Update and apology…

I’m sorry. I’ve been very quiet for a while now (and TOT is almost on hiatus) for a couple of reasons, one of which I’m STILL not at liberty to discuss just now, and the other being the visit of a very ugly critter name of Hurricane Harvey – a seriously obnoxious guest who quite comprehensively wore out his welcome before he moved on.

But It’s not been a totally unmitigated disaster. Mostly, sure, but not totally.

First, the not-so-devastating news: I live in Sharpstown, which is a small suburb (I guess by now it’s probably considered “near town” or even urban) just about four miles outside Loop 610. As I told several people, there’s a small neighborhood in the middle of Southwest Houston that had less rain than almost anywhere else in the area and no flooding, and I live right smack in the middle of that neighborhood. The nearest major street to me is Fondren, and during TS Allison and Hurricane Ike, the last two major rain events to hit this part of Houston, Fondren flooded. Badly. As in waist-deep on me, so almost 3 feet in the center of the road and close to 4 feet at the edges. Damaged a bunch of houses and townhouses in the area and ruined dozens of cars, mostly because of people trying to drive through several feet of flowing water in vehicles equipped for, at best, a couple inches of the stuff. Just for clarity, this is a really bad idea and you shouldn’t even think about trying it yourselves. Trust me. If your vehicle doesn’t have a chapter in the manual about Fording a Stream in Your Vehicle, do NOT attempt to ford streams in your vehicle. It doesn’t end well.

Anyway, as a result of this, the city of Houston rebuilt Fondren, from below the ground up. In the process our storm drainage here went from two 32″ cylindrical culverts to three 6-foot square culverts. This time, although my street got a foot or so deep in spots, Fondren never closed and the water in my area never got further than the main sidewalk a few feet off the street. This is good for me and for my neighbors – none of our homes, none of our cars, nothing was flooded. The only water that got to Rommie was coming down, and she shrugs that off. She does want a bath now, but otherwise…

So I don’t think I get to complain about bad luck for my next two or three lives…

And for the last several days I’ve had something of an insider view into how a major news organization works, which if nothing else has taught me that I DO have the skills and the ability to play this game. (Yes, I know, most of you have told me that and told me that and TOLD me that, but it’s never so clear from the inside… until now. )

And now for the devastation part of this…

Several of my friends and friends of friends weren’t NEARLY as lucky as I was.

I’ve spent a couple days in the aftermath helping friends who live in that complex document losses for FEMA and insurance companies, and salvaging what few bits and pieces could be retrieved after most of a week under Buffalo Bayou, which at the worst of it was about three feet deep where I was standing to shoot this. (I was there days later when the water was back where it belonged; my bootsoles got wet but that was all.)

These folks, most of whom were retired or close to it, are almost entirely wiped out. One of my good friends, who lives under the tall windows at the left of the frame above, managed to salvage a few bags of clothes and a handful of knick-knacks, but lost all of her furniture (including family heirlooms and antiques), her appliances, her books, her electronics, and her car.. She’s a writer and a movie buff, and much of her personal history, and almost everything she owns, was drowned. About half of her neighbors are in the same situation, along with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of other Houstonians, and a much greater number of Texans and, now, Floridians as well. This hurricane season is beyond horrific; none of the words I know really reach on this. There are miles and miles of these scenes. Tens of thousands of people have popped up here from all over the continent to help us, and we are truly grateful (you have no idea), but the recovery will be massive and will take decades. For many it probably won’t happen at all.

There’s just not much to say. As I said, I’ve been doing my photodocumentarian and local “fixer” schtick for the last several days, so I haven’t had time to shoot a lot of images myself, and when everyplace looks either normal or totally devastated… well, there’s not a lot of motivation. It’s too big and there’s just no way to really get an emotional or visual handle on it. We’re devastated, we’re collectively shocked out of our minds – this complex and many other parts of Houston had never flooded before and got several feet of water this time… but, well… Like the guy who hung his flag here, we WILL be back. It may take a bit, though, and if we’re a bit self-obsessed just now, this is why. Bear with us.

(And thanks for the well-wishes and all that, but seriously, not to worry about me. I really WAS quite unconscionably lucky on this one. I’ll take it.)

