Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Not all Travel is Golden

“Picture it, Sicily, 1912”… Ok, not exactly.

Sunday, April 26, 2015 

I’m at work in my Mud Logging unit; finishing up my last shift offshore. Tomorrow I am taking a helicopter into Louisiana, where I will begin my journey home to Houston Texas. It's 6:00 pm and ‘T minus 4 days’ until I am to meet my family in San Antonio for my first overseas trip EVER! I have so many things to do when I get back because of course I didn’t pack before leaving for my 3 week hitch offshore. Why? Once I’m home, I will have 3 days to pack, right?! As I am discussing the trip with my co-worker, I nonchalantly check the weather forecast for Louisiana. In my head I’m singing “In less than 24 hours I will be in Houston,” when it came full stop... 
Forecast for South Louisiana: Red=bad; Pink= very; very bad

No big deal… I may have a canceled crew change for Monday. I can still get off the rig Tuesday and have enough time to get back to Houston before my trip.

Monday, April 27, 2015 
‘T minus 3 days to my trip’

Long story short, we did make our crew change, albeit I did miss my original flight at 3:20 pm. Not the end of the world, my flight had been rebooked for 6:30 that evening. 

My driver pulls up to the New Orleans airport, I see the line leading out the front door and extending outside; halfway down the ramp to the drop-off zone.

It’s okay, it’s only 3:30, I have my e-ticket and I don’t need to check any luggage. I squeeze past everyone and make my way inside. No lights are on and the air smells like bad perfume, if I had to put a name to it I’d say Dire Prophecy.

I find the security line. It’s long, but I plant myself in place, head tilted as I grab my headphones and start listening to a podcast. Just trying to pass the time so I don’t panic. 

After idling in the same place for about 20 mins, I get a buzz on my phone. “Are you okay? I hear the storm knocked a train off the railroad tracks!”  Before I could reply, someone comes over the loudspeaker. “We apologize for the inconvenience, but all flights are canceled for the day ….blah, blah, blah… Please call this number for…. yadda, yadda, yadda…” 

My mind immediately switched into fight or flight mode! It was like being handed the baton in a relay race. I took off! The advantage of consistently traveling this airport for work meant I knew exactly where I needed to go. I needed to beat everyone in this airport to the taxi line! 

Along the way I ran into two men I know from my company who worked on other rigs. I stopped and asked them if they already called Valerie, our travel lady who makes all of our hotel/flight arrangements. They had, and she was aware that I would also need a hotel. Thankfully, within the hour we were on our way and not left stranded for the night in the airport.

Later that evening, as I laid in bed, making a list of everything I would have one less day to do, I get the email for my new flight.

It said:
Departing New Orleans for Houston Hobby
Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 9:00 pm....9:00 PM!!!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 ‘T minus 2 days to my trip’

I wake up and decide I am not going to sit at the airport for 9 hours. I am renting a car and driving myself. I call my manager, get approval, head downstairs and run into my co-workers; waiting for their ride to the airport. I tell them I got approval to drive home.

***Side note: In our company, you are treated like a child and so if you want to be able to drive yourself anywhere on company time then you need to have specific training called “Drive SMARRT.” (Yes, two ‘R’s, don’t remember why)

Unbeknownst to me, they too had very late flights booked for that day, 7:50pm to be exact. Since they didn’t have the certification they needed to drive, I offered that they come with me. If we left soon, we’d be home before their flight would even be scheduled to take off! They agreed, got the confirmation from their managers and we took off to the airport ‘rent a car’ place together. Happy as can be!

In my head I was expecting MUCH longer lines at ‘rent a car’ but when we got there it was dead. I guess everyone else was happy to have their flights. I walked up to the counter, got my reservation and was told to walk out the doors to the garage in order to actually book the vehicle and pay. So there we go, we walk out into a huge parking lot below the airport and about 50 yards away, in the middle, is the ‘rent a car’ shack. With my co-workers in tow, I set off with a vengeance because as I look around, I see three cars left and about 500 empty spaces. I panic as I notice there are three people already in line ahead of me! 

