Monday, November 26, 2007

Big Bend to Del Rio

November 18 to November 22, 2007

The drive from Big Bend National Park to Marathon was pretty routine—it was a nice morning to be on the road. The drive through rolling countryside was pleasant and we saw several mule deer near the road. The stop in Marathon provided us with a few hours of internet service to download our messages and to pickup messages left on our cell phones. We were without the use of both services during our week in Big Bend.

Marathon’s name was suggested by a sea captain who said the area reminded him of Marathon, Greece.

Winnie 2: Now I’ve never been to Greece, but I can’t imagine it being like this part of Texas with its rolling hills and desert landscape.

The town used to be a mining and cattle shipment center but is now a tourist crossroads and a gateway to Big Bend N.P. Ranching is still a major factor in the local economy.

We spent the night at Marathon Motel and RV Park, a delightful place. We had a light dinner at the Gage Hotel which is the most noteworthy establishment in town dating back to the 1920s A step into the hotel is an experience of days gone by when all a cowboy needed to feel alive was a breath of fresh air and the magnificent night sky filled with stars. The hotel has been restored and still has the original pine flooring and woodwork, along with heavy-duty ranch-style furniture in the lobby.

The other draw to this small town was Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery. Early Monday morning that was our stop before leaving town. As we enjoyed our baked goodies and coffee, the waitress took our picture. The sign on the wall says: “If it ain’t burnt, Momma didn’t make it”

Marathon to Seminole Canyon State Park

We drove Highway 90 to Seminole Canyon State Park on Monday, November 19, where we stayed two nights. This was a very pretty drive through rolling country and over some mesas. We spotted a large buck near the road—we were surprised to see such a large one next to the road in late morning. Numerous other deer were seen during the drive.

As we came over a pass west of Sanderson, we drove out of clear blue skies and into the humid, low-hanging, cloudy skies indicating we were now in the area of TX where weather is influenced by the Gulf of Mexico. The change was as if a curtain had been lowered as visibility went from very good to just a few miles. The days we spent at Seminole Canyon S.P. (about 40 miles northwest of Del Rio) were similar—mornings were foggy with skies clearing at midday.

A stop at Langtry, Texas, introduced us to Judge Roy Bean, the “Law West of the Pecos”. He was a Justice of the Peace and was the only “law” for miles around that part of Texas. He must have been a colorful character and his style of enforcing the “law” didn’t exactly follow the established legal codes in effect; however, it seems the consensus was that he treated people fairly and his style of meting out .justice worked well in the rough and tumble Southwest Texas country of the 1880’s and 1890’s. The Visitor Center in Langtry has excellent dioramas about Judge Bean’s life and is co-located with his home and saloon-courtroom which have both been restored. A very nice cactus garden is also at this location. All in all, it was a good place to stop and take in some of the local history.

Seminole Canyon State Park is near the mouth of the Pecos River where it flows into the Rio Grande. The area has numerous canyons with fairly flat land between them. It is in a semi-arid climate so we have seen a variety of Chihuahuan desert plants along with oak, juniper and other vegetation normally associated with less arid areas. There are some nice hikes in the park—the two Carols took advantage of the time here to explore on foot and enjoyed seeing the effects of wind and water erosion in the deep limestone canyons as well as some different birds residing in the area.

The last morning all three of us took a guided hike to the Fate Bell Shelter, a large cave dwelling in Seminole Canyon used through the ages. The Pecos River area is noteworthy for ancient pictographs and those found in Seminole Canyon are representative of the best of them. The pictographs are believed to be between 3,000 and 4,000 years old and have been described as being in the top 1% of pictographs in the world. They are very well preserved and, in some cases, very intricate. The Park’s Visitor Center was also well worth a stop. Their displays showing movement of various animals and people through the area from the last ice age to the near-present were superb.

Del Rio

It was on to Del Rio where we spent Nov. 21 and 22 (Thanksgiving). We had made the decision some time ago that we weren’t going to “slave” over a stove preparing Thanksgiving dinner, so a stopover in a larger town was in order. We got a couple of bike tires fixed and a “Wal-Mart fix” upon arrival.

Side trip to Acuña

Thanksgiving morning we woke to 44-degree temps with a stiff breeze that made it even colder. With dinner reservations made for 2 p.m., we headed to Acuña, Mexico (population approximately 120,000). We walked the nearly one-mile bridge over the Rio Grande for some shopping and to check out the city.

The part of the city we were in was much cleaner than other border towns so we were all pleasantly surprised. Since we didn’t have dinner reservations until later in the afternoon, we stopped at Crosby’s in Acuña for early Happy Hour; had some nachos and margaritas to hold us over.

Soon it was time to recross the river and get ready for our dinner. We agreed we all had a lot to be thankful for—especially to be together and to be able to enjoy the countryside in our Winnebagos.

Since leaving Las Cruces, we’ve driven 700 miles in 15 days!