Soaptree Yucca filled the fields as far as the eye could see. The forecast for the day was set to clear skies with light winds and dry, typical for an early spring afternoon in the Chihuahuan Desert. Highway 385 offered a lonely friendship as humans had mostly left this part of Texas for Mother Nature to control. I would see another person every 40 min or so blow past me, eager to get nowhere fast. Mostly though, the blistering sand accompanied by assorted cacti kept civilization at bay.
Big Bend National Park was my destination and I couldn’t be more thoroughly excited. I had been here before, but it was right at the beginning of my voyage and I had no clue about best practices for traveling long distances in the Model 3 or how to find chargers in rural areas. It had been quite the adventure with me barely having enough battery to get back and needing to travel the last bit at 30mph to conserve energy. This time though with 150,000+ under my belt I felt like I had a better plan on how to tackle the day.
The closest Supercharger to the park is (unfortunately) 100 mi from the entrance to the park making it right on the edge of what is doable for even a long range Model 3. Add on to that the 75mph speed limit and the battery starts to drop a lot more quickly than one might think, especially if they expect the cars full rated range to be available to them.
Keeping this in mind, I had set my cruise to 50mph for the drive down. I planned on charging at an RV park down in Terlingua but hadn’t made any inquires, simply knowing that I there were some down there and I had a full adapter set to tackle any outlet they could throw at me. There was still the possibility though that there wouldn’t be an RV stall available and I would have to make a round trip attempt.
Shortly before I got to the park, I saw a big brown thing of hair down in a ditch. My brakes squealed slightly as I slammed on them and pulled to the shoulder. I had been driving too fast to tell what the thing was and hoped that it was a javelina, the local pig like animal that lived in the southern deserts. I had been searching for one for days for some pictures and other than seeing one as roadkill, I had been unsuccessful.
As soon as I get out of my car with my camera though, A truck blew by loudly and the animal raced past a fence, into the prickly pear on the other side. Not willing to let the moment get away, I broke my normal rule of “No Trespassing” and hopped the barbed wire to hopefully find my new friend.
Trying not to make enough noise to disturb him, I slowly crept from yucca to pear in an attempt to get an angle where I could see what he was. Alas, the senses on wild animals are designed to avoid being seen and each time I thought I was about to be able to see him, my presence was noted and he would run off and hide again. I did manage to figure out that he was a javalina though which kept me intent on being able to get my shot.
This song and dance went on for about fifteen minutes but each time I was able to get just a bit closer. Eventually, I came out from behind a cactus to see him munching away on some blooms only to look up, glance at me, and continue eating. We had reached a point of comfort where he trusted I wouldn’t come too close and hurt him allowing me to snap away as he had lunch.
Driving away quite satisfied with myself, I decided it would be a good idea to secure a place to charge before I lost service in the vastness of the desert. After a couple of calls though, I realized the the RV Parks in the area were fully booked and I was going to have to make it back to Fort Stockton. I wasn’t too worried though, knowing I would simply have to drive at a reasonable speed for the rest of the journey. There was a small concern that the battery degradation over the past 150k mi might become an issue but I pushed that aside. I could always hyper mile if a problem arose.
Approaching the park, I saw a sign alerting visitors to the fact that it was a busy time at the park and to expect delays. Realizing that it was most likely spring break for most people with families, I understood now why the RV parks were booked. Once again, my spontaneousness and lack of planning was the reason why I couldn’t charge down here, not the absence of the ability to do so.
Soon I found myself cruising into the Chisos Basin and it seemed like I almost had the park to myself. I found a few cars in the parking lot, but nothing that would imply the need for a busy sign. I was arriving in the afternoon though, so maybe most had left for the day. Whatever it was, I excitedly set off down the Lost Mine Trail and was immediately greeted by stunning views of Case Grande Mountain as I quickly started to gain elevation.
As I climbed higher, the magnificence of Southern Texas continued to amaze me. This vast wilderness is written off by so much of the populace, along with the rest of the south west, as a dry wasteland. Nothing but a dry desert. Yet, if one takes on the challenge of facing the fierce elements, they will find a world unique unto itself.
As I looked off to see the river valley in the distance, I thought about how many groups of people had called this valley home during the last 10,000 years, about how many stories these rocks could tell. I pictured tales of Comanche Warriors stampeding across on their horses, ready for the war they lived for. I imagined battles between the troops of Santa Anna and Zachary Taylor, an old nation and a new fighting over land that truly belonged to neither.
I bouldered my way up to a viewpoint and gazed on what seemed like an endless desert, fading away into a cool blue in the distance. Everything seemed so fragile out here and I pondered about how climate change might affect an area like this. We people may brush off the desert as the desert but out here, the life that has adapted over millennia to deal with this brutal environment can’t do the same. Just a small change in their ecosystem may pronounce certain doom.
The sun began to set as I trekked back down to my car and a new definition of beauty started to appear right before my eyes. The world seemed to change as the greens of the flora began to pop out and the sound of owls hooting somewhere in the distance echoed against the rocks. I was truly privileged to be able to be in this moment as the world faded into darkness.
I drove back to Fort Stockton a little bit slower at 45mph to ensure that I would make it without issue and sat back to listen to a podcast as I let autopilot take the wheel. Arriving back with 6%, I could have sped up just a little bit. Hopefully they will have more of a charging network down here soon but for now, I’m glad that it’s still doable.
Closest Supercharger Fort Stockton 135mi
2571 N Front St, Fort Stockton, TX 79735
Big Bend National Park Chisos Basin Visitor Center
142 Chisos Basin Rd, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834