I’m dreading the prospect of being told “Sorry, we just rented our last one,” when the agent walks up to the lady at the head of the line and hands her the keys to an extended cab pickup truck. She exclaims, “Oh No!!! I cannot drive a truck.” The agent looks to the next two customers behind her and they lean back; shaking their heads ‘No’ as if he’s offering them the keys to Hell itself.

Then, he looks at me, and I’m standing there like an 8 year old who’s sitting anxiously in their seat; waiting to be called on to answer a question. I’m bouncing up and down, my arm is up in the air, “Pick me! Pick me!” I don’t even think he got the first word out before I exclaimed, “YES! I can drive a truck!!!”

So, I’m on cloud nine, I couldn’t breathe for 24 hours and at that moment I let out a huge sigh of relief, and it would have been so rewarding had it not been interrupted by, “Are you kidding me? We can’t ride in a truck. This is going to be so uncomfortable. Our bags… where are our bags going to go? Don’t they have any minivans?”

So, you know how in the movies, when someone says something extremely foolish and the piano player packs up, “Gotta go!” Picture that, that’s about how it went down. Through gritted teeth I replied, “I’m not kidding, I’m not worried about your bags, and I’m also not worried about your comfort. You can throw your bags in the bed of the truck with mine and hop in or find a more comfortable place to sit for the next 7 hours while you wait for your flight!”

Five minutes later, after much huffing and puffing on his end, we were driving out of that lot. I put some music on and after about 7 hours I was dropping the guys off at their homes. 

It was a rocky start, but as I headed to drop off the truck, I realized something about myself that day. I should do this travel thing more often, I bet I’d get better at it.  

P.S... Thank you to the Golden Girls for always making things funny 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Texas Sized Road Trip

Houston to Big Bend and Back

Hello my Huckleberry's. I'd like to start off by saying, the time I've listed below for each stop is just an approximation; not a schedule. It is difficult to put an amount of days on this trip so if your plan is to drive across Texas, then you can do it in one day. From Houston to Big Bend, straight shot with minimum stops will be about 9-10 hours (600 miles).

For fellow travelers, road trippers and campers like me, here are my ideas on how to take this trip and get the most out of your time on the road! This is a trip for camping and nature buffs. That’s about all that is available to you West of San Antonio. Once I finish the main trip, I will include some options or add on trips you can make that are based on what time you have and how much you like to drive. 

One more quick note: I wouldn't recommend going to Big Bend in a summer month. Temperatures reach well into the 100's F during summer. We took this trip at the end of October. A storm blew into the mountains one night but barely dropped any rain, mostly annoyed us with clouds, high wind and a few sprinkles which blocked our view of the stars. Max temperature was in the desert during the day at about 85 deg F with night temps being the lowest in the mountains, around 60 deg F.

-          Comfy shoes
-          A pair of hiking boots
-          Layers, because in Texas our weather is different all over. Once you make it to the desert it will be hot during the day but cold at night!
-          Sunscreen, sunscreen and more sunscreen
-          Adequate cash, the further West you go the more “small” town
-          Bring a road map; technology is not reliable in West Texas
-          Camping gear if you like to camp
-          Ice chest, either small or large because you should keep some food around on road trips whether you are camping or not!
-         Get in touch with tour operators before this trip. Once you're inside Big Bend, your phone is a paper weight.
-          If you want to cross into Mexico, you WILL need your passport 
-          I am a Geologist, I will not bore you with tons of geology, but I will make some notes I think may be interesting to rock hounds or anyone who likes that sort of thing. I’ll mark them in green so you can skip over if you like breaking my heart, just kidding… Kind of.

Day 1: Total Miles to drive- 368 ~5.5 hours

Houston à(197 mi/3 hrs) San Antonioà (171 mi/2.5 hrs) Sonora

~8:00 am

Head towards San Antonio
I do suggest starting your day early, as over inflated Texas’ ego is at times, it doesn’t come from nowhere; it is quite large! The drive will take 3 hours and in my opinion the most interesting thing on the way is Buc-ee’s Gas Station. There will be about 20 road signs with a beaver wearing a red baseball cap directing you to stop. The signs themselves are pretty cheeky so if anything just have fun reading them. Do not worry, once you get to San Antonio it gets much better!

