So last Thursday we saddled up for a three days' ride ...
leaving Lubbock for El Paso to do some work for my SO's institutional infrastructure.
Got to go through my old home stomping grounds -- Wellman, Seagraves, Hobbs ...
yeah, I learned to drive out here. From about midsummer '73 to the fall of '88, this was what I thought of when I talked about "home": a sky from edge to edge, 180 degrees of it, spiked with pumpjacks, tractors, telephone poles ... the odd tank farm and occasional house, and not a lot else. That particular one is somewhere in Yoakum County.
This sign is in Lea County, New Mexico. There are, I think, six of these at various "ports of entry" for the oilpatch community that bills itself as "Hobbs, America."
including the one above, on the road in from Lovington, NM. That's the home of the NFL's Brian Urlacher. Instead of leaving Hobbs en route to Lovington, we took the westerly road towards Carlsbad:
and there'll be more about Carlsbad after awhile.
But first I want to talk about a couple places in Texas I bet you weren't expecting to see:
That's Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The photo below, of Ranger Jorge Marrufo, by Rick Lewis for the Los Angeles Times, is from Hueco Tanks State Historical Park.
and then of course the road took us into El Paso, by way of Hueco Village, where there is no gasoline or diesel on the highway (US 62-180). Since Carlsbad we'd passed through some very empty country.
West of Dell City, north of Sierra Blanca, the road in Texas isn't interrupted.
Maps say Salt Flat, and Cornudas. Those are ghost towns -- two, maybe three empty buildings, an abandoned cafe, a shuttered curio store.
It's pretty well downhill from Hueco Village (which isn't on any maps) into El Paso, but it's a long enough trip to make you regret not buying gas back in Carlsbad.
El Paso is surrounded by the Franklin Mountains to the west, the Rio Grande Valley (the river, also known as the Rio Bravo, cut the pass known as El Paso del Norte, for which the city is named) to the south, Ciudad Juarez to the south and southeast, and the Hueco Mountains, which flow north into the Guadalupes, to the east. The metro area is home to about 2 1/2 million people (the 2007 census data suggests 2.4 million); El Paso itself has somewhere between 750,000 and 800,000 residents. The visitors' guide available at most lodgings references the Marty Robbins ballad of 1959, and you can still find cantinas y bailes con las senoritas y los vaqueros en las noches. But you do have to look.
And then there's the lights. It's like the ocean, made of fire, at night. It washes up onto the lower slopes of the mountains like a tide of shining ivory stars, foaming along the riverbed. Edd Natividad's photograph gives a taste:
and then you see this from up on the scenic drive:
Y'all let me know if you want to see some more pictures of this part of Texas.
I had forgotten how much I love the Valley -- I've been away since the spring of '04.