Day 28, November 7, 1997: El Paso to San Angelo, TX
As I write this I am several days behind on my writing. It is actually November 9th and I am in Eagle Pass, TX.
The drive out from El Paso to San Angelo was about half Interstate and half state highway. In either case the roads are good and speed limit high. Unfortunately, for most of the trip there was really nothing of note, or at least nothing worth photographing for posterity.
On the state highway portion of the drive I traveled through a handful of towns that were once in the core of the west Texas "oil patch". Today all of them are only a few steps from being ghost towns - the oil is pretty well gone. Oh, there are a handful of rocking beam pumps working along the roadside but there are ten times more sitting idle or rusting in salvage yards. As I noted before, the town of Texon where Grace Buckbee grew up is totally gone, hauled away by the company which owned it. The other small towns aren't going to suffer as graceful a departure as they slowly fall apart.
One stretch of highway had a bit of a Twilight Zone air about it. We call this episode "The Skunks' Graveyard". There was a stretch of highway that must have been twenty-five miles long that was littered with the bodies of skunks. Not just a few skunks but one every two hundred yards or so. Sometimes they lay in clusters of two or three. I have no idea what made this section so different from the ones around it. It certainly looked no different (and amazingly, it didn't smell much different for some reason). Has something made the local skunk population suicidal? Or is it just a massive population explosion?
I got into San Angelo a bit later than intended, largely because of an unsuspected time zone change along the way. In any case, finding the Buckbee home was quite easy. They live in a new neighborhood fairly close to the state highway and my instructions were good.
The evening was spent in conversation and reminiscing and I didn't get to bed until far past my normal bedtime - all the way past 11PM (I'm obviously not a night person). Grace's brother Gerald, a professor of economics at the local college, came over for a while and we talked about some of our semi-shared experiences in the Pakistan - Afghanistan area (we were in the area at the same time although we were doing vastly different work and didn't know each other at the time).
The day after this will be (or was depending on the timeframe) a touristing day. After that the 13,000 mile (allowing for changes and side trips) journey around the edges of the USA continues.