Friday, April 14, 2017

Ft Stockton and San Angelo, Texas

April  3 - 10, 2017:

It a beautiful day as we reluctantly depart Big Bend National Park following an excellent stay.  We drive through the park to the Panther Junction visitors center and then onto route 385 to the northern park gate at Persimmon Gap.  Route 385 then continues to Marathon Texas and ultimately to our destination at the Walmart (one night) in Ft Stockton, Texas.  The traffic was very light on this route and the sights were not so special, the highpoint being a coyote and a Longhorn on the shoulder of the highway.  There were a couple of bicyclists nervously approaching this Longhorn who had somehow gotten through fence.  I thought about rounding him up, but quickly dismissed the idea.


Camels tested very successfully here, but were not socially accepted 

The Ft Stockton Walmart did very well with our visit as it was time to restock our food supplies.  The first thing we did was to wash the jeep which was covered in lots and lots of dust from the past two weeks.  I then did some exploring in downtown Ft Stockton which has much interesting history.  

For centuries this was the path of the Comanche War Trail that the Comanche Indians used to travel on, heavily trampled, kind of like route 10 through town is today. There was a reliable water spring here, known as the Comanche Spring, and it was the place to camp and fuel up.  This eventually became the path of the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad and Fort Stockton, (not sure which came first), and the town of Ft Stockton.  After the indian problem was eliminated, farming and ranching developed thanks to irrigation (killing the spring that started it all) and then the oil boom began. It pretty much the standard western expansion theme everywhere you go here, only the names change.


Comanche Spring is dry now, but they say when the irrigation
is shut down during the winter, some flow returns

I take off for a couple of hours and see most of the local attractions such as the Pecos County Court House, the old Pecos County Jail, the Annie Riggs Hotel and Museum, the zero stone, the dry Comanche Spring and the nearby olympic sized swimming pool complex, the old train Depot, the Gray Mule Saloon, the Ft Stockton gate and most importantly the worlds largest Roadrunner statue.  Everyone gets their picture taken in front of the Roadrunner.


The Giant Roadrunner Statue

The KC, M & O Train Depot is now the Visitor Center

This classic old Motel appears to be still open, possibly as a
welfare Motel these days, but is a real treasure

Legendary figues on side of Ft Stockton building

Loved the graphics on this Cafe

The Walmart really fills up in the evening with RV’s parked on all sorts of angles, all over the place, I kind of wonder why Walmart doesn’t enforce some parking rules.  This Walmart is a very convenient stop just off interstate 10 with many restaurants and stores near by.

We are on the road again at 9 AM for San Angelo, Texas via Interstate 10 for a few miles then route 385 for about 140 miles.  It takes us through mostly unattractive ranch land and smelly oil field areas, quite the opposite of Big Bend.  We pass through a string of small, depressed, nasty oil field towns and the roads are full of oil tanker trucks and diesel pickups.  I wish I could have stopped to get a photo of an oil rig junk yard along the way, but one of those tanker truck was right on my rear bumper.  As we approach San Angelo Texas, the terrain improved from the dead brown to vibrant green as if we were a entering a less toxic zone.


The Oil Can Bar and Grille in Barnhart, Texas

Nice mural seen while passing through Mertzon Texas

San Angelo State Park is a few miles outside of town on the shores of the O.C. Fisher Reservoir created by the damming the Concho River.  It has much boating, fishing and camping along with much wildlife including Bison and part of the State Longhorn cattle herd.  We have a site with water and electric with a lake view and considerable open grassland.


View of the Reservoir

Our spacious campsite
 
Prairie Verbena

The unopened flower buds of the Milkweed are beautiful

We actually left Big Bend National Park a day earlier than originally planned to enable us to get to San Angelo by April 4th to see a favorite band, St Cinder, play at the “House of FiFi Dubois”.  St Cinder is a weird, very talented, New Orleans, Vagabond, Ragtime (among other labels) band that I follow on Facebook and have now seen a couple of times in Tucson, once in Bisbee, AZ and now San Angelo, Texas.  The “House of FiFi Dubois” is a bar with a funky kind of vibe that often has live music.  St Cinder excels as a street band, this is the first time I’ve seen them on a big stage and it was different, but great as always.  They pretty much Wowed the crowd who hadn’t seen them before.  They even motivated this cowboy looking couple to do some impressive western swing dancing.


They might be labeled vagabond, but are great musicians

The view inside The "House of FiFI Dubois"

We hit the most impressive San Angelo visitors center first and then did some exploring in the downtown historic area.  This town has managed to save many of their historic old buildings, have restored several and others are at least protected.  They have a vibrant downtown area with a Fine Arts Museum, a Bordello Museum (totally fake by some reports), a beautiful river walk area, an impressive City Hall and Court House, The Angelo State University and a historic district with many restaurants, bars and shops.  Lastly, Fort Concho is one of the most complete old forts in Texas.  San Angelo is truly a hidden treasure over shadowed by other nearby places like Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Dalles.