Rosenberg RailFest Reprise

The weather forecast for this last weekend messed up several half-formed plans, but early on Sunday Morning I noticed that it was Museum Discovery Day at the Rosenberg Railroad Museum. Perfect. I like Rosenberg, it’s “out of town” but not that far (20 miles, give or take), I haven’t been to the Railroad Museum Festival in a few years, and there’s a lot of indoor and covered space if the weather goes squirrelly. And, of course, it’s a museum. With train cars. And model trains.

You’ve probably realized that my inner child is still a little boy, at least sometimes; he likes ships and boats, cars and trains and planes and fire trucks and even farm machinery – and he doesn’t draw many lines between models and full-sized toys. (He’s also not always real bright or aware that we’re actually a middle-aged man getting towards older-than-that…) He got to try scuba diving and race driving and flying an airplane for a few minutes, as well as several other dumb things. I think he’d try skydiving if I’d let him…

Anyway it’s Sunday, Andromeda II is full of gas, I’ve got charged batteries and plenty of camera chips, a freshly inked pen, notebooks, and a shoulder bag with Clif bars and full water bottles – and cabin fever. It’s about time to twist the key and go.

The predicted rain hits about halfway between here and there, but it’s light and we’re on an adventure, so it’s “Press On Regardless,” and, sure enough as we go over the Brazos River at Richmond it lets up, and by the time we get to the Museum the ground is more or less dry…

First stop is the new G-Gauge Garden Rail layout…. which, due to the weather and the threat of worse coming, is shut down. Maybe later, I hear, if the storm goes the other way. (It looks good; the yardmaster and I compare radar maps (Yay for Weather Underground!) and conclude that it’s likely that the storm’s gone past us and is still going.) So when the track and the electrical things dry out a bit, there will be model trains to play with.

Until then… it’s around the building and off to the big shed for stop 2: The Quebec.

This is one of the prides of the museum – an 1879 “Quebec” executive coach built by the Northern Railway of Canada. It’s got an interesting history – abandoned and almost lost (a matter of hours, perhaps). The details are on the Museum’s website, here.

It’s a thing of beauty.

27.7445N: 95.3860W

One of the great things about Houston is that despite the miserable climate we have sizable groups of people from everywhere living here, and sometimes they throw parties. For everyone.

Yesterday, it was the Brazilian Women Foundation. (Their spelling, not mine.) They took over Avant Garden, a local bar and music venue, for the afternoon/evening and held a festival.

Fortunately for me, I know a few Brazilians on social media and one of them clued me in, early enough that I was able to get down there for a little bit.

Food, music, clothing, more food, pretty rocks, pretty jewelry, ladies’ lingerie… a little bit of everything.

Not sure what she was serving, but look at that dress…

Doris, Sergio and the Unknown Drummer.

Mobile Clothing Store, aka Fashion Truck…

Pao de mel is a Brazilian Honey bread made with some sort of dark flour, dark honey, a bunch of spices, and chocolate.

That silver platter in the middle of their table is a sample tray. It is, you will note, empty. There’s a reason. YUM. I got the next to last piece and I had to block someone else out to do that. (Sorry, friend, but I’m a reporter; this is for journalism.) If it’s not the best sweet bread I’ve ever had, it’s that close. These folks, Honey Honey, are out of Austin. They don’t seem to have a website but they are on FaceBook and email. (Just ask. They’re in my contact book for DAMN sure.)

“It’s a geode. This batch is mostly turning out white quartz, not purple amethyst, but they’ve all got crystals and they’re all turning out beautiful.”

Handmade Jewelry byGumi…

Gulmira Heyl is yet another Facebook website only artisan, but either way that’s beautiful work.

It looked to be a pretty good turnout, all in.

Just a quick update

And not actually a joke, never mind the date.

With a little help from the folks at Auto Anything, Rommie actually got herself hitched, more or less.

Still a couple of minor bugs to work out – the wiring connector has to be “relocated” because where it sits now it can’t even open, let alone take a plug. That may involve some wiring work and a bit of mount fabricating, but it’s ultimately minor.

