I Promised Myself I Wouldn’t Do It, but I Did It Anyway

When I started on this journey, I promised myself I wouldn’t overtax either my car or myself. I planned to take it easy, to stop frequently and not to drive more than two or three hours a day before setting up camp.

Apparently I am not good at keeping promises to myself.

I felt excited yesterday morning as I headed to Big Bend National Park. I’d been interested in the place ever since I found it high on a list of dark sky parks, parks where there is so little light pollution, you can see deep into space, and I looked forward to spending a couple if days exploring.

Although Big Bend was only about three hours from the motel where I spent the night, it felt as if I’d been on the road for many more hours than that, probably because the day was so very hot and there was so very little to see — miles and miles and miles of uninteresting desert. I suppose if I hadn’t spent more than a thousand hours hiking in the Mojave Desert the past few years or if I hadn’t recently been wooed by the colorful Sonora Desert in Arizona, I might have been more impressed. (Though I was thrilled to see a few bluebonnets lining the road in places.)

Oddly, as soon as I hit Big Bend, my car started acting up. The cheap gas I had to buy probably had more than the usual amount of ethanol, and my car hates ethanol. Also, since there had been no place to stop, I’d driven straight through to park headquarters, and when I restarted the car after checking into the park, the poor thing was vapor locked. (I just googled “72 VW vapor lock,” and found that apparently vapor lock happens more frequently when it’s getting time to have the valves adjusted, and it is getting close to that time.)

But, trooper that my bug is, as soon as it worked past the vapor, it did fine, but I started acting up. I drove more than an hour around that immense tract of land looking for an available campsite in the far-flung campgrounds, and the only ones available were cramped together in a partly flooded open lot. For some reason, the whole situation made me feel uneasy, I had lost interest in the park, and I simply didn’t want to stay.

So I left.

By the time I finally found a room at a time-warped but very quiet motel in tiny town fifty miles from anywhere, I’d been driving for more than seven hours with just a couple of quick stops for gas at unattended gas stations. (Yep, just isolated pumps. Nothing else. There truly is not much here in southwestern Texas.)

The tediousness of the drive today made me exceedingly grateful I gave up any idea of walking across the country. Even if the logistics weren’t ridiculously difficult to figure out, the terrain would be impossible. It was hard enough driving through this vastness: walking it would be deadly.

I’m wondering what today will bring. Big Bend was my last planned stop. Except for a couple of arrangements for meeting up with friends, I’ll be winging it from now on. I hope I do a better job of taking it easy than I did yesterday.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)


7 Responses to “I Promised Myself I Wouldn’t Do It, but I Did It Anyway”

  1. Coco Ihle Says:

    There’s always tomorrow. All will be okay. 🙂

  2. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    I hope both you and your car hold out fine, though perhaps at more restful pace.

  3. Norm Brown Says:

    Sorry Big Bend was a disappointment. There is only one campground where I ever camp there. It’s called the Basin and is above the desert terrain up in the mountains. The road up to it is close to the visitor’s center. Right now the altitude may make it pretty chilly, but the night sky is amazing. I wish I had mentioned that before hand. The campsites along the Rio Grande are pretty dull and most of the year really hot. I don’t know if you’re still in the area, but another park north of Big Bend is Fort Davis State Park near the town of Fort Davis. It’s a nice wooded campground with a lodge and restaurant. Are you headed east now? There is a lot of very empty territory before you get to San Antonio. Some state parks west of San Antonio you might look for are Garner State Park and Guadalupe River State Park. Both are wooded campgrounds. Nearer Austin is Pedernales River State Park, which has pretty good hiking areas.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The basin campground was full. I am near Corpus Christi. There was so much empty land between Sanderson where I stayed last night and Alice where I now am, and so much wind that made it more unpleasant to stop than to drive that I drove straight through. 

      I’m going to try to get my oil changed tomorrow, then maybe head down to Padre Island. Then make my way up to Austin. I won’t be doing any more of these marathon drives for a while — Austin is just not that far away, and I have a reservation for March 6.

      (Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

  4. leesis Says:

    loving it Pat. If it were perfectly comfortable, interesting…whatever…if there wasn’t times of discomfort, boredom, mistakes, wrong turns even breakdowns then the journey would not challenge you, not ask questions of you. I know most, due to their fears and attachment to safety, prefer to stay safe and problem free in their adventures but personally I think life’s worth much more than that! I think you do too. Onward sista!!! xx

  5. Roger Says:

    Traveling and tent camping is a pain. Especially looking for a tent site after a long day when all you want to do is relax and decompress. Campgrounds are full, campgrounds are too empty. Finding a good hiking trail: too long, too steep, too boring. Worrying about running out of gas, finding good and timely places for food. How far do I want to go today? Will I be able to find a place to stay? It’s like having children or going to the gym. It’s all a pain. Except for the good parts. And the very good parts. One of the most satisfying things is meeting new people and hearing their stories. Everybody’s got one to tell and almost without exception, they are interesting. Even our Born Again friend from Organ Pipe. The best part is not knowing who’s in the queue. Keep us posted. I’m enjoying your stories. Thanks.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Exactly! So dreadful and so very wonderful all at the same time. I am presently sitting at a VW place waiting to get an oil change and valve adjustment. By then, there is a good chance all camp sites will be full, but luckily motels abound. And there is always tomorrow. I’m enjoying your journey, too.

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