Optional stop:
10070 West IH 10
Luling, TX 78648

Good for a rest stop, refill and restroom break, road snacks and souvenirs
Don’t miss: The beef jerky and the snack packets of cheese and pork cutlets!

~11:30 am
Stop 1: San Antonio, Texas (allow for 2-3 hours max)
-          Riverwalk Cruise - $10/pp (45-60 mins)
-          Alt Option: The Alamo- Free (45-60 mins)
-          Lunch- $7-15 (1-1.5 hours)
There is no shortage of things to do in San Antonio, you could spend 3 days in this city. Here is what I recommend for a leisurely time to break up your long drive.

    - My suggestion is to park on the corner of E Commerce St and N Presa. 

Destination 1: Rio San Antonio River Cruise (45-60 mins)
This is a boat tour of the Riverwalk. Sit back and enjoy the announcer give a humorous presentation of the history of the Riverwalk as you glide slowly past century old cypress trees that line the river. It is a great way to take a quick tour of what is one of the best areas of the city.

**Alternate option: The Alamo (45-60 mins)
·        After parking, head down the Riverwalk towards the Alamo. It is free to go inside
·        Just north of the Alamo, on Houston Street there is a great gem of a place called, The History Shop. The owner removed the flooring and dug down into the earth and uncovered all kinds of memorabilia from the battle of the Alamo. It’s free to go in and look around. I will leave you with the surprise of how great this little shop is if you enjoy this sort of thing. Here is the link to their website. 

Destination 2: Lunch (Allow 1-1.5 hours)

I am going to give you three options here, depending on your tastes and attitude towards how you like to spend your time.

1. Casa Rio at 430 E. Commerce St.
Go here for a tourist experience
2. Whataburger at 412 E Commerce St
If you want a taste of a Texas fast food staple since the 1950's, try this out.
3. Titos at 955 South Alamo Street
If you want authentic Mexican food, this is your place! Parking in this area will be free and I-10 is just a hop skip and jump away.

Jump back onto I-10 and head west after lunch.

As you leave San Antonio, you will notice the change in landscape. This is the beginning of the Texas Hill Country. As you drive west, you get closer to what was once a mountain range the size of the Himalayas, the Ouachita Mountains. They are not here anymore, all that is left are rolling hills covered with sediment from the great inland sea that dominated this area millions of years ago. You can stop at some of these road cuts and pick up fossilized marine life as a result.

TIP: If you are camping when you make it to Sonora, I suggest stopping by our favorite store to do grocery shopping at in Texas, H.E.B. If you do need to stop to get some groceries, just account for about another 30 mins to your trip time! Below is my suggestion on which one to stop at.

300 Main
Kerrville, TX 78028

Sharllyn- My travel buddy/partner in crime
Lots of junk in our trunk
 ~6:00-7:00 pm
Stop 2- Early evening: Sonora, TX (overnight here)
Sonora is the halfway point between San Antonio and Big Bend. The best part about stopping here for the night is that the next morning you can wake up and tour the Caverns of Sonora. It’s a small town, there are places to eat dinner so don’t worry about that. You can get BBQ, Mexican food, or a nice steak. There are fast food options if you’re looking to save some money, such as Subway, Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut and Sonic Drive-In.

Day 2: Total Miles to drive- 293 mi ~4.25 hours
Sonora (143 mi/2 hours) Fort Stocktonà (150 mi/ 2.25 hours) Terlingua

~8:00 am
Stop 1- Breakfast (allow 30-60 mins)
Check out the Sutton County Steakhouse. They are open Monday-Sunday from 6:30am-9pm.