The bigger issue is that, somehow, using just a simple 16″ breaker bar, yours truly managed to break loose one of the hitch-securing nuts welded into the frame, so THAT has to be dealt with. I’m calling this a bad weld on the nut – there was still about half an inch of slack in the bolt, and the breaker bar isn’t that long. I sure as heck didn’t Hulk out… my shoulder is still feeling the strain.

I gather from folks on a couple of trailering groups I’m in that this is a pretty common issue with blind welds made by a machine, and I’m glad I learned it now instead of with a trailer on the back.

The good news is that Anthony at my faithful mechanic shop has ideas and a couple of really good thoughts on how this might be fixed with a minimum of effort and confusion, so when I get ready to actually put a trailer on, we’ll deal. For the moment 7 of 8 bolts are fine so I’m okay with putting a hitch rack on it to carry water and the tent/tarp box if I need the extra space. I don’t even know what kind of camping trailer I want, yet, far less where/when/how to pay for it, so there’s no huge rush. I have tents and mattresses and all the paraphernalia of a tent-camper, and worse case the driver’s seat is entirely comfortable to sleep in.

So as soon as a couple of other strange things and insane people are dealt with, we’ll be back Out There. It’s looking like there may be shenanigans to be had soon.

(Obligatory marketing teaser: Look for the tales of our adventures here, over at The Other Texas, and on Instagram, where we’re @rcmwandering (using hashtags #AndromedaII, #howtostopatruck, and #attheendofthepavedroad) and also @theothertexas. I’ll toss links, snark, and occasional raging liberal political comments on Twitter sometimes, too – @rcmwandering and @theothertexas (no politics here, if that matters.)

(Obligatory commercial note: If you haven’t already, please use the link on the front page and sign up for the mailing list. It’s a way to keep in touch and I promise personally that you will never be sold or spammed, because I get all sorts of raving and rantish when that’s done to me, too…)

That completes the latest AndromedaUpdate. We now return you to your regularly scheduled lives….

Well, this year is off to a GREAT start….

Those of you who follow my Instagram (@rcmwandering) or Facebook feeds might be aware that the current north-bound trip to Fort Worth to do Mom-related stuff went South rather abruptly. The first part of the trip went well enough, but as I got to Waxahachie, about 50 miles southeast of Fort Worth, my faithful 4Runner, Andromeda, traveling companion and best wandering friend of the last 11 years, coughed once and died. We got over to the shoulder safely, but things kind of went to hell from there. (Who knew Waxahachie, Texas was a hellmouth?)

Happily I was in an area with good cell service and was able to contact a couple of my adopted brothers for advice and assistance, since the last time I lived in this area was before college and all the mechanics I knew here are long out of business. (As it happened Mom has arranged things such that I’ve actually got several siblings from other mothers up here, which is turning out to be surprisingly pleasant as well as quite useful – I’ve never really been part of a non-dysfunctional family before. A guy could get used to this.)

(Thanks, Mom.)

After a few phone calls and a short wait, the nice AAA lady came along with her big truck and took Rommie and me up to Brother M’s driveway, where M and I set to with wrenches and prybars and implements of destruction and swapped out the fuel pump, then stared at each other blankly when that didn’t fix the problem. (We were SO sure…) Out came the Haynes manuals, and after prowling through them for a bit we decided that the SECOND most probable cause was beyond what we felt comfortable tackling under a tree in the rain. Out came the trusty cell phone again. The shop my OTHER brother, G, recommended was actually nearby and had a tow service THEY recommended. So Rommie got to make another trip on the back of another big truck, and Brother M and I piled into his picking-up truck and followed.

We wound up at Callaway’s Automotive on Davis Boulevard, where Bruce McLeod, the General Manager, (and isn’t that a fine Scots name?) assured me that his techs would take a look and let me know how bad it was….

On the theory that a wanderer can never EVER have too many contacts or emergency backups, I’m going to throw in a very serious plug for Callaway’s. [5832 Davis Blvd, North Richland Hills, Texas, 76180. 817/485-8189. Bruce McLeod, General Manager] I came from nowhere with no appointment or advance notice and a truck in what turned out to be mortal distress. They were polite, professional, helpful, and went WAY above and beyond to save my happy ass. I could not have asked, and would not have dared hope, for better people to work with. If you’re in the DFW area and need mechanics, these are your folks. They don’t come any better.

