Monday, March 6, 2017

A few days in Alpine, Texas

February 28 to March 6:

On February 28th we finished loading up the Duchess and headed west along I-10 from San Antonio. We travelled 175 miles west until we reached Sonora, Texas. This is a small ranching town located along I-10. We spent the night in the Sonora RV Park which basically a mobile home park with a few spots for RV hookups located behind the local high school. We did ride our bikes around town for about an hour before we called it a night. We did not even unhook our Jeep from the motorhome since it was only an overnight stay.

The next morning we made the 210 mile trip from Sonora to the Lost Alaskan RV Park in Alpine, Texas. We met up with Carl and Pam Manganaro at a rest stop along I-10. They are going to the Davis Mountain State Park for the next few days and we will be joining them for some daily activities during their time in the area.

We turned south off of I-10 on US Hwy 67 to head to Alpine and then our RV park. We checked in at the RV park and got set up for the few days we will spend here. The office has a mural done by an artist named Read who has down several other murals in the town of Alpine.

On Thursday Pam and Carl came to Alpine from the state park and we visited the Museum of the Big Bend located on the campus of Sul Ross State University. It is a very nice museum that helps explain the history and culture of this part of Texas.

After our visit to the museum we took a hike to the “hill” that overlooks the campus and town where we had to see the desk that some Sul Ross students had hauled to the top. It was a rough rock covered trail most of the way to the top where we eventually found the desk. We were rewarded with some great views of the town.

After finished our trek back down the “hill” we went to lunch at the Guzzi Up restaurant where Connie and I split a pizza.

After finishing our lunch we walked around downtown for a while and visited a few of the local shops. There are a number of large murals located on buildings throughout the downtown area.

Dan Blocker who starred as “Hoss” in the Bonanza western series is a 1948 graduate of Sul Ross and taught at several towns throughout west Texas and southeast New Mexico before he made it big in Hollywood.

From downtown we traveled out to the edge of town to see the Big Bend Brewing Company. We sampled several of their brews while Carl had the IPA. While we were seated enjoying our brews we met two other couples who are full-time RV’ers: one a young couple with a small child who spent several years on a boat in the Caribbean before purchased an older motorhome.

After finishing our brews, we both headed to our own rigs for the night.

On Friday morning we drove over to Fort Davis and met Carl and Pam at the Fort Davis National Historic Site. This was the location of a fort along the road from San Antonio to El Paso that opened in 1854 and closed in 1891. It was unoccupied for a few years during the Civil War before a lot of new structures were built in the 1867 to 1875 period. It was home to two companies of black soldiers known as the Buffalo Soldiers from the 1867 to 1891 time frame. The fort is being restored to its 1870’s look with the older pre-Civil War building only showing their foundations. There is a small visitor’s center that shows a short film along with having several exhibits about the fort and its history.

We asked the rangers where to eat and they recommended the Poco Restaurant located about a mile from the fort. We stopped in for a great Tex-Mex meal in this local eatery.

After lunch we headed up to the McDonald Observatory which is located on top of Mount Locke a few miles from Fort Davis. They picked this sight because the top of the mountain was somewhat flat and it was far away from any artificial lights. We had missed out on the tours but we did tour the visitor’s center and visited the top of Mount Locke where the Observatory is located. The original 82 inch telescope was built in the 1930’s as a joint venture between the University of Texas and the University of Chicago. A second 107 inch telescope was built later when the University of Texas took over the venture. The McDonald Observatory is part of a world wide group that is building a large of array of mirrors that will be combined by computers to view the universe.

After finishing our visit all of us headed home for the evening.

On Saturday afternoon we met Pam and Carl in Marfa, Texas. Marfa is famous for the filming of the movie “Giant” starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean in and around the town. Most of the cast stayed in the Hotel Paisano while Elizabeth Taylor rented a house in town. We walked through the hotel and saw a number of photographs made during he filming of the movie. The hotel remains similar to what it looked like in the 1950’s when the movie was being made.

We also visited the Hotel St. George which has been re-done as a modern facility. We visited a few of the local galleries (a number of them were closed) and shops before stopping for coffee at the Tumbleweed Laundry and Coffee Shop located a block off the main street in town. Marfa is the county seat and has a large courthouse located in town.

After visiting the Get and Go Grocery store to pick up a few items, we headed to the Marfa Lights Viewing Area located 10 miles east of Marfa on US Hwy 67/90. The Marfa Lights are an unexplained phenomena that were first seen by a local cowboy in 1883. We had taken a picnic dinner that we ate before sundown and then awaited the appearance of the lights. It is also said that alcohol will help you see the lights, so we included some wine with our dinners. All of us saw lights, some red, some white, some orange that appeared and then disappeared. We stayed for about an hour and half before all of us got cold and decided to call it an evening. What did we see? Was it car headlights? Was it a secret government project that is going on at an abandoned army air base in the area? What is a natural phenomena? Or is it something alien? We all had different opinions as to what we saw. The skies were clear and we were treated to a star filled sky and a half moon to enjoy.

Sunday we slept in and took it easy the rest of the day. Monday we will be heading south to Study Butte/Terlingua to see the Big Bend National Park.