~9:00 am
Stop 2- Caverns of Sonora (allow 2 hours)
These caverns are spectacular! The cost is a bit steep at $20 per person ($18 w/ the discount at this link). The tour is 1.5 hours and the cost is well worth it! You can see reviews on trip advisor if you need a bit more proof on the price vs. benefit. 
Trip Advisor Reviews- Caverns of Sonora

-          Make sure you stop by the gift shop and get some of their fudge, it is wonderful!
-          Wear comfy shoes
-          The cavern itself is almost 100% humidity, dress accordingly
-          This is a cave and so if you have issues with claustrophobia, if you have bad knees/feet, you may want to skip this one.

Once you are content with your time at Sonora you can begin your journey to the next stop, Fort Stockton.

~1:00 pm
Stop 3- Fort Stockton (allow 1-1.5 hours)
I am going to tell you the best way to make this stop to maximize your time
1.    Grab lunch at Taco’s OJ. I had the best enchilada and chile relleno of my life. I’ll remind you that is coming from someone who grew up by right by Mexico.

Complimentary chips n salsa at Taco's OJ
Tacos OJ Mexican Restaurant
1305 N Main St
Fort Stockton, TX
2.    On the corner of Main St and Dickinson you can find a Giant Road Runner statue. It’s just an offbeat roadside attraction that you might as well pass by since it’s either on your way to Walmart or back to the highway.

3.    Walmart stop; should you need any last minute items, see below:
2610 Dickson Blvd
Fort Stockton, TX
TIP: I would use this stop to get some cash out if needed

4.    An optional stop is the Annie Riggs Museum
This is a quaint museum that is an ode to a pioneer woman; Annie Riggs. 

~6-6:30 pm
The hwy outside of Fort Stockton. We had to
Stop 4- Terlingua (Overnight)

Terlingua is one of the best places for stargazing. Add to that, the ghost town! In west Texas, you can’t make a wrong choice.

Watch the sunset behind the Santa Fe de Los Pinos mountain range over 80 miles south in Mexico. Sunset information, should that be important to you, can be found on this wonderful website. See Sunrise & sunset information

Terlingua Rentals offers refurbished 100 year old rooms inside the ghost town itself. Personally, I’d spend the extra money for that. They run anywhere from $100-$240/night, depending on size and occupancy.

Retro Rents has renovated streamliners $124/night for 2 persons there is one called “The Bachelor” that is $85/night for 1. Check them out here

For food and nightlife you can check out The Starlight Theatre. My suggestion is, eat some sandwiches in your hotel or campground, and then grab a beer, sit on the porch outside and watch the sunset. Or just sit on the porch and make friends and watch the stars light up the sky. You will appreciate that very much!

Day 3: Total Miles to drive- 35 at most ~ 1-1.5 hours
Entrance to the National Park

Terlinguaà (35 mi/1 hour) Big Bend NP –Cottonwood Campground

Upon waking up in the morning you can grab some breakfast, check out the ghost town itself as well as meet up with any outdoor tour company you may have made plans with before heading into the Park.

Visit the NPS website for Big Bend National Park as there is abundant information about all the options you have regarding camping in developed sites vs backcountry sites vs lodging. In addition, it will provide weather alerts and give information on any closures of hiking trails due to bear activity or said weather. 

-          Campsites are cash only
-          Restock on food in Terlingua if necessary as well as gas
-          Cottonwood and Chisos Basin do not have showers, so bring tons of water for rinsing off as well as body/face wipes.
-          Yes, we went 2 nights without a shower. Just basically poured water over ourselves and used tons of antibacterial wipes to clean off after our days of hiking. This is definitely camping; not glamping
-          $12 per person for 7 days is the fee to enter the park

Stop 1: Cottonwood Campground; Big Bend National Park (1-2 nights here)

Although only 33 miles in, the drive takes at least an hour due to the Park speed limit. It may seem like a snail’s pace after the 80 mph speed limits on I-10, but the view wouldn’t allow for any faster anyway. I promise you will find yourself pulling over many times just to enjoy the scenery.

