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A West Texas sunrise

Having driven all through the night, day two of driving dawned somewhere in West Texas, about 200 miles east of El Paso. From everything I’ve heard, El Paso is best gone through at night, being thoroughly underwhelming to behold by the light of day, so I don’t feel that I missed too much by speeding through on the freeway at five in the morning. I did however, see the lighted Tijuana-esque sprawl of North America’s most dangerous city — that’s Juarez, Mexico for those of you who don’t habla about the Mexican drug war — spread out across the Rio Grande.

As the sun came up over the vast green desert — I’m told it’s usually brown, but I lucked out and caught it during a wet year, giving view to some spectacular green mountains — I tried in vain to find a place to see, and maybe swim in, the mighty Rio Grande. Unfortunately, the Border Patrol guy I chatted with at Ft. Hancock (remember Shawshank Redemption? Yeah that’s the place. Say it…Zi-wa-teh-nay-oohhh…) informed me that if I wanted to catch a glimpse of the Rio, I’d have to cross the border. With a perfectly searchable car packed to the gills with all of my earthly belongings, I decided no-way-Jose was I going to do that.

“Besides,” he said, eyeing my bike and surfboard-laden beater car, “most of it is diverted into irrigation ditches on this side. It’s really only a trickle by the time it gets here.”

Oh well. Nothing to do but continue driving.

North America's most dangerous city -- Juarez, Mexico

In West Texas, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, for hundreds of miles in any direction. The only thing of interest I did encounter was a Border Patrol checkpoint — you know, the kind where they ask you where you’re going, where you’ve been, are you a red-blooded, card carrying American ready to spill your blood in the real or imagined war on terror, etc. Alright, they didn’t get that fancy, but the agents manning the stop weren’t particularly friendly, and I got a more thorough examination than the typical once-over I’ve encountered in Cali when they observe how obviously un-illegal my features are (although I really could be an illegal from somewhere in the Mediterranean — Greece is almost as poor as Mexico, or soon will be).

It might not look like much, but the scenery was great and there was a breeze blowing through. The yellow smudge is a butterfly

The plan of the day was to stop driving when I could no longer physically handle it. For me, that point came sometime in the mid-morning, and as luck would have it, I was smack dab in the middle of nowhere. I think that if I had measured the distance from any population center nearby, it could have been proven that this was, in fact, the actual center of Nowhere. I’d driven 900 miles — over more than 20 hours — without a major stopover. Luckily, my sharp, albeit tired eyes spotted a wash apron running under the freeway that looked a suitable place to hide from the sun for a few hours. It was perfect. Access from the freeway was pretty indirect, and I was able to pull the car underneath the freeway overpass to completely shade it from the sun.

With a tent set up next to the car and a cool breeze blowing through the little tunnel, I’d found an ideal place for a repose. After sleeping for several hours and listening to the rest of Pride and Prejudice, I was roused by a TxDOT worker performing a bridge inspection on my new home. We chatted for a bit and he wished me luck on my journey, and I was on my way, diving headlong into the surreal day two (that actually felt like day three) of driving.

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