Dust Devil Day

Dust Devil Day

The alarm went off Sunday morning at 4:30, the morning we left home for Fort Davis in West Texas. We were going to Davis Mountains State Park!

We had expected to be on the road by 6:30 AM. For some reason, age and gravity seem to hold us back in the morning. We were somewhat disappointed that we couldn’t marshal ourselves well enough to be on the road until 7:30.

The drive west on I-10 through downtown San Antonio was easy. However, the construction between San Antonio and Boerne with narrow lanes and concrete barriers on both sides of the highway amplified the claustrophobia that comes from too much traffic. After Comfort, the traffic broke up and it felt like open highways ahead. With the cruise control to 65, we moved steadily westward.

After Kerrville, where deep rugged canyons repeatedly criss-cross the highway, on a particularly steep downgrade, I remarked to Linda “This is where we were blown half a lane over the year we bought our motorhome (2012).” We spent hours debating if that one or the current steep downgrade was where it happened.

In Junction, where US-83 comes into I-10, I pumped diesel at the Chevron’s big truck pumps while Linda walked the dogs. Still early, it was obvious that the day would be a scorcher. Back on the road, the wind began to build as we passed Sonora and Ozona. The truck keeps its own running tally of fuel mileage and it dropped from 10.2 down to 10 even.

Half way between Ozona and Fort Stockton, where the road flattens out and follows the plain between the hills, where a 2002 failed winery is almost reclaimed by native landscape, the wind increased further. At the horizon, the dust in the air blurred the line between land and sky. The infamous West Texas winds define the landscape.

Approaching Fort Stockton, I wanted to stop for fuel. Linda said we had enough fuel to drive to Fort Davis and back to Fort Stockton. I reasoned that we would have at best 50 miles in reserve if we did that. In my mind, 50 mile reserve is too risky. Finally, I said, “I would feel much better if we just stopped in Fort Stockton now. Then we could for sure make it to Fort Davis and then back to Fort Stockton.”

At the first Fort Stockton exit, where travelers can take US-385 toward Big Bend National Park, we filled at the Exxon. Historically, this has been the most expensive of the Fort Stockton freeway gas stations. It is also, typically, the least crowded. Within the last year, they have added three big truck diesel pumps which we gladly used.

Releasing Tie Downs To Fill Fuel Tank With Large Truck Diesel Spout @ Fort Stockton Exxon
Releasing Tie Downs To Fill Fuel Tank With Large Truck Diesel Spout @ Fort Stockton Exxon

The nozzles at the big truck pumps are bigger around. To get the nozzle into the truck tank, I’ve had to disconnect the camper tie-down that partially covers fuel fill hatch. The time it takes to disconnect/reconnect the tie-down is made up for by the higher rate of fuel delivery from the larger nozzles. My only real complaint is that the big truck fuel islands are typically much dirtier than the normal consumer grade islands. Diesel fuel, similar to oil, doesn’t evaporate like gasoline so the pumps and area around them are always coated with oily greasy goo. The picture shows little oil on the concrete. This will change over time with use.

Between Fort Stockton and Balmorea, evidence of increased oil and gas activity appeared. Oil derricks and drilling rigs. Gate guards at entrance gates. Equipment depots. Future drill/depot sites where the land is scraped clean and covered in gravel. Impromptu private RV parks, with fifth-wheel trailers packed in like sardines dotting the landscape.

Closer to Fort Stockton than Balmorea, we saw our first dust devil. If was running west-northwest about a quarter mile off the freeway. Then five minutes later a dust devil comes up and passes over the freeway just behind us. Linda says “There is that dust devil again.” I replied, “There is no way that is the same dust devil.” She disagreed. As we approached the Balmorea exit, we began to see multiple dust devils. I thought to myself, “This is a dust devil day. How odd.” Not wanting to be made fun of, I kept my thoughts to myself.

Balmorea looks different. Much neater and cleaner than I remember. We both wondered out loud what changes (good and bad) the oil and gas industry will bring to Balmorea. If the San Solomon Springs at Balmorea State Park will continue to flow as fracking water demand spikes. See Protecting San Solomon Springs at the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

Before passing Balmorea State Park, we saw a sign saying the swimming pool at the park was closed. We were alarmed as the San Solomon Springs feed this pool directly. Then as we passed the park and had good visibility of the pool from the highway, we saw that the pool was indeed closed.

From Texas Parks & Wildlife Website:
Pool, Camping and Lodging Closure Alerts
June 15, 2018 – The swimming pool is closed for repairs. Camping and lodging is not available due to renovations. Until the pool reopens, the park only has the picnic area open for daytime use, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., or sunset, whichever comes first. The campground and San Solomon Springs Courts are scheduled to reopen after mid-March 2019.

Turning left toward Fort Davis, we started my favorite part of the trip. We had been noticing the desert so far was unusually green for July. As we began climbing into the Davis Mountains and over Wild Rose Pass, we saw vibrant green lush landscape. Definitely not a drought year.

Just before Fort Davis, a turn to the right takes travelers to Davis Mountains State Park where we arrived around 3:00.

Davis Mountains State Park Ranger Station Parking
Davis Mountains State Park Ranger Station Parking

We got our site assignment and headed off toward our campsite. It was hot that afternoon so after leveling, we got the electricity hooked up so we could start the air conditioner. By five, exhausted, we had the site setup.

Davis Mountains State Park Campsite
Davis Mountains State Park Campsite

After dinner, we chased the shade in our chairs under the shade shelter until it was late enough to walk the dogs for an hour. Returning to camp by 8:30, we stayed outside until after dark. I had hoped it would be clear and the Milky Way would be visible. No such luck. Overcast skies and a full-ish moon.

This is our fifteenth stay at Davis Mountains State Park. If I could only visit one Texas State Park, this would be the one I would choose.

We were in this park last year – Davis Mountains State Park 11/2017 Day 1 and Davis Mountains State Park 11/2017.

The follow-on recap postings for our Davis Mountains State Park trip are Adjusting to Altitude and Making PlansDutch Oven Demonstration and Davis Mountains State Park Recap.

Hope to see you on the road ahead!

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