Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Cold Wet Desert

It seems like a long time ago that we arrived back in Texas and made the journey from San Antonio south to Mission to reunite with our bus. Upon our return we finally met Bob and Dorothy, who had previously only been characters in many stories told by Judy and Bert of St. Louis and Kathy and Roy, who we got to know a bit during our previous visit to Mission. Bob and Dorothy took us in like we were their grandchildren. Bob showed us how to change the oil in the bus and gave us some helpful tips about maintenance and Dorothy made sure we were very well fed. One night we went to watch them square dance and found ourselves in a room of at least one hundred retirees who all made the confusing choreography look easy. If Jori and I had tried to participate we would have tangled up the entire square in a matter of moments, but it looked like a lot of fun.
We were a bit sad to leave Dorothy and Bob and the rest of the friendly people we met at Valle del Sol behind, but were excited to hit the road again. Over the next few days we drove North West, following the Rio Grand. As we went we got more and more out into the middle of nothingness. Occasionally, if watching closely you spot a small RV parked out in the middle of the vast openness, sometimes it has a few cars surrounding it. There are usually not electric lines running to it. If you keep driving for another hundred miles you might come to a small town, often many of the houses and buildings are boarded up. Some of them are ghost towns in the making, maybe some will someday make a come back.

After a lot of driving we arrived at Big Bend National Park, where we met a friendly ranger named Jim, who later showed us his solar panels, wind mill, and the house he is building out of paper crete, a material that resembles concrete, but is remarkably light when you pick it up and is supposed to be great at insulating. Around the time we arrived at Big Bend, a cold front hit Texas and the nights became freezing cold. It was down in the teens a few times, but warmed up enough in the day to make for good hiking. While hiking and driving in Big Bend we saw a lot of deer, a black bear climbing the side of a mountain (Jori was the first to point out that the bear went over the mountain), some javelinas (pigs), and several roadrunners, among other birds. As it is winter and most snakes are hanging out in their dens we avoided any encounters with rattle snakes, though they are supposed to be quite common in the summer months.




During the recent weeks we’ve also learned a few things about veggie oil and our particular system. The first is that if you purge (run off diesel while returning the fuel not burned by the engine to the veggie oil tank) too long when your veggie tank is full you wind up with a most unpleasant mixture of diesel and veggie oil spurting out the top of the tank. The second is that veggie oil expands considerably when you heat it up from being cold (obvious, right). We spent several rather chilly nights sleeping with the doors and windows open as diesel is a difficult smell to get rid of. We eventually managed to eradicate it by flushing hot water and simple green under the veggie tank while parked on a slant so that it would all run out the back of the bus. We have driven over 6,000 miles on veggie oil at this point and are thankful that this is the worst thing that has happened to the bus. Sometime we’ll have to write a bit about our adventures dumpster diving for veggie oil and the art of finding unsuspecting grease dumpsters.

Moving on from Big Bend and veggie oil spills, but unfortunately not the cold nights, we drove north and spent a few days staying with Trevor and Emile parked near the dome they are in the process of building. We met Trevor at a restaurant he was playing at when we stopped in to get out of the cold for a few hours. We discovered that while there are no lines for electricity, you can get Netflix in the desert and spent an evening watching the Simpson’s movie in a metal storage container that serves as a place out of the wind until they finish the dome. The comings and goings of the sun tend to be pretty fantastic in the desert.



When we left Trevor and Emile behind we continued to head north, stopping in Alpine to get the tie rods and a few bushings replaced and to do some laundry. We drove through the Guadalupe Mountains and stopped to take a hike through a canyon before driving towards Carlsbad Caverns. At the caverns we walked a mile down a paved path of switch backs that descends 700 feet into the Earth before opening up into the “Big Room.” The whole cave is filled with stalactites, which hang from the ceiling, stalagmites, which rise up from the floor, and columns, formed when the two join together, along with numerous other interesting features. The pictures, like with so many other places, don’t really do it justice. In this case enlarging , however, enlarging the photo should help. Being in the cave was like visiting another world.
Right now we’re in Santa Fe staying with a friend I met in Scotland. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen her and it’s nice to catch up. Hope all is well with all of you.

2 comments:

Laura said...

I just wanted to say that all this stuff looks amazingly awesome. Or, in case you've been southwest for too long, wicked awesome. I wanna see the stalagmites! :) I hope you guys are having an awesome time wherever you are right now and having no trouble finding your veggie oil. It was Carnvale in Italy this last week, and Ascoli takes it pretty seriously - or, pretty un-seriously. Anyway, it was a crazy week. That's my news - oh, and I'm heading back to NH in 11 days. Hope the desert's warming up for you, and you leave a new post soon! Love, Laura

scribbler said...

The caves remind me of the ones we have seen in Bermuda. Pretty awesome seeing them up close and personal, huh? I imagine you are enjoying most meeting the diverse and interesting people. By the way, did the bear see what he could see?
Lots of love...Aunt Peggy

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