There is a store on the small hill just above the campground that can sell you essentials and ice. It doesn’t have extended hours like a convenience store would, so make sure to keep that in mind.
Small convenience store in that building
The group campsite is a walk-in, tent-only site; no RVs or trailers are allowed. The campground has pit toilets, potable water, picnic tables and grills. Campgrounds are first come; first serve. Depending on the time of year, it may benefit you to show up no later than noon, in order to secure a spot. Payment is pretty rudimentary. Just pull into the campground and follow the instructions on the information board.Rangers will come around daily and collect monies as well as monitor the area accordingly.
They sell this beer at stores nearby, it's very good!
We chose a spot with some trees so Sharllyn could hang her ENO hammock. Just so happened we picked a tree in which an owl lived. In the evenings as I sat in my chair, I'd see Mr. Bean (that’s what I named him) walk out onto the big branch as he stretched and woke up; readying himself for a night of flight. Like clockwork, Mr. Bean would return at first light. This is when the magic of this campground showed itself. As the sun rises, the reflection off the canyon walls glow bright red orange. Pictures simply do not do it justice.

Sunrise at our campground in Cottonwood

These are the hikes we did as we camped in Cottonwood

Santa Elena Canyon Trail

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.7 mi round trip 
Big Bend River Hikes

Sharllyn tried to it anyway :)
TIP: You will need to walk across what might be a slightly wet; muddy creek to get to the trail head. Do not try to walk through the mud. You will get stuck. You will feel like you’re about to sink down to your neck. You will stop before then, but you will lose a shoe, possibly both before clawing your way out.

What we did was walk up the creek to where reeds and sticks had fallen across the mud and created a bit of a bridge with which to keep us from sinking in. A quick climb up the bank and a short traipse through some brush led us to the start of the canyon. Don’t be afraid, just go with it. You will be delighted as you embark on the journey between the 1500 foot tall canyon walls. Once at the end, we ate a small lunch and took lots of pictures.

At the top of the trailhead, looking away from the canyon (Mexico to the right of the river)

Me; in awe, Santa Elena in front (Mexico to my left)

Mule Ears Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.8 mi round trip
Big Bend Desert Hikes

Tip: Take tons of water, it is just 3.8 miles round trip but there is zero shade as you are literally hiking through desert.
Mule Ears Formation that you hike along side
**A very important note: This is the desert, it gets hot, so ALWAYS have water on you and make sure to definitely carry enough on your hikes. A hike in this area of Big Bend may not seem far, but there is zero shade, even if it is 80 degrees, that sun will make a round trip 4 mile hike will seem like a weeklong tromp through hell.

Day 5: Total Miles to drive- 35 at most ~ 1-1.5 hours

Cottonwood campsite (39 mi/1 hour) Chisos Basin Campground

Pack up camp and head to Chisos Basin Campground!

~10:00 am
Stop 1: Chisos Basin Campground (1-2 nights here)

Getting there is easy, simply follow the signs. There will be a gas station at one of the junctions, before you start driving up into the mountains. Once up in the mountains there will be lodging, camping, a visitor’s center and a restaurant.

This will be the highlight of the trip, so make sure if you are not visiting in the season where you can make reservations; that you are up there no later than 10:00 am to search out a spot. This is about the time people who are leaving will be packing up so you can call dibs and sit and wait or just find an open spot from those who left the night before. I was dreading this as we didn’t reserve a spot but in the end we showed up and had plenty of spots to choose from. I highly recommend driving around the loop of campsites to find your best spot. In all, you can’t pick a bad one.

TIP: Remember me saying there aren’t any showers! Well, after two nights and two days of hiking and no showers. We opted to get up to Chisos, set up camp and then head back down the mountain for the scenic drive into Rio Grande Village Campsite where there were showers that you can use for a very nominal fee. This lead to a discovery we had not planned for…See below my addition for a much suggested addition to the day.

