After leaving Big Bend National Park, we took the scenic route following the emaciated Rio Grande and through Big Bend Ranch State Park along Texas Farm-to-Market road 170. It’s a gorgeous drive through mountains and desert and definitely a preferable route to Marfa from Big Bend if you can spare the extra 2 hours. About midway through the state park, the road makes a single, very steep climb with just enough switchbacks to keep you from hitting it with any speed. You guys, we seriously almost didn’t make it pulling the camper. The gas pedal was actually pressed to the floor, our truck was revved high, and our speed dropped down to just under 15mph and we had our fingers and toes all crossed that we could make it to the top. Another 20 yards and we likely wouldn’t have. But we did, indeed, make it and the view from the top was incredible. The valley below was golden with a green swath stretched along the river banks. It just had a true West Texas feel to it. We were giddy with relief as we dropped over the other side and made it to Marfa without incident.
Or so we thought.
After checking into our adorable little RV park and wandering about the tiny-but-bizarrely-cool-and-artsy town, we headed out to take a few photos of the famous Prada Marfa art installation. On our way there we began to notice that our truck simply wouldn’t go above 60 mph despite the perfectly flat terrain. It had no power, no pickup, no oomph. We got our photos, enjoyed the stunning sunset and pronghorn antelope dotting the fields, and resolved to see what a town with a local population of approximately 1,500 people had for mechanics in the morning.
In the meantime, Justin called his family’s mechanic back in New Hampshire (who was instrumental in helping us acquire our truck) and he gave us a run-through of things to check out. When he heard where we were and what we were up to, he exclaimed that he was so excited at the “rocking chair memories” that we were making.
Rocking chair memories. What a perfect way to put it.
With every step we’ve taken, from the crazy sale of our home to getting moved into the camper to each step along the way since we actually drove away from Maine, I’ve had a nagging sensation of double vision. I am in the moment itself, hiking the Lost Pine Trail or watching a sandstorm in the Death Valley, and I am engrossed in the experience of it. But I can also feel the echoes of these moments as memories later in life. The way the stories will become entwined with the story of us, of this life we share and build together. How we’ll learn a rhythm in how we tell them together over the years. It’s an odd feeling to be in the present and to also see yourself looking back on this moment later. To be able to see the rocking chair memory clearly in the very moment we are making it.
And isn’t that at the crux of this whole thing? Isn’t this why we left so much that we love behind? We never expected everything to go perfectly smoothly, or be easy, or even to always feel that we made the right decision in doing all of this. We knew that at some point we would likely find ourselves with car trouble in the middle of nowhere (okay, maybe not exactly that, but some version of it…), but also that that is where the real stories are. To someday say to the other, “Remember that time we were stuck in Marfa, Texas when it was 103 degrees and couldn’t find a mechanic?”
We won’t have that precise story to tell…we did find a mechanic and he was fantastic (and his wife owns a flowershop/bakery called Buns-n-Roses which might just be the coolest name ever AND had the best damn turnovers I’ve had in a long time) and we were on our way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns the very next day. But. The double vision remains. There are other moments- intense mountain passes and desert sunrises and dark night skies filled with the sounds of coyotes and thunderheads over saguaros- and I can feel their “rocking chair-ness,” see the memory alongside the experience. And I’m sure for a bit that this was, indeed, the right decision…we were always in it for the double vision.