Big Bend National Park, Texas
More national parking. Big Bend in Texas sat right on our doorstep for a couple of days. Initially, we’d looked at staying in Big Bend National Park but options are limited if you prefer creature comforts to actual desert creatures. Hotel St George, Marfa kindly upgraded us to a little suite when we checked in late the night before – I’ve lived in flats smaller.
The temperatures out here in the Texan desert are off the scale. This time of the year is their off season, and being a weekday we were guaranteed to see few people. Managing ourselves in the heat had become easier as we’d started acclimatise after weeks on the road. Because we were day tripping from our hotel there was less apprehension around comfort, knowing we could abort our mission if it all became too much.
What’s also good about day tripping is the car was emptied of luggage and all the unnecessary items. The Porsche 993 much lighter than it has been for a while – and it can be felt. Loaded up with a cool bag full of ice from the bar and mineral water (from the Ozarks), hats, sunglasses, SPF, camera. We left the paper maps behind having put the route into Google Maps on an iPhone. We were even down to just one fire extinguisher now fuel no longer sprays the engine bay. It felt good to escape the road trip itinerary for the day.
Terlingua Ghost Town
Something we’d been keen to see on this trip was a US Ghost Town. Initially, we’d focused in on Colorado for this, and there are some good contenders there. However, the ones less of a tourist attraction required either a long hike or something with much higher ground clearance than a Porsche 911. Terlingua is much more accessible, which after arriving there became obvious why.
Terlingua Ghost Town, is what’s left of a ghost town before Air BnB breathed life into renting out old huts as travel experiences. Some of it remains an urbex but not much. It is still fun exploring the relics of the town. We’d asked our waitress earlier in the day over breakfast about it and she looked at us with an expression suggesting it was not to bother with: “I think there are some bars there – and a creepy cemetery”.
Terlingua (creepy) cemetery
If nothing else, Terlingua is worth visiting it just to see its little burial ground. The dead started find their resting place here in 1903. Mining back then was dangerous and those working here were digging highly toxic mercury which poisoned many. Accidents were frequent. An influenza epidemic lasting a couple of years managed to fill plenty of vacancies too.
Not all the graves here are old, some are very recent. For all those people who question city life, as I do on a weekly basis, romanced by the thought of fresh air, no light pollution and a slower pace of everything, thinking we will be healthier and happier, let me present Terlingua, deep in this beautiful US National Park.
Looking at the modest wooden crosses, simple stonework, and little grottoes I couldn’t help notice the residents here are lucky if they make it to mid-fifties. One forty-something year old woman’s recent headstone read the words “finally made it back home”. Perhaps long life is something even those who leave here can’t have.
The wonderful roads of Big Bend
Luck has shone brightly on us with US National Parks. The Petrified Forest was closed to all traffic when we were there, the Saguaro quiet as we arrived at tea time. And now Big Bend at the hottest time of the year, during the hottest part of the day. Even the animals are hiding, although we did see some, most notably one lonesome mountain lion. In a Porsche with decent climate control this would be an outstanding drive. With the high cabin temperatures in this car it is still wonderful. The roads through this park are nothing short of excellent for 911s of any era. Fast flowing, good visibility, quiet. At one point a ranger flashed their blue lights to tell us we were pushing the envelope of acceptability a little too far – it’s easy to get carried away when you’re the only people around. We passed him a couple more times during the day and given the thumbs up both times. We clearly found the right balance in the end.
From Terlingua we tried amending our route and somehow lost navigation completely due to the lack of cell coverage. A non-issue as our route was straightforward and involved few roads, I’d assumed memory would be enough. It should have been easy, except we found ourselves at a dead end, the road along the Rio Grande River we’d hoped to circle back on nowhere to be seen. Later in the day, zooming in on the satellite images back at the hotel, it became clear it was down to bad planning. What Google had suggested as a road was something of a track suited only to four wheel drives.
Driving back the way we came, fuel was getting low. 993s have good fuel consumption for what they are, I’m guessing this one with its X51 3.8 Mahle cylinders and rally cams sees a respectable 25 miles to the gallon most of the time. Out here in the USA consumption has been even more irrelevant given the cost of petrol is not taxed heavily like in the UK. Range was the issue today, on this Big Bender we’d drank way too much, far too quickly. The little gas station we passed heading south was closed when we got to it heading north. We’d been in the red for what felt like ages and I’m sure we were only a few miles from empty. It was a relief to reach the town of Alpine to fill up and a reminder of how remote Big Bend is. There is a fair amount we missed, one day isn’t enough to see this vast area, a good thing as it gives a reason to come back someday.