Then off to Mom’s for dinner, a shower, and a couple of stiff drinks. Been THAT kind of day… two of them, actually.

About a day later the phone rang… Bruce. Long story short, Rommie threw her timing belt and probably swallowed a valve or several. Beyond economical repair, as the saying has it. It’d cost close to a grand just to find out how much it was likely to cost to fix, with a top end in the middle thousands. Yowtch. And, as Mom pointed out several times, even if I put in a rebuilt engine the REST of the truck would still be 24 years old and starting to fail on a depressingly regular basis – and I no longer live in a house with a well-equipped shop and several other cars with which to fetch parts as needed. And, too, if Rommie had gone on strike or suicided outside of, say, Presidio or Comstock or some other backside of beyond cosmic garden spot of the sort I frequent, I’d have been several different kinds of up to my whatnots in whatevers. (Moms worry about their kids wandering the universe in old shaky fragile machines, it’s kind of their job…)

Plus there’s this whole thing about having to make a living and boost my writing and photographing career and all that terribly practical stuff. (My mother, in case you haven’t caught this already, is one of the Divine’s personal instructors in Practicality, Responsibility, and Dealing With It.)

Now in a perfect world I’d have a place to store Rommie until the time and money and facilities came together and I could drop a new engine in, but in this world… was NOT going to happen.

So, like it or NOT, it was time to actually look for another truck.

Back to the phone. Fortunately sister A had a friend of a friend with a cousin who knew a neighbor whose fourth cousin once spoke with a cook whose doctor had a miscellaneous relative of some flavor who worked at an Auto Nation dealership in the area. (The chain of links was a bit vague, but it worked out something like that, anyway.)

I haven’t paid attention to the used car market for over a decade now – up until a few days ago I had a perfectly serviceable truck. I wasn’t aware that there are now used-car CHAINS with branded dealerships, so when I found a vehicle that looked promising at Auto Nation, well… Auto Nation is Auto Nation, right? I kept hunting and found there were several prospects at Auto Nation, plus several other prospects within a few miles.

Mom and I accordingly drafted Brother M (“Bare is the back without a brother.” – MZB; we bribed him with good Mexican coffee.) as driver and expert (HE had a working truck, and it turns out he’s even better at this stuff than I am, and I’m no slouch.) and went truck shopping. Our first stop was the Auto Nation Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (etc etc etc) dealership, which is not the one where sister A’s contact worked, but again I didn’t know the difference, and it WAS where my #1A prospect was parked, so…

25blackspacer

Long years ago, I needed a vehicle post-haste, so I walked onto a lot and the first guy I saw sold me the first truck I looked at, which turned out to have been waiting there for me to find her. And THAT was Andromeda I. The magic held… it happened again.

Despite warnings from Mom, Brother M, and my inner paranoiac that sales listings are never accurate, it took us all about an hour to conclude that, once a couple of minor glitches (light bulbs, in this case) were dealt with, the first truck I looked at was just what I needed… a nicely set-up 2007 4Runner with a 4-liter engine, a 5-speed automagic transmission, all sorts of luxury goodies and a ride… well, I’ve driven bumpier Cadillacs. She came with just over 100k on the clock (which counts as barely broken in for a Toyota), a good price, and another very helpful salesman. This time it was a gent named Alex Ajraz, who is, it turns out, both Chilean and a very talented hand with a camera himself. Inevitably, we hit it off. (Another recommendation here – contact me and I’ll put you in touch. Another Above and Beyond sort of place.)

So far the only thing I’ve found missing (aside from the sunroof, which is a nice but utterly nonessential thing) is that for some reason Rommie II came from the factory with a 7-wire trailer wiring harness – but no trailer hitch. One of the things that’ll eventually make sense, maybe. I’m an old JC Whitney customer anyway; I’ll have a hitch bolted up in there in no time as soon as I (and my bank account) recover from the shock of buying her in the first place. New trucks are EXPENSIVE, even when they’re only new to me.

So as of now we’re back on the road with a new and improved body for Andromeda/Rommie and a bunch of new adventures waiting. She’s not quite as well set-up for true off-road adventures as Rommie I was, but the new JC Whitney catalog is on the way… You Just Never Know. Time to rock.

