knew it, they were EVERYWHERE. One point it was as though an army of windmills was attacking us.

To give you an idea of the mass quantity of these things, let me present you the next two photos. First I have a horizon shot with a plateau in the distance. Then a zoomed in shot of the same plateau. They were planted across the entire span, from the mountain in the left third of the photo all the way to where the plateau drops off on the right of the frame. The lower photo is zoomed into the right side of the plateau; use the drop off distance as the scale factor.

That's alot of energy harnessing power! Thank you T. Boone Pickens!

Here's a West Texas Freeway photo for you to delight your eyes upon:

West Texas Sunset [sorta]:

Long exposure into the sunset:

Approaching El Paso gave us more to look at than nature. There also happen to be a high density of strip clubs, all of them with really cheesy names like "Texas Longhorn" or "The Kitty House." It also gave Jason and I the chance to view across the border into the shanty towns on the border. We were so intrigued by this we forgot to monitor the gas gauge.

Passing an exit outside of El Paso, I remembered to glance at the gauge, only to find that the low level light was already on. Very assertively I plugged it the next fuel stop into the GPS unit and saw that we were a half mile away, but it was behind us. The next exit with fuel was 20 miles in front of us. Once that light comes on I only have 25-28 miles left, and that’s with an empty car load! We slowed down to 50 and cruised the next 20 miles barely making it to the pump. Apparently though, this is suspicious behavior! We passed a white Border Patrol SUV on the side of the interstate; it looked like a cop set up in a speed trap, only he's looking for drug runners and illegal aliens! Going really slow apparently makes you look like a runner. I noticed in my mirrors headlights that approached very fast then hung to my rear bumper for about 5 miles. I just maintained 50 mph and if he pulled my over I was not going to make it to the gas station! With the bikes on the back of the car you can't get a clear view of the plate, potentially more suspicious. This SUV then pulled into the passing lane and hung to my quarter panel, again for another five miles. It was pitch black dark; I felt for sure it was a cop or Border Control, because everyone else was doing 8omph! After five minutes of scaring he slowly pulls up to my window, glances in, then speeds off down the highway. I don't know what he was doing, but I assume he ran my plates, and I looked white enough to be my own self!

We finally reached New Mexico by 1:30 am MST Quite thrilling to be done with Texas. This means that I have driven across the entire state of Texas. As much as people complain about it, it really wasted that bad. Houston was about 2 hours in from the Louisiana border then about 12 hours to the other side of Texas from there, and I drove it all! I have championed the Texas Width!

New Mexico delivered us a Border Patrol check point. Jason struggled to find his wallet with his identity, but luckily the guy just let us through. I was driving and had my stuff ready to go. The car was so loaded down that it was obvious we didn't have anyone in the car with us, and neither of us looked like illegal immigrants.

From there we ventured west through an unusual geographic anomaly, a dust storm zone. I wonder if a car were to be in one of these dust storms, does the paint just get sand blasted off? What if you were on a motorcycle, how bad would it hurt? Glad we didn't see anything.

Here's the car at a gas station in New Mexico, I noticed that with Jason's bike, all my crap in the truck, and the back seat being filled to the brim, that's alot of weight on the rear axle!

Leaving the gas station we once again got a Border Control guy to stalk us for a few miles. Late at night, a car all packed out, I guess I just have that kind of face.

Yeah Arizona!

It rains in Arizona 4 or 5 days a year, outside of monsoon season. I happen to win the jackpot and land on one of them. The humidity in the heat the next day was no big deal to me, but man did it cause a fog the night we drove in. It was so bad at one point that I couldn't see more than about 30 feet in front of the car. But since it was straight, it wasn't really a problem. You just have to be ready to hit the brakes really fast if you see someone, which at 3 am, nobody is out.

We finally arrived at my Aunt Buffy's house in Tucson around 3:45-4 am. I wasn't really paying attention. We walked in the door, she showed us our room and handed us a beer. We just crashed.

I have to thank her for letting us arrive at such an odd hour, and on a school night. Luckily Uncle Joe had just gotten home from work and Buffy had enough of a warning to get a nap before we got there. Still, the inconvenience of 4am is bad impression. And I've gotten plenty of hell about it form other family members.

The next day, we go to Phoenix for a side trip.


  1. Congrats on crossing Texas.

    About those windmills...the were pretty evident in Iowa while I was there too. From the locals, the smaller ones were 150ft long and the longer ones were 300ft long. Shipped in pieces via rail or semi. Pretty amazing.

    Keep up the safe travels!

  2. I hope you enjoy Astoria! We used to go there on field trips when I was in elementary school. Ft. Clatsop is pretty interesting. It's a neat town, but not a whole lot there other than fishing, I don't think! You'll probably like Portland, although it's pretty liberal. That's where we used to go to do real shopping. It's a nice city with lots of nice suburbs. Have a safe trip!


  3. Nice! Congrats on the degree, the blog, the adventure. Hope your journey goes well! Bruce was right, you do have some awesome photography on here. Shipwreak is my fav (kibbles too tho).

    Rock on!

    your cuz,


  4. Thanks All,

    Robert, I used my BSA skills and estimated these to be about 150-175 feet tall, so I'm glad to hear that I was almost correct. We did see some of these are big rigs crossing the desert , and HOLY COW THEY ARE HUGE! I thought it was a wind tunnel piece at first!

    Gayle, Astoria is great so far, but it's a tourist town now. Only cannery left is way out of town. It's a tourist destination now, which means it's pretty dead this time a year. But this is my staging point for Seattle or Portland. And yeah, they may be liberal, but remember I went to Architecture school, everyone is liberal there! Wish me luck!

    Sean, Thanks, It was a lot of work. I've got more pic coming soon. I'd hate to break your heart but the shipwreck isn't mine, I found those picture before I got here. I do plan on heading out there soon and getting my own photo. It's in a state park, so I'll spend an afternoon out there one weekend.