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Terlingua Reprise - 10 Days in The Desert

Break of day over the Christmas Mountains

Being such a bombastic know-it-all, of course I knew I had a stay at The Refuge all lined out — no hay problemo!  We have been boondocking for years, right?  So what could possibly come up that would booger up our plans?

Not any one thing really.  It is just the odd combination of resources and and availability here at The Refuge along with circumstances out of our control such as weather and the turn of events that saw us venturing off down south to start with.  Obviously, the expected call from our gate guard supervisor has not materialized as yet.  All concerned said it would be 1-3 weeks and it has been 10 days so far.  I am not really sweating it-yet.  We could always head the 400 or so miles east and settle in on a gate in the Eagle Ford but we are going to role the dice for a few more days yet out here.

With all of our trips out this way in the past, this is the first time we have actually stayed AT The Refuge.  We have the store bought septic system installed — not some 50 gallon drum-gravel in a hole-hope it works system.  Making that a first priority as far as property improvements was still the right decision without a doubt.  We fetch our water in a 65 gallon nurse tank from Study Butte about every 5 days.  Luckily, the Study Butte trips are always multi-purpose.  Water, fuel, groceries and a deposit in the storage room at Easter Egg Valley are commonly on the to-do list when we head south.  Even so, gas for the Suburban at $4 plus mounts up quickly for the 50 mile round trip.  Check off trips to town and their frequency as one of the things that has surprised me. Luckily, the Cottonwood Store and Study Butte Store have an amazing array of supplies available from plumbing supplies to horse feed to a surprisingly good selection of fresh produce.  We have not been forced to make the 125 mile round trip to Alpine – yet.

Bare bones boondocking in the desert

The Old Girl is parked here facing the mountains-oriented exactly as we plan for the house to eventually sit on the property.  The full sun of the winter afternoons shines on the right side of the RV and makes cooling more of a task than expected.  When I checked the weather forecasts for the week prior to departing the Ft Stockton area, it showed day time highs of 70-80 and night times lows of 50-60 degrees.  The vagaries and unsettled nature of spring time in the High Desert have manifested themselves full force this past week.  A morning low of 29 degrees last week with several nights dipping into the low 30’s, sustained winds of 40mph with the mountains obscured completely by the roiling dust — and a high of 97 degrees just yesterday. Any outside temps exceeding about 92 degrees make the Old Girl oppressively hot inside.  Contributing to that factor is the force of the afternoon sun on the entire right side of the RV.  Setting the big awning helps tremendously but most days the winds have been prohibitively high to even think about deploying it.  Consequently the generators have been put into service for double the hours per day I originally planned.

Tuco the Dog endorses the Endless Breeze fan. Get yours TODAY! 🙂

For reference sake,  Temps inside the RV are livable for us at 85 degrees and below.  Night time sleeping temps vary according to who you are talking to– Miss K can sleep like a baby at 80 degrees and I feel like I am being smothered.  I like the bedroom temp in the 70 degree range.  The Fantastic Vent Fan runs 24hrs per day in exhaust mode.  We also have a Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze 12V Fan floor fan which I do not see mentioned often in other blogs or forums. The Endless Breeze is invaluable when the generators are off and the weather is a bit warm.  Moving air makes it seem several degrees cooler inside the Old Girl and its’ power consumption is in the 2ah range on low setting.  Those folks at Fantastic Fan put out a quality American-made product and their support after the sale is legendary with the recreational vehicle crowd.

I wish the stars would align in the proper fashion so time off and a fat bank account would occur simultaneously.  It happens rarely and this time off is no exception. When they pulled the rig down for repair and gave us our walking papers, we had made commitments to budgetary items other than Terlingua and any improvements to The Desert Refuge.  Available extra funds were sparse.  Who knows when we will get another assignment as well?  We have dealt with these type of uncertainties for years and it is not a stressful situation.   We know we just need to play it close the the vest for a bit.  Besides all that, with our luck, we would get some project half completed and get called back for a gate assignment with stuff half finished and crap scattered all to hell and back. So the days are filled with some minor maintenance items and looking after two generators.  I also decided to go through all the storage bays AND both DTBs with the goal of clearing out the unneeded stuff and filling up the Terlingua storage shed with items that will be needed in the future. Good thing too–let me tell ya.  The one DTB that contains what we call our ‘household goods’ looks like a hoarder’s basement if you want to know the truth. Where in  the hell did all those little pieces of wood come from?  And pieces of pipe?  And old shoes? The Suburban is generally full of ‘stuff’ when we head south –and empty when we come back north so the plan is working.  Miss K thinks most of the stuff is horseshit–that is until we need those left handed side cutters with a 90 degree twist on a deserted road in the middle of the night on the side of the road.  Silly girl!  Do I tell her how to cook?  She really needs to take that saddle off my back.  🙂  )<— Smiley Face baby o’mine; love of my life)

Oddly enough, the DISH network is the hardest electronic amenity to wean off of.  I am doing fine with limited cell phone availability and could even ramp it up to the next level with little effort if need be.  I still check voicemail 1-2X daily but hardly missing it just accentuates the fact there are few people that I really care to talk to.  Internet once or twice per week is fine. Internet to me has always been more of a tool than recreation so taking a break from the internet work that has been ingrained over the past several years is actually quite enjoyable.