**Additional trip: Total Miles to drive- 65 miles (r/t)
Chisos Basin (27 mi/45 mins) Hot Springs Historic Trail 
(5.6 mi/15 mins) Rio Grande Village Campsite (30 mi/45 min) Chisos Basin
~12:00 pm
Stop 2: Hot Springs Historic Trail (allow 2 hours to get some soaking time and general walking; exploring)

The wonderful thing about going this route is that you can incorporate a short; 0.5 mile round trip hiking trail that takes you past historic homesteads of the old west, pictographs, and a natural hot spring (~105 deg F) sitting literally right next to the Rio Grande River.
I would highly suggest not missing this! The road you turn off to get to the hot springs is said to be rugged. We were in a small sedan and had zero issues making it down this road. It is not paved but rather caliche (the white; chalky looking rock) and it is not to be missed in my opinion. The drive off the main road is only about 1.5 miles through amazing rock formations. You will see where people are intended to park and just follow the signs. There is a Hot Springs Canyon Trail that is 6 miles round trip should you want that option. We simply took the shorter trail, right past the historic homesteads and pictographs to the spring for some relaxation.
What we did was hike to the spring and spend about an hour hopping back and forth between the spring and the Rio Grande River. There were about 6-7 people from other hiking groups and even a little garter snake who decided to wander past the trail through the reeds. No worries. The spring itself is crystal clear. The Rio Grande; not so much, the choice is yours whether you get in the river or not. Be careful though, it is a flowing river.
Once we had our share of the spring we put our clothes over our swimsuits and decided to venture a little farther down the trail to explore. It is a nice walk and you can see some pretty unbelievable painted sandstone formations. If that is your thing. If not; check it out anyway, these sandstones are purple, pink, orange and the colors all swirl together like they had been painted on with a brush and some watercolor.

I'm in the hot spring looking like I'm telling a great story. The guy to the left of me has his feet in the murky water of the Rio Grande.The grass behind the river is Mexico! The cup has beer! 
~ 2:30-3:00 pm
Stop 3: Arrive at Rio Grande Village Campsite (allow 30 minutes at most)

I wouldn’t spend too much time here, get yourself a nice warm shower, stock up on supplies and just head back slowly. Making sure to stop where you want on the way back up to Chisos Basin Campground Take all the pictures you can or just hike out into the desert.
Overlook on the drive to Rio Grande Village

Scenic drive from the hot springs to Rio Grande Village 

Stop 4: Chisos Basin Campground (Overnight)

For your first night up in the basin, I would make sure to sit up at the lookout dock behind the visitor’s center and watch the most magnificent sunset through what they call, “The Window”. The paved walkway is called the “Window View Trail” and is 0.3 mi round trip. You will see signs pointing you in the general direction of where to go and you will know you are there as soon as you arrive!!!
This is a view from our campsite of  "The Window". You get a different perspective from the visitor center
The time you spend up in Chisos Basin depends on you. You can easily spend 3-4 extra days here doing all the hikes or just enjoying the night sky with its boundless stars.
Caught the last wink of link as the sunset from our campsite
After our first night, we woke up early the next day to do Emory Peak Trail. Not for the faint at heart, but we are certainly not professional hikers either. Plan accordingly and start early. I will continue about this below!

Day 6: Total miles- None; just a short drive to the visitor’s center. Or you can even walk from the campsite
Emory Peak Hike via Pinnacles Trail
Difficulty: Strenuous
Distance: 9 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 2500ft

~ 8:00
We woke up early enough to have a good breakfast at our campsite before starting this hike at 8 am. After cleaning up, we went up to the visitors center, grabbed some coffee and extra water and began the long walk up.

-          Good trail mix
-          PB&J sandwiches
-          Between two people; we carried 6 liters of water
-   You WILL want your camera, so bring it and suffer carrying the extra weight
Beginning of the hike selfie