(Obligatory marketing teaser: Look for the tales of our adventures here, over at The Other Texas, and on Instagram, where we’re @rcmwandering using hashtags #AndromedaII, #howtostopatruck, and #attheendofthepavedroad. I’ll toss links, snark, and occasional raging liberal political comments on Twitter sometimes, too – @rcmwandering)

(Obligatory commercial note: If you haven’t already, please use the link on the front page and sign up for the mailing list. It’s a way to keep in touch and I promise personally that you will never be sold or spammed, because I get all sorts of raving and rantish when that’s done to me, too…)

One more for the end of the year..

Okay, this one’s been burning holes in the HD for almost a month now, so I guess it’s time to throw it up here.

Last post I mentioned that I was in the FW/D Metroplex for family reasons (a thing which will probably become more common for the next I-don’t-know-how-long). On the way back I swung east a bit to Mission Tejas State Historical Park. Mission Tejas has been on my “go see” list for a couple of years now, so I finally went to see it.

Mission Tejas is an homage to the early Spanish Missions of East Texas. The current log cabin structure was built by the CCC “boys” back in 1934-35 and dedicated, along with the park itself, in 1936. There’s some interesting history here; few Texans outside of serious history buffs are even aware that the Spanish attempted to create missions in the East Texas Piney Woods. They weren’t particularly successful, in part because they never found a way to make the Piney Woods missions self-sustaining the way the south Texas missions were, and in part because sending supplies or reinforcements to those missions required a long trek from Spanish Mexico to East Texas through hostile territory over bad or non-existent roads. And, too, the Spanish appear to have just had some abysmally bad luck into the bargain. In any case the missions failed, quickly. So it’s a largely unknown bit of history, which means I’m researching it with the intent of learning enough to make it an interesting tale just for you guys. Okay, it’s a lot of fun for me, too, but I was always weird like that.

Meantime we have these two shots, outside and inside …. because the day I was there I was the only person there, and it was cold, misty, and grey, which doesn’t encourage lots of landscape photography. But that said, it’s a nice little state park, and in addition to the mission “replica” there’s camping, some wildlife watching, nature hikes and fishing.

A section of El Camino Real, the original road from East Texas down to Spanish Mexico, wanders by about half a mile down the hill from where I stood to shoot these. (It’s now a National Historic Trail with its own nonprofit foundation, which means there’s actual maintenance and preservation being done. Yay!)

Come Spring I’m going to set up Home Sweet Nylon Taffeta Home in the park, lace up my boots, sling a camera bag, and my staff and I are going to trace a few of the 700 or so miles from here to San Antonio…

Of course this means that it will be necessary to post something, either here or over at The Other Texas. (Note: If you’d like to receive an email when I post the story, or any others, please go back to the front page, find the “send me email” link, and join the mailing list. It’s an automatic feature – you won’t be sold and you won’t be spammed. My word on that, because I HATE having that done to me…)

Happy Trails, in any case….

Getting there: The park is 21 miles northeast of Crockett on SH21, near Weches. You’ll need a car, or good boots and a walking staff, because there’s no public transport or bus lines this far out. The site offers, as said, camping, hiking, fishing, picnicking, and history. Plus flush toilets and hot showers – which matter more than you might think on cold winter mornings.

Willkommen – Christkindl Market

The calendar said I was going to the Tomball German Christmas Market this weekend. Unfortunately, as for many of us, the calendar failed to take account of the reality of life with aging parents, so instead I wound up at the Christkindl Market, which is the ARLINGTON German Christmas Market.

It’s a small festival, only a few years old, and so far it’s still a fairly standard small local arts & artisans festival. It may become more thematic as it grows, but for now the merchandise is nice and a great deal more varied than most small festivals I’ve been to. In no particular order, I found displays of Andean Textiles; Nepalese masks and statuary; Turkish lamps and Senegalese baskets; Alpaca textiles; wooden drinking mugs, bowls, and other stuff; works from a local artists’ alliance; nice prints from a couple of landscape and travel photographers; a selection of German lace, woodcarvings, and miniature cuckoo clocks; and Bavarian ornaments, decor, and kitsch. Also presenting displays and, in a couple of cases, demonstrations, were a lapidary shop (with a geode cracker and a selection of 11-30 million year old surprise packages!); a lady trading in African clothing, art, and beadwork; a couple who turn out very colorful dichroic glass jewelry; a filigree maker from North Carolina; and a Persian artist who turns out some truly magnificent wooden inlay work. Oh… and a wonderful little chocolatier whose shop was giving out free samples. Yes. Free Gourmet Chocolate. My job is an unutterable horror.

