Saturday, 6 April 2013

Road Weariness

Texas today. Some yesterday. Some tomorrow. Texas is big, no doubt about that. So far it's been boring too, a dull dusting, slowly sloping terrain that passes by almost unnoticed. The drive from Gallup, NM to El Paso, TX was not too long of a day. We got here at about 3:30 PM and checked into our hotel fairly quickly. Ricky and I have a routine about most of this by now. We pick a target, drive, pick a hotel, eat, drink, and sleep. Then we get up and to it all over again. Only the destinations change.

If I sound a little blasé, it may be linked to the relatively uninteresting nature of the Texas and New Mexico landscape as you head towards Mexico. El Paso is a border town, more Mexican than American. Spanish is the default language and Hispanic is the default culture. The city itself looks like a giant rock pile as you come in from the west, with barren rock hills all around and grey industrial sites lining the highway.

El Paso is where the Rio Grande River, or Rio Bravo as the Mexicans call it, becomes the border for the US and Mexico. It is a small, dirty, muddy river, more of a creek in most places at this point along its meandering path to the sea, having picked up more and more sediment from its start as a clear stream in the Colorado Rockies, crossing the New Mexico sandstone desert. The river gets bigger as it drop further and further to the ocean, and dirtier too.

Ciudad Juarez, or just Juarez, sits right across the river. The newspapers say it is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, heart of the Mexican drug cartel wars. Oddly enough El Paso is one of the safest cities in the US with one of the lowest crime rates. Ricky says it's because the drug lords all live here and don't want that nonsense in their neighbourhoods. He may be right. He refused to go there, refused to even go look across the border. We can see Mexico from our window and that is enough for him. Me? I would have gone, just for the adventure of it. What could they do? Kill me?

It's hard to believe that "down in the West Texas town of El Paso" we are still relatively high in the mountains and plateau, about 3,800 feet. The drop in elevation is gradual and slow, just like most other things around here. Our peak elevation on the Colorado Plateau was about 7,000 feet, so we have come halfway down. By the time we do the 500 miles from El Paso to San Antonio, we will drop another 3,000 feet. It's all downhill, but not noticeably, so far.

Let's hope I can stay awake for the drive today, or at least fall asleep when Ricky is driving.

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