We left home for the Utah Adventure on Tuesday morning. Since we'd packed the night before there weren't many morning tasks to do. We needed to cover about 7 hours worth of driving the first day, not too much, so I wasn't in a huge rush to get out the door. Waking early, I got my morning coffee and a small breakfast. As Nugget rose I took some time to say goodbye to the horses. It was hard to leave my mares. I've been working with Wicca quite a lot recently, trying to get her ready for riding, and I did not want to leave her. Can a horse come on the next Adventure?
One of the joys of where we live is as soon as we’re out the door, we’re on hill country roads. They’re not the best of what the hill country has to offer, but they’re a lot more fun than a grid in a city! We turned out of the driveway onto the dips and twists of the road to our ranch. After we passed through Boerne (pronunced as if it were Burny) we got on I-10. While this is still a massive interstate, it's not the "long, straight, flat" of interstates in the plains. There's some sweeping curves and hills with nice views.
The Portofino soaked up the speed, the curves, and the hills in stride. It felt like it was just warming up, eager for more speed and many more miles to cover. When Nugget and I plan our routes we often try to avoid interstates, but this was our second trip northwest from home in a few months and we took the smaller roads a lot of the trip last time. Nugget had never driven this stretch of I-10, and I hadn't been on it for 20 years. We also knew we'd have a lot of fun driving in the next week, so chose the easy, ground covering, novel route.
Just after we'd started our time on I-10 we saw a Chevy Bel Air. It was moving fast and maintaining speed well, even uphill. Well done, Bel Air owner, keeping that classic car running and moving well.
As we approached Fort Stockton, we wanted lunch. Fort Stockton is a little town that probably doesn’t mean much to many. But as a teenager, I drove LA to Fort Stockton in a day in an ’88 Camry with 350,000+ miles on it while hauling a small cargo trailer. I have fond memories of the drive, so I was glad we could stop in Fort Stockton and stir the memories. The first place we looked at for lunch wasn’t open, but we found a small Tex-Mex place that was. Mi Casita is the name of the place, and though it was fairly standard Tex-Mex fare, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The beans were particularly nicely made. The restaurant had great personality, too, including a sign wall!
As we started back onto the road, we planned to fill up. As we pulled into one gas station, and saw only 91 octane, a pickup pulled up next to us. He wanted to talk, so I rolled my window down. “Allsup’s just up the road has 93, on I-10 just north.” Thanks, man. He knew exactly what was on our minds. We have lots of small fun/friendly/helpful interactions like that in this fancy car.
We bought our fuel from Allsups, and then headed north. Fort Stockton is where we left I-10 to head to Carlsbad. I swear this entire section of the route was under construction and flat. I did not enjoy this stretch. We could have stayed on I-10 to Van Horn, turned north there. It would have meant a longer drive, but we could see those distant mountains to our west that we could have been right next to. And instead we’re in construction traffic for ours on boring, flat, oil-field land. Everything was tan except the off-white caliche of the side roads and the tops of the white-and-dirty work trucks that surround us. Boooooorrrrriiiing.
Except... we were the only non-professionals on the road. Every vehicle we saw was involved in oil field work or similar in one way or another. A plain white pickup, bed full of tools & a generator, semis and box trucks, everything dwarfed us and nothing was colorful. There's a special feeling to being the odd man out, but trying to behave like the others, to fit in with what they're doing even though you're always obviously different. We tried to fit in with the workers' driving behaviors, mimic their pace, their passing behaviors, lane use, etc. Sure, we didn't belong, but we didn't have to be difficult to drive around or annoy folks. We looked at and talked about the different temporary housing the oil fields used in different places, the ranch roads vs. the oil field roads, etc. The driving may have been boring, but there was stuff to look at and do.
We reached Carlsbad with some time before dinner so headed off to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We were too late for a cave tour, but that wasn’t a goal for this trip anyway. We had a nice drive on the park road to reach the parking lot, and sat at the top of the hill just relaxing in the breeze under one of the few trees.
Dinner was at YellowBrix, “New American” food (burgers, steaks, also pasta, various other things). It’s a neat little local place. Back to the hotel for some rest.