Day #3 of the West Trip: Wait … Is this Cartoon Network?

We woke up at 6:00 a.m. with the intention of being ready to go as soon as the sun was up, but between Daylight Savings Time and changing time zones, we missed the mark a bit and ended up waiting for the sun for nearly two hours! I started driving as soon as we saw the sun peak out, and we were off! As usual, the universe tested us. We got to deal with wind, rain, and on and off construction zones in Dallas, which were less than fun, but we handled them well. Luckily, nothing was severe enough to force us to stop like the first day

Once we were out of Dallas, the landscape changed tremendously. We went from city to virtually nothing for the remainder of Texas. After the Mississippi River, the landscape began to change. Alabama and Mississippi look a lot like Georgia, but once we crossed into Louisiana, we encountered the wetlands it is so well know for immediately.

Lousiana fog
Louisiana’s landscape can be very eerie! Photo credit: Debora Cartagena (Instagram: @deboracphotos). 

Still, Louisiana isn’t completely alien in appearance. After Dallas, Texas began to look very strange very quickly. Tall trees gave way to patchy bushes and short, squat, twisted goblin-esque trees. As we moved closer and closer to Big Bend, the trees got shorter and meaner looking until they completely disappeared. Up until hills and mountains began appearing, it was mainly ghost towns and oil refineries, with great big machines out in the land digging for oil.

Digging for oil
Scenes like this were all we saw for hundreds of miles in the middle of Texas. 

Once we turned off I-20 toward Big Bend, humanity vanished. Aside from the road and the fences on either side of us, human beings might as well have ceased to exist. After our hectic lives as graduate students in Atlanta, it was exactly what we wanted for this trip, but for human contact to vanish so abruptly in one turn was startling.

What humanity
Hello, Texas! Goodbye, human contact! Photo credit: Debora Cartagena.  

We didn’t have a reservation at a RV park for today, and we realized our chances of finding a truck stop to stay in out in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas, was probably nonexistent, so we called the RV park we are staying at to see if they would let us come early. They were full, but they do have a cozy overflow site by their storage units, and they were kind enough to let us have it. We were even more excited when they let us know we could use their shower (We only have a six gallon water heater. Taking a shower in under five miutes is hard!).

When we reached Big Bend after nearly twelve hours of driving, we immediately became tourists. We were constantly jumping out of the RV to see things, more often than naught shouting “Look at that!” as we both pointed in different directions and tried to pull the other one to look at what we had found.

Big Bend
After three days, we reached Stop #1! 

We found our first Looney Tune that way. We had literally been in the park for two minutes, had jumped out for the very first time, and Wile E. Coyote ran beside us. It was so cool! I managed to get a quick video of him before he vanished. We got back in the car and were giddy, realizing the city was far behind us.

Little did we know, every other animal representing the cast of the Looney Tunes would want to say hello, too.

About twenty minutes later, the sun was starting to set, and I was focusing on getting us to the RV park before it got dark.

Then, boom, Porky Pig is in the middle of the road. My response was the squeak “NnnoooOOOoooo” as this little, black pig darted in front of us, giving us a passing glance as if we had inconvenienced him as our 10,000 pound (probably?) machine barreled toward him. RVs are nowhere near being like cars when it comes to breaking, meaning that you break 100 feet back or you don’t break at all, so it was a miracle when Porky got across the road.

Another half an hour later, my nerves still frayed by Porky, Bugs Bunny jumped out in front of us, and I’m telling you, I came up with a lot of creative nicknames for that inconsiderate lump of fur as I clenched the steering wheel and some other things. This sucker was easily the size of a medium-sized dog and probably larger than the pig, and I’m glad he cleared us, since it was debatable if we would win. My partner kept checking to see if I was alright after that, since I spent the remainder of the drive laughing so hysterically that I was crying.

We thought we were in the clear when we got to the ghost town of Terlingua, Texas, where Paisano Village RV Park is, but no. Turns out our GPS, which is worth its weight in gold most of the time, got confused, so there I was, driving down a one-lane road in the heart of Terlingua, while my partner and I leaned out the windows, squinting, going “Is that it?”

When we finally rolled in to Paisano Village at about 9:00 p.m., they were waiting for us. We had told them we would be in at 6:00 p.m., and these saints waited up for the city girls from Atlanta to arrive safely. They walked back to the overflow site with us and helped us back in, and they even connected our utilities for us. After thirteen hours of driving, we were grateful.

We love Paisano Village RV Park! Thank you for everything! Photo credit: Debora Cartagena. 

So, we are here, Big Bend is gorgeous, the animals are prolific, and this RV park is quiet and all around lovely. We’re so happy to be here! Tomorrow, we explore!

But the Looney Tunes are welcome to stay home.

Published by Alyse N. Steves, Ph.D.

Alyse N. Steves received her Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology from Emory University. She is also graduate of Kennesaw State University, where she received a B.S. in Biotechnology. Alyse is a published author, with her first book making its debut in August 2016 ( Outside of science and writing, Alyse is an avid traveler who also enjoys the company of her family, friends, and pets.

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