After two days of exploring Big Bend National Park, we decided to take Saturday, February 18th easy. It was time to begin making our way out of Texas for New Mexico, so we planned to spend the day cruising through some West Texas small towns, seeing what’s there to be seen.
Fort Stockton worked out well enough as a base of operations. Although a long way from Big Bend, the town had everything needed for a brief stay, despite being a bit light on restaurants. On our way out of town we said goodbye to the resident roadrunner.
We saw several real roadrunners during our travels in Texas. None were being chased by a coyote.
After traveling roughly 60 miles south on US 385 from Fort Stockton we came to Marathon, a town we’d passed through several times during the commute to the National Park. Here we turned right onto US90W, heading for Alpine.
When looking for accommodations near Big Bend, and finding nothing in the Terlingua area, Alpine looked to be the last bet at finding something reasonably close to the park. I was very intrigued by the Holland Hotel, located in downtown Alpine, but they, too, were booked up solid.
That weekend Alpine was hosting the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which I’m sure contributed to the scarcity of lodging. That event was also sold out by the time we got to town.
Alpine looked to be a town worth exploring, and it’s been added to the list for the next trip into West Texas. There’s quite a bit on the Internet about this town. The linked video below provides an informative if not entertaining overview if you’re interested in learning more.
Continuing along US90W, the next town we came across was Marfa. This is a small, but well-preserved town, and it’s the seat of Presidio County. We parked the Jeep and walked around a little, checking out the pink courthouse and visiting the shops in the lobby of the Hotel Paisano.
The 1956 western movie “Giant” is one of Marfa’s claims to fame. That movie was made in the neighborhood, and the stars stayed at the Hotel Paisano. As you head out of town, there is this display on the roadside as a tribute (?) to that movie.
Not long after that we came upon an odd sight. Off to the west of the road we could see what looked like a blimp tethered close to the ground.
As we got closer, it most definitely was an airship, a “Tethered Aerostat Radar System”, owned and operated by the US Border Patrol. These airships can reach elevations of 15,000 feet while connected via cable to the earth, and are used to detect illegal airborne entries into the United States. Learning something new everyday!
The last stop before we left Marfa was the world-famous Prada store. Also located on US90, it is literally in the middle of nowhere.
I wasn’t aware of the story behind this store, or monument, until reading the nearby plaque. Everything made sense, then.
We continued along on US90, planning to call it a day when we reached Van Horn, as we had reservations there for the evening. The last town we passed through before reaching Van Horn was Lobo, where we found these old buildings at the side of the road.
I concur with the message. Lonely Places are special, and we should try to keep them the way they need to be.
We arrived in Van Horn early enough to have a quick lunch in one of the town parks, but too early to call it a day. While it was pretty windy, the sun had come out and it was a pretty day. For lack of anything better to do at the moment, we decided to drive the hour up Texas Route 54 to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I’m glad we did, because we saw this:
That is El Capitan, the highest point in Texas at over 8700 feet. We’ve all seen this edifice in many, many western shows and movies. Very impressive seeing it in person.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park was not on the radar at all for this trip. We did stop at the Visitor Center and chatted with a Ranger. He said that up in the mountain valleys it was a different world, and the hiking trails were something special.
As it was too late to be venturing upon the trails that day, Guadalupe Mountains National Park became another entry on the “Next Time in West Texas” list.
We returned the way we came, arriving back in Van Horn with some time to relax at the hotel before dinner. When we arrived in town, I seriously thought dinner was limited to sports bar food or perhaps pizza, but the hotel manager recommended The Cattle Company, a hoof-to-table restaurant hidden in plain sight on the main drag.
Wife had the Ale Roasted Half Chicken while I went for the filet mignon. Both meals were excellent, as was the service. Our streak of finding great places to eat in Texas continued!
On to New Mexico in the next installment of Notes From The Road. Thanks for dropping by!