Take a look. (There’s a bigger version of the collage behind the thumbnail copy, but the aforementioned aging parent still has the world’s slowest remaining dialup connection and gets timed out whenever I post big stuff, so I try to keep the front page here fairly tight. Those of you whose parents still live in the neolithic will understand; those of you whose parents haven’t gotten that far back will understand someday, probably sooner than you’d like. Be patient…)

Go. Enjoy. Lots of fun stuff you won’t find at the mall or the Big Box.

GETTING THERE: The market is on a closed stretch of Road To Six Flags on the north side of Globe Life Park (the Rangers’ Stadium, for the old-school contingent) between Ballpark Way and Nolan Ryan Expressway, just East of Collins in Arlington. It runs from now until 23 December… Website with directions, hours, and lots of other stuff, some useful and some not, is HERE.

This Day In History 61 years ago

A few years ago I was in San Antonio for a festival and, as I usually do, I set up my tent at the KOA on the east side and caught the bus into town. (I got into the habit of riding Via when I was in college there; it’s still one of my personal touchpoints for what a public transit system ought to be.)

And I noticed something, and as I pulled out my camera thinking it was a special bus, the other passengers and the driver all told me that no, this is standard – the front row left seat of all the Via buses have this.

61 years ago today… and although it definitely feels as though we’re moving backwards, we’re still not quite at this level again. Yet.

61 years ago.

The Turkeys are Loose..

Okay, by now everyone knows what’s going on.

It’s … whatever the Saturday after Black Friday is, and as I rarely leave the cave on Black Friday unless I’m being paid to do so, I don’t have to recover from shopping or mayhem…

So while I’m not out buying things I don’t need at sale prices that generally aren’t all THAT good, I usually plant my happy butt in my computer chair to sort through and work up the (far too many) pictures from Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (The curse of having digital cameras that let me shoot several hundreds or thousands of frames without stopping to reload is that I shoot hundreds or thousands of frames without stopping to think about HOW much work I’m making for myself later….)

Yup. I did it to myself again. I DID stop just short of a thousand frames this year, 900-odd, but it’s in my mind that the parade was a little shorter than usual and much more crowded, which made moving around harder.

Still, that leaves me, when all’s done, a pretty sizable gallery for you to ramble through and enjoy. So, oddly enough, I’m gonna shut up and let you go do just that.

So click on any of the pictures here…. (They all take you to the same link…)

Enjoy. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Life Goes On…

If you look at the last post, I lost a good friend earlier this month.

Well, I didn’t “lose” him exactly, we know exactly what happened… but talking with him is a little harder now, and I’m spending a fair bit of time trying to remember and write down what I can of the Pittman stories I heard or was part of, because what’s left is all there will be, and remembering them seems important. I just wish I’d written a great many of them down when they happened.

(Lesson for those of you with crazy friends – take good notes. You’ll want them later. I’m SURE there was a great story here, but while it _was_ a night to remember, well… I don’t.)

Anyway I spent a couple of days driving out to Alpine for the official “sending friends on ahead” rituals, which, in theory at least, make the situation just a bit more bearable. I suppose it was a “good” trip, for some value of the term. Andromeda the 4runner purred like a kitten all the way, we didn’t run out of gas, water, or food, and although the air mattress did blow out the truck’s quite comfortable to sleep in.

But, all things considered, I wasn’t really that much “there” in terms of looking for photographs. A quick stop at the historical site and Texas Tourism Office at Langtry to soak up a bit of myth and a BUNCH of brochures and maps and travel literature ended with me holding down the bar at Judge Roy Bean’s Jersey Lilly Saloon…

(I’m not big on writing saloon reviews, but the service WAS somewhat slow. This might be because the saloonkeeper has been dead for over a century now. I wouldn’t complain, though… I’m not entirely sure just how dead he might be, and even as a ghost the judge is probably still a man to reckon with….)

