“I am made of the dust of the stars, and the oceans flow in my veins.” —Rush, “Presto”
One of the best observatories in the world is McDonald Observatory, run by the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater (hook ‘em!). It’s situated on a few mountain tops in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. McDonald Observatory is a mind-bending place to visit–-so many great minds accumulated in one place, researching our vast universe, completing all that advanced math….
This was our third trip to the observatory, and as always, it was overwhelming, but in a good way.
When you spend five weeks hiking nearly 500 miles through Spain, your gear becomes an important part of who you are. Throw in eight weeks of sightseeing all over Europe in addition to the Camino, and you have the perfect testing ground for what works and what doesn’t in your selection of gear. In an ongoing gear series, I will be talking about some of the items that became indispensable both during our European trip as well as on our current North American road trip.
The first bit of kit I want to talk about is our choice of backpacks. Not only did these packs have to carry our load during the Camino, but they filled in as our suitcases for our entire 13-week journey.
On one of our trips to Fort Davis years ago, We visited Marfa, which is 21 miles south. This was back when just about the only thing this tiny town was known for was its mysterious Marfa “ghost” lights. I don’t remember anything about our time in Marfa other than the fact that we did see the lights, and yes, they were a bit freaky. But other than that, Marfa seemed like just any other little West Texas town (population: 1,819 as of 2013).
The Davis Mountains hold a special place in our hearts. Roughly equidistant between Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks, the Davis Mountains are situated in the huge, sparsely-populated area of deep west Texas. We came out here many times in our 20’s and early 30’s. The first time we visited, several years before we we were even married, it was with Dale’s parents, and we returned numerous times after that, mostly to camp.
Our return this year was our first visit in probably fifteen years, and I have no idea why we ever stopped coming.
We encountered an enormous thunder storm rolling across the plains as we neared Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas. It was awesome to watch the lightning in the distance. The storm was on full display, and, since the land stretched out far before us, there was nothing to impede our vision of it.
Our take on how to make the most of your big city trip
Our move to Seattle in January 2012 was the culmination of our dream to experience someplace very different from Texas, and it was also the beginning of our eventual jump into long-term travel. It whetted our appetite for learning about new places, and we were excited about the cross-country move.
But when we arrived, we were also overwhelmed. In addition to looking for a place to live, we were challenged with getting to know our new home city. So much to do! So much to see! Where should we start? To be honest, we didn’t learn a lot about the city ahead of time; we knew that it was beautiful and rainy and home to Starbucks and Gray’s Anatomy, but as for the specifics, we hadn’t much of a clue.