Travelling on business implies frequent-flyer miles and expense reports, but my father’s regional accounts just as often meant driving from one college campus to another persuading academic scholars and research fellows that the scientific equipment his company offered superseded any other current technology. In the twentieth century, top-of-the-line technology changes daily, but in the mid-seventies, when criminology could be branded closer to “Quincy” than to “CSI,” my Dad knew his stuff and his Southwestern road trips sustained our family and occasionally served as the back drop to our summer vacations.
When his traveling road show took our family to the western tip of the Lone Star State, we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park (see “Hidden Beauty” from March 2012), and several other places that I recall savored of beauty and adventure, places where the sites provided more than ample reward for the time in the car, and places that I would visit again with my own children. And then there was El Paso, Texas. I have one vivid memory of the town across the Rio Grande from Juarez: my first bee sting. Let’s just say the sting of El Paso stayed in my memory for quite a while.
Smoke Across the Border
I admit there are cities I plan to see, but flight schedules and itineraries often negate the opportunities, like Oakland and Spokane, Pittsburgh and San Antonio. And to get to Carlsbad Caverns, El Paso or Midland would have to serve as the rental car pick-up and drop-off point and little else. Recalling my first experience in El Paso, I site, just seriously contemplated Midland, but price trumped memory and so my flight touched down hours from my final destination. Once I exited the plane in this 600K+ city, I was refreshingly surprised to find rental cars on out the doorway of a delightfully small, yet fully-functional, well-themed terminal, and a charming place from which to depart on my three-day adventure.
Across the river into Ciudad Juarez, smoke from a distant fire rose into the smoggy horizon, yet to the east, I drove past a dozen landmarks I had eyed from my airplane window: wind turbines, and mountain peaks, green pastures and sharp bends in the road. As I approached El Capitan of Texas and the highest points deep in the heart of
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I witnessed and recorded an entirely unique view of this corner of the oversized state, and carried away a distinctly altered view of the city with which I often associated unhappiness as a child. And when I returned to the border city forty-eight hours later, the smoke still rose on the horizon beyond the Big River. Perhaps some things linger longer than they ought.