Van Horn turned out to be almost a ghost town of some 2,400 inhabitants and almost as many Motels, along I-10. Some 29% of the population has income below the national poverty line and driving around town late at night to find a place to buy a sandwich was quite eerie.
We still had an oil change to perform and rang Dollar to tell them of our failed attempts. We were now granted permission to get the oil changed anywhere that we could.
Just as last year’s journey – that time on the way back from Mexico, we passed through the town of Marfa. No, not one of my usual typos, not Martha, but Marfa with an f. We tried three different petrol stations before we found Brit Webb, now in his eighties and apparently, running a garage single handed. He must have worked in it since he left school and run it since he left the air-force. ‘Sure, I’ll do you an oil change’. Music to our ears. But then after he had drained all the oil and came to replace the filter, he found that he did not have the right one in stock. Never mind, he knew his business, got into his car and came back ten minutes later with the right one.
At last we could focus on some plant stops. We made five between Marfa and then along the Rio Grande through the Big Bend Ranch State Park:
S1776 was one suggested by Ian from his trips in this area; his ‘Nice big Hamatocactus uncinatus‘ stop. I’ll call it Sclerocactus uncinatus and we did not walk all the way to see Ian’s (alleged) big one, as we were happy to walk only half the distance from the road to find one in full bloom. We also found Echinocereus engelmanii (or E. stramineus?), E. pectinatus and E. enneacanthus, all in bud, two Cylindropuntia sp, at least two Opuntia sp. and an Echinomastus sp. Did you not see these, Ian?
The next stops were along the Rio Grande and were as much for the scenery as for the plants, which were all from the S1776 list, plus Opuntia rufida popping in and out and at the last stop, some Ariocarpus fissuratus, but again half the distance from the road where Ian had reported them.(S1777, S1778, S1779, S1780).
At least the Diaries are once again up to date. Tomorrow we’ll cover the other half of the Big Bend area and select the safest crossing into Mexico and aim to spent our last night in the USA just before it, ready to cross first thing on Friday.