After our late lunch in Big Spring, we started our drive to Carlsbad which Google said would be about 170 miles and take about three hours. This seems like the middle of nowhere, but we are also less than 40 miles from Midland TX, the birthplace of Laura Bush, childhood home of George H. W. Bush, and, more importantly to my mind, home of Jim Hall, one of the most innovative racecar designers of all time. Hall was the first designer to use a rear-mounted, upside down, wing to produce downforce two years before Colon Chapman brought the now ubiquitous wing to Formula One. Midland is another, of too many, places we pass saying “We’ll have to visit next time”
One of the things I’ve missed on this trip is a late afternoon cappuccino pick me up. It is one of the downsides to spending so much time on back roads. Every major city that we have stayed in, from Albuquerque to Austin, has a Starbucks and most have an independent coffee shop, but, in small towns and small cities like San Angelo, the only way to get a cup of coffee is to get a pour from a pot that has been warming and oxidising for a couple of hours. For me, that’s two problems, a cup of brewed coffee, with about 200mgs of caffeine, is way too big a hit for five in the afternoon and coffee gets too bitter if it sits on a warmer for more than a couple of minutes. A cappuccino, with 40mgs of caffeine, is a perfect afternoon pick-me-upper. As we drove through Andrews TX, a very small burg of under 13 thousand people, Google reported that there was a coffee shop nearby so we had to give it a try. The only other time we ran into an espresso place, while on back roads, was a small town in southern Georgia that had a surprising amount of street art. As an aside, when we walked into the espresso serving coffee shop in rural Georgia, the first people we saw were a mixed-race couple with their kids, sitting at a table having ice cream. End aside. In fading light, we continued to drive through pretty much empty country and crossed over into New Mexico at Jal, a small town of about 2,000 people. Jal had the only piece of public art we saw all day (although it did take a small detour). After Jal, however, everything seemed to change; we ran into increasingly heavy traffic and then a huge traffic jam, going the other way, caused by an accident between a tanker truck and a cop car. Then our lane just stopped and we sat until all the light was gone. Finally, a truck from the New Mexico DOT came by and the driver told us that the road was blocked by an accident and would stay closed for the next four or five hours. He suggested we backtrack to the first accident and go down a side road back into Texas where we could pick up a highway that would take us to Carlsbad, where we had planned on having dinner, and then on to Whites City where we were going to spend the night.
We had expected to get to Carlsbad with about a hundred miles of gas but, with all the back and forth, we were now almost out of gas and in the middle of nowhere, although it was a nowhere with a lot of traffic. Just before the Highway to Carlsbad, we found a very strange “gas station”. It had several pumps in a gravel parking lot, dim lighting on tall poles, and two kinds of diesel with only one flavor of gas. Under the circumstances, it was perfect and we finally got to Whites City after ten where the desk clerk and his friend were watching Fox news. They offered us microwaved pizza which was terrific.