Brantley Lake State Park
Heading north and east for 30 miles, we then hooked up again with I-10 West on our journey into West Texas. I-10 is like a friend that you enjoy for a couple-day visit, but then you start to yearn to move on—we were reaching the yearning point.
When you hear the words “West Texas” what thoughts come to mind? What feelings? What images? For me it is simple: “hot and windy, dry and dusty.” We traveled for 317 miles in mid- to high-90s temperature before stopping in Fort Stockton for the evening
Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton
For one night, this was a good choice (I can’t imagine spending more than one night in Ft. Stockton, though). The place was well run and adorned with metal art throughout the park.
There was also a cool sign on a hill across from the campground.
Brantley Lake State Park, Carlsbad, NM
From Stockton, we headed west on 285 all the way to the New Mexico border. The entire way through Texas the west wind whirled, sending streams of orange-ish red dust across a highway worn out by thousands of trucks, mostly hauling oil pipeline equipment and supplies. It seemed like every fifth truck was adorned with an “oversized load” sign on its grill with hunks of machines or metals or materials hanging over the side and out the rear. The trash on the side of the road reminded one of the littered streets in bad Detroit neighborhoods. Not pleasant. However, once we hit the state line, the road improved, the traffic lightened, and the roadside looked as New Mexico had a little more pride in appearances. We continued on 285 North through Carlsbad and up to our campsite in Brantley Lake State Park north of town.
We thoroughly enjoyed this isolated area out in the desert of New Mexico. There were lots of bunnies and hundreds of those long-eared, long-legged Texas jack rabbits. Of course, Jack and Mitzy loved them.
Along with other critters there were lots of scaled quail, mockingbirds, grackles, roadrunners, and lizards.
Of course the most famous attraction in the Carlsbad area is the Carlsbad Caverns. Several years ago we wanted to tour them but arrived too late in the day. Last year I had put a plan together for Jan to drop me off for two hours while she and the Pups took the drive through the park (Jan is not crazy about caves). When I went to get my ticket, I was informed the elevators were broken. Yes, I could walk, but that would extend my visit to five hours. Hence, we put it off another year.
There was one upside though, Al Roker and an NBC camera crew was at the visitor center when we arrived. They were shooting sessions for their 100 Years of National Park series. Jan greeted Al, and he responded with a big smile, and I spent some time talking to the crew.
This year, however, I learned from my past mistake—like a senior checking out final exam results, I monitored the NPS Carlsbad Caverns website daily to make sure that all was a go. I learned that elevator maintenance was planned for the days prior to my trip, so no worries. However, the night before, I found that the maintenance had been extended one day! Oh, brother—I thought I was jinxed.
Luckily, we had a little flexibility in our schedule so I set back my trip one day.
I arrive 8:26 a.m., got my ticket, and at 8:29 I was in line for the first elevator (8:30) to take me to the Big Room, 850 feet below. A cool thing for me was, unlike most caves, they did not require being chaperoned in a tour group, and you could not only take pictures but also use a tripod. I spent two hours walking and photographing this immense cave, only seeing a few people along the way. Crazy impressive. Here a few shots.
Note to future visitors of the caverns: Go early. When I exited the caves, people where in long lines to get in. There were six buses parked with hundreds of school kids streaming, screaming, and scampering to take the tours.
Can’t Pass a Food Truck
Jan and I love food truck cuisine, especially Southwest food truck cuisine. We stop as much as we can. On my return to camp, I stopped at the La Patrona food truck to bring home their special burrito and a torta for our lunch. We sat outside, alert pups at our feet, desert before us, and tasting some of the best food in the world. It just doesn’t get any better.
Here are two old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.
See you soon.