Puerto Rico: the last days

Nature

Friday: going to meet a group of folks at Kmart to take a van out to Arecibo. After waiting 30 minutes in the sun past the time of pickup, the host, who was supposed to pick me up and bring me to Kmart and did not, suggests to take an Uber to meet the group. Good start to the day. The Uber driver is a coffee farmer. Of course, I’m the last one to meet the group and I suspect everyone was upset that I was late and made them wait. I didn’t correct anyone’s assumptions about why I’m late. Got into the van quickly and discovered my seat had no seatbelt, so I moved into the front of the van next to the driver. The driver and host, Freddy, was incredibly friendly and all smiles and so I asked 99 questions about Puerto Rico. The first stop on the trek was Cueva Ventana. We hiked some, got helmets, hiked some more, and went through a small cave with tree roots growing through it. Hiked some more and picked up flashlights as the second cave had no openings except for the window (ventana) at the end. And that was just amazing. There were groups of bats and even a snake on the ceiling that apparently ate those bats! None of us knew how it got there.

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Afterwards, we piled back into the van and drove about 10 mins to the tiniest village imaginable (Charco Hondo) on the Tanama river. The roads were one car wide, no sidewalks; one room concrete houses all piled on top another and sort of on the side of a hill. We drove all the way to the back and there was a bunch of broken electrical machinery. We got out and walked a ways to a beautiful waterfall (cascada la planta electrica) We continued walking in the river then and arrived at a much larger waterfall. All of this was an hydroelectric station at some point, since abandoned. The water was very cold. Freddy showed me an opening where you could get behind the water and into a little cave. The water coming down took my shades as I was passing through (losing shades in water is actually something that happens every year, so I have a spare). After a few minutes in the cave, I jumped off a rock into the water and swam back to the group. Later on in the day, a woman said she had gotten a shot of me on the rock and would send it. Said she was from Minneapolis. The picture never came. Can’t trust them Minnesotans. 😉

cascada la planta electrica

Pro Tip: an important piece of information gleaned from Freddy so far is about a pretty tree with red flowers. This is the African tulip tree. The important part is that when you’re a kid, you call it the “pee pee tree”. Why? Well, apparently these flowers collect water that smells a little foul, and so you grab a flower and squeeze that water on your friends to make them seem to have wet themselves. Genius.

Finally, Spicy Food

Freddy wanted us to experience authentic “chinchorreo” culture. What is that, you ask? Well, it’s basically a dream come true: get a cheap drink, a quick appetizer, and move on down the road to the next place to do the same thing. So we drove up to the coast to a place called Arrecife 681 and it is really right on the coast. It’s a tiny shack, open air, wind and waves, drinks, fried food; amazing. I ordered some tostones (fried plantain), which I hadn’t had in years and was really craving. Additionally, Freddy had a pro tip: if you want hot sauce, you have to ask for it. Which I did, and it was incredible to savor the spicy fried goodness while listening to the waves roll in, and having some rum warm the insides. 😀 Incidentally, very near here there’s a colossal 110 m statue of Christopher Columbus seemingly in the middle of nothing. The story of its creation is also peculiar and I suggest you check it out. I don’t think anyone even likes Chris anyway.

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Fast Facts: it’s taller than the Statue of Liberty. It’s the 4th tallest statue in the world. The 2nd, 3rd, and 5th tallest are of Buddha.

the statue

After filling our stomachs and getting a little tipsy, we drove back to Kmart and parted ways, never to see them folks again. I was short on water and wine and down to my last $10 and already at Kmart so being practical: it was shopping time. They had said they accepted Apple Pay so I went to the second floor to buy the essential liquids. Turns out they don’t accept Apple Pay. As I had only the one bill, I could only afford the water. The lady was over-the-top friendly and actually offered to buy the wine for me. No way – that’s just too nice. The Uber driver home was Dominican. She smiled and said something like ‘you smell like a man’ when I got into her car. I couldn’t quite understand the words because my Spanish is crap, but I can understand that I was trekking through the woods all morning in my gym shorts and probably do smell like a man.

The sun was high so it was beach time. Sand grains got into everything from the wind. There were lots of kite-surfers out probably not minding that so much. I miss tacos. I miss San Antonio. I miss spicy food. Found a tex-mex place on Loiza called Acapulco. They have a huge board on the wall proclaiming boldly that their food is unique and born of the streets of Mexico and not Tex-Mex in any way at all. It was Tex-Mex. It was actually just like walking into a place on 6th street in Austin. There were far more servers (10) than patrons (2). My server was a chipper thin young man with facial hair (just like Austin). In fact, everyone there was basically a latino version of someone in Austin. Ordered enchilada with veggies (cheese addict), chips with beans and guac and pico, house marg. Used the pro tip from earlier: ask for the hot sauce. LO! Server gave up the special HOT sauce from behind the counter WOOT! Like magic. It was all very flavorful and fresh and delicious and reminded me so much of home. I ate half there and took the rest home to enjoy with my wine from Walgreens. This is my last full day here. Was feeling a little lonely, but I don’t want to go home. This feels like home. I have a list already of all the things to go back for: one week is not enough time.

cool street art

The Last Day

Pinky’s is a breakfast place on Loiza. There’s about 3 tables. There don’t seem to be breakfast tacos in San Juan so I ordered a Passion Fruit juice and sipped it passionately whilst walking to the beach. Sat in the sand again and stared out into the blue horizon – it could be the last time I see you, ocean. Passed a man on a random corner of the street – he’s wearing drab clothing and sitting on a crate; one of those people you usually gloss over. But, he’s got another crate full of aguacate. Only 3 bucks for one of them monsters. What a deal! Can’t wait to eat it. The Uber driver to the airport is super talkative. Think he said he was from Argentina. I guess they talk a lot in Argentina. 😀

The airport has an interesting feature right when you walk in: before you even get to security, there’s sort of a pre-security area specifically for the USDA to screen your bags for contraband agricultural products. They seemed fine with the one aguacate – what did they think they are going to find in people’s bags, cattle? What if there were two aguacates? How many aguacates does it take to not get the neat magenta USDA sticker slapped on my bag? Had some hours to kill and found an entire terminal of the airport abandoned and just wandered around. It was creepy: no people, lights buzzing and flickering, random sounds in the walls, spots where TVs used to be, spots where floor tiles used to be. The Miami airport was the opposite: bustling to the brim, beautiful baked-goods smells, a shiny clean tram, basketball on TV, travelers huddled around the charging stations. And after that: San Antonio.

abandoned terminal

Go back and check out Thursday!

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Puerto Rico: Thursday

Thursday was a sort of unplanned free day. I think every good trip should have one of those. 🙂 Also, I had been sort of sick earlier in the week but was feeling healthy again by now.

Started the day out right by walking to a tiny coffee joint called Coffeetera. There’s about 3 tables and I sat outside on the street with my coffee and some fruit pastry and watched people walk by. Then I walked on over to the nearby Ocean Park Beach as the sun was barely up. There were only a few people there and it was pleasantly breezy. Just walked in the sand one way and then the other, listened to the waves. I decided I should probably get some postcards for my peeps and there is a gift shop on Loiza called Gemileo not too far down. It was full of neat touristy stuff like mugs and shirts. And it smelled deliciously like incense and the clerk had a pleasant demeanor and we had a pleasant conversation. There seemed to be a sort of a bar in the back too . . ? Will have to remember that for next time.

coffee and pastry

At around 11am this vegan place Berlingeri Cocina Artesanal opens and I’m there right at 11. It’s raining lightly. It’s sort of near Coffeetera, but I hadn’t seen it. It actually took some effort to locate as it’s not on the street: it’s in the parking lot behind the Post Office. Inside is cozy with the kitchen right there before you. An incredible aroma greets you at the door. It’s actually a real vegan place serving real vegan food! Every single thing on the menu looks incredible. I ask the chef what he recommends and I don’t even know what it was, but it tasted amazing and the plate was cleaned thoroughly. Think it was a potato-based lasagna. If I could afford to eat here every day, I might. Also might have needed a nap after this: I’m not usually able to eat everything on a plate but for this I made an exception. 🙂

vegan food

behind the PO

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo

Next up was another art museum. This one was older and smellier than yesterday’s museum. And the art was much angrier and more political. Again, there was almost no one here but me; just a handful of people. Most of the rooms had two personnel to watch you like a hawk and make sure you didn’t take any pictures. All in all, it was quiet powerful. The picture below is a made of umbrellas and represents Trump’s border wall. After all that smelly anger, I trudged on foot in the sunshine for about 1km to this open fruit market surrounded by bars. The area is called La Placita. Seems like it would be fun at night. I ordered a rum and coke and it was just rum, as it should be. There were locals here, and not tourists, and that made me happy.

umbrella wall

The uber back from here was the best ride of the entire trip. The woman was young – early 20s. And inexperienced. And we kept messing each other up with distracting questions and answers about how to say things in English or Spanish or what food is the best and worst. And we took all kinds of wrong turns into dead ends and were going the wrong way on one-way streets. And we were swearing. And we nearly got destroyed in a collision. She grabbed my arm wide-eyed and we were laughing and cursing. Tenemos vida! Eventually I just asked to stop and let me walk and I got out and walked and left a huge tip. Best ride ever. 😀

Both my uber drivers today seemed to think that the food in San Juan is spicy. I had to correct them. If you live in San Antonio – it ain’t. If you live outside of San Antonio, maybe it is. 🙂 Oh, here’s me pretending to be a local:

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For dinner I wanted more pizza, so I stopped at Montanaya on Loiza. They open at 5 o’clock. I was there at five. They were not open. I asked the lady when they open. She said 5. I pulled out my phone and showed her that it was 5 because I’m an asshole. And promptly left embarrassed and got a Domino’s instead. I ordered it knowing full-well it wasn’t going to be as good. Went back to Murphy’s Law to wait for it to bake. The two tattooed women from yesterday were there tending bar. I ordered one drink. As I was leaving, I found that they had left the keys in the front door. I grabbed them and returned them to the barkeep. She was thankful that I returned them; she told me with her facial expression alone.

Stay tuned for Part 4 – the day that I find spicy food!
Or go back and check out Wednesday!

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funny day

Just a quick blurb here: I’m feeling better today than the last few days. It’s been a sour-lemony week! Had some funny things happen that I wanted to share.

Firstly, the weather is just perfect outside. It’s about 25C, overcast, humid. I decided to get the bike out and sneak a ride in over the lunch hour. I was so stoked!! So I pumped up the tires, loaded the bike onto the car, grabbed my helmet , gloves, and my water and headed to McAllister park. I got about 30 seconds into the ride to find that my tire had already gone flat. Ride over. 🙂

OK, no problem. Well, I still want to enjoy this weather. So I decided to run instead. And the equivalent thing happened: I got about 30 seconds into the run and fell. I landed on the sidewalk and rolled into the rocks. Sunglasses went flying. I was laughing my ass off! Because at this point it was just a ridiculous lunch hour. A car slowed to check on me but I just kept running. The flowers and butterflies were out and I wasn’t going to miss it.

You know what they say about “When life gives you lemons…” you say: “Is that all fucking the lemons you got, bitch?!” 😀 Plus, I need some limes for my taco. 😉

PS. also picked up some pottery I had painted and it looks marvelous! Maybe my baby San Pedro can go in there. 🙂

cactus planter

cactus planter

 

 

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why i hate you

I was divorced years ago. We have a “decree” which is basically an agreement of what we can and cannot do. The agreement with my ex-wife has always seemed a little bit unfair. to me. Recently I thought there might have been an opportunity to change this.

Earlier in the week i expressed to a friend of mine how I would ideally like it to change. I wasn’t talking about murder – I just wanted things to be fair and for everyone to get what they want and need. She called my ideas ugly; said I was being ugly. She said she didn’t want someone around her children who thought this way. She said we could no longer be friends. So that was the end of that. It’s funny – you meet so many people who label themselves as open and without judgement, but all that really means is that they haven’t found their boundaries yet. And when they do: you’re fucking out.

I was ghosted a few times this week. That’s always fun. Got stuck in traffic for an hour today. That’s always fun. So I was feeling a little lonely and wanted to chat. The weather app suggested this app called Meet Me that lets you chat to people nearby and really anywhere. So downloaded it and uploaded a few pics. The first person to contact me got was a phishing attempt. Nice! So I gave that bot 50 bucks for the effort. (totally kidding)

The second person was looking for friends. So I texted. And they asked why I texted? Didn’t I read their profile? And, no, honestly I didn’t even know we had profiles and I’d be happy to stop texting if ya like. . . She told me to “stop wasting her time and learn to fucking read.” I’m sorry …. did I force you to respond, ma’am? Was I rude to you? Did I come to this conversation with a knife? Do I deserve this hostility? What happened in your childhood that triggers this response?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!

So today I’m bitter and I hate the whole world. Because everyday I put myself out there with kindness and respect and a smile and advice and interest and this is what I get in return. Obviously, my expectations of humanity are far far off. It doesn’t fucking matter what you do: people are assholes no matter what. My mother raised me to respect women. Why did she do that? I’m raising my daughter to respect men. . .  why the hell should I? I’m raising her to meet people like me, but you aren’t fucking like me. I respect people even when they don’t respect me – I don’t need her to do that. Why shouldn’t she treat everyone like the garbage they are? Today I don’t want to recycle and I don’t want to eat vegetables because today your whole fucking planet can die.

It’s on me; I get it: I made a mistake today. And that mistake was thinking for one second that I am not going this alone; that any other person out there gives the slightest shit beyond themselves. Despite this, the weather is perfect; the sky is blue, the moon is out, the breeze is pleasant. I bought a bunch of ice cream and hope it’s enough to restore my faith. I made a doodle clearly indicating my outlook.

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Puerto Rico: Wednesday

El Yunque

Woke just before 6 after a shitty dream about my family. Showered quick, ran to Walgreens and got some cash. Pickup was at 7. Alejandro was the guide for today and drove a snazzy jeep. We headed west and picked up Colin and Sam before heading  south towards El Yunque. They were both from western Massachusetts. Drove past a cock-fighting place; didn’t know that was still popular. We stopped in the town of Fajardo and met up with some folks from Toronto and Wyoming. Drank a plantain smoothie on the way courtesy of our guide. The folks from Wyoming had obviously never hiked in their entire life. They even left their own car door open when we started hiking. They were wearing all new clothes and boots and backpack. They were falling over everything and slowing everyone down. I suppose we’ve all been out of our element before. 🙂

We hiked through some dense jungle with lots of bamboo. It was pleasant and nothing like Texas: no thorns, no snakes; nothing trying to murder you. Arrived at a pool of water and waterfall on the Rio Fajardo. There we could swing from a rope into the water. It was cold! We also jumped off a rock there. Alejandro showed us how to get behind the waterfall. Only about half of the people actually did these things. Alejandro also cut up in a local pineapple and a local avocado and we feasted. There are giant bees!! And the avocados are also of UNUSUAL SIZE!!

the first pool in El Yunque

the first pool in El Yunque

Then we hiked a bit more up to another body of water where there was a smaller slide of rock and we slid down the rock itself into the water. Then a longer slide. And at that longer slide I was able to get behind the waterfall by myself and I was the only person that did that. What was everyone else doing?! At that same body of water we were able to climb up a 12m-high rock and jump in from there. I have never jumped from that high. The adrenaline was nuts! I was shaking and my heart was pounding in my chest. Alejandro seemed to be able to tell that I wanted more and more and kept silently calling me over with his hands as if to say “do it again” and I did every time. Guess he wanted me to have my fill. I think it’s important to do the things that you are scared of twice: the first time is just a fluke; the second time is when you really mean it.

After that we walked back down the river, not on the trail as before. We got back to our cars and drove back to the city. Sam fell asleep, and Colin said this happens every single time. I felt like no one really wanted to talk to me. Or I was talking too much. Or I was just annoying; I know I can be annoying. I got dropped off first. I was pretty sore and got banged up on the rocks. Was still sunburned from the day in Viejo SJ. Oh! There was a funeral procession on the way back from Fajardo and they had a pickup with an enormous speaker system in the back for playing music for the procession. Alejandro says its common to do this.

Bebo’s

We got back earlier that I expected: around 1pm and figured that I should eat something. I had heard from the guy at the pizza place that this restaurant was authentic and it was a decent walk – probably about a kilometer on Loiza. Yelp had said that they were vegan options here too, however, there are none on the menu – you have to special order anything vegetarian – everything on the menu has meat. Everything except water. So I kindly asked for whatever the servers thought was good without meat and she suggested an option that had chicken. 😀 I repeated my request and eventually received avocado and creole rice and vegetables in some sort of butter sauce.

PRO TIP: I didn’t meet anyone who fully understood what I meant when asking for food “sin carne”. Everything seems to have meat in San Juan and “carne” seems to indicate pork – everything has pork. If you ask for “no meat” it seems to just mean “no pork” so you have to further clarify that you don’t want chicken or fish either . . . I tried “nunca animales” but, really, I never figured out how to fully get this point across. I’m not judging at all – it made me smile every time. Vegetarians take note.

The meal was not quite vegan, but close enough. 😀 It was very bland. By the way the avocados here are just enormous. Something else I was missing about San Antonio is how spicy the food is; none of the food in San Juan has any sort of spice… I ate about half of the buttery avocado and brought the rest home. After two “authentic” restaurants I’m beginning to think that Puerto Rican food is actually quite boring and that we are incredibly lucky in SA to have such great food.

Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

So I still have an afternoon free and I’m not sure what to do. So I set out for a museum. I Uber there as I’d recommend you Uber everywhere. The driver was an older guy and he used the phone’s translation app to explain that this museum used to be a hospital and that he was born there in the 50s! The art was just amazing – so powerful – so much passion and anger – very emotional. There are several floors and an outside area and all amazing. And in the afternoon it’s free. Yet I was the only one there. On the way back the Uber driver was a guy from Ecuador. He said my Spanish wasn’t bad. I don’t agree, but it was nice to hear. 😀

Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

Before the sun set I was missing home more than usual. I had planned on this and had brought green tea for before bedtime and some soothing music, which is a treat from home. I think it’s important to carry some of your habits with you so that you’re not completely lost. On the corner was a new Irish Pub called Murphy’s Law. The menu and music are English. The light-skinned server was very pretty and we had good conversation. She is going to the island of Vieques this weekend with her novio for her birthday. She also said my Spanish was good. Lies I say!! Alas! It is time to go because the sun is setting! I realize that traveling alone is not too dissimilar from camping: survive as best you can with limited resources, and hide before it’s dark. It’s like being on the set of Pitch Black!

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Puerto Rico: Monday and Tuesday

MONDAY

On a whim, and hungover, I bought a ticket to San Juan. I’d been wanting to go for some time because I love sunshine and Latino culture. It might be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had. The flight from SAT was easy, just a few hours between stops, though I had to get up real early. I had downloaded Netflix and Podcasts onto my phone and both flights were over in no time. I also had taken only a backpack. This was ideal because all the check-in terminals at SAT were down, and the line was really long. It was nice to be able to skip this. You don’t actually need to check a bag if you’re only staying a week as long as you plan to wash your clothes. Which I did. . . in the sink. . .

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I was going to a neighborhood of San Juan called Santurce. This is right in the heart of San Juan. Many friends had made jokes about the crime there and they were correct: it’s old, poor, and falling apart. I had heard not to walk outside at night and I agree with this suggestion. That said, there’s some gentrification going on so when the sun is out, the main road Calle Loiza has tons of places to eat and shop and all within walking distance. And you’re only about 1km from a beautiful sandy beach. After picking up water and getting sand in my shoes, I found a pizza place on Loiza called “Si No Corro Me Pizza” and ate heartily, and drank a huge red sangria. Everyone was forgiving of my terrible Spanish. Everywhere I went I asked for tips on “comida autentica” and here I received a tip for another place on Loiza named “Bebo’s”. The sun sets real early here and I was exhausted and full anyhow. Tomorrow: Viejo San Juan!

PRO TIP: Uber will not pick up at the main San Juan airport – you can only taxi. But, the airport makes it super easy: all the taxis pickup in the same spot; just tell the host where you want to go, they write it on a slip of paper, and charge a simple rate. That said, Uber IS a great way to get around the rest of San Juan – you can load up your account and receive a discount.

TUESDAY

In addition to the sun setting early, it also rises early. I found myself awake at 5am everyday with no alarm. There was a light rain. After showering, I managed to get into the wrong Uber; apparently someone else on the same street had ordered one at the same time! After a confusing exchange, the driver and I agreed on $10 to get to Viejo San Juan; this is a touristy area in the NW of the city. The first priority was coffee at a place called Caficultura. It appears that have some decent food here too, but breakfast isn’t usually for me. There was a guided tour starting in about an hour so I killed time by walking down the streets some. Many of the streets appear to be cobblestone, but are actually made from bricks of slag and have a beautiful blueish shine to them. 🙂

The guided tour was just amazing: so much history! Many of the buildings in this part of town are hundreds of years old. We learned about how each building has a central cistern, how the tile patterns on the floor indicate the type of building, how the number of doors in buildings indicated its location on the block. We visited the Convento Y Casa de Salud de las Siervas de María where nuns still serve as nurses for the poor. We saw beautiful pink umbrellas near La Fortaleza where the governor lives. We went into the famous hotel El Convento. We even went into a crypt under a church! There was an Indian couple from Houston, Preethi and Srinath, and we chatted some about their recent road trip to San Antonio. It was nice to have some Texans around. 🙂

outside Fortaleza

After the guided tour I kept walking along the city walls and even into a 500 year-old church (Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Juan Bautista, second oldest in the western hemisphere)! And near La Perla which is where I hear the music video Despacito was filmed. Eventually I found my way into the Castillo San Cristobal. There I saw a wild iguana! And a dungeon! There was no one there at the time so my phone battery was dying at that point from all the photography. I was also hungry, but had managed to lose my credit card at some point (I was carrying a fake wallet with me and with all the fumbling with that I must have dropped it). Andy the tour guide had recommended a restaurant earlier (El Jibarito) and I checked the map and they accepted Apple Pay. I had to convince them to use it as they had never done so before. The food was mediocre. While I was eating a ship had docked and unloaded so when I returned to the castle, it was full to the brim with large white folks. That wasn’t fun so I took an Uber home for a nap and a recharge.

Castillo San Cristobal

Later that afternoon I took Uber back to Viejo San Juan and managed to find my way into the docks. It’s much more difficult when they don’t speak much English and you don’t speak much Spanish as there was some confusion at the gate. I was here to sail the bay! On the boat they were six passengers and two crew. We all drank heartily and laughed. The sun set on the bay and it was beautiful. It was cool to see everything I had seen on land during the day and now from afar at night. The three women across from me were grandmother, mother and daughter. The daughter didn’t say a single word the entire 2 hours. I’m pretty sure she was underage but we gave her sangria anyway. The grandmother, after the first drink, her voice become broken and vibrato and almost impossible to understand. Just today was worth the trip. And to think i have several more days. . .

