Thursday, February 18, 2010

West Texas solitude

We are at a picnic area on a remote stretch of US-90, east of Marathon (map). Now that we are in the unpopulated part of the state, these kinds of stopping options are actually more plentiful, and we decided on a early stop yesterday to catch our breath. We were off the road by 2:30.

It was nice to have a relaxing afternoon at home, catching up on email and taking care of some business. I made marinated skirt steak for dinner. And while this particular picnic area is only a couple dozen feet from the highway, US-90 here is lightly traveled, with perhaps four or five vehicles an hour, and almost none at night. I would guess the few pickups that whizzed past in the wee hours to have been Customs and Border Protection.

The sky is incredibly clear and dark here at night, the reason why the McDonald Observatory is located not far from here. When I stepped outside to walk Opal last night, I was overwhelmed by the stars; I had almost forgotten what they are like in such a remote, dark place. There is almost no hint of civilization here for miles in any direction, despite power lines running along the road, and a pole barn visible in the distance (no lights, though).

I suppose the dark and the quiet is what calls us so often to west Texas. At night, the only sounds to be heard are the occasional distant howl of a coyote, or maybe the sounds of cattle in some spots (not here, though -- we haven't seen a steer for miles). Often the loudest thing I can hear is my own tinnitus, a fact that sometimes necessitates me having to put on headphones and listen to music or the TV.

In a few minutes we will wrap up at this nice spot and continue west through Marathon and into Alpine, where we will turn south on highway 118 to visit our friend Ara, halfway to Terlingua.


  1. Ah, tinnitus. No silence for us. Still, it sounds wonderful. Darkness that is dark. The absence of people. Sometimes that can be very nice.

    Except, of course, for that constant ringing!



  2. Is that not wonderful. I stopped over there once, when I was still trucking, I noticed how dark it was and decided to turn off all my lights and the truck engine. I stepped back out side and was amazed. If I had walked 10 feet from the truck I would have never found it again. It was just that dark. I stopped another time there during a full moon and could see forever.

  3. I remember when the comet (Hale Bob...Bop...whatever) passed so close, I traveled to that area of Texas for the awesome views. I now understand why the ancients considered comets gods.


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