I got up at 7:30 and went to use the exercise room. It was still under construction and had only a recumbent bike and treadmill. I have never been able to use a recumbent. They bother my knees and I can’t get my heart rate up, anyway. So I got on the treadmill, which was brand new and very nice. There was no TV in the room, so I decided to do an interval workout. Intervals are great for making the time pass, for some reason. And after a bit, Dan wandered in with a bagel and coffee from the breakfast buffet and he kept me company while I finished my workout.
We had hoped we could get into a tour at the caverns today, but the ones that we wanted were full, and the only one available was four hours long and involved getting wet and dirty—not good when you’ve got a long drive ahead of you afterwards. So we did the self-guided tour. It was an easy tour, with asphalted trail, railings and just enough light to see by without ruining the entire cave effect. In sum, it was nice, but not particularly strenuous.
The route down from the cave entrance is about 750 feet, and there’s a lot to see on the way down.
It took about an hour and a half to make our way down, seeing everything there was to see.
The only thing I didn’t like about the tour was the tourists. It was a weekend and not high season yet, so it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. But the rangers don’t let you in before they explain the rules, and they’re quite clear that there is to be no talking, only whispering. Just why this is so hard for grown adults to understand is quite beyond me, but it sure explains why some kids act up the way they do. When even the grownups refuse to play by the rules, how can anyone expect the children to do better?
But enough of that. Once we were at the bottom of the cave and had done the loop of stuff to see, we went to the cavern gift shop and restaurant, where Dan had a sandwich and I had a soft pretzel at one of the picnic tables in the depths of the cavern. It’s not everyday you get to eat 750 underground!
After we ate, we took the elevator back to ground level, checked out the gift shop and bookstore, then went to a vista point where we could get some shots of the canyon and desert around us.
There was a desert nature trail somewhere out there, but we decided to hit the road, even though it wasn’t a long drive to Fort Stockton.
Well, it was just as well we left when we did. Once we were out on the flat West Texas plains, Dan got sleepy and I had to keep him caffeinated.
Then just as he started saying how perky he was and how he could continue on, dark clouds started rolling in.
Luckily we had made reservations the night before in Fort Stockton. It’s the only town for the next several hundred miles, and they do a thriving hotel business. If you can’t find a place to stay here, you’re looking at questionable truck stops, camp sites, or hauling it on to nearly San Antonio.
As I was waiting to check in, the phone rang and the girl at the counter took a reservation for her last non-smoking room. Good thing we booked ahead! And a good thing we got to Fort Stockton when we did, because fat heavy drops began to fall as we unloaded, and just as we got everything into our room, the skies opened up and it just poured, hail and all. A young couple from California joined us on the balcony to watch, staring in amazement. Apparently they don’t get hail in Monterrey, and they were fascinated that ice would fall from the sky like that.
It took about an hour for the storm to abate, but finally Dan and I headed out in search of food. We decided on a Chinese place recommended by the hotel, and although it sounds strange to eat Chinese food in Fort Stockton, we’d already done steakhouses and Mexican food in other places on our trip, so it was a welcome change. My tofu and vegetables were quite tasty, too!
When we got back to the hotel, I checked the exercise room and I think I’m going to have a very nice workout in the morning. And then we’re off to see what adventure we can dig up. Our first choice is to camp at Lost Maples. But if the weather isn’t good or if it’s too muddy, we’ll just knock around Central Texas for an afternoon. Then Saturday is when we see Dan’s aunt in Yorktown, and after that, home!