Not too many miles later I got into memory-land and I’m going to quietly draw the curtain on the next day or two…

But Davis Mountains is a pretty state park and the people there are both friendly and efficient. I highly recommend reservations, especially on pleasant weekends. There was a sign on the door: “We’re Full. All campsites in the park are taken or reserved. If you don’t have a reservation you’re probably out of luck.” I HAD a reservation and still wound up with a “go to the end of the world and take the second left” campsite, not that I minded. There were signs posted that the park now features Brown Bears, Mountain Lions, and Javelina, but the only dangerous wildlife I encountered was a troop of New Mexico Boy Scouts one campsite over. Good kids, mostly.

I’ll have to go back and wander, because I never even got the cameras out of the truck. I wasn’t feeling it and I wasn’t on anyone’s clock, so I took a couple of days off, mentally.

But after the memorial service and the scattering, I started pulling myself back into the here and now of things…

This is sunset, the night of the scattering, from more or less Pittman’s Point, which isn’t on the map but IS on SH 170 just west of Terlingua, on the west edge of Long Draw…

I curled up in the driver’s seat and slept there that night, owing largely to the late hour, an unwillingness to shell out a lot for a hotel, and a weird vibe from the campsite I’d reserved. The next morning at first light I headed east into the park, stopping for a shot of the entry sign…

and a conveniently placed tree…

and a few mountains.

After which I stopped for water and book shopping at Panther Junction, the Big Bend park headquarters. It’s one of the best places to find information about the history and geology of the park, although Jean Hardy-Pittman’s Front Street Books in Alpine has a decent selection too. (Full Disclosure: The “Pittman” on the end isn’t coincidental. Jean was Blair’s wife and, arguably, better half for the last several years of his life, and she DOES run a good bookshop.)

There were several books in the store that looked worth reading, but given that I’m prepping for a major move the idea of buying more books was a bit unappetizing, so… I filled the water bottles (Desert safety protocol 1: NEVER pass up the chance to refill your water supplies… ) and headed north.

A few miles up the road from PJ is an exhibit called “Fossil Bone,” dealing with the geology and paleontology of the Chihuahua desert, which long before any of us existed was covered with water and inhabited by several kinds of interesting critters, at least one of which was the size of a flying Greyhound bus. They don’t come around much any more, though. Anyway there’s a whole new exhibit being put in now, but it won’t be ready for several weeks or months yet. So with no exhibit I wandered around, looking at the sandstone formations in the area, and before long I drifted into an Irwin Allen-esque moonscape world where everything slipped out of scale and I could almost see the little models climbing the cliffs and fighting off invaders and dinosaurs and spaceships…

(I probably spent too much of my youth in my own and other writer-types’ imaginary worlds, but they knew me there and I had friends…)

By then it was getting on towards 1100 and starting to warm up. I’ve been in Big Bend when it gets several steps past warm, and as I don’t generally like hot weather, I didn’t want to wait for that, so… time to leave. I made one more stop for a nice tall yucca, still in bloom for some reason…

and then I put my foot down and headed back to Houston, because no matter how much I love wandering the back parts of the planet, I’m still stuck needing to make a living. For now.

In that connection, please read the Obligatory Commercial Note.

(Obligatory Commercial Note: Prints of most of the pictures here (in fact, most of the pictures on this blog) are or can become available for purchase through my space at Fine Art America. If it should happen that you’re more interested in photos printed on shirts, tote bags, pillows, shower curtains, or other strange kitschy stuff, they do that too… and some of the stuff (by no means all, but some – usually I don’t judge but even pigs gots to have SOME standards) is available in that format too. If you’re looking for something and it’s not on the FAA site, drop me an email. Yes, it’s a commercial enterprise, but (a) they take plastic, which I’m not otherwise able to do, and (b) I, and therefore you, get _far_ better prices than I can offer if I have to do all the back end stuff myself. Thank you for your patronage. Yes, I’m trying to turn some of this into a money-making enterprise, or at least pay FAA’s far-from-exorbitant fees.)