Jus’ Moseyin’ Across America!
Mon, February 3: Alpine, TX
Monday morning we headed for Alpine. There was another border patrol station just before Comstock with the usual dope-sniffing dogs. A little further, we saw our first Roadrunner. He was too fast to photograph, so we found a picture instead.J
Other than that Roadrunner however, we saw nothing in the way of wildlife; no animals, no birds, not even road-kill. We were traveling thru the badlands with nuthin’ but dirt and various types of cactus.
Lots of 1,000 acres or more were for sale; however, and we couldn’t imagine why anyone would buy them here in the middle of nowheresville. We later heard that the government had been paying these landowners NOT to grow anything (what could they grow here anyway?) but had recently withdrawn the incentives. Now most of the land was being sold for hunting whitetail and mule deer, javelina, turkey, dove and quail (which must live on the other side of the mountains since we didn’t see any).
stopped in Langtry, home of Judge Roy Bean, a man who ruled the town by his own
rules. His Saloon served as bar,
pool hall and courthouse. Since he had no jail, all but the most serious of
crimes were punished with fines (which the Judge then pocketed). He usually confiscated any money or guns as evidence too.
Horse thieves and murderers were hung.
He named the town after Lily Langtry, an English actress he
greatly admired. The original
Saloon was still there and a little museum with guns and personal artifacts like
his phonograph given to him by Thomas Edison and narrated displays telling his
history. We went to the edge of the
one-road town to see the Rio Grande from there too.
Next, we stopped in the larger town of Sanderson (pop. 862), the “Cactus Capitol of the World.” It’s in Terrell County, which holds the record for the lowest population in Texas (976—most are obviously living in Sanderson). Their average home price was only $26K. The next little town was Marathon with only 600 people. We found a nice little bakery and got some homemade Zucchini bread and cookies.
ended up at the Pecan Grove RV Resort in Alpine for the night, also right on
Route 90. We went into town, which
was in a valley between two mountains. We
were on the furthest road in the town when a whole herd of Mule Deer jumped
across the road to someone’s property. We
waited while 30 or more Does with their fawns crossed.
Then two large bucks brought up the rear.
Tues, February 4: Van Horn, TX
We liked the open feel of Alpine, but the land was pretty barren. After visiting some of their little shops the next morning, we headed north on 118 through the Davis Mountains to Fort Davis. We started to see more horses and cattle during this drive. First stop was the Chihuahua Desert Research Institute where we learned about the plant and animal life on the desert here. They also had a nice display of rock formations from the Precambrian period when the earth was first formed until present time.
Next we stopped at the Fort Davis Historic Site where troops protected travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso road, also known as the Overland Trail. The fort was named after Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. From 1854-1891, its primary role was safeguarding west Texas from Apaches, Comanches and Kiowas. The original fort was made of primitive structures (wooden planks and thatch roofs), of which only a few foundations remain. During the Civil War, Union troops took possession of the fort from the Confederates. In 1867, the U.S. Calvary reoccupied and built over 100 new structures on it, including 2 large barracks to hold 400 enlisted men, officer’s homes, guardhouse, hospital, commissary and church. Some of the original buildings were still intact with period furnishings, clothing and artifacts and others were being restored.
We continued west on Rt. 90 to mail a Valentine’s Day card to Jim’s daughter, Dawn, from the Valentine, Texas, Post Office. In addition to using a “LOVE” stamp, they put a red cancellation stamp that has a picture of a rodeo rider on a bucking bronco with Valentine, TX, Post Office and “Love Sta.” on it. Leslie Williams, their Postmaster Relief, told us they get 22,000 Valentines beginning in January to mail for Valentine’s Day. She and the Postmaster are the only two employees. Population of the town of Valentine was about 180! They keep shrinking!
We “camped” at Eagle’s Nest RV Park in Van Horn, about 120 miles south of El Paso; a great campground, neat and clean with every amenity including a modem hookup right at the campsite. Spent most of the night updating our website, took Stinky on a little outdoor adventure, then dinner and a movie.
