Slow Down in the Big Bend

We’re tech addicts. When there are no bars we’re in withdrawal and when there’s wifi we’re high. When the phone goes missing, we panic. When the battery hits the red zone we scramble for charge. We are dependent on it for directions, information, reviews and pictures. Technology poses as a helpful friend ready to make everything in your life more convenient, more interesting and more connected. Sometimes it adds features you didn’t know you needed and never consciously sought. And, when it fails you, it makes no apologies.

Pure analog imagery – nothing digital, nothing virtual.

Case in point, the Ford Pass system. This technological marvel keeps track of our truck every moment of the day which we never knew we needed or wanted. We can start the F250 from our phone and check how many miles we have until empty. The truck reports in to the Ford mothership near constantly and tells us unimportant but vital information such as where the truck is (usually right in front of us). The “smart” fob sits in a pocket or purse, and the truck furtively keeps track of the location of the fob ready to be at your service.

Lo-tech living in Chisos Basin, but our hi-tech equipment constantly tries to keep online.

It feels a bit like magic when you’re in suburban America. The truck knows when we’re close and welcomes us with a courtesy light, an open door lock, and an extended running board. But out in the wild where it counts, that technology will let you down. After a day of sitting idle in a campsite on the edge of cell phone connectivity, the truck had spent all of its precious 12V battery power trying to maintain useless contact with the Ford mothership, keep track of the precious key FOB, and greet us with a welcoming running board. When it came time to actually start the truck, it failed. Sure it had saved enough power for one half-hearted attempt, but that one half-hearted attempt was not enough. With no apologies for all the power it had wasted continually greeting us, we were stuck.

No chili for you truck.

It took a series of unfortunate events to get us here. We had to be on the edge of cell coverage forcing the truck to use a high power setting to communicate with the mothership and the fob. We had to open and close the doors a lot while parked, something you don’t often do at home, but something you do a lot when you are loading and unloading a couple hundred pounds of camping gear and in and out of the truck throughout the day. Should we have known better? Is any of this in the manual? Technology reels you in with habit patterns then fails when you let down your guard. We were fortunate that a neighbor with a 12 year old Tacoma was able to jump the battery and bring the technical marvel of an F250 with Ford Sync back to life. Who would have been there in Rincon 1?

Nosy, pose-y neighbors.

We like this primitive world where we worry about the temperature, the wind and the food supply. Live and learn. We will learn what circuit breakers to pull to make the truck turn off, really off, when we turn it off. There is something satisfying about a simpler world where you knew what was going on. Ads pop up on Facebook based on conversations we have in the kitchen. Phone data is harvested by AI algorithms to better predict your thoughts and buying patterns than even you know. Run from that spooky magic.

Old school.

The magic we seek is deep in the art of Texas. A plein air group painting across Big Bend came from Austin with their tubes and brushes and portable easels to capture a different kind of magic, one that’s incredibly different from the technologically advanced iPhone click pic. It’s the magic of studying the landscape, finding the shadows and the variations in the color green. Capturing the relief of the scrub on the mountainous rock and the hue of the blue in the sky. Spending time considering the moment more than simply photographing the moment.

With no streaming, folks will show up to listen to anything the Ranger has to say.

We hiked to the Window, a classic Big Bend excursion from Chisos Basin. Sheri brought charcoal pencils and Strathmore paper in our backpack to sketch at the payoff. While she studied the shapes of the formations, the shadows of the distant mountains and the dance of the fauna in the whispering wind, hikers came and went, clicking their digital memory or trading favors with others for better-than-a-selfie. We know that cadence well as we have the same pics up in the technological cloud that we pay $9.99 a month to access. It’s nice when Apple shows us what we were doing on this day in 2017. It’s those features we didn’t ask for that keep us on the drip.

Artists took over Big Bend.

In our new regressive state, we are slowing down and trying to break the technology loop we’re stuck in at home. Connect with place and time rather than collect uploaded moments. Sitting on a bench near the end of the trail, hikers passed to and fro while we studied the prickly pear lining the path. Blue Jays and roadrunners stopped to see what we were up to while humans passed in silence on their get-to-the-Window mission.

Fractal-like broccoli tree from Yucca

We can’t post this blog without technology and at the same time, we wish we weren’t so addicted to it, reliant on it. The irony is strong. What would a commitment to “Stay Primitive” really look like? Dare anyone try?

Heart-shaped cacti – Love hurts.

Slow Down in the Big Bend