It is just a stroke of luck that an icon of South County is close by and offers both free WI-FI and $2 beer that is extry cold. Miss Kathy and I discussed our agenda when we decided to head south and tops on both of our lists was an attempt to integrate with the ‘locals’ down here to a larger extent.  The population of ‘locals’ that live here year round is quite small — I would estimate it to be less than 500 folks scattered out over better than 500,000 acres.  They don’t call this The Desplobado for nothing– to survive here through the brutal summers you have to be tougher than an old Bois D’Arc fence post.  Locals are understandably skeptical of newcomers that arrive here from New York or California with grandiose plans.  They are going to build the coolest ‘green’ house you ever saw and be totally offgrid and organic –time after time you hear the boasting at The Starlight or La Kiva.  Looking up, you see a sunburned face and a zealot’s gleam in their eye.  Typically, the stories are eerily similiar.  Land bought over the internet, sight unseen, for a few hundred dollars per acre.  Land is ‘accessible’, power is ‘near’ and water is ‘available’.  The heat of the moment and cursory investigation convince them they have stumbled upon the next greatest thing and the land is purchased willy-nilly. 2 weeks in a tent or the back of a Subaru in The Solatario is enough usually enough to shatter the dream.  Hell, some of ’em spend 2 weeks down here and never even LOCATE their property. So then they slink off back to where it was they came from and a new wave takes their place.  I can understand the local reticence to even acknowledge these folks are even present in the same room.  I am not being a hater but 99% of these dreamers will be gone in 6 months.  Why bother?

Miss K says I have a bad habit of posting goofy pictures of her - An attempt to get out of the dog house here.

Miss K and I have been taking baby steps when it comes to our establishing  local creds. We have spread dollars around a pitifully cash-poor business community for services rendered and let that talk for us these first two years. Just this trip, we decided to actually start our old style social networking effort.  We made or debut not at the trendier locations full of the sunburned turistas and college kids from Sul Ross but at a very local venue that caters almost exclusively to locals. It has been extremely interesting and enlightening to say the least.  It is not so much a bar as it is the local community center.  Most folks, passing by at speed on the highway, would not give it a second glance and even fewer would ever entertain the slightest thought of ever stopping.  Go back to the 1940’s or 50’s and think corner bar in a town or general store at a lonely crossroads and that would be the proper mindset.  There is a pool table and a juke box, sometimes an improptu jam session breaks out and this is the place for birthday parties and well-attended potlucks.  There is a table on one wall brim full with cans of spaghettios, ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese and Wolf Brand chili.  Sometimes the pantry runs dry before the next check comes in you know. There is a substantial bookshelf of Take One-Leave One paperbacks and there is a computer on a table that is always connected to the internet with a well worn chair in front of it.  The phone rings regularly and we overhear the bartender saying things like ‘ He was in here earlier’ or ‘He hasn’t been by yet today.’  One conversation with a local guy of knowledge ended with Miss K asking for the guy’s phone number. He quickly told her to contact the bartender  — ‘He knows how to get in touch with me.’  So, obviously,  we aren’t just quite there yet but we have made some serious inroads.  Daily visits for two beers and a quick internet fix are having the desired effect.  It is enough for them right now to connect names with the RV that is parked just down the way and was a topic of conversation for several days before we showed our faces at the community center.

 

End Note: I’m Alive by Janiva Magness from the Stronger for It cd.  Strong blues from a pro that just gets better with age.

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4 comments to Terlingua Reprise – 10 Days in The Desert

  • I’m not sure I would trust a man who didn’t want your Miss K to have his number.

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    • Andrew

      He is a yankee. No accounting for their behavior much of the time.

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  • don

    I’m with Scott; especially after the photo you just posted I’d worry about that guy even if he is a Yankee!

    Around here there is more than one guy who had a small business (construction, plumbing, electric, etc.) who has bill collectors after him. He gets a new cell phone and is VERY careful about who gets it. Not to say Miss K looks like a bill collector (!) but….

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    • Andrew

      Obviously, I married above my rank.

      BTW, WordPress takes you to a separate page when you click on a photo– don’t ask me why. Click the pic on that second page and you get the full sized pic.

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