After months of waiting to be here, and years of wanting to come back after my birthday trip in 2014, I am finally and (semi?) permanently situated in Alpine, Texas. It’s the kind of cozy little town that you’d like to see in a movie–everyone friendly, houses and buildings with plenty of character, and a brilliant rainbow of people. The sky above is a scorched summer-blue, and the cacti stand in green defiance of the blazing sun. I was worried I wouldn’t love it as much as I remembered, but I am thrilled to say that I worried for nothing.
Moving day started early. I woke at 6:30 on Sunday morning and left my mom’s house around 7:15. I was nervous about the 8.5-hour drive for many reasons, chief among them that I don’t know how to change a tire. Fortunately, the drive passed quickly and uneventfully. You don’t really understand the vastness of Texas until you’re driving 80-85 mph (the posted speed limit) across the state and it still takes you most of a day to reach your destination. Once you leave most of the towns and cities behind, there aren’t many landmarks by which to track your progress. Cell coverage becomes spotty, and I was nervous at one point that I wouldn’t get enough coverage back to tell me which turn to take at the end of the 250 mile stretch of I-10 I was cruising down. I did get it back, but I think I’ll still keep a paper map of Texas in my car from now on, just in case.
Honey is happy to be with me, but she was not happy in the car. For most of those hours she just lay in her kennel giving me sad eyes, and she refused to drink water or go to the bathroom for the entire trip. She seems to be back to normal now, although the altitude and dryness are affecting both of us a bit. She was sick last night, but I’m hoping it was just stress from the drive. It’s the longest she’s ever been in the car! Now she’s content to curl up next to me at night, and use her nose to explore her new surroundings during the day. She’s allowed to be at work with me, and I think this may help her overcome her feelings of abandonment that still haven’t entirely faded since my return from Peru.
I arrived around 4 pm Sunday afternoon and introduced myself to the manager of Antelope Lodge, where I will be working and staying. I also officially met Mallory, who worked at BookPeople when I was there part time, but for whatever reason we never really got to know each other well. She is training me to take her place, and I am already sad at the thought of her leaving. Some people are just good to the core, and you know it from the moment you meet them. Mallory is one of those people. She even left me the sweetest welcome package in the kitchenette in my room.
I moved my things into my room and got everything set up and ready to go, with a few exceptions. I did some shopping for essentials, and visited Blue Water Natural Foods, which has much of what you can find at Whole Foods, except I’m supporting a local business instead of a corporation–always a favorite of mine. The person working was so friendly I was tempted to just stay and hang out right then, but I know from experience that most people think that’s weird. Still, I’m going to need to overcome my shyness at some point because I know very few people here and I will need friends!
On my drive yesterday, I stopped in Junction, Texas. This, too, is a small town, but one that had the feel of decay and death. Perhaps it was only because it was Sunday, and most of the shops I saw were closed, but it had the feeling of a town on its way out the door. Alpine feels the opposite. Driving through town last night, even on a Sunday evening, roads relatively devoid of traffic and many businesses already closed, it had the feeling of a town well-loved, well-maintained, and thriving. It seemed to wrap itself around me like a blanket and welcome me into its folds. As I drove back to my cozy little room, I saw the silhouettes of mountains and mesas against the deep turquoise of a sky lit by the very last light of the sun, and I felt my breath catch in my throat. I am so ecstatically pleased to be here, so comfortable already, so enamored of the personality and aesthetic of this place. It seems I’ve already lost my heart to the desert.
I worked my first day today, and while the job seems like it will be easy to adjust to, I have very few training days. Here’s hoping I’m smart enough to figure most of it out on my own. Mallory is a great trainer but she can’t prepare me for every scenario if I don’t have enough practice while we’re together. The lodge is very slow it would seem, with hours-long stretches between visitors. This will be great time for blogging and reading, but I hope I don’t get too lonely, as I will be working all of those shifts alone. Whatever happens, I’m thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to live and work out here for a while.