Sleepless in Texas

When I travel solo, things are very different.  The travel gets more gritty, as I usually press on to keep engagements and keep a schedule that fits only me; my Circadian cycle, my inner motivations, my concerns.  This means I take things as they come, and I rarely pause for long.

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It was 600 miles of towing to Midland, TX on Tuesday.  The I-10 route through Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas is old territory now, an startlingly bleak landscape interspersed with a few cities like El Paso and Las Cruces.  I still like driving it, because with familiarity the small landmarks and quirks of leftover western history pop out at me as I go, and they keep me entertained. Plus, there’s the sheer thrill of America’s most wide-open spaces.  Crank up the turbodiesel to 70 MPH and just let ‘er fly — the Caravel will happily follow, being light as a kite and beautifully stable.  No traffic except for a few minutes in El Paso.  Put on the iPod and sing along.

Even at that rate it takes a solid ten hours to reach Midland, Texas (counting a few short stops).  Midland is no great vacation attraction but it is conveniently located along I-20 and for that reason only I keep finding myself there.  I dropped on the local Cracker Barrel for dinner, feeling pretty burned out after all the driving, but pensive.  I took a look around, walked a mile or two to use up some energy, and called home to report in.  But when the sun set and I pulled out the Caravel’s side gaucho, something inside me said, “You’re not done yet.”

I laid there, sleepless.  I responded to a few emails, make a list of things to fix on the Caravel, thought about my route for the next day, read a book.  Finally at 11:30 p.m. I felt more awake than I had been all day, and so it seemed inevitable that I give in to whatever what driving me.  I put everything away, jumped in the car, and drove another three hours in the dark with the long-haul truckers on I-20 to Abilene.

At 2:30 a.m. I landed at a Wal-Mart and finally felt like I could get some sleep.  I pulled in near a bunch of trucks and slept until about 7:30.  At this point I was far ahead of my schedule. It was a good chance to contemplate the Caravel, and consider options for the day ahead.  It was also a prime opportunity to test the improved boondocking capabilities of the trailer before I went to the vintage campout this weekend.  For example, Eleanor had modified the shower curtain to eliminate some annoying leaks that previously caused puddles on the floor, and my Wal-Mart-parking-lot shower test proved that the fix was good.

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As I’ve been traveling I’ve been posting short updates via Twitter, just as an experiment. The photos in today’s blog are part of that experiment — all of them were taken with the iPhone and posted to Twitter as I traveled.

The quality is nowhere near what I can get from the Nikon D90, so there’s no risk that I’ll go exclusively to iPhone pictures in the future, but I have to admit that it is very convenient to have a halfway-decent point-and-shoot camera in my pocket at all times.  Without it, I would never have grabbed a photo of this piece of Texan Americana, the Goldthwaite “Goat Cook Off.”

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Wednesday night’s overnight stay was in the driveway of a propane dealership in a quiet part of Texas, only 100 miles from the vintage campout that is my ultimate destination.  The guys here spent the middle part of the day tracing down the elusive propane leak that has been bugging me since last year.  It was a tough one to find. (Turned out to be a very tiny leak in the catalytic heater, which we have addressed with a shutoff valve for now.)

My stay here was arranged a fellow Airstream enthusiast, who invited me to take a trip down to Austin to go inspect and possibly buy a sweet 1955 Flying Cloud.  How could I say no to that?  So after about 800 miles of driving in 36 hours, we were off for a 2.5 hour drive down to Austin … which culminated in buying the Flying Cloud and towing it back (after a quick streetside re-wire of the 7-way plug, in the dark).  We dodged deer all the way back along the lonely 2-lane highways of rural Texas, and it was 2:30 a.m. when I finally got back to the haven of my Caravel and a chance for desperately-needed sleep.

Gritty, challenging, sleepless — yes, but never boring.  This is how I roll sometimes.  There are a lot of interesting people in the world, and a lot of interesting things to do.  I guess I’ll find time for resting a little later.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine