Big Bend Little Bus

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Big cities can be neat. They all have their individual flavor… Their own unique nooks and crannies. Things that make them stand apart from each other.

But honestly; despite the convenience that comes with everything you need and want to see being crammed together… It’s really not my go to when daydreaming about exploration.

Not that there isn’t some really neat things I’d like to see in a few cities out there. I basically lived in Chicago for a year in college. It was awesome. I had a lot of fun.

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But when I find myself daydreaming I find my thoughts drawn much more often to nature and the great outdoors… Its what I craved as I lay in that hospital bed.

All this to say that while Dallas, Waco, and San Antonio were great. (I only drove through Austin… sorry.) What I was really itching to see was Big Bend National Park.

Though it did not go as I had hoped or planned…

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The scenery once you get into the Texas hill country is just gorgeous.  At this point, coming from San Antonio anyway, you will have been through miles and miles of flat lands.

Then slowly you start noticing you driving hills, that start to get steeper and steeper. And you start hovering you foot over the break as you coast down hills… just in case.

Okay.. maybe not in a car. The speed limit was 80pmh and I’m sure most folks were enjoying doing 90+ down those declines.

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Midna did fine going up and down and over and around these mini mountains. Her engine never felt like it was struggling. Though… she was still chugging along preeeeeety darn slowly in comparison.

45mph feels like you’re crawling up a hill when the other vehicles are passing you as blurs. But, I didn’t see any drivers waving single finger salutes as they passed. So… good on ya Texas. Sorry the ‘ol girl couldn’t go any faster.

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I turned off I-10 and started south at Fort Stockton… where google’s A.I had a hiccup and tried taking my on an infinity loop tour of the town’s back streets.

Unrelated side note… why doesn’t google’s A.I have a name? There’s Alexa, Siri, Cortana, but google’s is just… google. How lame. I mean if someones going to be reporting all I do back to a massive information conglomerate, we should at least be on a first name basis.

Anywho… I had intended to spend some time in Historic Fort Stockton, but when I arrived there… All I saw was on open field.

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I totally could have been missing something, I thought there might be more to it. At first I was afraid that google maps had taken me to the wrong spot.

But after circling the area a few times and not seeing any signs or parking or anything open… I decided to go ahead and head south to Big Bend National Park.

On the way Midna seemed to drive a little funny. Its not anything I can really describe. She wasn’t grinding any gears or sputtering. I guess after so many miles you get used to the feel of a vehicle… and something just felt off.

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In Marathon, Texas I pulled off at a visitor information center. Popped Midna’s hood and had a look. Nothing major seemed out of wack. She was a little low on oil and a transmission fluid.

So I topped ’em off from my supplies. Buying more to replenish what I’d used when I stopped for a gas. Walked Marin. Then continued south.

I tell you what… the scenery really made me wish I had some kind of dash cam on the dash. Literally about every single mile the view change just enough that I wanted to take another picture.

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When I reached the Park entrance I was greeted by a jovial park ranger, who I really hope dresses up as Santa during the holidays. Because he would do awesome at it.

If you are not aware of it the National Park service has several different park passes called America the Beautiful Passes. If you have an I.L.D such as Pulmonary Fibrosis or have had a lung transplant you should look into the Access Pass.

It covers entrance fee, standard amenity fees, day use fees, and some other discounts for National Parks and recreation areas… And its free. Though you do have to provide proof of being disabled.

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You can either fill out the form and drop it in the mail. In which case there is a $10 processing fee and a wait time… or you can get it at one of the recreation areas.

Which is what I did. I basically just signed the form Ranger Santa handed me, showed my “medically frail” paperwork and he handed me my card.

Easy peasy.

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From the park entrance I made my way to the panther junction visitor center. Parked Midna in one of the RV spots and went inside.

I was hoping to spend several days parked at the Rio Grande Village, Chisos Basin, and Cottonwood sites. So I chatted with the Rangers for a little bit asking about parking in none RV sites… Since I Midna doesn’t need hookups.

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Park of me wishes I would have just driven on to the first campsite and not bothered with the visitors center. Because when I came back out to leave… she wouldn’t turn over.

The engine sounded like it wanted to but just wouldn’t. I had plenty of fuel, she wasn’t flooded, the battery tested just fine… but she wouldn’t turn over.

I was still tinkering around under the hood when the visitor center closed and the sun started setting. No bueno.

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I had no internet , no phone service, and no choice… so I spent the night in the parking lot. Figuring when the visitor center opened the next day I would ask to use their phone and learn just how reliable my roadside assistance plan really is.

That next morning Marin and I had breakfast and went for a short hike on the one trail by Panther Junction. It was very pretty, but hard to enjoy.

When we got back cars were starting to fill up the parking lot and the center was obviously open.

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But before going in; some voice in my head told me to try starting Midna. Annnnnnd… she fired right up. Miracle of miracles. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah… she started!

So I started getting everything situated to hit the road. Leaving her idling just in case. As I’m doing this a truck pulling a trailer pulls up beside me and parks. Now there wasn’t  a parking space. Next to me… Next to me was just the road.

So when I plopped down in the drivers seat I discover that this fellow had darn near blocked me in. Who double parks in a nearly empty lot?

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I was really tempted to go to one of the campsites now that she was running. But the wiser part of my brain was telling me to do my best to get her back to civilization.

That the closer I got to home, the less expensive and better off I would be. Shutting her down to go look for the owner of the truck… Only to have her not start again would not accomplish much towards that goal.

So I said screw it. (Pardon my french) And proceeded to back up and squeeze through the ‘lil gap I had. Lets just say its a good thing my side mirrors aren’t any lower and his hood wasn’t any higher.

If he was watching he was probably having a heart attack.

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Back on the road Minda ran fine. I’d never had a problem with her starting before and I’ve not had an issue since. But at the time I was pretty unsure of how things where going to go.

So even though I was really tempted to go to the cottonwood campsite as I passed the turn off… I continued on back to civilization and cell reception.

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Sadly… I can’t really give a review of the Park like I have the other places along my journey. Though I really wish I could.

The Panther Junction visitors center was nice and clean. It is all one level, without any stairs or need for ramps. It would be super easy for anyone with pull behind oxygen, a rollator, or a wheel chair to get around in.

There is quit a bit of souvenirs and books for sale. Plus park rangers present to answer any questions.

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All I know for sure is that what little I got to see of Big Bend was amazing. I have every intention of going back one day for a nice long trip.

And who knows maybe I wasn’t supposed to be there that long… My first stop after leaving the park (let me tell yuh how much I did NOT want to turn that engine off) was at a little gas station between Big Bend and Alpine.

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A couple at the other side of the pump, who were filling up there car, started asking me questions about my bus and what borrowed breaths was. Which lead to a little explanation of what pulmonary fibrosis is… They seemed really interested.

Maybe that was information they needed or maybe its information they’ll pass on to someone else in need? I’ll probably never know. But perhaps that’s why Midna wouldn’t start? Maybe that’s where I was supposed to be…

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