Stories · Travel · Wanderlust

Castickle Road Trip: The “Shortcut” Experience

This is a very late post and I apologize.  Traveling literally got the best of me, I had no desire to do anything but sleep the moment I got back to Houston.

Anyway…my friend Emily and I took a road trip from Dec. 26th through Dec. 30th.  On this particular trip we explored West Texas and Southeast New Mexico.  Our main stops included the Shiner Brewery, Marfa Lights, Carlsbad Caverns, Salt Flats and eventually San Antonio for the UT vs. OSU bowl game.  See gallery here – I’ll add more pictures as I get them.  My camera died and Emily has most of the pictures.  And if you think I’m bad about posting pictures, well, you haven’t met Emily.

Anyway, after we leave Shiner, TX we are passing up all sorts of Border Control Patrol SUVs, driving along a road like this one:

The road that eventually lead us to prison.

We needed gas so I take a look at the map because our phone’s GPS isn’t up to par.  I should have known better than to opt for a shortcut.  Especially when the gas station off the “main street” of this town had things like this in it:

Found a girl piggy bank at a gas station that is not creepy at all.

So, we take the shortcut that’s supposed to save us about 45 minutes of driving.  (Isn’t this how scary movies start?!?!)  Big, red sign that should have told us to not take it, it took us a good 10 minutes of U-turning to find this road, that wasn’t lit.  Then, Emily yells that there’s a tumbleweed.  I tell her to calm down because we’ll see a ton of them in New Mexico.  We didn’t see a single one after that.

About a mile down the road, which happens to go along train tracks, it forks (we don’t realized it forks).  We go right towards a well-lit building.  As we get closer, we realize that the building has a chained fence with barbed wire at the top.  We get closer.  Now we see a sign that says “Fort Stockton Prison” (or something like that).  Emily decides to stop because, well, who doesn’t just stop in front of a prison for the fun of it.  She asks me what to do.  So I calmly (and by calmly I mean hysterically) tell her, “Well, you don’t stop!  Keep driving!  I don’t want to be someone’s getaway car!!  Who stops at a prison in the middle of the night?”

To which she quickly reminded me of my mistake, “Well, who takes a shortcut that ends at a prison?!”  Touche, Em.

After what appeared to be a cop car drives towards off, we leave.  No, we didn’t talk to the cop or the driver, nor did I want to.  Eventually, we find the fork and get back “on track.”

We decide that staying on this same road is the best option because we’ve just gone too far.  Then it turns into a gravel road that only allows you to drive at a max of 35 MPH.  Not because of a speed limit, there were actually no signs to be seen, but because it was so gravely (is that even a word?).  So after the prison, we think things can’t get any worse and keep going down this road (UPDATE:  It was Old Alpine Hwy – the name should have been a dead giveaway, I guess), which is no longer going along the train tracks.  After about three miles in, the road turns into gravel.

At first the gravel was manageable.  But it seemed that after every mile we drove, it got worse (read: bigger rocks and narrower road).  But, we keep on trucking.  It’s only supposed to be nine miles total that we are on this road.  How bad can it be, right?  Eventually after about 30 minutes of driving, our phones have no service, the radio isn’t working and we are now driving at 15 MILES PER HOUR in DEAD SILENCE.

And then, we see a coyoteIt’s also really cold.  Read: we seriously think we’re driving to our death.  We make small talk to ease the tension.  We are now driving on what looks like a one way, one lane road from the 1900s in between two fields with no sign of light or civilization to be seen.

We eventually make it to a real road that’s paved, has cars on it, and somehow gives our phone service the minute we get on..

That’s when we make our confessions about our thoughts during the “shortcut experience.”  Of course, in typical Liz and Em fasion, we jumped to the worst possible conclusion:

We’d get a flat tire and be stuck in the middle of nowhere.  Then, the cop car (who we thought was really an evil ex-con) would return to try to “help” us, but was really going to kill us, so we’d run into a field.  Finally, the coyote would come back and eat us.

Of course, none of that happened.  And thank goodness it didn’t!

So, the moral of the story is: DON’T TAKE SHORTCUTS in the middle of West Texas.  Unless, you want a story like this.  JK.  Kind of.  I wouldn’t redo it and would make the same mistake again.  I do realize how dangerous this could have been.  But you have to admit, how great is this for a story to have to tell?!  Freaking great, that’s how great!

– Happy (and safe) Roadtripping!

Liz C


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