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The Perils of Big Bend, TX

Rock road in Big Bend National Park

Another story from the recent Terlingua, West Texas RV road trip……

There are plenty of gotcha’s around the Big Bend area of Southwest Texas.  Rattlesnakes and scorpions fall to mind.  People get lost or underestimate the Chihuahuan Desert and die every year.  One of the most prevalent gotcha’s is tire problems.  This environment plays hell with tires.  Thorns from mesquite or cacti easily puncture a tire. The roads are predominately unpaved in the area.  Too rural and too poor to expect much else.  Notice I said ‘unpaved’ –  not ‘gravel’ roads.   They don’t haul any gravel to make a road here!   They just blade off whatever it is and,well, there ya go!  If it is sand, you get a sand road,  rock and you get rock.  Sharp rocks and you get a pointy rock road that will easily puncture a tire.  The other thing is culverts — or lack thereof.   I bet there aren’t 30 culverts in South Brewster County.  Plenty of low water crossings and the locals just resign themselves to the fact there may be days they cannot leave their properties after it rains until the road squares up.

Tire shop in Terlingua / Study Butte, TX

So you best have a good spare down this way.  You will see the locals with more than one spare.  Spares bolted on racks, tied on the tops of mini-vans, stacked 2 high in the back of pickup trucks and just in general abundance.  I guess you learn the hard way that a flat way over in the Solitario or the back side of Cedar Springs is bad juju.  Miss K and I ventured out one morning to find the Suburban was not immune to tire woes even though I have decent 10 ply Goodyear Wranglers in service.  The left rear tire was definitely low.   Miss K stopped by the motel office to ask the lady about a local tire shop while I was fussing with it and we were soon headed south to Terlingua / Study Butte.

$15 to patch a tire and it didn’t take ’em long to get it off the truck.  School must have not been in session yet because there was a young ‘un of 10-12 years old hanging out there at the shop with his dad.  I have an air tank in the back of the Suburban and had discovered earlier that it was empty when I was fussin’ with that tire at the motel.  Not good business that;  in this part of the world.  I asked that young boy if he would fill that tank for me and he stepped right up and said ‘Yes sir!’    Good to see some kids are still being raised in a mannerly fashion.  When he brought that tank back out, I gave him a dollar and got the biggest grin in the Big Bend back as a thank you.

Budding Terlingua entrepreneur

I don’t guess I will ever know if Dad prompted him or if he is just a rising entrepreneur but it wasn’t but a minute until he was back out the door with a tire gauge in his hand.  He proceeded to check the three tires left on the Suburban.  In all seriousness, I asked him if any of them were low and he said he needed to put two pounds of air in the right front.  Oh, he was so very grave and all business; wangling for another tip.  ‘That little rascal!’  I said aside to Miss K as I asked her to fish another dollar bill out of her purse.

‘Here you go young man’ and I extended the crisp dollar outward.  ‘Thank you sir’ and a flash of those white teeth.  You know, it is tough to scratch out a living down in these parts.  Obviously, this young boy was aware of that fact as well.





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