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So I decide that every time I come to a major fork in the highway, I will pick a direction like picking a straw out of a hat.

In Terlingua, Texas, a revived ghost town on the edge of Big Bend National Park, I linger to chat with a shopkeeper.

The plants—prickly pear, sotol, and ocotillo—are perfectly spaced as if set in the gravel by some unseen gardener.

After three miles, we arrive at the springs, strip to our swimsuits, and slip in, instantly melting into the steamy pools.

As I drive the improbably spiky Chisos Mountains, day softens to evening, shrouding the cliffs in an ethereal haze.

I claim the campground’s last site, cook dinner on my stove, and sip tea as the sun sets over a pair of toothy peaks.

But here on the faithful road, just as the landscape turns harsh and veiled with the dust of spring winds, I start to feel the promise of a cure. Rocky hills relent to flatlands, cows dot the vast monochrome like porcelain figurines, and abandoned farmsteads cling to the land as reminders of past hope.

The uncluttered landscape invites my mind to do the same.

At a time when I felt I should have things in order, the disarray of my life’s great themes overwhelmed me. If nothing else, a change of scenery might be a temporary palliative.

Before I could change my mind, I cleared 19 days of my calendar, crammed my car with food, clothes, books, and camping equipment, and set off.

I persuade him to join me on a mission that evening: a full-moon hike to the Langford Hot Springs on the Rio Grande, a series of large pools that collect in the foundations of a long-gone early 20th-century bathhouse.

Setting off from the trailhead at sunset, we see no other souls except several distant javelinas as we enter a desertscape unlike any I’ve visited.

In my first few days on the road, I catch myself looking for answers in a road atlas.

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