Warning: This mega post has 139 photos. I think that’s a record for my blog.
At the end of September, Southwest conspired against me getting to Midland, Texas.
I got the notice while in the cab on the way to the airport: my flight was delayed by enough hours to make me miss any connecting flight. Luckily I had left early enough to deal with it. While waiting in the customer service line, I spoke to an agent over the phone and worked out a flight leaving soon from San Jose that would allow me to keep my same connection. Deal. I got another black cab to the alternate airport with a little time to spare. Cab fairs that morning were about $200 total.
From there, I flew two violently turbulent flights in and out of Las Vegas.
In Midland, the humidity and heat were low, but the air smelled of gas and sulfur.
Literally almost everyone in the town drove a large truck of some sort. Many had legitimate work uses, but the high school parking lot had the towing capacity to move the whole building.
The downtown was small, almost like a miniature Dallas frozen in the 80s. The residential neighborhoods quickly ended past the ring highway into scrubby fields full of pump jacks.
Gentleman and whatever.
That’s my kind of salon.
A truck and two trailers.
The party is over.
Where the sidewalk ends.
Pirates of the genetically damaged.
Feather enters the salt mines.
Robocop’s base in Midland.
On Saturday morning, my father and I began our long drive southwest towards Big Bend National Park.
Along the way, the scenery became more beautiful and varied. Hills, then mesas appeared, then new grass and wild flowers. Due to recent rains, it was unusually green.
Trucks and melons in the middle of oil fields.
An old billboard.
An old motel.
Vibrant ranch sign.
Big Bend National park is comprised of 801,163 acres of protected land along 118 miles of the Mexican border. It’s one of the largest, most remote, and least visited parks in the US.
The scenery was epic and gorgeous, lush from the rains and ancient-feeling in the deep canyons, mesas, and other rock formations. Combined with the lack of visitors, it really felt like being on another planet.
In our capable truck, we took one of the rocky roads through the park over twenty files towards the Rio Grande. It was bumpy, and slow going.
The river was full of swiftly moving brown water. Just a quick swim away, a Mexican donkey with a bell on its neck was braying at something.
We dined and stayed the night at the Chisos Mountains Lodge. Walking back to our room after trying to look at stars, we spotted a black bear slinking down the hallway, three doors away from our room.
The Martian landscape inside Big Bend.
A man on his trike zooms.
A view of Chisos Basin.
Rocks, scrub, and cacti.
Father and our massive truck.
The view forward.
The looming cliffs of Mexico.
Dirt road signage.
Me and the Rio Grande.
Another view of Mexico.
The muddy, fast moving river.
Yucca shoots and mountain tops.
The next morning, we left and headed westward to Santa Elena Canyon. The river was too high to hike into the canyon.
During our time in the park, we spotted a variety of birds, javelinas, tarantulas, elk, jack rabbits, lizards, wild donkeys, a snake, spiders, and the bear.
We left the by taking a slightly less dirt road north to Maverick Junction and out through Terlingua. We got a free donut from a man selling coffee and donuts from a trailer. He looked like he was using baking to get away from his wild past.
Yucca in the fog.
Watch for crossing tarantulas.
Stopping for a closer view.
Inside a historic homestead.
A deep canyon.
The cliffs of Mexico.
Santa Elena Canyon.
Butterfly on the mud.
What a relief.
Old ice plant in Marfa.
Two kinds of warnings: natural and man made.
Old hotel sign in Marfa.
How alcoholics decorate a fence.
I will go back to Big Bend.
The rest of the time in Midland was spent working on personal projects at an office and driving around random gas fields, snapping photos while hunting for the snipe.
Prairie dog sentry.
The rode to the snipe.
Gleaming drilling rig.
Next, I flew to Dallas to pat cats, visit my mom, friends, and help install a new wall and door.
Unlike Midland, both humidity and heat were in full effect.
Ebola dominated the news.
Waiting for vegetarian food.
Dillon Equipment Co.
Color of money.
Another Calatrava under construction.
One hundred year old boiler.
Gleaming park over Woodall Rogers.
The sharp shooter.
Enjoying Heatherwick chairs.
Am I even in Dallas anymore?
Unnecessary stop sign.
The branches of the oak I planted as an accorn.
Taking a break from hunting fish.
Seems about right.
The fruit our labors.
How Christian alcoholics decorate a fence.
Do you donk?
Barn of the saved.
Time for a mutiny.
I flew to Atlanta and J picked me up in a rental car. We visited her brother, his dogs, kids, and slot cars in a suburb north of the city.
From there, we drove a few hours in the rain to Knoxville, Tennessee and checked in to our hotel.
We had the next day to wander the drizzly memory lanes of the university campus before meeting her sister’s family for lunch. Then, a large group of old classmates converged for a late night reunion at a massive bar/pizzeria in a formerly bad part of town.
On Saturday, I attended my first football game. Our seats were killer, and I was but flotsam in a sea of orange. I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera in, despite the pleas of both J and I. So I had to run back to the hotel and drop it off while warm drizzle fell.
Knoxville was pleasant enough, but it mostly left me tired and wet.
The golden dong of Knoxville.
Restored hallways of higher learning.
Student bowling lanes.
Did somebody say…wood?
Channeling the Pompidou.
An old home, fire damaged.
Turn on the magic of massive lights.
Life finds a way.
JFG coffee sign.
Pink goes down.
Under the bridge and sweating.
Primo seats for the parade before the rain.
Partial class reunion photo.
On Sunday, we flew direct from Atlanta on another bumpy flight. A small fluttering piece of material was stuck between one of the flaps and the wing, but J said it was nothing to worry about.
It was refreshing to still be alive and back in a city free from heat, humidity, and ebola.