Wednesday, March 14, 2018.
When last I wrote we had just arrived in Terlingua, a town of only 58 people that sits right in between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.
What a quirky place. It’s supposedly a desert ghost town, but there’s definitely life here. And a lot of characters!
We purchased a walking tour guide for a dollar at the general store and set about finding the various highlights of what used to be a bustling mining town. Current residents co-exist with the remains of decaying buildings used by miners in the mid-1880’s…a somewhat surreal atmosphere that I kind of liked.
We ate dinner one evening at the Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon, originally built in the 1930’s when the town was in its heyday. The menu features fare such as country-fried wild boar and tequila marinated quail, and there’s live entertainment every evening. But what I’ll remember most about our meal there was the people-watching.
We’d been seated at a table right next to the bar, a prime spot as it turned out. What a mix of tourists, leather-faced locals, and old hippies paraded past! At some point I happened to glimpse something out of the corner of my eye that I wish I could’ve taken a picture of: a knife strapped to the bartender’s boot. And the bartender looked like she wouldn’t hesitate to use it, either. That, to me, pretty much sums up Terlingua.
On one of the days there we drove a little further west to Big Bend Ranch State Park, past the resort town of Lajitas, population only 75. It blew my mind that a world-class resort–complete with its own charter airplane service–was out here in the middle of nowhere. And that people actually came!! But then again, this nowhere is the most beautiful nowhere I’ve seen in a long, long time. The landscape is phenomenal.
As we continued through the state park, we passed movie sets that had been used over the years in westerns and country music videos. I was surprised to learn that that so many had been filmed here.
On Thursday we headed north to no place in particular because I hadn’t gotten camping reservations anywhere. We knew we still had Alpine, Marfa, and Fort Davis on our “want to see” list. We had one commitment, and that was to go to a “star party“at the McDonald Observatory at Fort Davis on Friday.
We came upon a very small RV park an hour and a half away with a great view on the outskirts of the town of Alpine, population 5,905. It was on the south side of town, while the observatory was an hour’s drive north–but being completely unfamiliar with the area, it was hard to guestimate ahead of time where the best to stay would be. As it turned out, the campgrounds in Fort Davis were all full because of spring break, so it was good that we stopped when we did.
The star party is held only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and only if the night sky is clear. Luckily, the sky was clear the night we went. We drove into Alpine for a bite to eat and then headed to the observatory. Up, up we ascended almost 6,800 feet into the Davis Mountains and waited for sunset, and then darkness.
Way OUT there it’s dark, and way UP there the pitch-black night sky is front and center, in your face. I haven’t been able to find the words that come close to describing the sheer number of stars, their fantastic clarity and brilliance. It seemed to me that the presence of God was splendidly apparent. It was awesome.
Our star guide did a great job pointing out particular stars and constellations, even added a bit of lighthearted humor here and there. Afterwards we had the opportunity to look at the stars up close through several telescopes, but there were more than 400* people jockeying for position in the dark, so we waited in line and only looked through a couple and left. At 10 o’clock it was well past our bedtime anyway, and the drive back to the RV about an hour away. (*More than 900 tickets were sold for the next evening’s star party.😳)
We began the trek home this past Sunday, leaving Alpine and spending the night at the Caverns in Sonoma, where we’d stayed ten days earlier.
Miles drive today: 210 miles today. 832 total miles driven on Big Bend side trip.
We’ve been hanging out in Stonewall, Texas since Monday. It’s in between the trendy Fredericksburg and the ultra-busy Austin, and so far, the most expensive place we’ve stayed at $48/night 😳. But we told our son we wouldn’t see him until Friday, so we had time to kill.
Neither Dave nor I like being around crowds, and I really dislike shopping, so we didn’t even think about going into Fredericksburg’s downtown area. Instead, we went to five attractions in the two days spent here, all of them FREE. And none of them were overrun with people.👍🏼
Luckenbach, Texas (only seven miles away)–one of those places where there really isn’t much to speak of, but you got to stop anyway…
the Lyndon B Johnson Ranch (and Texas White House) and state park…
the Texas Rangers Historical Memorial…
and Fort Martin Scott, built to protect the German settlers from the Comanche Indians–except a peace agreement was reached soon after the fort was completed and it was vacated after only five years.
Last, but not least, was a chocolate-tasting experience at El Rey Chocolate, an importer of Venezuelan chocolate, some of the world’s finest. Shannon gave an excellent and fun ‘tour’ of the five different chocolates we sampled, explaining the processes that made one different from the next. It was very informative and very tasty! I like when learning is fun!
For now, that’s about it from our little corner of the world. I’m ready for the next adventure down the road!🤠