J and S also made it to Cottonwood yesterday in their extended van of a camper. It’s really just a long van, insulated with carpeting. There’s an old wooden dresser strapped in near the slider door and a wooden shelf in the back that is their bed. S is pulling out a big electronic keyboard from underneath.
“I’m trying to learn to play while on the road,” she laughs.
At the Santa Elena Canyon we run into “the Elephant People” as we’ve started calling the Swiss couple in the MAN camper. It’s adorned with pictures of safari animals. We’ll keep seeing them on the road throughout the day as they make their way to White Sands.
Santa Elena is another narrow gorge cut out by the Rio. One side of it is Mexico and there is a herd of horses on that side. Along the trail, there are rocks with fossils of tiny clams, plants and what looks like a frog. Were there frogs that far back in time?
Big Dog wants to take Old Maverick Road, a dusty 13-mile dirt road, instead of backtracking.
“But the ranger didn’t think Sprockets had high enough clearance,” I remind him.
“I still think we can do it.”
He stops two motorcyclists coming out of Old Maverick Road.
“How’s the road? Do you think we’ll make it?”
“It’s just a little wash-board-y.”
It was not as bad as I had expected, now that we know where the air vents are and can close them. Plus, I’ve learned to cover everything up. Big Dog is happy not to be backtracking and gives me a “See?” look.
Out of Big Bend and through Terlingua – there are a lot of these dusty old ancient mining towns out here, just waiting to be a location for a quirky indie movie.
The scenery changes from yuccas and cacti to shrubs. From army outpost Ft. Davis the road winds through hills – with real trees!
By afternoon, we are in Van Horn, a (formerly wild) western town on the I-10. There are several motels along the main street and we pull into the Economy Inn, run by Indians. Once again, not Native Americans but real Indians. There are probably more Indians in the United States now than Native Americans. Maybe one day, this country will become Indian Nation, for real. Just not the kind AIM was hoping for.
After days of camping, a hot shower feels like heaven. Being able to do laundry, charge the laptop, go online…they are luxuries. As is a dinner at a real restaurant, the Van Horn Cattle Co., where we eat at the bar counter with other locals. (The tourists are seated at tables, it seems.)