Everything’s Bigger in Texas

It’s becoming almost a routine. Wake up, let Lister out, make coffee, work in the morning, and drive in the afternoon. I was only a few miles from the Texas border. I won’t be crossing a state line again for a little while.

“Texas is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to Texas.”

Douglas Adams (sort of)

It wasn’t long before I made my way back to I-10 on the outskirts of El Paso. I ignored Google’s direction to enter the freeway when it told me to because traffic was at a standstill. I continued down the frontage road, sat through the most poorly timed traffic light I’ve seen since leaving New England, and eventually had an easy merge onto a clear highway. It probably took longer to sit through the light than to follow Google’s directions, but I’d rather have some semblance of traffic control than the chaos and mayhem of attempting to merge my long van and trailer into a small space that doesn’t exist between stopped cars.

The driving got a little bit white-knuckle through the center of El Paso, mostly because of the heavy but still fast-moving traffic. As usual, I plunked myself behind a slow-moving semi, and we got through it together. The speed limit escalated from 65 to 75, and then to 80. I’m not going 80. The road is so flat and open that 80 is a perfectly safe speed. I just don’t want to push my van that hard, or use up the extra gas. Which, by the way, is almost half the price it was when I started last year’s travels. That’s why I waited a year to do this. Fortunately, outside the city, traffic thinned out quickly, so I could hover between 65-70 in the right lane and not hold up anyone who wanted to go faster, which was pretty much everyone.

Almost immediately, I got into the huge wide-open spaces of Texas. The deserts of Arizona and New Mexico let you see for miles and miles, but they pale in comparison to the flatness of Texas once you get out of the mountains. You could watch your dog run away for three days out here. The driving was fairly easy, and the roads were in good condition, so I was able to put down some miles across the vast nothingness in this part of Texas.

I’d checked the weather forecast earlier in the day, and the high winds I’d been running away from were predicted to catch up to me. The high wind warning began at 9:00 pm (I crossed into the Central Time Zone along the way), but they actually started around 3:00 pm. This is no fun at all in a tall van towing a tall slab-sided trailer. At one point I was down to 50-55 mph with the flashers on, just to have enough control to stay in my lane. I was still in an 80 mph zone and didn’t want to get rear-ended. Fortunately, visibility was excellent, and traffic was light.

When the wind hit, the next rest area just happened to be where I’d planned to spend the night. I was happy to pull off the highway and quit fighting to stay on the road. I’d found this particular stop on iOverlander. It had several recent reports of no problems with overnight stays. The most recent one from a month ago said that a sheriff had stopped by, but only to make sure they were okay after they’d been there for two days, not to harass them to leave or anything. He explicitly told them it was perfectly fine to stay here. Best of all, the direction of the lot allowed me to park with the front of my van facing into the wind, so there would be little chance of me rolling over in a strong gust. Because I’m right next to the highway, cell service is pretty good. I didn’t want to put up my Starlink antenna and risk breaking it when the wind blew it over. It’s time to actually use some of that cellular data I’ve been saving up.

It was about as quiet as a night can be when you’re parked near an interstate. Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all. I had the entire place to myself for the night, as trucks seem to prefer parking at the Valero gas station on the other side of the highway. I haven’t moved from this spot all day. It wasn’t too windy in the morning, but I didn’t trust the wind to not pick up in the afternoon. That was the right call because right now it’s just as windy as when I pulled off the highway yesterday.

This puts me behind schedule to San Antonio, but really, the only schedule I have is the one I make up, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. I have options. It’s about five hours from here to San Antonio. I’d originally planned to do it over two days, but I’ve done some four-hour drives recently with no problem for me or Lister. The wind will be calm tomorrow, so I could cannonball the rest of the way tomorrow and arrive on time. Or, if the wind calms down tonight (as it often does after the sun goes down), I could drive two hours to my next overnight stop to put myself back on schedule. I could also just show up Friday instead of tomorrow, but I’d rather not lose that time visiting multiple people I know in San Antonio. It’ll all work out in the end, regardless.

And then there’s Lister. He doesn’t care about the wind. He’s just happy to get more outside time than he’s had in the past several days.

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