Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the Road: Big Spring, Texas, to Terlingua, Texas

We traveled from Big Spring to the Terlingua/Study Butte area today, our home for the next week or so. These roads are familiar to me. I traveled them quite a bit when I worked for Region 18 Education Service Center in Midland from 1997 to 2002. There have been lots of changes since the last time I was here, though. Still, it's good to be back to a place so familiar to me.

285 miles from Big Spring to Terlingua
The first part of the trip was rather normal as we cruised down Interstate 20 from Big Spring to Monahans. This is oil field country, and oil industry businesses line the interstate almost the entire way, especially from just east of Midland to several miles west of Odessa. In fact, Monahans is the home of the Million Barrel Museum, which is actually a colossal whole used to store oil during the 1920s oil boom.

At Monahans we left the interstate on Highway 18 for a few miles to the southern edge of town where we turned off on the little used FM 1776. This is a rather lonely stretch of highway. From here to Alpine, a distance of just over 100 miles, there are no towns of note, just the little farming community of Coyanosa with fewer than 150 residents. A few miles after turning onto this highway, we crossed the fabled Pecos River, which is little more than an irrigation ditch at this point. Like the Rio Grande, which it empties into near Langtry, the Pecos is drained by farmers in New Mexico.

As we approached Interstate 10, the mountains came into view. At Interstate 10, FM 1776 becomes US 67, a section of road we traveled on in August 2011 during our trip to the Davis Mountains. We visited lots of places in the area at that time, and I invite you to flip back in the blog to that time to visit those places with us. For now, we continued down the highway to Alpine, where we made our last stop for gas before jumping off into the "Last Frontier", as locals refer to this part of Texas.

At Alpine, we turned due south onto Texas 118 for the final 80 miles. This was the most scenic section of the trip. There are so many landmarks of note we passed along the way: Cathedral Peak, Elephant Mountain, Santiago Peak, Christmas Mountains, and Nine-Point Mesa, to name a few. These may not be household names to most people, but the folks of the Big Bend know these landmarks.

The first 20 miles or so south of Alpine is composed of mild ups and downs as the highway climbs onto a high plateau. Near Elephant Mountain, the highway becomes level and stretch for most of the remainder of the trip.

You won't see houses along this drive. You'll see very few ranches, very few roads. This is empty country in the sense of settlement -- and I like that. When you do come across a community, like Study Butte (pronounced "Stew-dee"), you appreciate it, even though there is only a scattering of businesses here. But for the next 8 nights, Study Butte is our home. We'll be surrounded by this desert terrain and these quiet mountains.

It should be fun.

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