I am sitting in a real bed in a real motel in Alpine, Texas. It is the second to last day of the year and I still do not know where I will be to ring in the New Year, let alone where I will lay my head tomorrow. This was, after all, not my plan. This is also a first for this happening while on the road. My plan is not working out and is not my plan. Damn.
I did have a plan. In fact, I looked up camp sites on the internet but hesitated to make a reservation. I hate making reservations when I have not seen the place. My interpretation of a camp spot is not shared by the rest of the world. Though I saw spots, I never did snag one. I figured I would take advantage of the FCFS (first come first serve), as there were plenty to go around. Or so I thought.
I left my camp outside of Junction, Texas and made my way to Big Bend National Park. I cut off the main road, figuring I had time to sight see a little bit. Naturally, it took longer than expected. But, I did actually see Mexico. That was exciting. I continued to drive. Oh, did I mention the wind?? Like a nearly gale force headwind that took 40% off my gas mileage??? Yeah, there was that. The Jeep struggled all day. She worked hard.
I drove on this wonderfully sunny day and finally saw mountains. I was excited to see them! It has been months since I saw any mountains and this was a treat. I drove for hours and got to the main gate of the park. The sign said that the campgrounds were full. I stayed in line just in case and watched the faces of the folks in front of me. Nobody smiled. It was my turn and the park ranger informed me that all sites had filled up as of that morning, even the walk-in and FCFS sites. There was not a camp site in the park. Well, shit. He gave me a list of local RV parks and camp options. Shit. Not my plan.
I decided to drive to the other side and see what the small towns had to offer. By this time is was around 2:00 in the afternoon. It was getting time to find somewhere to land for the night. It took me another couple hours to get to the other side of the park into the small towns there. I checked out the local offerings. They sucked. I mean, the RV parks had tent sites that were thrown onto what looked like a horse corral. Dirt and rocks and one picnic table. Let alone complete exposure to these winds I have been fighting all day. Oh, did I mention close to the highway?? I called the local motel and they wanted $99 for their last room. Now, the sign said something about a resort, but when I drove by it was the typical “no tell mo-tel”, which means cheap crap place to lay my head.
I pulled over and thought about my options. There was a state park near, but all the camping was completely boon docking, which means you get a spot and a fire ring and that is all. You have to have all your own water and take care of your own waste. ALL OF IT! Well, that would suck. I just am not set up for all of that and I really do not want to be completely exposed to the wind and my neighbors. Shit, shit, shit. What to do?
I weighed my options while I sat in a parking lot. I could take a crappy spot and use my time driving in and out of the park. That would mean time and lots of gas and a crappy site. I could get the hotel room and them figure it out while sleeping comfortably but that was a lot of money for just one night. Shit!
I ended up just leaving. I went another hour and got myself a less expensive motel room in the closest and largest town. I was looking for someplace to land for the Holiday and I struck out. I did not HAVE to get a motel room, as I could have done a one nighter. I could have camped the dirt and the rocks next to the highway. But, how bad did I want to see this park? I mean, it looked cool and fun and with lots to do and see. But, then again, if all the sites are taken, then all the people are there. That means crowds which I hate.
I was in the car for 9 hours today, less gas stops. I made it a point to fill my tank all the time. Oh, did I mention that gas went up about 50 cents per gallon?? Yeah, that too. Oh, did I mention that the temperature was going to be nearly 10 degrees colder than all of my intel told me? Yeah, there is that, too. It will get into the 20’s, where last night it dipped into the 40’s. That is cold, even for me. Like, really cold to be outside.
Again, here I sit in a motel room having fucked up my plans. I ate half a pizza, took a bath, and am drying out my tent. Oh, did I mention that it was all went when I had to pack up this morning? Yeah, there was that, too. I finished the bottle of wine I had and am watching Seattle Football that I have not seen live in months. I have electricity, a toilet, all the water I want, a fridge and a microwave. My gear is drying out and I am warm.
I must use this time to plan my next move. I am within striking distance from my Pop, where I had hoped to be many days ago. I have a lot of research to do as I consider all the factors. Weather, temperature, distances, the fact that I need a laundromat and a grocery store. This is a cool part of the country, but I am having a hard time figuring out how to enjoy it.
This part of my travel did not go as planned. It is my own fault. I had many choices and the ones I made, or did not make (which is still making a choice), have landed me here in a motel in the middle of SouthWest Texas. What next? I really do not know. But since I have all the power and internet I can stand, I will do a lot of research.
The last time this happened, when the weather and circumstances were not cooperating, was during my time in Upper Michigan. I ended up just leaving and heading to see family. I chose indoors over out of doors. This situation is feeling much like that. The weather is not cooperating and the time of year is against me. What to do, what to do. Think, ponder, stress about it.
Post Script – ends up, I was fighting the Universe the entire time. It got so cold that the pipes froze in the motel. I only warmed up to the 40’s and that wind was cutting edge. I visited Carlsbad National Caverns, which was incredible. Then I paid for one more motel before I just bombed over to my Dad’s. I had a nice chat with the breakfast room attendant and that put me back in Pilgrim mode and back on the vibration of this journey.
Oh, did I mention that Big Bend National Park as a volunteer program and housing is included? Perhaps that is a future way for me to see this place that looks very interesting and diverse. If I was not able to visit this time, perhaps a better time and place exist.
Ends up the Universe was trying to take care of me and I was fighting it. I was not supposed to be outside in this weather. I was not supposed to pay for a shitty campsite in a shitty location with shitty amenities. I was just not supposed to be here in this place at this time. I finally relented and had a great, but long, drive to Dad’s. All is well again.