Last stop: El Paso then home

Prehistoric-looking mountain in SE Arizona off of I-10

It is vacation time in the US which means cross-country travel for many. The following article is the last of several that chronicles my adventure with Jan Pawlak in the summer of 2010. They originally appeared in my column Feed the Mind, Nourish the Soul at the Communities @ The Washington Times from August to November 2010.


FORT WORTH, Texas July 24, 2014—Our tired eyes didn’t want to open the next morning but the excitement of being on the road again energized our bodies from sleep mode.

Most of our belongings were already in the truck. Once ready for the day and travel mugs filled with coffee we resumed our trip that took so many years to begin.

The morning was gray and wet as we made our way to the trailer scheduled for pick up and transport to El Paso. Hooking it up was quick but thorough in the rain. Soon enough we were headed east on I-10.

Once out of Phoenix the sky dried up. The rich and colorful desert became various shades of browns, ochres, taupes and tans. Sporadic prickly green vegetation dotted the landscape while mountains looked prehistoric. They could be right out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.  One couldn’t help but look for ancient animals peeking over the sharp angles of the brown mountaintops or soaring above the dry desert floor. At this point I half expected to hear the theme from the Twilight Zone.

Desert mountains cactus and scrub Jan and Claire

The primordial looking mountains continued on through Tucson. There you can visit the not nearly as aged Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. It is near the site of the famous gunfight between the Earps and the Clantons at the O.K. Corral.

After that the landscape changed once again. Green made the first impression on my eyes while hilly scenery replaced the flat desert floor that included small mesas made of brownish/reddish soil.

Next along the route came hills that looked more like large piles of boulders. The crags had been solid mounds before erosion and plant life cut through them in various ways that made huge rock piles with smooth edges. In some cases the corrosion was so complete that whole boulders have broken away and rolled down to the base of these hills.  Some are giant smooth slabs set at diverse angles while others are monoliths standing as testaments to geologic time. Interspersed between the rocks and crags are huge Yucca plants and lots of green shrubbery. It’s an incredible sight to see.

Driving through beautiful mesas
Driving through beautiful mesas

Soon we crossed back into beautiful New Mexico where the mountains rose high off in the distance once again. The desert floor was very green with vegetation while the sharp massive peaks were neutral browns and taupe. The blue sky was wide with a few clouds that made interesting dark shadows on the ground. The scope and expanse of turf and blue was such that human vision can’t take it all in at once. We absorbed as much of it as we could.

It was a short ride through the Land of Enchantment and soon we were back in Texas. Green and brown mountains on each side of the highway welcome visitors to the Lone Star State. Jan calls these, “Claire’s Mountains,” in honor of crossing into the state in which I live.

It was my first trip to this part of Texas. I had never seen its flat desert with peaked mountains before. There are five different climatic zones in Texas and I’ve been to four of them: Piney Woods, Hill Country, Northern Plains, and South Gulf Coastal Region. We are now in the last one: Big Bend Country. And even though this state line is six hundred miles from Fort Worth it felt like we were almost home.

The splendor of the Southwest

Driving through El Paso was interesting in that Mexico lay just south of I-10. I’ve never been that close to another country before.

The interest became irritation when the city decided to change out a highway sign during rush hour. Jan was concerned that the bumper to bumper traffic was going to make her late with delivery. And it did by twenty minutes.

The shipment went to a department store so once the business was done we went in, shopped, then finished the trip to Swift’s El Paso terminal. They are all set up basically the same with the continuity that makes road life easier for drivers.

Once in the truck we feasted in our pajamas while watching Frasier and laughing our heads off. It was our last night on the truck and tomorrow night I’d get to sleep in my own bed. Although home sounded wonderful I was going to miss being with Jan on the road too. Even without all the amenities of home.

The morning sun greeted us as we hit the road once again with yet another trailer for delivery. Not far out of El Paso with coffee still in hand we met the Border Patrol. Thankfully the officer believed we were American citizens and didn’t think the truck needed inspecting so he waved us through. It was another unique encounter to put on my Experience List.

The road took us from Big Bend Country to the Northern Plains of Texas. By dinner hour we had made it to Weatherford just west of Fort Worth. Since my neighborhood doesn’t allow big trucks of any kind my husband met us at a truck stop there where Jan would spend the night. However, the city had no water due to a broken water main. We offered to follow her to another truck stop about ten miles north of our home but she was tired and wanted to stay put. Fortunately Jan keeps extra water aboard the rig for just this kind of dilemma.

As we hugged good-bye I was grateful for Jan and for our time on the road. We grew even closer if that’s possible after forty plus years of friendship. Jan says she’ll come get me any time I’m ready for another adventure. All I need to do is call.


Read more of Claire’s work at Feed the Mind, Nourish the Soulin the Communities Digital News and Greater Fort Worth Writers.

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