Days 84: My Side Trip to Big Bend National Park

Day 84 (2016-11-18): Don’t Let Enterprise Rip You Off

I reserved the car online from Enterprise for $179.99 from 10:00am this morning until 10:00AM next Wednesday. Pay at pick-up.  I expected another $50-60 for insurance, or $230 total. At the counter the lady quotes me a minimum of $450, with insurance costing me an additional $270! No. I do a little research and make her break down the costs for me – the “minimum” she said I must have included roadside assistance and a bunch of other premium feature. No. With my credit card’s collision insurance I leave with only the legal necssity for $250. Nice try!.

I stop at the discount grocer Food King, pick up a week’s supply of groceries, and hit the road. In Van Horn I fuel up and turn my Ortleib into a makeshift cooler using some ice (waterproof works both ways!). I continue onto TX-90, heading southeast towards Big Bend. I drive for 80 some miles without seeing anything – just a few small rest stops with picnic table and no water. Between the shitty conditions near El Paso and this lonesome span, I am glad I will be on the train. Driving is also messing with my sense of time and distance.

Add ‘big interchanges’ to the list of “Big Texas.”

This feels wrong. Part of it is the rental, the driving solo, the departure from my normal routine. But it is also how foreign my own country feels right now. Vast, open expanses of Texas with little other than desert. Off-grid trailer homes. A tiny town where everyone knows everyone, all vehicles are trucks, and the Texas flag is more common than the Red, White, and Blue. I know it is unreasonable but my learned image of Texas as a gun slingin’, liberal hatin’ Wild West skews my perceptions. It feels…exposed. The number of times I have felt exposed in the desert blows my mind.

I enter Big Bend and search for a campsite as night falls. The entrance booth was closed and a sign says high-clearance needed for all the listed unpaved roads. Crap, those roads are where the backcountry campsites are. Wandering down one road, I push the rented Dodge Dart further than is comfortable but not so far as to risk anything. Damage would be expensive (and not covered due to unmaintained roads) and the last thing I want is to get stuck. Around a bend a small wash sits in the road – to the left it is far too deep, to the right I might be able to make it. I slam the brakes, coming to a dusty halt about a dozen feet away. Not worth it. I reverse, eventually finding an open space closer to the road.

Solo camping done right.


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