That was just the beginning of adventures with my new car. I have named him – his name is Victor. For some reason the car reminds me of Victor Newman from the Young and the Restless. What can I say? My car has this attitude. I almost don’t feel good enough for him, I think when I’m not looking he turns his grill up at me. Anyway, a couple of days after I got Victor home, I finished TEXAS WILDFIRE and got it off to the editors. I then decided to take a working break and travel to one of the settings of my next book, a HELL YEAH!, IF I CAN DREAM – Tennessee and Molly’s story. He’s a tracker and I wanted him to meet her in Big Bend Country. So, Victor and I packed up and headed off way down south, about six hours from Austin on the Rio Grande, the border between Texas and Mexico.
Victor likes to be in control. He has this overhead display in the windshield, this hologram thing that tells me if I’m going too fast. If I get too close to the car in front of me, Victor slows down. If I get near the right-of-way or stray too near the lane beside me, Victor shakes his steering wheel at me. If I travel too many hours without stopping, Victor announces on the screen that we need to take a break and gives me options listed for places to stop. I’m afraid to argue, Victor is bigger than me.
And I have to watch Victor, he’s a tease. Let me tell you what he did…
Now for those of you who don’t know Big Bend National Park – it’s gorgeous – it’s intimidating – it’s remote as hell! You don’t just accidentally go there, you have to drive to the ends of the earth to get there. That’s why it is the least visited national park in the US, where places like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone get five million visitors a year, Big Bend gets three hundred thousand. But for those willing to make the drive, it’s worth it.
And now for the reason I wrote this blog post. Are you ready? Now you will know why I write books. I have this out of control imagination!!!
Let me set the stage… There are only two ways into Big Bend – Highway 385 and Highway 118. And we’re talking remote here. Remote as in miles and miles of the Chihuahuan Desert. This is the type of country you see on television where the man is dragging himself through the sand and cactus with his tongue hanging out. I mean people die here! The main causes of death in the park is not bears or mountain lions – of which there are both! It’s dehydration and hypothermia. So, you do not want to break down. There is no cell phone service. But what you do have in plenteous supply is border patrol.
Now, let me stop here before you get your hackles up one way or the other. I am a Texan and we have a border with Mexico which is a bone of contention for the whole nation. Both of the nations involved in fact. And you know I am sympathetic to all concerned. If you’ve read THUNDERBIRD about the sexy Kyle Chancellor and his Hannah, you’ll remember Hannah was an undocumented immigrant (engaged to the conservative candidate for the Texas Governorship – – yep, that was quite a story) ANYWAY, I do not sit in judgement. But what you need to know is there is no wall at this part of the border. The river can be waded across here. But why would you do it? To get to the border from Mexico at this point, one would have had to cross miles and miles of inhospitable desert, only to cross the tiny band of water and face another stretch of miles and miles of inhospitable desert and mountains. There are better places to cross.
Regardless, there was a border patrol station that one has to pass on the way in and out of the park. In fact they have one lane of traffic blocked off so that can inspect each and every car. They don’t inspect you going in, they stop you coming out. So, here we go. Victor and I pass the first border patrol station and enter the park. It was fairly intimidating. All of these white trucks and vans and cameras set up on both sides of the road. I smiled and waved as I entered. Started to say, Yes, I’m Sable Hunter. I write erotic romance, so many of you are so handsome and ripped – may I take your picture? But I didn’t. I behaved. We drove on in the park and the scenery hit me between the eyes – WHAM! Mountains and gullies and hills and cactus and brilliant venues on every side. I was in awe! And of course there were planes and helicopters every once in a while. I suppose they were looking for poor souls trying to enter the country, traversing this hostile landscape. IN OTHER WORDS, if you don’t realize it by now – My imagination was working overtime and I was really in the midst of my own Sable Hunter book or maybe a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Despite the Homeland Security hoopla there was no traffic. I might as well have been the only person on the face of the earth. I was surrounded by beauty, two dogs and a cranky car. So, I decided to take pictures. Now, there was no place to pull over, so I just stopped in the road to get out and take a picture of this looming mountain with enough foothills to mimic bubble-wrap. And when I did, I heard it – the far-off wail of a siren. Imagine it. It was like you’re in your home and you hear an ambulance and a police car in the distance, you wonder what’s going wrong. My mind went into high gear – sirens! And then I realized it was probably an intimidation factor. If anyone were trying to traverse this desert, the sound of the sirens would have them worried and looking over their shoulder at every opportunity. It made me feel funny. As I stepped away from the car, I forgot about the siren, I was too entranced with the beauty in front of me, but I did notice a strange silver disc on a pole in the distance – and I thought, Yea, they have installed speakers in the desert to transmit siren noises like they used to pump loud rock music at the drug-lord Noriega’s stronghold trying to drive him crazy enough to surrender.
Do you see how my mind works?
Anyway, back to my story. I went deeper into the park and every time I got out of the car to take a photo or inspect an exhibit, I heard the distant sirens. Once I was away from the car, I’d sorta forget about them. But I heard them over and over again. I started trying to figure out a way to incorporate the sirens into my story – the method didn’t come to me right away, but I knew it would. When I stopped for pamphlets at Panther Junction, where there was a smidge of internet, I even googled ‘Sirens in the desert’, ‘Sirens on the border’, ‘Sirens in Big Bend’. But you know what? I found Nothing. Nada!
As I drove, my mind worked and I kept taking pictures. The sirens seemed to follow me as I drove the hours and hours through the park. And then like a ray of sunshine, clarity finally came.
The only time I heard the distant sirens was when I was getting out of Victor. When I would step away, the sirens faded to nothing. To my absolute amazement, horror, chagrin – what have you, I realized VICTOR WAS MAKING THE SIREN NOISE! Every time I would get up out of the seat, the balance or air flow or suspension would readjust. I guess my butt was just big enough to make it go through this redistribution of air, making this noise that mimicked the sirens used to warn the people of London that Hitler was about to drop a bomb!
Yes, I embarrassed myself. What if I had actually asked someone about it? As expected, I was stopped by the border patrol on my way out. Two rather handsome young men and their K-9 companion inspected my new car with its big back seat and bigger trunk to see if I had stuffed it full of hapless, helpless immigrants. After all, they probably know I’m on the constant look-out for cover models and if I could pick up a couple of tall dark and handsome ones strolling through the desert, I might be tempted. But what if I had asked? “Pardon me sirs, can you tell me about the sirens sounding in the desert?” And batted my eyes at them. They would have known I was as crazy as I look!
Ah well, now you know the rest of the story.
They shouldn’t let people like me out of the house.
Victor, the smart-ass, laughed all the way back to Austin.