We got up at 8 – I smelled bacon! – and showered and went into the main house for breakfast. The Inn’s cook made us breakfast (we never got their names!) – scrambled eggs, toast, hash browns and Canadian bacon. Here, at least, the coffee was better. We were the only people staying in the house, so the staff sat and chatted with us for a while. We got an impromptu history lesson about Fort Davis – one woman’s mother had worked in town for Harvard University’s radio telescope astronomers (and that is why there’s a Harvard Hotel in town!) so she had been there since the late 50’s. She talked about how different it was once the NPS took over the Fort itself – kids used to go and climb on the ruins, etc. She also told us that there are four foreign exchange students staying in the house, and one of them is the Polish kid that we’d seen at Murphy’s and the Drugstore. (aha!)
We had to stop at the Davis Mountain Nut Co. store in town – we’d had their “mocha madness” pecans from the McDonald Observatory cafe and wanted more. We tasted a few things and bought a bag for home and a bag for the office.
Then we drove north 33 miles to the natural springs at San Solomon, called Balmorhea (pronounced BAL-more-ay – the lady at the Inn was very impressed that I did that correctly). It’s 20 to 25 ft deep in some places, and it’s chilly! There are fish swimming around, and the bottom is mossy and uneven. I stuck my feet in, but that was enough. We decided we’d swim there another time.
We got on I-10, and headed east, toward home. We decided we’d get lunch when we got to Fort Stockton. I wanted to go into town to see “Paisano Pete” the largest road runner in the world. (57 miles) (He’s 11 feet high.) We passed up a bunch of food places, because we thought we’d go into “Historic Fort Stockton” and find a place to eat, like we did with Mason and Ft. Davis. But Fort Stockton’s historic district just looked dead. We did get out and check out the courthouse area, and the Zero Stone - a marker placed in 1847, used as the zero reference point for subsequent surveys of the western part of the state. But then we just got back on the road. We stopped for gas in the same place that we had limped into on Monday afternoon, and bought some snacks to hold us over until we could find real food. (If DQ counts as real food...)
I drove some of the last bit, from our lunch stop in Ozona, 90 miles to Junction, where we got off I-10 and onto the smaller roads. Unfortunately, the part I chose to drive was also when we rode into the black clouds, lightning and thunder we had been watching all day. A few drops of rain would turn into a downpour, and a mile later would be all gone, and a mile after that another downpour. For about 20 miles, up and down the steep grades. It was exhausting.
We passed a lot of churches on our drive last week, and clearly the most popular denomination in west Texas is Cowboy. Turns out these churches aren’t just for humans – “Some cowboy churches have covered arenas where rodeo events such as bull riding, team roping, ranch sorting, team penning and equestrian events are held on weeknights.” And there are over 200 of them in Texas now. (Lesson #11 – a lot of Cowboys go to church!)
The last leg of the trip was uneventful, and we were glad to see that most of the traffic was going the other direction. (Traffic! We finally had other cars to contend with!) Made it home around 7pm. Sadly, we had forgotten just how HOT it is in Austin in August. We were so spoiled. Sigh.
And now… laundry!
Total mileage, day 5: 443 miles, ~9 hours.
Total mileage overall: 1,255 miles
Here's the map of our route home.