Here I was thinking the drive to El Paso would be nice and straightforward.
Firstly my phone (which had decided to turn back on after the storm) didn’t have reception still after driving for maybe an hour out of big bend, so I decided to power cycle it. Bad decision it didn’t want to turn back on again. I had used WIFI in the town just outside of Big Bend to get directions up on it, as I said the drive should’ve been pretty straightforward so I knew the next town would be Alpine.
When I got to alpine I decided to play it safe and drop into McDonalds to use their wifi on my laptop and bring up the directions just in case. What a strange little town Alpine is, it is nothing more than a small town, but has a massive university sitting in it, Sul Ross university. When I stopped in at the visitor centre (to see if they had a map) the girl behind the desk said that atleast 50% of the town’s population is the University.
With the directions saved on my laptop I kept moving, the next town was Marfa another strange little town, it has this big arts scene and most of the buildings as you drive through have been converted to Art studios and Art schools, I only stopped briefly to take a few photos, but wanted to keep moving to get to El Paso and get my tyre fixed.
About 15mins after leaving Marfa I hear a big bang and the back of the car drops (I was doing between 110-120kmh(70-75mph) at the time) I wrestle with the steering wheel and slowly pull off into the emergency lane. I knew exactly what had happened, that spare tyre that I didn’t like the look of and didn’t want to drive on for too long, well I was right it had given out. So I put on the hazards and jump out to assess the damage, I walk around to the back passenger side to find the tyre completely shredded, F@%&, here I approx. 16km (10miles) out of small town Marfa, no spare, no phone… just me.
Luckily the road I was on was pretty busy so I grab my backpack with my camera and Passport in it and Laptop bag and start trying to flag down cars heading back into town, car after car go by but no one stops. I see a fedex Van heading out of town so I flag them down (they’re usually helpful right?) and to my joy he pulls over. He stays for a bit and tries calling a few places in town for me, but eventually had to keep moving, the office was calling wondering why he had stopped for so long.
So I go back to trying to flag down cars heading back into town. A little while goes past and a car heading out of town obviously sees my situation and pulls over. I approach the car from the passenger side, as I get closer I see the plates are from somewhere in Mexico (I’m still very close to the Mexican border) I then get round to the passenger side and see the door handle is missing, not helping me feel any better, but I continue as this is the only car apart from fedex that even stopped. So I get to the window and the driver starts talking to me in Spanish so I say “Habla Ingles?” (speak English?) to which he responds with “un poco” (a little). The whole time im assessing the situation, the man is dressed nicely with a lanyard and swipe card around his neck, so I’m fairly certain he doesn’t want to kidnap me, so I continue to say “Marfa?” and point back towards town, he say “OK” and moves his bag onto the back seat and opens the door for me. So with no other option I jump in and he turns around and starts heading back to Marfa, good start. The ride back he strikes up a few conversations, the only one I picked up on was him asking my name. We get back into town and I tell him he can pull over, he say something about going further, I picked up on a few words, and I said no it’s ok. I go to grab out my wallet to give him some money for his help but he refused to take it, so I thanked him and got out.
Walking back into town I come across an older man working on his house, so I stop and ask him if there is a tyre place in town, he directs me to a place about 3 blocks down. I get there, it’s about 6pm now, and luckily the people are still there, an older couple and their grandson. So I explain to them my situation and they discuss it for a bit (in Spanish) the man then says it will be expensive, we are technically shut, which is understandable, so I ask how much and he quotes me $75 to repair the tyre, keep in mind this includes driving me to my Van to get the wheel and bring it back, fix it and then take me to my car to put it on. So I agree and off we go, the whole thing a took about 2-2.5h , they were a lovely couple Carlos and Alfida and their 6 yr old Grandson Blake.
Now about 8:30pm I decide its better I stay in Marfa and after a relatively stressful afternoon and no spare still, I felt like staying in a hotel with a nice shower. Carlos and Alfida had warned me that all the hotels were over $100 in town but I thought I would see what I could get, so I drop into the next Gas station and ask the girl behind the counter what the cheapest hotel would be in town, they point me to the Riata so I head there.
I get there and the luckily the property manager is still there she offers me a room for $90 (usually over $100) still too expensive for me so I explain my story, she then says she has a room with a broken TV that I can have for $60, so I take it. I then ask her If she could recommend a place for dinner that’s good but reasonable priced. She proceeded to offer for me to join her she was just cooking something and had cold beer. So I thought why not, I went dropped my stuff in my room and headed back to the front. It was her Brenda, her friend Diego and Grandson Sammy. We had a simple tasty Mexican dish (which gave me ideas for on the road) and beer and chatted till about 11 when I went to bed. It ended up being a great stay in Marfa meeting some really nice people and restored my faith in why I’m driving halfway across the country by myself, after some doubt was cast earlier that day.