Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I’ve only just recently become a fan of nature.
It all began rather unexpectedly last summer, when I discovered a place of indescribable beauty and tranquility in this medium-sized city that I call home, Austin, TX.
I discovered Barton Springs. Now to the uninitiated, Barton Springs may seem like any other swimming hole, but in the stupefying heat of a Central Texas summer it is heaven on earth. A pool fed from a natural spring it maintains a temperature of about 77 degrees year-round. And no matter how crowded it gets on a hot summer day, there is always room for one more weather-weary Austinite.
But this is not about Barton Springs.
It’s about me learning to love and appreciate the great outdoors.
About two weeks ago, my boyfriend convinced me to go camping. He’s an outdoorsy type and I have come to enjoy being outside, working with my hands so I agreed. The plan: drive to Big Bend in his old-school 1982 Chevy Luv pick-up truck. We bring ourselves, a used tent, lots of organic snacks and foodstuffs to munch on, and a lust for Mother Nature.
It was a good plan.
Unfortunately nothing went according to plan.
After a relatively uneventful drive through Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio we arrived on Saturday evening at our first stop, Seminole Canyon.
It was a cool evening and we immediately set up our tent before deciding to explore the area.
It seemed like the responsible thing to do. It was an older tent, slightly used, and after setting it up I noticed that there appeared to be a few small holes in the lining. No biggie, we’d just tape them up in the morning.
Unfortunately, our tent never saw the morning.
The winds of an evening storm grew stronger as the sun went down and before we knew it our fragile tent was engaged in a battle for its life. It lost. My main squeeze and I watched in equal parts horror and amazement as our tent was ripped to shreds before our eyes.
We slept in the truck until the rain from a sudden thunderstorm passed over.
According to one of the (very friendly) Park Rangers, it was the first rain the place had seen since October.
Before running into the truck for shelter, we noticed that one of the tires on the truck appeared to have a slow leak so we popped on the spare just in case we had to bail in the middle of the night. Eager beavers that we are, we applauded ourselves for our foresight and preparedness.
The next morning, with slightly dampened spirits, we gathered our things, climbed into the truck and prepared ourselves to mosy on back to Del Rio buy a new tent, and head to Big Bend for a weekend of R&R. Within 15 minutes of leaving the park to head to Big Bend, the tire exploded and we had to change it again.
We fixed it.
The water in the water pump began to boil shortly after that.
We agreed to turn around, head back to Del Rio, and drive very slowly.
We were totally fine with this when suddenly we heard a loud “THUNK!” in the engine and water sprayed over the entire front windshield.
After pulling over, and taking a look under the engine, my man’s worst fears were confirmed:
The radiator had blown its top.
Need I remind anyone that we were stranded:
On the highway.
In the desert.
At 2:00pm, arguably the hottest time of the day.
And did I mention it was a Sunday?
It took 2 and 1/2 hours for the tow man to reach us.
Following that the camping adventure became a a non-stop adventure of mechanics, auto parts store, walking into Mexico (Del Rio is right across the border from Ciudad Acuna), eating way too many tacos, swimming, and seedy motels. We settled on Best Western and obtained a rental car and went swimming in Lake Amistad, a man-made lake that is the result of the US and Mexican governments’ agreement to dam up the Rio Grande 40 years ago.
However, I don’t want to make this trip sound like a bust. Far from it. Despite, the camping fiasco I had a fabulous time, got to explore the Texas southwest, drink real margaritas in an amazing border town and snuggle with my man in questionable hotel rooms.
I did want to get in touch with nature in the desert but the fates weren’t having it. In the meantime, I stick to familiar waters, beat the heat at Barton Springs, and continue exploring nature with baby steps.
Peace and blessings to all…