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PRO TIP: Don Q is the local rum of choice. While there is a Bacardi distillery across the bay (that you’ll notice with the huge wind turbines), the natives don’t drink that. The local beer of choice: Medalla.

Stay tuned for more!!

 

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Colorado Bend 2019

Every year I treat myself to a Birthday Adventure and this year it was at Colorado Bend. I had been here back in the summer of 2016 and it warranted some more exploring. It was wet and rainy then and I recall kayaking to the campsite. That was rad. This time it was sunny and dry and there seemed to be so much more to explore!

Headed up there by way of Austin (it is so easy to get there, just right up 183). Got a quick oil change and bought some outdoorsy pants at Academy first. Grabbed some tacos in Lampasas on the way too. They were a little greasy. Texas back roads are really the best: historical markers for things you’ve never heard of, roads with no speeds posted and no center line, boarded-up churches in forgotten towns, roofless barns worn apart by time. At one point I even passed a place called Baby Head Cemetery. Not kidding.

Upon arrival and checking-in, purchased a mug. In a game-like fashion, this appeared to unlock unlimited free/bonus coffee at the HQ. Score! Explored a nearby trail and saw this clear and crispy treat. Neither the bonus coffee nor the amazing views appear to be written anywhere. This is gonna be real nice in the heat of summer.

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The first night I slept by the river. Remarkably and randomly, I was assigned the exact same spot I had been to previously! The water was too cold to swim in, but it was beautiful to watch and listen to. So quiet and serene. And so many vultures! There was a cute young couple fishing across the way. Ate some delicious lentil soup purchased on clearance at HEB. Since there’s no cell service down there, watched the pilot for Russian Doll on my phone before bed. Not too bad. The sites aren’t terribly private from the trail, but are far enough away from each other so as to not hear anyone else snoring. There was an armadillo rooting around at some point nearby. He was not quiet.

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The second day was full of adventure, starting with a cup of free/bonus coffee. I met with a cave-tour-guy and we went down into the Earth! I cannot believe the tiny openings we fit through. There were lots of crickets down there and calcite and neato stalactites. We wore cool helmets with lights and chatted about how these caves were formed. Apparently, there are 200 of such caves just in the park!

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Afterwards, he pointed me in the direction of a larger cave and it was time to hike. Along the way there was a huge canyon! Again, an amazing view not written on the map anywhere.

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I wasn’t able to get into the Gorman Cave but it did appear to be huge. Nearby, however, was the amazing Gorman Waterfall!

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The hike back up the hill was long and hot. My hips were feeling it. I had forgotten my hat too and was starting to feel my skin burn. There was an obscene amount of nopal and tasajillo and kept imagining what it would be like to live here as a native and just eat that and fish and burn old juniper trees for warmth. The second night I slept on top of the hill near an old Windmill. There was spotty cell service up here and that was better than none. Read some. Watched Supersize Me with Morgan Spurlock. Ate some more clearance-soup, curry this time. Listened to the coyotes. The hilltop had lots of these little guys and I have no idea what they are, but they are sure cute.

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The sun fell. The moon rose and fell. Coyotes yammered on. When the sun rose again, and after some more free/bonus coffee, trekked on home. Had a strange craving for burger for dinner. It’s good to be home and have a shower. Could barely get a brush through my hair! I think it’s good to get away too: to experience silence and solitude, sleep on hard ground, and to be tiny and deprived and tired. I feel…. changed. All the silence and sun and fat burning really resets my attitude. It’s also nice in the city: to have noise and new music and people and easy access to food and a soft bed. I think we need both; they are both ways of life, each with their own lessons.

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