Feed on

There was a set of road trips this weekend.  Friday night after a post-work nap, I drove downtown and wound up in San Antonio.  I pondered long and hard about getting on I-10 and driving east or west. I think it would be kinda be neat to go over to Louisiana to see the environment being destroyed by the oil slick. Instead, I came back home since I had no clothes nor computing device.

Saturday, May 8: I set off for Alpine, Texas. I quickly remembered how mind numbingly boring I-10 is, and how I should petition to get the speed limit raised to 100 or just go get my pilot license so I can fly there. I arrived around 7, so there was still plenty of sunlight left.  I had dinner at La Trattoria, this little artsy Italian cafe on the north end of town.  I don’t recommend the Margherita pizza, the flimsy thin crust couldn’t handle the huge chunks of tomato they piled on.

One of the unofficial purposes of the trip was to go over to a star party at the McDonald Observatory.  A cold front had rolled in Friday night, bringing with it low hanging clouds.  It was beginning to clear off at Alpine as it was getting dark, so I hoped it would keep clearing.  I  drove over to Fort Davis via Marfa.  By the time I got to the Observatory it was good and dark, but unfortunately not clear.  I hung around and got about 15 minutes of fair viewing here and there. On one telescope I saw Mizar and Saturn on another.  The first time I ever saw Saturn on a telescope a few years ago, I could very faintly make out the outline of the planet and rings, and was very impressed.  This time, on the big telescopes it was very clear and lots of detail. Somebody pointed out two moons next to it, very cool.  Unfortunately after that, the clouds set in for good and everyone started leaving.

I went back to Alpine, and per tradition, checked in at the budget Motel Bien Venido. This room wasn’t as sketchy as the room from last time; the chairs actually matched and there were no nails+duct tape holding the neighboring door shut. There was however an unexplained wet spot in the carpet in front of the bathroom. Oh, and the three times the train came through town between 1 – 3 AM, horn blaring the whole way just a block over.

Sunday, May 9: Breakfast time lead me to the Bread & Breakfast Bakery.  The ambiance reminded me of Corner Cafe in Westport, Kansas City, and the college crowd reminded me of Kerbey Lane. Quite a wait on my pancakes (also reminding me of Kerbey), but they made it right by giving me a refund. Otherwise, good food, I’d recommend it to others!

While in Alpine I was listening to the local radio station and realized how awful country music is, at least the newer stuff.  Old stuff is awesome: Marty Robbins always sung about gunfights and clearing leather on outlaws. Hank Williams Sr. sung about honky tonks and riding freight trains out of town.  Johnny Cash sung about prison, knife fights, guns, and sticking it to the man.  New stuff (artist names escape me, but does it really matter): losing a grandpa, passing on knowledge to a son, losing a wife to cancer. What the fuck, that’s some depressing shit.  I had to go back to my “hustlin” playlist to hear DMX and Dre tell me about benjamins and livin’ large instead.

This morning after breakfast I saw a sign that said “Big Bend Park Headquarters 108 miles” and decided that was a pretty awesome idea. There are so many people that live in the middle of nowhere between Alpine and Study Butte.  That whole area looks exactly like Nevada. In fact, the scene in Terminator 2 where Conner is getting weapons from her friend’s underground bunker, yeah I think that was in Study Butte.

At some point there was a slight turn in the road, a giant dip, and bam, you’re in the Chisos Mountains Basin. Big Bend turned out to be very awesome; like Death Valley, but bigger and closer! I spotted this thing labeled “Santa Elena Canyon Overlook” on the map right on the Texas/Mexico border, and headed to it. BB is surprisingly green, I don’t know if it’s always like this or just because it’s spring.  There were all sorts of public access roads and trails throughout the park.  I totally want to go back and spend a week there exploring.

Thirty miles further south, I was finally at the canyon. There’s the Rio Grande, and then on the Mexico side of the river is this very impressive sheer cliff face that’s hundreds of feet tall and stretches on for miles.  Somehow part of the river etched a gash straight through this wall.  I have to wonder if this whole rock/river thing is like the Niagra Falls, where Canada gets the falls, we get the view; here Mexico gets the rock, we get the view and river.  On the other hand, I bet there’s a nice view of Texas from top of Mexico’s mesa.

After this, it was around 2 PM and time to head home. I stopped by the visitor center at Panther Junction and headed up to Marathon.  From there, on up to Fort Stockton, I-10 and back to Austin.  Done with another 1,280 mile weekend road trip!

Leave a Reply