Destruction Aftermath, Book 4 - Cover

Destruction Aftermath, Book 4

Copyright© 2011 by radio_guy

Chapter 14

We were becoming used to hot, dry conditions because we prepared for them better. Experience is a great teacher! The horses were the biggest issue. A horse drinks a lot. We made the trip going to our standard practice of leaving early and stopping for a long siesta and then picking up for the afternoon into twilight. Night travel could be risky because you needed to see where you were going.

We arrived in the Carlsbad area without incident and found no one living there. I can't say I was surprised as there wasn't abundant water or shade. We pulled up initially in the parking lot for the caverns but found a better place quickly. Old asphalt is hot and there are better solutions that are cooler and easier on your feet.

Jim and Mary, Janice and Bennie, and Jen and I went to the old visitors' center to determine what we could find and if there was a way in without power. The power had been off for many years and it showed. The Caverns had a natural entrance and we found it on the maps. We later found it on the ground. We then had to figure out lighting and who wanted to go and who didn't. There were enough people who didn't care about the caverns to provide care for the horses and guards while the rest of us went underground. We found oil lamps, candles and battery powered lights. The later had some charge. We also found some wind-up lights that we could carry. Those gave power to the bulb after you wound the handle for a while. You had to wind a lot but it would work. We also carried light jackets. Reading indicated the temperature was chilly and constant. We packed food supplies and a few guns. Jen and I took George. He could be carried like an Indian baby on a backpack.

We were ready, said "see you later," and left for the depths.

It's a lot, a lot, of steps. I understood why there was an elevator. Except for Mary, Jim, and Jam, we were all fairly young and in excellent shape. We had to stop a number of times and I knew that going back would be much worse. Jim had found a map and it showed a half way point which we identified. We left supplies there for the trip back. Even though it wasn't much, everyone felt like we had really lightened our loads.

We reached the floor of the cavern. Jim went over to the main lighting and tried to switch it on without success. We spent a few minutes on it finding a generator that looked like it might work. It had a hand pull and we pulled it. It sputtered and sputtered and finally ran fitfully. We managed to get some lights. It was awesome to realize the size of this chamber and it was only one room in the caverns!

We had told the surface people that we would probably spend the night in the caverns and did. When we turned off all the lights and extinguished our torches and fires, it was truly dark. You truly couldn't see your hand in front of your face. I never knew what pitch black was until then. We talked a few minutes and then started a small fire. It wasn't much but relieved the absolute blackness we had experienced.

Jen and I slept comfortably and deeply that night. We did not maintain a watch. I woke and it was still dark. I hugged Jen and she snuggled close to me with George next to her. She said, "I'm rested and think we should start moving. I've heard a few others rustling around. I think they're waiting for someone to start. So, start."

She pushed me out and I sat up and then rose up and turned on a battery-powered light. I went over and re-started the fire and then walked over and cranked on the generator until it started running. Everyone else got up and we stared a new day deep underground.

It was different as there was no sense of time. We could see no sun nor stars nor moon. It was still and quiet and very, very dark. We ate breakfast in an almost subdued mood. We explored some more until everyone had their fill. Then we gathered together to talk about whether to stay another night or head back. Heading back won by a close margin and only because we knew there were some good places to sleep on the way back. We decided to head up until we were tired and did stopping at a wide flat area.

We got up the next "morning," had breakfast, and resumed our trek upwards toward light. I was in the lead and saw stars! We were coming out and it was night! The surface party was starting to worry a little since we had been gone two and a half days. It was late on the third night when we surfaced with our bodies thinking it was early afternoon. It took a couple of days to turn our minds to outside time.

That didn't mean that we did nothing. There was always plenty to do. We took a day to go into town and check things out. Jim's burnt out RV was still there. Time had caused a lot of deterioration and there had been some old scavenging. It didn't look like anyone had been through the town in a few years.

Personally, I enjoyed the caverns. Nature is really able to produce some startling phenomena and a chance to enjoy any of them is worth the time. Despite the effort to make the trip, I would do it again.

There was little available water and we had to move on. According to our map, the next stop of size would be Pecos. We were taking it easy trying not to overtax the horses or ourselves. Just inside Texas, the map showed a Red Bluff Reservoir. A lake would be nice. We made a detour to it and found it in only poor shape. Time had not been gentle to this lake. When we reached the dam, we understood because it had a hole in it. It looked like something had hit it hard and cracked it badly. There was still water but not much. We stopped for a night and then continued on.

We arrived in Pecos without incident and continued on to Fort Stockton. Water remained an issue. This area had suffered from man's absence and irrigation. We did what we had to for water and managed to find enough for us and the horses. It slowed us down but was better than not being able to go onward which would have probably been fatal.

At Fort Stockton, we picked up I-10 headed for San Antonio going east southeast across Texas. We made halting progress as any decent body of water stopped us while we hydrated ourselves and our horses. We saw no one at all nor any sign that anyone was in the area. We continued to have Janice and Bennie scout and watched our flanks and rear for any person or animal coming upon us. We saw some cattle and horses so were careful to tie our horses up at night. We made contact by radio almost every night to stay in touch.

The night skies were beautiful. With the clear, hot days, the nights cooled noticeably but the stars were brilliant. We continued on the three hundred miles to San Antonio. Jim says that it's tough to remember that three hundred miles could be covered in four or five hours before the Day in a car and now we were glad to get twenty miles a day. It took over two weeks to get to San Antonio and its river.

We quickly found we weren't the only ones in the area.

Janice called on the two meter. "There's a road block up ahead. We're going to come up to it slowly."

Jen replied, "Be careful. Should you wait for more of us to be there?"

"We'll see. It's obvious enough to think there might be some good people around. I'm going to turn the volume down and set the VOX so you can listen."

Jen told me and I told Jim and the others. We continued on but listened carefully. We also sent the point riders out on our flanks a little further.

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