Rt 180 across Texas

With repairs completed, we headed out from Paradise on Saturday morning.  The air conditioner is working well, and the refrigerator seems to be passable.  No cause was found for the refrigerator warming up into the 50s on hot days, but it works well enough when ambient temps are below 90, so we are just rolling with it (literally) for now.

Still, until Saturday we weren’t sure if the thing was just going to croak, so Eleanor kept cooking up things from the freezer.  On Thursday night she fed seven of us, on Friday she did it again, and on Saturday morning we had five for brunch.  It was like we were hosting a small rally, inclusive of meals.   We spent the balance of Saturday morning retrieving all of our stuff, which had become spread out across the Mayeux’s home, their little cottage, and the shop, and got on the road at a leisurely 2 p.m.

With our plans once again in disarray and this late start, we decided to tow just 97 miles to Breckenridge TX along Rt 180 and visit our friends Erica and Jef.  I last dropped in on them in April after dropping off the Caravel.  Once again Eleanor made dinner for all (risotto and salad, simple but great), Erica made brownies for dessert and we topped them with a little leftover chocolate ganache.  In the morning I had wanted an early start for a big day on the road, but with various putterings and ablutions and visiting we didn’t hit the road until well past 11.

So where to go now?  One of our earlier plans had called for going to Carlsbad Caverns National Park for a ranger-led tour of one Slaughter Cave.  This was no longer possible since the tour is offered only on weekends, but we realized that continuing across Texas on Route 180 and stopping at Carlsbad on the way to Tucson was actually 18 miles shorter than sticking to the Interstate.  So we resurrected Plan G (or was it Plan H?) and took the scenic route across west Texas.

Some people might say there’s not much to see along Rt 180, but those would be people who haven’t traveled I-20 west of Midland/Odessa.  It is true that the route is sometimes deadly boring and straight through dry cotton fields, but then it is peppered with little one-stoplight towns (each with a steakhouse) and little businesses that reveal the nature of this land: oil field service, farm equipment, and uncrowded fuel stations with dyed diesel for off-road use.  Crossing into New Mexico there are massive operations for potash, salt, and — in the wide-open spaces of desert & prairie — landfills.  The rest of the road provides plenty of opportunity for conversation with one’s passengers.

I actually preferred the drive to I-20 by a long shot, at least when towing.  The speed limit runs 65-70 most of the time, which is more than enough for the towing purposes, and there are always opportunities for pleasant breaks in the many roadside Texas picnic areas.  If I were not towing and just trying to get across the country quickly, then I-20 makes more sense because of the amazing 85 MPH speed limit along part of the route (75 the rest of the way).

We’ve been here a few times before, so we know that White’s City (which is actually just a small arrangement of tourist businesses at the side of the road just outside Carlsbad Caverns National Park) is the closest camping to Carlsbad Caverns.  The campground is not much, but at least they’ve improved it since the last time we were here. The rusted-out grills have been replaced with new ones and the electric hookups seem to be new (although ours still didn’t work– had to borrow the one from the next site).  Now you’ve got to show up with a 50-amp adapter because the RV area no longer has 30-amp plugs.  Fortunately, that’s part of our regular equipment.

Our plan tonight is just to lay low after the long drive across Texas and get ready to visit the caves tomorrow. I’ll report on Carlsbad in the next blog.