The sun rose early and warmed up quick, one thing about sleeping in what is essentially a pimped out tin can is there ain’t no late lie ins, no matter how lazy you might be, heat will overpower you.

We decided to save ourselves $600 and ignore the air conditioning install for Big Blue, which in
all honesty is completely kosher, as long as the van is moving, the wind is blowing and you’re good in your gitch. I took some style notes from my 18-month-old nephew and threw on some Osh Kosh B’gosh’s my friend Mignon gifted me when we rolled into gas stations and towns.

Marathon was our first find, a sleepy town full of artists, including Eve, owner of a completely unique Organic Bed and Breakfast, who welcomed us warmly to tour her lush indoor gardens and creatively designed hotel rooms.

We took advantage of The Gage Hotel’s air conditioning for a bit, pretending to peruse the drinks menu, while marvelling at their bijou Texas d├ęcor. One Marathon resident with a strong New York accent and wild grey hair, wandered up to us, excitedly sharing stories about his journey through life, which led him to his Marathon retirement. I listened politely though his monologue seemed to be directed at Shane. He looked like the love child of Rod Steward and 'Doc' from Back To The Future and I found myself distracted by this thought, unable to discern between what he said and what I thought a man like him might say.

As I sat there half-in-half-out of the moment at hand, his artist wife shot exasperated looks at him from afar with a controlled patience I’d never seen in human form. She wore a tight bun and reminded me of Geena Davis in A League of Their Own, and I could tell from where I sat she was strong willed and witty, she was a woman of few words but great impact, the type you’d want to cast as a character in your next novel or play.

Randy bid us adue at the precise moment the waiter’s patience with us began to dissolve, we left promptly and wandered to a dusty grocery store nearby, somehow spending the $10 we’d saved not buying a drink at The Gage on two oranges and a tepid Topo Chico.

We stopped to fill up with gas soon after. Shane made friends with a jolly local named Pepe who sat laughing and sweating, half shaded by the canopy of the gas station. Shane eventually convinced him and Ernesto, the gas station attendant, to allow him to take portraits of them. They both chattered without interrupting the other, Pepe in an English high-pitched drawl, Ernesto in a slow smooth Spanish.

We departed, weaving out of the tamely sized town and onto the last leg of the drive to Big Bend. It was the first time the beauty and vastness of the desert hit us, arriving into the arms of the park just as the sun set over the silhouette of the mountains.

We slept, illegally as we later found out, in a picnic spot called Fossil Bone. In contrast to the previous evenings, this night, the moon, stars, and all the planets lit up the sky with brilliance and we basked, surrounded by desert under the night sky.

In the distance an electric storm housed within rolling pink clouds locked in a mountain valley fired lightning in a way I’d never seen. Around us, the air was smooth and calm as if to balance the violent beauty we witnessed beyond us.

We fell asleep with the doors and windows open letting the cool air comfort us under the watchful eye of the majestic moon.

all photos unedited. copyright Shane Woodward