After hanging out and working with the Mayor in Austin, Texas for two weeks, it was time to get back on the road to California. Two weeks with the Mayor is like doing an intensive retreat focused on destroying your vital organs – such as your brain, kidneys, lungs and liver. The constant regimen of drinking, smoking, stupidity and over working was slowly killing me.
But it was time to get back on the open road cutting through West Texas and the Arizona/New Mexico desert and on to Northern California. I planned to tent camp in the desert and detoxify, while doing a spirit walk in the Arizona desert fueled by the sacred peyote. Peyote is a small, thornless cactus native to South Texas and Mexico. It as been a sacrament of Native Americans for more than 6,000 years and was legal in the state of Arizona, if taken as a religious sacrament.
I had given up Catholicism and organized religion some time during puberty. But for peyote I was willing to become an active church goer. I planned to join the Peyote Way Church, which grew its own peyote and administered the sacrament. It was located East of Tucson, Arizona near an Apache Indian reservation far out in the desert on a 160 acre “religious Sanctuary” at the end of a dead end road.
As I drove West from Austin I rolled through the heavily forested Texas Hill Country. Austin is an oasis in the middle of Texas for more reasons that politics and culture. The forests, rivers and lakes surrounding Austin make it a natural oasis in a largely dry and vast Texas.
As I rolled West the trees became shorter and sparser until they transformed into vast expanses of bushes and then mere brush. The wide flat expanses stretched out infinitely under the open blue sky. The wind whipping through the car blew the clutter of “to do lists” from my head, as the hypnotic music of the Doors conjured up visions of sitting quiet in the desert basking in pure hallucinations. Â In Mr. Morrison’s own words – “Out here we are stoned immaculate.”
Oddly my cell phone, after some erratic behavior, died. I was left alone with my own thoughts with no possible intrusion from calls, emails and twitters with hundreds of miles to cross. At times like these, I light up, set the autopilot to the legal speed limit and let my mind wander the vast expanse.
[Insert my video while driving]
Spring Fed Oasis in the Desert
After driving a couple hundred miles under the dry burning sun I stumbled upon an oasis in the desert – a gigantic two acre pool fed by one million gallons of spring water each hour.
I love water and I love to swim. I had serendipitously found my heaven in the desert. Such unexpected delights on the road are what make road trips magical. I had been pushing myself hard and I knew that this oasis was where I needed to rest. I rented an old lodge that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) during the 1930′s depression. Outside this room a stream, fed from the giant pool, flowed past. This oasis was known as Balmorhea State Park and the San Solomon Springs.
As I walked about the park, I thought how the 1930′s mentality of man dominating and conquering nature was exemplified by all the dams, channels, pipes and valves that had been built to control and channel the natural force and flow of this miraculous spring. I wondered what a million gallons of water flowing from the ground must have looked like before it was shaped into a giant pool.
Only recently, in an attempt to reverse some of the affront to nature, some of the wetlands that were destroyed have been restored. However, not all the fish in this wetland are native to this ecosystem.
Note the large oversized amphibious vagabond creature behind the stream’s observation window.
On my walk I noticed a woman who was obviously distressed. I asked if I could help and we began talking. She had sought refuge in this oasis after fleeing her husband and a two week stay in a mental hospital.
Yet for all the craziness in her life she seemed sweet and worked as a teacher and translator for deaf children. We hung out and enjoyed the pool together along with the fish and turtles. Compared to the lives most people lead, she didn’t seem particularly crazy to me.