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James R. Stout

Day 14 and The Last Day of My 2019 Big Adventure

            Day 14 & Day 15, The Last Day of my adventure, were Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t blog those two days because I was quite exhausted. That said, let’s start with Day 14. We got up early and left Roswell on Saturday morning. We drove straight to Carlsbad Caverns and were there by shortly after 8 a.m. Sofia was so excited to see the caverns. We rode the elevator down 750 feet to the “Big Room Route” and started our 1.2-mile journey through time. I had previously been to other caverns during early times in my life. These included some caverns in Missouri and Texas. But none of them were as magnificent as Carlsbad. The formations and the lighting were amazing. Sofia was oohing and aahing the whole way. We took the self-guided route and it was great. I won’t lie to you that it was a bit taxing on me, but well worth it. I did use my cane to help with some of the inclines that were somewhat steep. Perhaps I sound like I’m old or something, but if you knew what I’ve been through for the last 21 years, then you would understand. But I’m proud to say that I was a trooper!

            Sofia marveled at the “Bottomless Pit” and some of the shapes of the large formations. One looked like a snarling lion. She was “educating” me on stalactites and stalagmites, and it was obvious that her love for science is great. After we finished the route and returned to the top where the gift shop, restaurant, bookstore and museum are located it was time to spend some more money! Gifts for Sofia’s sisters were the order of the day.

            We left the caverns about 11 a.m. and started our trek back into Texas. As we were going to my truck I pointed in the distance and told her that the stone mountain in the distance is called “El Capitan” and is part of Guadalupe National Park which is in Texas. She was excited that we were that close to Texas, but I told her that we would be taking a quicker route that would take us back to Carlsbad and through Hobbs, New Mexico and therefore not be in Texas for a while. The drive to Hobbs is rather uneventful, but 6 miles east of Hobbs we crossed back into Texas and Sofia was thrilled to be back in our home state.

            We took a short detour for a personal reason when we were about 18 miles from Big Spring, Texas. I have some cousins on my father’s side of the family that lived in a small town called Lenorah, Texas. When I was younger, we visited them on three different occasions. Once in 1962, once again in 1967, and the final time I went to visit in 1971. My aunt and uncle owned a general store, the only store for miles around, and it was also a grocery store, hardware store, gas station, and it lived up to its name of “General Store”. Although my aunt and uncle are no longer alive, as well as one of my cousins, I wanted to see how the little town was and get a couple of pictures. It was bittersweet going there.

            I was unable to locate their house and I believe that it has either been torn down or perhaps it is one of the overgrown and dilapidated houses that I saw. I did find the old general store. It has fallen into disrepair badly. It is obvious that it hasn’t been used for many years. My aunt and uncle died within months of each other between December of 1995 and the spring of 1996. By that time, my cousins had all moved away and were living elsewhere. To be honest, I have not been in contact with them since my aunt and uncle passed away. The old store doesn’t have any glass left in the windows, trees are growing over most of it, bushes are taking over the place in general, and it’s hard to imagine it being the hub of that community looking the way that it does now. But in my mind as I stood there taking pictures of the building I vividly remembered being 16 years old in 1971 and stopping by the store in my cousin’s 1957 Chevrolet, black and souped-up with fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, on our way into Midland to “hang out”. Speaking of that car, it must have inspired George Lucas when he decided on a car for Bob Falfa in “American Graffiti”! We were all so young and all of life was in front of us. It was me, cousin Preston (he was my aunt and uncle’s youngest), and my cousin Mark. Mark is still with us and lives in Oregon. But both Mark and I are in our 60’s now and it’s sometimes hard to believe we’ve been through nearly 50 years since that visit. We three boys were the sons of three of four siblings. I still remember that one night as we drove back from Midland and stopped to look at the lights from up on the Caprock. The 8-track player was playing Humble Pie and when that was finished, we tuned in the local radio station and heard “American Pie”. A fitting tune it now seems.

            So, after our short detour we got back on the road and made it to Abilene. We found a decent hotel and both pretty much crashed early Saturday night.

            The last day of the adventure began early when we left the hotel about 6:30 a.m. We both were counting the miles until we got back home. I had arranged for my daughter and husband and Sofia’s sisters to meet us in Madisonville, Texas. This would save me from having to drive down to Willis and then another 60 miles back north to my home. When we pulled into the Sonic in Madisonville Sofia was so excited to see her mother and sisters. My granddaughter Helena ran to hug her big sister Sofia and little one-year old Ziva reached out for her big sister to be held. I am amazed at the love these three girls have for one another. They are such a blessing. I got me some big hugs too and we unloaded Sofia’s stuff and transferred it to my daughter’s vehicle. As they drove away right as I was getting into my truck to leave, I felt a lump in my throat. I was nearly in tears. I had spent half of my big adventure with Sofia and it is something that neither of us is likely to ever forget. Seeing my daughter and her family drive away I suddenly felt lonely. I live alone and have for 13 years now, but I haven’t really been terribly “lonely”. But despite the fact that I’ll see them this coming Saturday for a big birthday bash, I felt lonely.

            I drove the 37 miles to my house from Madisonville and it was on that drive that the first sprinkles of rain that I had seen in two weeks appeared on my windshield. Proof that I was back in East Texas. In fact, last night it stormed most of the night. Yep, I’m back home!

            My big adventure had been planned and it seemed like it would never begin, but now it’s over. I’ll always have great memories of the vacation. I will be sharing some of my photographs from the scenery that I saw as soon as I have a chance to load them into my computer and go through the 500 or so photos that I took. I want to thank you, my friends and readers, for being there with me on my big 2019 adventure. I may take a rest from my blog for a couple of days while I get things back to normal around here. But rest assured, I will be blogging and then some very soon. I will also be starting to work on my book. But more about that later. Take care and be kind to one another, love each other, and let me hear from you sometime.

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