Texas is a state that I was really looking forward to traveling across, not sure why. But here is an instance where I let the pressure of traversing such large distance and time and sticking to a plan really get to me. The very far and wide stretch of land to cross Texas must have seemed daunting in that I rushed to cross the state. An enormous mistake that I’ve since learned from, thankfully early on in my trip, is that hightailing it on the Interstate highway is not the most interesting experience. Granted I didn’t find it dull or boring, I believe boring is a mindset, but it wasn’t incredibly thrilling. The highlights of this part of the adventure were playing chicken with the turkey vultures and driving along with the trains of the Union Pacific Railway. It was a specifically summer peach that I picked up along the way and enjoyed, but afterwards left my hands and steering wheel irritatingly sticky. Sticky and sweaty from driving on a 102 degree day, it may have been the shower that I caved in getting at a hotel that I might have enjoyed the most. That might seem sad, but showers are few and far between on my adventure. I don’t mind that it’s mainly cat baths and washing my hair in sinks, but when the opportunity for a shower arrives, it’s pretty epic. Haha… so lame. Motel 6 is the hotel of my choice with their rooms ranging inexpensively from $30-$50 and that the accessible rooms have roll in showers. Beyond the obvious, I feel showers are pretty cleansing, even meditative if you can visualize your negativity being washed away. Anyway, feeling refreshed, I continued my on my I-17 trek.
Somewhere along the line, Spanish had begun being spoken in gas stations. I’m surprised, where I thought I’d crumble in getting my own gas and have to muster up the courage to ask strangers for assistance, I haven’t yet. I’ve found that so far, beyond the East Coast, that full service stations are obsolete. I feel guilty for the many gallons of gasoline my car’s guzzled, but what can you do.
While still in America, El Paso was a pretty big culture shock. Where the architectural infrastructure seemed strong and very characteristically American, the businesses that once filled shops have mostly vanished. Vendors similar to Mexico filled the streets; understandably that it is so close to the Mexican border. It was an interesting cultural exchange. Restaurants were pretty scant, but I finally found one somewhere in the city. It was a near entirely Spanish speaking staff. I cowered at using the little Spanish I know and smiled and ordered, “Tacos, por favor?” It was pretty fun, pushed me in an unexpected way.
Through El Paso, I hurried on, fearful of the fading daylight and missing the sights to be seen at White Sands National Monument. This is random, but why monument? Not that it isn’t monumental, but that confused me. At this point I’d still been a cavalier in driving with my windows down, although it provides little relief of the heat. My hair in the wind gets twisted in the most terrible knots. Before entering, fairly unaware of the beauty about to be seen, I breathed a bit, refilled my water at the Ranger’s warning and tied my hair up. People were soaking in the last of the sun, children sledding on the dunes. The seemingly endless miles of dunes are strangely wave-like as an undulating, “endless and waterless sea.” Unlike sand, the Gypsum does not convert the sun’s energy to heat, so it’s surprisingly cool. I chose not to fight the sand, nor to allow any feelings of disappointment to arise. Where I watched the sun set over the white and glistening sand from my car, it was a transcendent enough sight to put me up there on one of those dunes. The clouds shielded my eyes from the sun and with that both I and the clouds were illuminated. It was one of those sights you wish could be burned into your eyelids, so that every time you close your eyes you could see. With the suns last and fading light the colors that claimed the sky and sand were cooling and a quiet serenity set in.