I left off when I arrived in Sanderson, Texas. I’m going to just hit some highlights of the next ten days.
I spent the night and got a bit lost in Sonora, Texas, which is hard to do, then romed on up to Leander to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in nearly sixty years. SIXTY! The trip took me through the Hill Country of Texas which was in bluebonnet season.
Then down to Austin where I visited a friend from the mid seventies in Bisbee. I stayed there a few days and enjoyed a lovely visit and great views of Lake Travis.
Then down to the coast. The Gulf.
First to Corpus Cristi where I spent my first night (and only night so far) in a Walmart parking lot. Then to and across Mustang Island and on the ferry to Port Aransas. More coastal driving and a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where I SAW A WHOOPING CRANE!!!
I didn’t get a photo, unfortunately.
I’d climbed a lot of stairs to a lovely lookout when the biggest egret in the world flew into the trees. I then realized no egret was that large, and besides, it had black wingtips. This bird was huge!!! I was mystified until I went down the stairs and saw a sign about nesting whooping cranes. That’s what I’d seen! The photo below is a stock photo.
Across Galveston Island and the ferry to the Bolivar Peninsula.
Once on the peninsula, I bought a $10 beach permit. It allowed a full week of parking and sleeping on the beach, but my one night there, though beautiful, wasn’t really good. Way too windy.
Luna Azul, my RAV, was rocking and rolling all night. Plus it drizzled and blowing sand stuck to every square inch of my poor car. She was no longer azul (blue). Thankfully, rain over the next day or so rinsed her off.
I spent the next night in a sweet little park outside a small town, again a place on the water—but no blowing sand!
I visited Port Arthur. The entrance was awful—all refineries.
But I spent some good time in the Museum of the Gulf Coast which is an excellent small museum. Highly recommended!
In addition to information on history and culture, the museum’s second floor was devoted to the musicians and music of the area.
The main reason I stopped was Port Arthur was the home of Janis Joplin.
The best part of the display was a video board that allowed viewers to search musicians and music by decade.
In Port Arthur, I also found a Buddhist Temple …
and a beautiful Virgin of Guadalupe.
From there I headed, unfortunately, to I-10 which was just about the only way to get to Lake Charles where I wanted to spend the night.
I left the Marfa Lights viewing area just at dawn and headed south on Texas 67 toward the border town of Presidio. 67 is a simple country road with windmills scattered on the bases of hillsides. The scenery is beautiful—rolling hills of golds and greens, a lovely twisty road, and mountains as a backdrop in every direction. But not enough pulloffs for viewing and photos.
Two road repair areas held me up briefly, but in all, it was a loverly drive.
For some reason, in my mind Presidio was a little semi-ghost town, maybe a population of a few hundred. I envisioned collapsed roofs and falling-down, crumbled adobe structures.
Imagine my surprise when I found a small bustling town of about 3300 people. I learned there was a coffeehouse in the downtown area and, of course, headed right there.
Town was busy, but the lone coffeehouse was closed. A woman on the street said it was always closed. There went my only chance at a good cup of coffee.
On to Texas 170, the road to Terlingua, a road often called the most scenic in Texas. That claim gets no argument from me.
The views before, after, and in the middle of each curve begged me to shift my eyes from the road. And there must have been at least two hundred curves or twists in the sixty-two mile drive. Google told me it would take about an hour and half. Closer to two and a half for me.
Even the straightaways, which were few and often lasted only about a quarter of a mile, were stunning. But as on other routes, not enough pulloffs, and the those that existed weren’t near the view I’d wanted to capture. Pullovers! I want more pullovers!
Sadly, the several road repair stops never offered much of a view.
The journey took me quite close to the Río Grande, sometimes coming withing about ten feet of the river.
I took it slowly, stopping just to gaze around when I’d (finally) find a pullover. I saw a number of camping areas along the way, some close to the road and others further away. No services, just a place to stop and spend a few days hiking and taking in the beauty.
In a few hours, I reached the town of Lajitas. Once a booming town and location of a major border crossing, when area mines closed, Lajutas dwindled to just four residents by the early 1970s.
That’s when a Houston corporation bought it, restored what buildings it could, and created a golf resort.
Yes, it’s true. In the middle of wild rugged mountains, a small valley on the Río Grande is now a golf resort with a private airport.
The irony of it all is not lost on me. My guess is the resort is filled with people who won’t go to “scary” Mexico, in general support a border wall, and under almost any other circumstances, would never go to a small border town. But they fly in to Lajitas, golf, and spend the winter in a beautiful area with daytime temperatures in the seventies.
