Bricks Contain Mercury, And Other Fun Roadtrip Hazards- Big Bend Natl. Park, TX

Gods this last post for this trip feels like it’s taken me an age and a day, good grief. More realistically, it’s been 2 months since this trip- it took place at the end of June and it’s now the end of August and i’m a month away from my next probably just as ill-advised roadtrip. But considering I picked up a lot of common sense knowledge from this trip, more so than even from the last roadtrip back in March, I don’t mind that it’s taken me this long to finally get it together enough to finally finish.

It took about 8 hours to drive from our house here in the Dallas area to the southern park of Texas that Big Bend is situated in, literally right on the border to Mexico. Considering the longest day drive me and the bf have done was the 17 hours to the Grand Canyon last March, this was a breeze. He drove the first part until we stopped in Abilene for lunch at a Denny’s (because of course you have to stop and have lunch at Denny’s) where I forgot how to count by fives when leaving a trip for our waitress with the hostess and she teasingly- but somehow still kindly- told me, “It’s alright honey, you’re pretty.” And let me tell you, if that wasn’t the best indicator of how the trip was gonna go, i’m not sure what else would have been.

The second leg of the drive was taken over by me and I managed to get us stopped by the sheriff not 5 seconds after driving into the town we were going to staying in, Alpine.  For once though, I can 100% guarantee I wasn’t actually speeding and was more than a little confused as to the reason we had gotten pulled over. According to the unfailingly nice and polite officer though, I had been speeding, but he let me off with just a warning. When I told a friend later about this, his immediate reaction was to say, “well it’s cause you’re a girl, and you’re pretty” and I just sat there thinking, maybe it had more to do with me being nice and meeting Texan politeness with my own brand of southern charm. Heavens knows I wasn’t much to look at that day, running on 4 hours of sleep, any makeup I started with already faded from the hours on the road and a questionable stain on my shirt from a breakfast of coffee and chips. And so, thats the best advise I can give you if you plan to travel in Texas, always be polite and just this side of guilelessly charming if you can manage it.

The biggest thing that I learned from the last roadtrip was to stop ruining my shoes and remember to always put on something that wasn’t flats when going out exploring. And I mean, thats probably such an obvious thing to anyone that isn’t me, but there you go. From this trip the most important thing I learned is that investing in a cooler when heading out on a full day of exploring is probably a good idea, or else suffer the slightly stroke-inducing prices at the parks general stores.

Heading into desert climate enviorments, make sure to bring something to cover your face when the winds start to pick up, especially if your heading out in the summer months. I got buffeted by scorching winds from all side and to say it was bracing would be the understatement of the year. After enduring this for the better part of 3 hours I finally found a sheer scarf in the back of the Jeep that I hadn’t seen in months, wrapped it around my head and shoulders and covered my mouth and nose as best as I could while running around like a crazed coyote among the cactuses and dust.

Jeep Renegade at Big Bend natl. park

Bring enough water, a car that can handle dirt, rock strewn “roads” and maybe don’t go hiking around abandoned mines at the hottest part of the day after driving in an air conditioned car for the past 5 hours. You might possibly get heat stroke and end up almost dying in a part of the park where cell reception is just a dream and the nearest ranger station is hours away. Just a kind suggestion, made from infinitely dumb experience.

Btw, just for reference that might be helpful, some symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweat despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness and/or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
( this is just to say, if this was a bingo card game, I would have cleaned up but good)

Also, another good piece of advice…..when visiting the park with the darkest nightsky in the lower 48, maybe don’t pick a weekend right before the full moon.  Just you know, a friendly suggestion.

Me and the bf ended up spending a good few hours getting buffeted by rough winds up alone on Sotol Vista point hoping for some darkness to glimpse some starry skies but in the end we packed up and headed out around 11pm back to Alpine. Another good piece of advice would be to remember that Big Bend is right on the border to Mexico, which means hello Border Patrol.

We got stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint around 12am and let me just say, that other piece of advice I gave up above, about being polite? Gotta say thats probably also a good thing to remember when/if you get stopped by the Border Patrol. They had us park the car, get out and sit on a bench nearby and then had an agent and his dog go through our car. I’m gonna go ahead and say they probably didn’t see us as the most likely transporters of drugs and/or humans considering the guy they assigned to stand near us while our car was being searched didn’t ask us if we had anything in our pockets until the bf took out his cell phone to check the time. And even then all the guy did was ask “er, you guys got anything else in your pockets?” and then comment on how hard it is to get service out there. The car search took maybe 10 minuets, after which they wished us a good night, helped me back my car out of the parking spot and waved us off into the night. Good times.

The drive back the next morning had us stopping at the Marfa Prada art installation and then listening to a couple of episodes of the Black Tapes before the bf drifted off to take a much needed nap and I switched to listening to 8tracks playlists to keep me going. We stopped at the most retro 50’s of rest stops a little past Odessa and I swear it was like stepping into a Fallout game that I almost expected there to be a Nuka Cola vending machine somewhere. It was an easy drive and we made it home by the evening, that strange feeling of being back in the suburbs and near the shining bright lights of Dallas after being gone in the literal boondocks of Texas settling over us.

All the ups and downs of the trip, all the unexpected joys and misadventures… I can with full honestly say the trip to Big Bend was unlike anything i’ve ever experienced before and it was more than worth the time and effort needed to get to such an out of the way place.And if you’ve plans to head out there, blow a kiss to the desert winds for me and tell the Sotol plants i’ll see them soon.

Masterlist of Big Bend posts:
#1 Unexpected Bears
#2 Old Maverick Rd.
#3 Mule Ears and East River Rd.
#4 Mariscal Mine
#5 Glen Spring Rd.
#6 Chisos Mountains and Bears
#7 Sotal Point Sunset
#8 Prada Marfa


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