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Author Topic: Texas Tropics and Texas Mountains (the trip back)  (Read 2538 times)

The High Plains Traveler

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Texas Tropics and Texas Mountains (the trip back)
« on: November 25, 2013, 06:15:32 PM »

Leaving South Padre Island to wend our way home.

Route: TX-100 west to U.S. 77 north, north on U.S. 83 (I-2) to (Zapata). U.S. 83 north to Laredo, I-35 north to U.S. 83 to Carrizo Springs, U.S. 277 to Eagle Pass and north to (Del Rio). Loop 79 around Del Rio to reach park.
 
Commentary:  No I-2 signs, except on overhead signs at U.S. 77 (69E) and a couple of interchanges in McAllen. There is no indication where the official designation ends, where the freeway becomes expressway on the west side of McAllen. Once you get away from the gulf, the landscape changes to a dense mesquite forest with thick undergrowth, known as “Texas Brush Country”.  This is some of the landscape featured on National Geographic’s shows about the Border Patrol, and I can appreciate how difficult it is for illegals to navigate cross-country to avoid detection.  The further west you go, the less dense the growth is.

To answer the question “You know you’re a roadgeek when…”, I passed up a perfectly good bypass of Laredo and drove through heavy city traffic just so I could say that I’ve been at BOTH ends of I-35 now. There is a rest area at the exit of U.S. 83 north, and I discovered remnants of the original highway, which would have been U.S. 81, north of the parking area. We passed our first Border Patrol checkpoint leaving the immediate border area north of I-35, and got a little more attention than I anticipated. Besides having Fritz the German shepherd walk around the trailer, the agent seemed to be running our license plate. U.S. 83 north of Laredo is subject to extremely heavy truck traffic as a result of the oil and gas development in this area. There is a unique center stripe convention I haven’t seen before being introduced in Texas, including along this stretch of U.S. 83. The two stripes are separated by about two feet, evidently to create a mini-median to separate oncoming lanes of traffic. Where the line is a single broken line, there are two broken lines at this separation. 

After we turned west on U.S. 277 at Carrizo Springs, the traffic subsided. Between Eagle Pass and Del Rio, I looked west and saw…mountains! The first since leaving Colorado. These are the southward extension in Mexico of the mountains that go through the Big Bend area.

Route: U.S. 90 west to Marathon. U.S. 385 south to Big Bend National Park. Park roads to west side of park, TX-118 and FM-170 to (Lajitas).

Commentary:  Just west of Del Rio, I noticed the first evidence of Chihuahuan Desert vegetation: ocotillo. The aforementioned Brush Country terrain changes quickly, and although we never seemed to totally lose the mesquite, the underbrush is much more desert-like. Another Border Patrol checkpoint, and along the south side of U.S. 90 they maintain a gravel road paralleling the highway to facilitate surveillance of the countryside. A Border Patrol vehicle was dragging chains to clean the cleared ground of tracks.

Local trips at Big Bend vicinity: We took a day trip into the park, and also along back roads to the Big Bend Ranch State Park north of where we were located. I drove this road many years ago, but I had forgotten how much of a rollercoaster FM-170 is. Its speed limit much of the way along the stretch from Lajitas to Presidio is 50 mph. There is no border fence in this area; I’m sure I could cross the river on foot. I think the main control here is the checkpoint network, since there are so few roads that leave this region.
 
Route: FM-170 east to TX-118, then north to U.S. 90 at Alpine. U.S. 90 west to (Van Horn). I-10 west to (Las Cruces).
 
Commentary:  I would have thought Texas’ enthusiasm for 75 mph limits would have extended to TX-118 heading north from the Big Bend area, but it was still 70 mph. Another Border Patrol checkpoint south of Alpine. This time, we were asked whether we had seen anyone hiding in the brush. It’s probably been mentioned in the thread relevant to the topic, but I was surprised to see the numerous at-grade intersections along I-10 west of Van Horn. These aren’t just ranch access roads; rather, they provide periodic access to a frontage road, and also to commercial and light industrial enterprises located off the highway.  I-10 on the east side of El Paso is only two lanes each way, which slowed the traffic. On the other hand, it’s three lanes each way all the way from El Paso to Las Cruces. The New Mexico segment has been raised to 75 mph from its former 70, matching the increased speed in Texas from El Paso to the state line.

Route: I-25 north to (Albuquerque) and home to Pueblo.

Commentary:  The final Border Patrol checkpoint is north of Las Cruces; quickly waved through. Near Albuquerque, we actually stayed in Bernalillo. Construction is well underway (but likely won’t meet the “Fall 2013” completion promised on signs) on the U.S. 550/I-25 interchange. From the grading, it appears this will be a SPUI. They are also evidently working on the NM-423 (Paseo del Norte) interchange, which often backs up onto the freeway mainline, but I can’t see what is replacing the current interchange at this time. It was at Bernalillo that we found – by far – the lowest gas prices of the trip. They had been in the low $3 range with a few just under that, but at Bernalillo we paid $2.809. (And not at a station on the rez, either).

Fortunately, we beat the winter weather home.

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hbelkins

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Re: Texas Tropics and Texas Mountains (the trip back)
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2013, 08:01:07 PM »

Having to go through Border Patrol when you haven't crossed the border just seems wrong to me.
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NE2

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Re: Texas Tropics and Texas Mountains (the trip back)
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2013, 09:06:36 PM »

Having to go through Border Patrol when you haven't crossed the border just seems wrong to me.
Thanks, Obama!
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The High Plains Traveler

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Re: Texas Tropics and Texas Mountains (the trip back)
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2013, 10:06:40 PM »

Fortunately, my wife and I look quite gabacho. But that geezer trailer is still pretty interesting to Fritz.
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Alps

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Re: Texas Tropics and Texas Mountains (the trip back)
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2013, 11:12:48 PM »

Having to go through Border Patrol when you haven't crossed the border just seems wrong to me.
Thanks, Obama!
Your sig should have a permanent sarcasm face in it.

 


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