Monday, March 27, 2017

La Cruces Walmart and Alpine, Texas

March 17 - 20, 2017:

It took considerable time to pack up the RV and get out of the Desert Trail RV Park campground with practically everyone in our row coming around to offer heartfelt goodbyes. It was wonderful, our winter friends are all amazing and will be missed, but adventure awaits.   

As Alice (our spoiled cat) would be riding in the RV for the first time, we decided to tow the Jeep so Twinkles could ride inside to comfort her.  Alice was pretty freaked out and hid under the bedroom pillows and then inside one of the bedroom cabinets for the entire trip.  It was one of our longer trips at 280 miles, but was all highway on route 10 east. There was one interesting scenic area at Texas Canyon, the rest of the ride was not so attractive, just typical highway driving with lots of trucks and RV’s.  The first time out in the RV is always somewhat nerve wracking, but after about a hundred miles (provided all goes well) you start to gain confidence and relax.

Interesting boulder covered mountain views at Texas Canyon
rest area

We arrived at our destination, the Las Cruces, New Mexico Walmart in late afternoon and slowly, cautiously, Alice came out and started acting semi normal.  This is a most convenient spot just off route 10 with many nearby restaurants and stores.  We didn’t frequent any of them, but of particular interest is a Cracker Barrel, within walking distance, which has designated free overnight RV parking spaces.

The bright lights, highway noise and constant traffic in the parking lot kept me awake most of the night, but Twinkles slept through it all like a log.  Regardless, we were back on the road by 9 AM heading for the Lost Alaskan RV Park in Alpine, Texas.  It is 260 miles on routes 10 and 90 and it felt weird to just blow through El Paso, Lordsburg and Deming without stopping, but we have toured these areas before.

I did take a short detour through the town of Sierra Blanca which had several interesting old buildings, ruins and signs which I could have explored for a whole day.  Another 20 miles brought us to the junction of routes 10 and 90 and the town of Van Horn with many more interesting sights.  Along route 90 we noted flat rabbits imbedded into the asphalt about every quarter mile of its length.  Why havn't rabbits learned after all these years how to safely cross the road ?

The old State Theater has seen better days

The Hotel El Capitan is still looking fine in Van Horn

Liked the pool table graphic

We arrived at the town of Alpine Texas in mid afternoon and were impressed with the downtown area, especially that great mural on the corner of 5th avenue.  After setting up at the Lost Alaskan Campground 2 miles from downtown, we did a short downtown walking tour and stopped for a beer at Harry’s Tinaja.  It’s a quirky small bar, that people today like to refer to as a dive bar, but actually is very friendly and loaded with character.

One of the most stunning murals you'll see anywhere

Another great one

Harry's Tinaja

A really nice store across the railroad tracks

The Amtrak station is rough looking on the outside

But kind of comfortable inside

We found a nice Saturday morning farmers market in downtown Alpine with lots of bakery items, especially Ma Brown’s coconut almond macaroons and shortbread cookies, yum !  It was then time for a few photos in the good morning light followed by the visitors center.

Another large amazing downtown mural

Alpine studio is another nice shop

Back yard of the Alpine Studio

The Alpine lumber company has a long history in Alpine and claim
to have put the "Pine" in Alpine

The Granada sign was a great one

We then went to our first museum of the year, the Big Bend Museum on the campus of the Sul Ross State University in Alpine.  It was a great museum with many exhibits from the Spanish conquistadors to the Buffalo Soldiers, the Indian wars, the Mexicans, the Cowboys to the coming of the railroad.

This exhibit documents a huge mysterious Indian rock
painting in the nearby mountains

You've gotta love those great huge Mexican hats

The friendly woman at the visitors center advised us to visit the Big Bend Brewery at 1 PM for a tour.  Being cheap, we declined the $10 per person tour and instead bought an $8 flight of sample beers to taste test.  They have an outside patio with nice music playing and it was all good.  Afterwards, in need of lunch we ventured downtown at 2 PM to find most of the lunch places closed.  We ended up at a food truck, “Cow Dog”, that turned out to be just perfect, Twinkles said it was cheap, good and cute, a high recommendation for her.


Their motto is "The beer starts here"

Cow Dog is a classy food truck

Alpine is a pretty cool town and actually does have a music venue of note, the “Railroad Blues” which actually is right next to the railroad tracks.  By the photos on the walls, many touring acts have performed there, it has a authentic road house vibe to it, but on this night there are only a handful of customers.  I expect they need the college crowd to stay in business and it is spring break, the University is now deserted.  On Saturday night they had a blues band called “158 Breakdown”, with a very good guitar player and a folksy bass player, but otherwise they looked and sounded more like country.  The other night spot in town, the Crystal Bar, is where the cowboy crowd with their tight wranglers jeans and cowboy hats tend to hang out.

The Railroad Blues fire truck, the lettering on the
hood says "putting out old flames"

The Crystal bar from the outside

It's a Lone Star Beer kind of place

The 158 Breakdown Band

We read reviews about Marfa Texas, 25 miles north, describing it as an artistic Mecca and went to take a look.  We found a main street with several beautiful buildings and others under renovation, but no open restaurants, cafes or stores, except for the incredible Hotel Paisano.  The rest of the town looks mostly poor and the highly publicized arts scene appears to have packed up and left town.


Many questions to ponder ?

Outside of town is this classic old gas station, my
1938 Dodge would love this place

Marfa has some impressive buildings

The Hotel Paisano

Inside the Hotel lobby

The most impressive court house

On Monday we drive to the other area town of Ft. Davis which was a military fort for protection from the Apaches after the Civil War.  It was named for Confederate president Jefferson Davis.  I expect they still fly the confederate flag around here. We stopped at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and hiked the 2 1/2  mile Outside Loop Trail through Modesta Canyon to Lions Head Hill and to Clayton’s overlook.  We then went to the greenhouse to see hundreds of unique cactus.

Jefferson Davis immortalized here

The Marfa Courthouse

Amazing flower clusters on the Yucca's

Ancient old tree on the edge of Lions Head hill

Lots of geology explained at Clayton's Overlook

That red is almost blindingly bright

So many types of cactus

The huge blooms on these small cactus are amazing

In the evening I went to the Crystal Bar, I just needed to see inside.  You won’t find much in the way of craft beers there, it’s more a Budweiser, Coors and such crowd.  As usual when you are at a bar drinking a beer that you don’t really even want, someone down the bar will buy a round.  Next these four hispanic guys sit next to me with the big burly guy deciding he wants to be my buddy.  He speaks perfect english and seems to be a nice guy, but is upset that they don’t have hard liquor and that the “hot” looking bar maid doesn’t want a drink.  She tells him that it is OK to bring your own bottle in and drink it, so he sends one of his boys, (that how he referred to them), out to the nearby liquor store to get a bottle of Tequila.  A few minutes later and we are all having a shot of Tequila. They are now discussing where to go, there bring no women in this place, with the local legion hall dismissed as too elderly.  I thought for a moment, This could be a wild, crazy fun night, but then common sense (adult behavoir) prevailed. I drank up quickly before another round could be bought and and said I had to go home to the wife.

As I was reading this very detailed sign on the rear of an
old gas station, now a pizza restaurant ...

The Amtrak passenger train came in, it still makes
regular stops in Alpine

The Holland Hotel is a beautifully restored Hotel in Alpine

I took a photo of this beautiful church in the evening
when a nice local couple told me to be sure to
come back at night when the stained glass windows ]
would be lit

The next stop is Turlingua, Texas on the western edge of Big Bend National Park,

Twinkles and Slick

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