Alpine, Texas – March 16th to 23rd, 2017

So I decided when I left San Antonio that I would take the scenic route to Alpine, Texas via highway 90. The Amistad reservoir look like a pretty area to stop somewhere down the road. I also didn’t realize how big the Pecos river was where it crossed over into Mexico. But the first real stop I made was in Langtry, Texas at the Judge Roy Bean visitors center.

The “Law West of the Pecos”. Really nice place to stop. Texas travel centers are some of the best in the country. Haven’t hit a bad one yet. Plus, you can find all the information that you are looking for. I continued on my way until I got to Alpine, TX. The reservations that I had at the Lost Alaskan didn’t start til the next night. I had originally planned to take two days to drive to Alpine. However, I found a new RV park that had just opened and stayed there for one night. I also tried to go into town for some dinner but the place I found on Yelp just didn’t get it together. I waited for them to seat me about 10 minutes and then once I was seated no one came to ask me what I wanted to drink. They were in the weeds and I just didn’t want to wait any longer. So I left. Not a great start to this adventure.

The next day I checked out Alpine’s downtown area and walked around for a bit. They have a bookstore, music store, some art galleries, and restaurants. Very neat little town. I had come down this direction because I wanted to go to Marfa but the RV Park I wanted to stay at was here. I also couldn’t find a way to make a reservation at El Cosmico. But Alpine is a nice place to visit.

The Holland Hotel looks like a nice place to stay. It was built in 1928 and looks to be in really good shape. Nice bar in front where I had some green beer for Saint Patricks day.

I didn’t realize that they had a University here. The Sul Ross Lobos. (Don’t tell anyone it’s named after a Confederate General, he was also Governor of Texas) It’s a pretty campus for a small town. Impossible to miss when you come into town.

Also, the town is service by Amtrak. The Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited make their way through the town. I really want to take some trips on Amtrak. Would love to see part of the country this way. Especially since funding for Amtrak might be going away under this president.

I then wandered over to Marfa. It’s about a half hour away. There are two nice hotels that I would recommend. The Hotel Paisano, which appears to have been around a long time, and the Hotel Saint George. The Hotel Paisano has what I would call a shop arcade around the first floor. Nice place to go find some souvenirs. The Hotel Paisano has a nice bookshop in it’s lobby. Spent a little time at both places of course.

After that I drove around trying to find where the Prada art store project was. Initially my GPS guided me up North but eventually found out that it’s about another half hour to the West. When I got out there some people were taking some wedding photos. I managed to sneak in some photos of the sunset around them. They were also kind enough to take a picture of me there.

On the way back I stopped at the Marfa Lights viewing area. Went here a couple of times on this trip. The Marfa lights have been seen on the horizon from this spot since before there was electricity. No one quite knows where they come from. There were a lot of people here and I saw something but don’t really know what it was. Driving by in daylight you can’t see any radio towers or wind mills on the horizon so not sure where the lights would come from. Also, this is one of the clearest views of the sky I’ve gotten anywhere. Looking up you can see the Milky Way and stars for forever. I found out about the Dark Sky Project via this trip. 

The next day I drove the hour south to Terlingua and Big Bend National park. I’ve come to the conclusion that if there’s an area I’m traveling to and there are multiple things to see I’ll find a central place to park. Anything within an hour from there is then fair game. It’s easier to drive the hour there and back then trying to hook up the trailer, find a new place to park, and move for what is only a day or two.

Once I got to Terlingua I stopped and filled up with gas there. Also, something I’ve learned from being out west is fill up with gas when you see it. Never know how long it’ll be before the next gas station.

I then stopped at this BBQ joint on the side of the road. They gave me a free beer with my purchase of a meal. They also had a musician playing music under a canopy. Was really nice.

Then just up the road is the Terlingua Ghost Town Cemetery. Very cool old Spanish cemetery. Also, learned that what put Terlingua on the map was that it was the only place prior to World War 1 where they could find Mercury.

The Terlingua ghost town has a lot of artist galleries that have sprung up. I listened to one Gallery owner talking to a visitor about how they decided to come there and start their gallery. Lots of art work to look at.

I then ventured into Big Bend National Park. I could not have asked for a better day to drive around. Making the most out of my National Parks pass. Went down to where the Rio Grande crosses back into the US from Mexico. Lots of people hiking around. This is also the first point in time I had heard the name Sky Island. This is an ecologic area where the plants and animals have developed significant differences from the land surrounding them. The Chisos mountains fall into this category. Although there are several Sky Islands in this part of the country. 

Driving back to Alpine I went through a border crossing checkpoint. I’ve encountered about 6 of these on this trip. Found out they can be anywhere within 100 miles of the border.

I got back to Alpine and had dinner at Reata. Excellent little steak house.

Now the reason that there was the movie poster Giant in this restaurant is because for a long time Hollywood has been coming to this area to make movies. These include Giant, Andromeda Strain, No Country For Old Men, Barbarosa, and There Will Be Blood.

The following day I went back to Marfa. I drove by El Cosmico and saw the old Airstreams and various different RV’s you can rent to stay in.

The thing that Marfa is now know for is being an Artist community. This is because Donald Judd moved here in the 70’s and started creating these large minimalist art projects. Over time he bought up most of the buildings that were in town and turned them into “art”. He eventually donated all of it to a foundation he created called Chinati.

The large hangers were filled with Aluminum rectangular art statues. I thought they looked like desks. But pictures weren’t allowed in there. Anyway, you could say that this type of art isn’t my cup of tea. However, lots of people come to Marfa to see it.

I also stopped at the Building 98. During World War II thousands of German prisoners of war were sent to Texas. Prisoners of the Afrika Korps decorated this building which was the Officers lounge.

I don’t think anybody realizes how many Germans were sent to the United States during the war. Estimates were around 425,000.

The owner of Building 98 is a Rotarian. Mona gave me a great tour. I also stopped at the Marfa Ballroom. This is another art gallery commune in the area.

One of the last places I stopped was the Museum of Big Bend which is on the Sur Ross campus.

Fascinating place to see all the history that happened in the surrounding area.

Traveling isn’t always glamorous. Most of the time I was in Alpine I was running a low grade fever. (Almost a full week) The Lost Alaskan RV resort took great care in letting me extend my stay for several days past what I was originally planning to be there. Getting sick cost me going to Dallas for the Texas Pinball festival. It also showed me the limitations of our current health care system. I thought it’d be more economical to make an appointment with a doctor to try and see what was wrong. Well found out later that the only way it would be covered was if I had gone to the emergency room. There’s an extra $700 I wasn’t expecting to spend.

Fortunately, during this time I found Blue Water Natural Foods company. An excellent health food store that has just about anything you would find in a Natural Grocers. But of course the day after I went to the doctor I was feeling better and it was time to move to the next town.


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