Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Butter My Butt and Call Me A Biscuit,, WE'RE ALMOST OUT OF TEXAS

The Peace Maker - Seminole Canyon
Representation of Rock Art in Seminole Canyon Visitor Center

McDonald Observatory

Road Surface - Highway 90

Paisano Hotel Lobby
Dave & Tally
Marfa Lights Viewing Station - Yes, they even have a building with restrooms
Jay & Cheryl Congrats on your promotion Cheryl!
Outside Marfa
Roadside Companion

October 28, 29,30, Halloween, November 1, 2. Obviously, some catching up to do! We read an excerpt from a book that described western Texas as "waterless, sun-baked, and windy, where one could travel forever and see nothing." If the author had ridden a bicycle, he might have added, "on a road so rough your fingers would vibrate like tuning forks." Hwy 90 has rough pavement and becomes a fairly lonely road west of Del Rio once you cross the Amistad Reservoir/Recreation Area that is a joint project of the U.S. and Mexican governments. There are, however, several interesting, historic, and unique places tucked away in the desolate area between Del Rio and El Paso. Eleven miles west of Comstock is the Seminole Canyon State Park that has fascinating Indian Rock Art. Even today, no one fully understands the meaning of these paintings. Seminole Canyon gets its name from the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts garrisoned at Fort Clark in Brackettville. The Seminole Indians lived in Florida swamplands and welcomed escaped slaves. These slaves, called maroons, married into the tribe. In 1841, almost all Seminoles had been forced to relocate to Oklahoma which motivated many of the maroons to flee to Mexico, fearing slavery. The Mexican government utilized them to protect the northern border against hostile Indians in exchange for land. When the end of the Civil War abolished slavery, the U.S. Army began recruiting the Seminole maroons to protect settlements from Indian attacks. They were commanded by Lt. John Bullis, a white Quaker, who also commanded African American Infantry during the Civil War. Four of the Seminole maroon scouts were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in combat against Comanche and Apache Indians.
About 18 miles west of the park, is the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center in Langtry, Tx. Judge Bean had been appointed by the Texas Rangers to maintain law and order in this lawless land. What a character!! He operated a saloon, had a pet bear, and an obsession for the British actress, Lilly Langtry. His humor and six-shooter- form-of- justice made him a legend. He once promoted a world championship prize fight even though the state of Texas had outlawed boxing matches. He solved that problem by having the fight on a sandbar on the Mexican side of the river.
Another gem we discovered , by biking Hwy 118 through the Davis Mountains, was the town of Ft. Davis. It was a beautiful ride and a welcome sight to see rock formations rather than endless desert. The tiny community takes its name from an army post established in 1854 to protect emigrants and mail coaches along the San Antonio-El Paso Road from Apaches, Kiowas, and Comanches. By the 1880's, the fort had over 100 buildings and quarters for 400 soldiers. At the turn of the century, the climate attracted wealthy vacationers that locals referred to as "summer swallows". This community created such a western feel as we looked out on the main street from our balcony that we almost expected to see a dusty road, boardwalks, and a gun fight at high noon. We stayed in the Harvard Hotel, so named because Harvard University placed a radio telescope nearby.
Outside of Ft. Davis, off Hwy 17N, is the McDonald Observatory at 6200 ft. (the highest point in Texas) where we had the opportunity to attend a star party. Under the lights of the Milky Way and Jupiter hanging like a globe in the night, we experienced seeing features through 6 telescopes. It was mind-boggling.
On Saturday, we biked south to Marfa on Hwy 17. Nine miles east of Marfa is where mysterious lights appear at times, after the sun sets. The lights reportedly shoot, flash, hover in the night sky. They were first recorded in the late 1800's by a cowboy who thought they were Apache campfires. Since then this phenomena has been studied extensively without a definitive explanation. We lingered at the observation station for about one and 1/2 hours without seeing even a twinkle. We had been sure they would appear for us on Halloween, but it was not to be.
We overnighted at the historic Hotel Paisano where James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and Dennis Hopper lodged in the 1950's during the filming of the movie, "Giant." The hotel was completed in 1930 in anticipation of an oil boom that never materialized. A P.R. stunt to attract attention to the hotel was having a man buried alive on a corner of the construction site for 3 days. People could peek in at him through a feeding hole. Obviously, not much was going on in Marfa at the time. Marfa also has one of the most beautiful courthouses that we have seen on our trip. It is a majestic French architectural structure that is centered on the main street through town. Thanks to New York artist, Donald Judd, (born in Excelsior Springs, Mo.) the cultural life of Marfa was changed in the 1970's. Judd moved to Marfa and established the Chinati Foundation which purchased a number of buildings previously part of the former army post. The renovated buildings house a permanent collection of contemporary art as well as temporary exhibits by artists in residence. By invitation only, artists, writers, poets, and musicians instill Marfa with their creative energy. Thanks to Anita, Ann was informed about this upon arrival and whisked off to the afternoon tour. As usual in the friendly state of Texas, we met some very nice people on this leg of the journey: Tally & Dave from Dallas, Anita from Santa Cruz, Jay and Cheryl from Austin, and a couple at the light viewing who were on there way to Terlingua Tx (near Big Bend) for a chili cook-off. We thank them for taking some time to get acquainted. As we biked toward Van Horn, we passed a deserted junction that was once Lobo, Texas. The empty buildings a witness to how this harsh land can turn dreams to dust.
So now we are in El Paso, a city proud of its 400 year multicultural past with a population of 563,000 and growing. It is the birthplace of the margarita. It was reportedly created by Francisco "Pauncho" Morales at Tommy's Place Bar on July 4, 1945. Having arrived from some very remote area to the bustle of such a large metropolis just might call for a couple of Pauncho's concoctions.
Thank you for your patience in reading this long blog. We had some computer issues and changess in our routine. Thanks for checking back and we will hope to keep your interest. Our donations are adding up and we appreciate everyone. The walkers have raised close to $2,000. You guys are awesome!


Tim said...

Fantastic segment! Glad you got to attend a Star Party; we've enjoyed a few over the years. Did you see lots of tarantulas crossing the road? They seem to migrate this time of year.

We're sad that your time in Texas is almost to an end, but glad you've met lots of nice folks! Count us among your friends.

Seen you in Ozarks someday! TnA

Kelly said...

I can't believe that you are almost through Texas, yet it feels as if you have been there for weeks! Great post and sounds like you continue to have a fantastic time.

Jay said...

I am back to watching the posts, this work thing got in the way. Happy to hear you are getting out of Tx. I see the butter reference....and might recommend the Asssos chamois cream as it has a hint of menthol and soothes those sore spots, as well as taking your mind off them as it is kinda strange at first. At this pace, you may make Toms for Thanksgiving. Estatic to see you all are rolling along. Love you both.

Rhiannon said...

I'm not a big fan of your "roadside companion", but I'm pretty excited about the margaritas! Think of me when you are having one!

Dave & Tally said...

Norb and Ann,
Glad to hear you made it to El Paso safely. Tally and I decided to pass on the Marfa lights and by your blog it appears we made the right choice! Really great getting to meet you guys and look forward to continuing to stay in touch. We made one last stop at the Stone Village Market before departing Ft. Davis to get our fix. What a great weekend. Take care and best of luck on the road ahead.

Dave and Tally

kidzwriter said...

As a native Texan, I will miss traveling vicariously with you across "home." Have loved your pictures and comments. BTW, given the "butter/butt/biscuit" words, I have to share what a Houston friend sent me. "Just because you live in Texas, it doesn't mean you are a Texan. If a cat had kittens and carried them to an oven, would you call them biscuits?" :-)