Leaving San Antonio, we just knew that the I-10 drive to Davis Mountains State Park would be a long one. Before we even got out of the city, we took a wrong turn. We quickly decided to remain on this road less traveled as our destination was west and I-90 seemed to be going that way. It didn’t take long for us to rejoice in this decision. What we saw was quintessential Texas. There were wide open spaces with mountains in the distance. The vastness was separated into large ranches by what appeared to be fences made with thin wire and uneven bits of timber gathered from the land. Every few miles we saw another metal arch proudly displaying the name of the ranch that claimed ownership of that parcel of land. The skies were so blue on this day and the clouds so perfect. Camryn even commented that the clouds looked like cartoon clouds. I was keenly aware of the curvature of the Earth and of how small I actually am. As we drove, the mountains rose up from the land and a quick decision to visit one of the many “picnic stops” along the way yielded some of the most incredible views of my life. We had reached the Pecos River; the gateway to the West. We crossed the tallest bridge in Texas, and several hours later, arrived to our kitschy campground at Davis Mountains State Park. That night, we ventured up one of the Davis
Mountains to the McDonald Observatory for a star party. The astronomer leading the “party” commended us and the other party-goers for our excellent timing. It was the first night of the new moon, Mars was as close as it gets every three years, and both Jupiter and Saturn were clearly visible in the night sky. There were clouds when we arrived, but at the end of our “eye adjustment period”, the clouds parted revealing a clear star-filled night sky. After ascending several stairs at each of the large telescopes, we observed the Heavens. We saw the rings of Saturn, the red spot on Jupiter, and the glowing red orb that is Mars. We saw a star that had died millions of years ago…..the real death star. It looked like an extra puffy cheerio. We were all most impressed with the star cluster that was trillions of light years wide. After we had our fill, we cautiously headed back down the mountain heeding the warning of the astronomer, “The javelinas are suicidal. Watch for them. Remember, go down the mountain, not off the mountain.”
The next morning, we packed up and were eager to head to our next destination; a destination that would take us some 75 stories under the Earth. There was some debate between the ranger and an older full-time rv’ing couple as to what the best route would be to get to Carlsbad. In the end, the young ranger conceded and our route was mapped out with fair warning from all of our “guides” to avoid one particularly treacherous stretch of road. The drive started out lovely but we are Lamprons after all and a wrong turn was taken. It took us a while to realize that we had worked our way onto the highway through hell. The roads were rough, no doubt, but what made it really feel like Hades was the pink flames amongst the now mostly-still-oil-pumping grasshoppers that trickled the otherwise desolate landscape. With the assistance of Google, we learned that, in the oil fields of west Texas, natural gas is viewed as a pesky by-product from the extraction of that black gold. It is burned. The occasional dust devil offered some visual interest. On this drive, we saw the ugly side of Texas and the reality of the type of work that was needed to allow us to keep rolling on this adventure.