Papa Alderete drove me to Junction on I-10 and abandoned me there, shaving two uncertain hours off my trip to Big Bend. I took a picture of this Mexican free tail and solemnly noted that the sun probably killed it, not necessarily rabies. It probably wouldn't have been out in the sun if it hadn't been a little crazy in the first place, but perhaps with a socialized healthcare system within its colony, the group could have prevented this tragedy. Who knows.
About 20 minutes after my old man dropped me off, Alicia picked me up and drove me four hours to a black hole of a town called FortStockton. She was a nurse from Houston who was on a camping trip to Balmorhea, an hour west of where she left me. She’d solo hiked many places around the US and we got along famously. Here she is:
I walked miles and miles into and out of FortStockton to State Road 385, an isolated but direct route into Big Bend. Darkness arrived and still, no one had picked me up. Luckily, I had 50lbs of gear on my stooping shoulders so I unrolled my sleeping bag beside this random gravel pile and fell into restless sleep.
Did I mention it had been over 100 degrees outside? It had been over 100 degrees outside. I woke up each time a car passed in the night or a gnat buzzed into my ear but meteorites burned across the sky with each time I stirred so it wasn't all bad. After a while, I stopped hearing cars and the bipolar desert became too cold for pesky bugs. Around midnight a cop showed up and positioned his car’s spotlight on me. I propped myself up with an elbow and shielded my eyes. A second squad car arrived. Then a third. The first cop was completely stupefied as to why a man with a home and car would hitchhike across the desert, and throughout the course of our conversation, he asked if I was homeless three different times, in three different ways. Then he just stared at me, holding his hands in front of him. I knew I wasn't in trouble and they couldn't make me leave, so I got comfortable and laid back down while they spoke to me. The second cop asked fewer questions but had a smile on her face the whole time. I think she got it. The last cop behaved as though we were old buddies and cautioned against snakes and illegal immigrants. They stuck around a few minutes longer and fulfilled their curiosities, acting more like an audience than a trio with guns and tasers and mace and beating sticks. The second cop offered a ride to a park in town for the night: "It's real nice," she said. I thanked her and asked for a ride into Big Bend instead. They laughed under the spell of my amazing charm and then they left. My buddy cop said he’d send a trooper out the next day to take me to the county line but I never saw one. Probably because the county line was between nothings and leaving someone there would likey be some kind of manslaughter if and when my jerkied remains were discovered.
I half expected not to make it to Big Bend the first day but I spent two nights not there and the next day would be Hell.