There is a strip of I-10 between Ozona and Fort Stockton that my family calls “The Void.”
It is a strip of highway in which there is absolutely nothing around, except for a few mineral quarries, maybe some oil rigs, windmill maintenance stations, and the random gas station that charge an arm and a leg for gas because you forgot to pump up at the last town.
Whatever signs of intelligent life you do see are few and far in between which makes this drive boring during the day, or very daunting at night. I have driven this road many times on my way back home to visit my parents for the past 10 or so years and nothing has changed, that is, until I started driving this way with kids.
It’s as if the State of Texas and Pecos County heard my cry. Just a few miles past Fort Stockton, they built a Safety Rest Area.
Now, if you have traveled on any major highway or interstate long enough, you have come to some of these rest areas or picnic areas.
Let me tell you, Texas already has some of the most well-maintained areas. This one turned out to be a unique oasis in the desert.
As we pulled up to the rest stop, a friendly, Clint Eastwood-looking cowboy on a sign said, “the eyes of Texas are watching you,” followed by a “video monitored” sign. Sure enough, as we walked inside, we could see a screen that showed all the cars in the parking lot.
On one side of the building, there were viewing scopes where you could see specific landmarks. I took my youngest to peek through one of these scopes, but quickly picked him up and ran away when we saw a black widow hanging out on the other end.
Having had that introduction to desert wildlife, we made use of the super-clean facilities, then walked around the gallery. It was so eye-opening to learn about all of the amazing outdoor activities that were possible in this empty Void.
The gallery made their best effort to recreate the scenery that would have been seen by the cowboys and Indians of previous centuries as well. This was turning more into a daydream and vacation-spot than a never-ending bore.
As if things couldn’t get any better, we walked to the other side of the building to behold the most beautiful sight for a parent in the middle of a long trip: a playground.
It was not a very big one, and our kids were already red in the face after 10 minutes because it was so hot, but it was shaded, and gave the kids something fun to do while mom and dad took turns inside.
It would have also been fun to walk the nature trail, but it was 104 degrees, so that was impossible, but I’m glad they have something entertaining for all the dog walkers who come by too.
Thank you, Texas, for being so good to your family drivers. I guess we can’t call this enchanting area “The Void” anymore.