– Terlingua, Texas to Denton, Texas –

Today was a pretty quiet day, as all we really did was drive home. We didn’t take as many pictures as we might’ve liked, but we didn’t end up having too many opportunities to take any that might have been interesting.

We started this morning at 5am with breakfast and a quick shower. We packed our bags and were out of our hotel room by 6:10am. The weather was looking a little clearer than the day before, but not clear enough. Since the sun didn’t rise until 7:49am, according to my weather app, and we were still seeing some fog, we decided to scrap our plan to drive up and out through the national park and just head straight up to Alpine to shave an hour off of our drive.

Foggy gas station in Alpine
Foggy gas station in Alpine

It is incredible just how dark it is in Terlingua and Alpine when there’s no sun and the moon is hidden behind the clouds. We couldn’t see anything. On our two hour drive up highway 118, the only things we could see were the Christmas lights and security lights on the very small number of houses along the road. If you haven’t heard, the area is famously low on light pollution, which is why the McDonald Observatory is located miles outside of Fort Davis in the Davis Mountain range.

The McDonald Observatory is the University of Texas’ astronomical observatory. Their website says the area is home to, “some of the darkest skies in the continental United States.” It is one thing to hear about it, but it is quite another to see it in person. Mark briefly turned off the lights, and we were in utter darkness, like when you shut yourself in a closet. It was pretty impressive. Light pollution is not something that I think about in my everyday life. In fact, the last time I considered it was back in August, when Mark and I were trying to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. We drove up to my parents’ farm to watch the meteors, but even they have an impressive amount of light pollution, despite living in a rural area outside a small-ish town. If you find the subject interesting, you can look at a map of light pollution in your area here.

In any event, we made it through the darkness and the fog on almost empty roads. We stopped for gas and some coffee and hot chocolate in Alpine. It was still cloudy and just a touch foggy when we arrived just after 8am, but the sun was coming up, so we were definitely starting to see our surroundings. If you’ll remember, we drove down here in thick fog, as well, so we were hoping for a little better view on the trip home.

Highway and clouds in Crane County, Texas
Highway and clouds in Crane County, Texas

From Alpine, we drove back up to Fort Stockton, and then on through to Imperial. Outside of Imperial, in Crane County, we stopped for a few photographs of the clouds along the road. By now, the fog had cleared up almost entirely, and the sky was finally coming through. The puffy white clouds on the newly revealed blue skies looked fantastic. We hadn’t seen blue sky in a couple of days, and the early morning sunshine made for a lovely view.

From Imperial, we headed on to Odessa, where we made our next stop for more coffee and a bathroom break. We had to stop again in Big Spring, since Mark had way too much coffee to drive on. Don’t get me wrong, I love to stop, I’m just always surprised when’s he’s the one suggesting it. Usually I have to take a break long before he does. When we were driving to Alaska this summer, he took advantage of that, knowing that I needed to stop more frequently. He didn’t want to tell my parents they had to stop for him. Boys can be silly, I suppose.

The back of Xterra, packed with stuff
The back of Xterra, packed with stuff

Ripley had fun sniffing around the McDonald’s/Pilot parking lot while we visited the convenience store one at a time. That gas station was just full of dogs. I think at least 6 other dogs were at the truckstop at the same time that we were, and that’s just the ones that were outside of their various vehicles. The place was surrounded by rocks instead of grass, though. Ripley finds that offensive, but maybe the others weren’t as picky.

We’ve been reading Polgara the Sorceress, and by now we were nearly done. Mark has decided that we are going to reread The Belgariad and The Mallorean next. That’s 10 books, if you’re curious. I have the compilations, which means it is physically 4 giant books, but they still contain a total of 10 books. It’s going to take us a while. He thinks that after that, we will reread Harry Potter and then The Elenium and The Tamuli. That’s 13 more books. He seems to have some pretty high hopes for what we can read this year. Since we’ve already read all of those before, he’ll have to wait a while to read new books, too. I think he might have forgotten that a new Iron Druid book comes out at the end of this month. We will see what happens when he reads this and remembers.

Mark looking cute at Sonic in Snyder
Mark looking cute at Sonic in Snyder

We ended up eating lunch at Sonic in Snyder for a lack of better options. It was honestly one of the worst Sonic experiences I’ve had. Usually their food is consistently mediocre (which is what you’d expect for mostly fried fast food), but the one in Snyder was worse than mediocre. The food was only warm-ish and it didn’t taste too great, either. Ripley had kibbles, as always, and her meal was as wonderful as it always is for her. Mmmmm… Blue Buffalo.

Once we hit Snyder, we booked it east across the state through Albany and Breckenridge, Graham, Jacksboro, and Decatur. We were like horses seeing the barn. In fact, after we had lunch, we even stopped taking photos. We’re home now, and we’re already discussing our next trip to Big Bend National Park.

My mother just bought a new Suburban like the one we rented on our Alaska trip, so we are all plotting all of the wonderfully roomy vacations we can take in her new toy. It hasn’t come home to her yet, but Mark and I are itching to see it. We have been drooling over Suburbans and Tahoes since our summer trip. Who knows. Maybe we will get ourselves a Tahoe too someday. Xterra won’t last forever.

– Trip Total : 1,602 miles

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