The US/Mexico Border Daily
SECTION Thirteen: CARRIZO SPRINGS to Laredo
Into our dullish day marched an intrepid character with a frazzled, black coat and pitbull-mix grimace. The pup didn't have a collar so we were less strict with him than the average backyard pet who follows us. (Although who are we kidding, we’re total melted marshmallows for any dog that looks our way).
Maybe he’s a stray?
At least that's the excuse we used when we stopped yelling at him to STAY. Predictably he won us over and we named him while we were at it, good old Hormigo.
Hormigo explored because it was delicious. He inspected the pavement where the flesh of a dead deer was baked into the shoulder of the road. Then he enthusiastically moved on to the remaining body parts strewn through the grass.
We tried to interrupt his delighted search by squealing at him, really Hormigo!? Gross!
The sour stink of skunk wafted towards us and he lifted his nose to catch the exciting smell, mmmm skunk. Half eaten food and packaging tossed out of car windows were carefully investigated before he eagerly trotted over to the next mysterious morsel. We thought the morsel was better left a mystery.
We barely lifted our heads when a side road splintered off toward a warehouse or home. But Hormigo craved the opportunity to explore new and confusing scents. A sticky substance on someone’s lawn, oooooh. A rival dog’s territory, investigate! We didn't understand how he could so eagerly add on miles to the day. Now here was someone who was curious about the world!
Our first break of the day brought us to a gas station in the little town of Asherville. We slunk into the store very aware of our sweaty backpacker look. Meanwhile good old Hormigo roamed the parking lot sniffing the gas tanks, approaching customers carrying snacks with his tail wagging, relishing some lucky crumb he found on the ground. We hid inside in the air-conditioned food court. When we emerged blinking into the bright sun over an hour later, Hormigo bounded up to our feet, ready to go.
A week ago Kenneth encouraged us to call a friend of his who lives up this way. Ken knew Jason Aguilar through work and we were touched that Jason offered a place to stay without ever having met us. The timing didn't work out to camp on his property, but after we passed the turnoff for his home, we called to let him know how much we appreciated the offer. Turns out his wife had spotted us on the road earlier in the day and she let Jason know that the backpackers were nearby, which made Jason drop what he was doing and search for us on the highway! He was sorry to not find us. Wow, so nice! We chatted with Jason for a bit and he seemed like a cool guy. He was curious about the trip, thinking about what it would be like for his own daughters to be out traversing the country. No way. Jason, thanks!
Our view of our surroundings was limited to the road immediately in front of us. This is flat country, shrouded in green vegetation with an occasional oil operation breaking the uniformity. Only at the very end of our day did we climb up a gentle hill that provided a more zoomed out view of our surroundings. Nothing but flat muted green and brown in all directions.
We had started the day with no real idea of where we would sleep and as evening approached we were no closer to formulating any kind of plan. Hormigo had left us at this point (Hormigo!) and we stumbled forward, exhausted and petulant, hoping that a magical fix would appear out of thin air with minimal effort on our part. And it more or less did! The aging hotel in the miniscule town of Catarina proved to be a disappointing tease (it hadn’t been open in years) but right after it a large sign advertised RV camping. We called the number and slowly, painstakingly, explained to the confused owner that we didn’t have a car or trailer and just needed a place to pitch a tent. Finally he got it, and kindly sent his friend Juan to pick us up in front of the gas station in “the big white truck.” Ok! Juan, when he appeared, was a gregarious, twinkle-eyed older guy who jumped right into helping us. He offered us a place to shower, telling us that we “smelled ripe”, and inviting us over for breakfast in the morning. He dropped us off at a grassy pitch next to an ancient, empty RV and shared a few stories as we slapped away mosquitoes and set up our tent. Thanks Juan! You made us laugh!