The hike will start with wide open trail leading you up a slight grade. It is a rocky trail so I would recommend hiking boots for this one. Eventually the grade increases and you start with the switchbacks. It will be tough, there is a compost toilet at the end of Pinnacles Trail, after about 3.5 miles from the start. No matter how difficult it gets, take rests as needed, but keep going. The hardest part is the last quarter mile and should you want to; you can climb up the rock face to the absolute top of Emory Peak. There were two peaks at the top and one was just a bit higher making it the “official” highest point. It looked really difficult to climb up to even though I could see people were doing it. I decided not to push my luck and we opted to climb the less intimidating one. In the end, it made little difference. You get the most wonderful 360 degree view and it is tremendous! As you sit on top of the world you can look down at the visitor’s center to get a big picture of what you just accomplished.
View from the top; The little spot just above and to the left of my foot is where the visitor center is
Obligatory yoga pose atop the peak; I give you my rendition of corpse pose
After making it back to our car that was waiting patiently for us outside the visitor’s center, we rinsed off, changed out of our hiking boots and made ourselves presentable so that we could have a nice end of trip dinner at the wonderful Chisos Mountains Lodge Restaurant
I would suggest eating sandwiches the whole way if it means you save the money to eat here after this long; grueling hike. The time you should be getting done with the hike should coincide with sunset and there is nothing more equivalent to the joy you felt at the peak than watching the sunset, yet again, through the “Window” of the mountains. Only this time you’re enjoying the view while eating a wonderful meal and possibly enjoying a cold beverage, alcoholic or otherwise.

Done with the hike; now time to eat. 
Ribeye Steak was wonderful and cooked perfectly medium!!
After a lovely dinner, we made it back to our campsite, splayed out on the huge boulder that was so perfectly placed such that we could lay on it and gaze up at the stars. The other wonderful thing about rocks is their ability to stay warm even as the temperature drops. It never got really cold, I’d say average at night was about 60 degrees, but as you lay on top of the giant rock and look up in the sky; you feel nothing but warmth on your back. Like the earth is giving you a nice warm hug. It really was the perfect end to a perfect time in Big Bend!
Our rock by the campsite and little friend, Randy the Roadrunner
Note: If you do not want to camp, check out the Chisos Mountains Lodge as another option.

Day 7: Total Miles to drive- 599 mi ~9-10 hours

Not going to sugar coat it. For us, the 9 hour drive back to Houston seemed pretty daunting. After being on the road for so long we didn’t intend on making many stops on the way back. We left camp around 8:00 and ended up making one fun stop that wasn’t originally planned, but it was WORTH IT!!!!
We again stopped in San Antonio and bought some Mexican pastries at Mi Tierra in downtown area. The stars must have aligned perfectly because there is one very tiny parking lot outside this place it is usually packed to the seams. When we pulled in; someone was pulling out. So we were blessed to find free parking right in front of this restaurant. If you are not so lucky, there is parking close by for maybe $5 or so. You can stop here for lunch or you can decide not to stop at all and just drive on through.
If you do stop, and decide to skimp on lunch, just grab some Mexican pastries in their bakery area, and wander around the Mercado to stretch out your legs. It is touristy and overpriced to buy anything, but to wander is free and this is what it is like when walking the streets of the border towns in Mexico, which I grew up doing. It is reminiscent for me, and may be a neat experience for you too.

Optional things to incorporate into your road trip:

You can include this on your drive to Big Bend. Instead of heading south from Fort Stockton, continue on I-10 to Balmorhea.

Interesting note: The Park was built back in the 1930’s during the great depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The same goes for Big Bend National Park!

2.    Marfa, Texas:
Marfa is a good option for those who are not doing a round trip back to Houston, but rather continuing West. I apparently visited Marfa when I was too young to remember. I was with my parents and my mother says we drove out to the highway to see the famous Marfa Lights. I don’t remember if we saw them or not, but they are highly studied and certainly real. If the unexplained is your thing, then this is a good option. 

In addition to the crazy lights, Marfa, for being such a small town out in the middle of nowhere, actually has a lot to offer. Here you find a bustling art scene with art installations that are world renowned, right in the middle of the desert!

3.    Lajitas/Presidio, Texas:
This would be something you can include if you rather not camp/hike. You can simply stay 2-3 nights in Terlingua or break the stay up between Terlingua and Lajitas.
-          Take one day to drive to Santa Elena Canyon, if even just to look at it
-          Take another day to take the scenic drive from Lajitas to Presidio

4.    Austin, Texas:

If you do want to drive back to Houston but take your time and extend the trip, I suggest taking an alternate route that will take you through Austin instead of San Antonio!

Please come see Texas, enjoy everything the Southwest has to offer and never forget to stop exploring my Huckleberry's!

Buenos Dias, 

Sabrina M.