And like the rest of this route, there is no border wall. A wall would destroy the wild beauty. As one who lives just a few blocks from a thirty-foot wall, I can’t tell you the delight I found in driving so many border miles of unspoiled, intense beauty.
I reached Terlingua near 1:00 and splurged on lunch at DB’s Rustic Inn BBQ. I then wandered town and found a $2 shower. Wow! I settled myself in the shade of an old porch in the ruins of the Terlingua ghost town to read and write a bit.
I camped in a quiet spot, had some great coffee at Espresso y Poco Mas, and headed for Big Bend.
My senior pass I bought years ago got me into the park free. I didn’t wander but headed right for Boquillas Crossing.
Yay!! Crossing to Mexico by rowboat had been the impetus for this entire trip. I got to Boquillas Crossing and entered the Customs building where a Park Service employee verified that I had a passport. Then, down the path to the river.
To Mexico, where I then rode a burro into town!
I had a nice lunch and returned to the US where I had to go into the Customs building again. A Park Service employee took my passport and held it up to a computer screen where its image was sent to a human somewhere else. The Park Service man returned my card and I approached the screen. A bored, disembodied voice asked if I had anything to declare. When I responded that I didn’t, he sent me on my way.
What a bizarre re-entry to the US!
From there, I searched for a (free) place to spend the night, but everything was either taken or w-a-y down a bumpy dirt road. Spring break. What did I expect?
So I headed out of Big Bend, my mission to cross the Río Grande accomplished, and headed to Sanderson for a visit with another woman who has roamed the country. She landed on my property at the beginning of the Covid shutdown and was basically stuck there for a few months. But at least she had a full van she could stand up in! I’m in my RAV.
An aside: As I sat in the shade in Terlingua Ghost Town and wrote, a couple walked by. The woman waved. Just then her husband got a call and wandered the other direction to talk. The woman and I chatted awhile, exchanging bits of info.
We found we were on a similar route. I then mentioned I was from Bisbee. “Bisbee! We were there a few weeks ago for the Vulture Festival!”
I told her I’d been there also. We laughed and kept chatting. She said they were headed to Big Bend next and planned to take the little rowboat across the Río Grande the next day. I laughed again and told her I had plans to do the same thing.
And guess who I ran into in Boquillas the next day! By the time we’d talked in Boquillas, I had an invitation to their home in northern New York. And then we found we were both headed to Texas Hill Country! And we laughed again realizing they live just a few blocks from the northern border while I live a few blocks from the southern.
To finish, here’s the hardware store in Sanderson.
I didn’t reach Alpine and Marfa until my third day of travel even though I could have easily made it in under eight hours. This trip is much about leisure, so much leisure that the one-hour trip between Van Horn and Marfa took me nearly three hours.
I left the Van Horn area at dawn and cruised slowy down Texas Highway 90 to Marfa.
Whoever is promoting Marfa has done a fine job, because the first references to were about thirty-five miles north of the town. That’s where I found Prada Marfa, a sculpture created in 2005. There are even some Prada shoes and purses inside the little building.
Then another twenty or so miles down the road, I found the next Marfa sculpture.
The diorama came complete with music seeming to emanate almost from the car.
Then about seven miles before town, there was a big “Welcome to Marfa” sign.
And finally the town, about 1800 people if you ask Google, or about 1500 if you ask the locals.
But I continued to Alpine, another twenty-five miles east.
I wanted to see Alpine because I’d been there once before, maybe twelve or fifteen years ago, on a train trip from Arizona to New Orleans. What I remembered about the town was the train stopping and Border Patrol agents having everyone get off while they searched the train.
Alpine is a sweet little town filled with artist’s studios, cafes, and murals and more murals. It has a population of fewer than 6000 people, but there are probably close to fifty murals! The last count was forty-four, but the woman at the welcome center said she knew more had been added since the mural map had been made.
Map in hand, I roamed town a bit looking at murals.
And other art.
After wandering and seeing the art, I headed back to Marfa.
My first stop was Wrong, an art gallery and store. I’d met the owners in Kino in January and wanted to stop in. Well worth the stop! Jewelry, a lunar calendar, artwork, and much, much more. If you’re ever in Marfa, visit there and spend money.
There are some beautiful historical buildings in town, too, including the county courthouse. I elevatored up three floors and then walked up the last two levels.
There’s a beautiful old hotel, the Hotel Paisano (originally El Paisano Hotel) designed by Trost and Trost. (Bisbee, by the way, has a Trost house.) The hotel opened in 1930. It’s famous for headquartering the cast and crew of the 1956 movie Giant and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Part of what drew me to Marfa was the Marfa Lights, lights that are sometimes seen at dusk and ocassionally later at night, about nine miles east of the town.