City of San Angelo was named for the founders wife
Angela , statue on left, which became converted into Angelo


The Texas Theater is a beauty

Most impressive Museum of Fine Arts

The San Angelo City Hall is impressive too

As is tte Tom Green County Courthouse

We stopped for lunch at the “Twisted Root” with a smiling autographed photo of Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the wall.  It is primarily a made to order burger joint with a spacious dining room and an outside patio overlooking the Concho river.  I had a burger which was one of the best I can remember, of course my memory is failing !


The Twisted Root Burger Co.

I really liked the message over the counter

San Angelo has done amazing things with their Fine Arts Museum complex and River walk.  The museum was originally housed in one of the Fort Concho buildings and with great vision they designed and built a new very architecturally stimulating building in a distressed area adjacent to the Concho River.  They incorporated a grassy area with a river side entertainment stage, a “celebration bridge” across the Concho River that connects to a six mile river walk trail. This trail connects to a number of other city parks and an impressive Visitors Center.   The Museum complex is also adjacent to the WPA built city pool which is being totally upgraded.  All of this is a short walk from the downtown historic district with many shops and restaurants.


Sheep ranching was king here, there are sheep sculptures
all over downtown.  This one was sponsored by the famous
Leddy Boots shop located in town

Another boot maker with a great mural

The Concho River and the "Pearl of the Conchos"
Mermaid statue.  Concho pearls are found in mussels
that live in the fresh water here.

Aermotor Windmills are everywhere here and after many
years and ownerships changes are back in San Angelo again


Beautiful Lily at the International Lilly Garden

The Wool and Mohair Mural

Many impressive murals in the city

Indians of Texas mural

Friday night I hit another hot spot for live music in San Angelo called Blain’s Pub.  The walls are covered with photos of bands and musicians who I suppose have played there.  Over the bar is a collection of old magazine covers featuring Willie Nelson, I’m wondering if Willie ever played here ?  The band “Austin Meade” is very good and although this is pretty much a country crowd, they play a good mix of originals and covers, even the Beatles.  There are many cowboy types, wearing the standard cowboy costume, I am trying to figure out how many are the real deal.


Austin Meade is a good one to watch

I’m going solo again on Saturday, back downtown to the Railroad Museum, locating all seven of the downtown murals, looking inside the Cactus Hotel lobby, checking out the Courthouse, the City Hall and a few other random things along the way.  I stop for lunch at Peepsi's BBQ, the BBQ was good but I couldn’t understand why the Delta Blues theme inside and they are playing new country music.


Peepsi's BBQ

The Railroad Museum is another impressive undertaking by a group of dedicated volunteers in conjunction with a progressive City management.  This Railroad Depot was slated for demolition by the railroad, but saved and turned into a bus station by the City.  The freight building was also saved and made into a Senior Center which is still in use.  Eventually the bus station was relocated, the Depot was restored and opened as a Museum.  A volunteer who has been there virtually through the entire process gave me a tour.  This was originally the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railroad built by rail baron Arthur Stilwell and opened in 1909.
The railroad ran from Kansas City to San Angelo, Texas and was being extended to the sea coast port of Topolobampo, Mexico.  Financial problems and the Mexican revolution kept it from ever opening beyond San Angelo, but San Angelo became a profitable terminus when the Santa Rita #1 oil boom struck in 1923.  The Santa Fe Railroad eventually took over the rail line and operated trains until they filed for bankruptcy in 1983.  There are no trains running through San Angelo today.


The restored San Angelo Depot

A train model found and restored by the Museum volunteers

The first train

View in front of the Depot

Painting in the Depot

Transportation Mural across street from the Depot

We take a ride east on route 380 to the town of Paint Rock.  It’s very flat farm country with wheat, corn and cotton under cultivation.  There is also much sheep ranching and it appears that the town of Paint Rock was once a prosperous center for the Wool Industry.


General store with hand woven rugs for sale

Most impressive old courthouse for a town this size

Old Wool Warehouse building

This area of Texas is pertinent to a book I just picked up yesterday in a San Angelo bookstore.  The bookstore had just about everything written by a local legendary author, Elmer Kelton.  There is even a mural depicting him in the downtown area and a statue in the Library.  I decided to get one of his books and the store clerk strongly recommended “The time it never rained”.  It’s an interesting read so far, concerning West Texas sheep ranching, family issues, Anglo and Mexicans culture, the Border situation, Government price controls and policies and that’s only in the the first two chapters.  It’s fiction but could easily be a true account and I expect it will have a political message of sorts that I may or may not disagree with.


Elmer Kelton Mural in San Angelo


That enough of San Angelo, the next stop is Abilene, Texas;
Twinkles and Slick

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