February 5 & 6: El Paso, TX
Between Van Horn and El Paso, it was so deserted that the only road was I-10 for about 60 miles (blue road—yuck!). There were mountains made up of huge rocks on both sides of the road, many of which had colorful graffiti on them from previous travelers (no, we didn’t leave our mark). Rest areas had tee-pees covering the picnic tables (cute). Occasionally, we saw what looked to be homesteaders living in trailers (possibly prospectors?) and most of them had Pintos (the car, not the horse) parked in front. Otherwise, it was a pretty dull drive through a lot of road construction areas, with nothing but semi’s and RV’s around us. The few homes and businesses we did see were mostly abandoned. We decided to use one as a quick truck stop and even walked around inside it. You could see the adobe under the peeling stucco.
Finally, at McNary (another 1-road town) we got on state road 20 which ran along the Mexican border up to El Paso. We saw some pig farms, cotton fields and pecan groves…finally civilization! The railroad track, which had been with us since we left Van Horn, kept switching from our right to our left, but stayed with us all the way to El Paso. This was what most of the little homes looked like, and many had pretty cool old cars!
We pulled into the Mission RV Park in El Paso Wednesday afternoon. It was an OK campground, except for their advertised “lighted tennis courts” which had cracks as big as tennis balls (a disappointment for Jim). After unhitching, we drove into El Paso, population 550,000. Not as many tall buildings as Baltimore, so at night you could the entire city lit up. We drove around the residential areas that had nice Spanish-style homes. Most of the roads were Spanish names too, so we were surprised to see this street sign! Scenic drive, a winding road up Crazycat Mountain (elev. 4564), had a terrific view of El Paso over to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Most of the homes built on the side of the mountains were in gated communities, so we couldn’t get a close look at them, but what a view they had!
Thursday morning we took a tour of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities, across the border from El Paso. First stop was a stadium where they hold bullfights, and then we drove past several historic homes including the home of Mexican celebrity Juan Gabriel (left) and one currently on the market for $7 million (right). You can’t own land there unless you are a Mexican citizen, and you must make a minimum 50% down payment. Real estate companies make 50% on the transactions (and we thought our settlement costs were high!). We learned that the minimum wage for Mexicans is just $6 a DAY ($10 for professionals like lawyers, accountants, etc.). But employees there have good benefits, including free health coverage, free transportation, free meals and weekly bonuses. Unemployment rose from under 1% to over 14% after 9/11 because many American companies there closed, but they are beginning to reopen. Getting credit in Mexico is much more difficult than in the U.S. They won’t finance cars for more than 1 year (just 6 months for used vehicles), and then only with 50% down (which explains why so many Mexicans buy their cars in the U.S.). Interestingly, Mexico is still making the original VW bug!
We went into the Guadalupe Mission next. The original Mission, built in 1549, was a small white church to the left of a larger, very impressive, church that was built in the 1930’s. The older church had ornately carved wooden ceiling and support beams. The whole left side of the newer one was this huge stained glass mural. In front of the Mission was their town square.
We ended the tour at, where else, Mercado Juarez, the marketplace where the vendors were very happy to see tourists (they haven’t seen too many since 9/11).
Ciudad Juarez had a dirtier, more crowded feel than El Paso, which was also pretty crowded by our standards. But the trip was fun, and we helped their economy by buying a few more trinkets.
Afterwards, we went to the El Paso Zoo. Surprisingly, since El Paso is such a large city in Texas, their zoo was the smallest zoo we have visited. Other than a Mexican Wolf and the Nilgal (a cattle-like animal worshiped by the Hindus from India), there wasn’t much else that we hadn’t seen before.
We had a great Steak dinner at Rancher’s Grill in El Paso then retired for an early start the next morning toward New Mexico.
Fri-Sat, February 7 & 8: Las Cruces, NM
We headed north on 85 then crossed the Rio Grande into New Mexico where the road followed the river to the northern Texas/New Mexico border. From there, it was only another 20 miles to Las Cruces.