Forget everything you think you know about Texas. Yes, its the land that unleashed George W. Bush on the world and the place that the big evil oil companies call home. Much to my surprise however, Texas has gone from being the 800 mile land mass that I had to cross (twice) in order to get to civilization on the other side, to one of my favorite places on this whole road trip. Shocking I know!
Now I will clarify that I mostly mean Western Texas, however I did have fun hiding from tornadoes in Beaumont and I enjoyed little culture as well as some lip-smackin ribs in Dallas. It really is one of the last frontiers and you can’t help but notice the wild west history all around you. It’s a little bit like Alaska in the sense that you feel like you’ve stepped back in time and again, I mean in the smaller towns out west. Texas was of course the biggest state until 1959 when Alaska became a state. I remember seeing these great T-shirts all over Fairbanks that said “Alaska, pissing off Texas since 1959”
So travel across the great state of Texas with me:
I don’t know why, but when I was a kid around 13, there was a movie called “Babe” about Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who was considered to be one of the greatest female athletes of all time that I’ve never forgotten. I’ve seen thousands of movies in the 37 years since seeing this one, but I remember that it made a tremendous impact on me. Obviously it was a good film, I looked it up on imdb and Susan Clark who played Babe won an Emmy Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama. I guess it was when I was first discovering my love of movies and TV and also it was probably the first time I heard anyone really talk about cancer and remember thinking well she’s really famous and an athlete and really young, how could she die. I recall a pretty profound sense of sadness around it. So you can imagine when I came across the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum in Beaumont how curious I was to learn more about her. She was an amazing woman who had a fondness for exaggeration, loved to tell tall tales, recorded several songs and was indeed one of the greatest female athletes of all time. I think maybe the reason I was so interested in her all that while ago and why I’m still fascinated by her is she seems like someone I would have liked to know. She very much wrote her own story in a time when it wasn’t so easy to do that. I couldn’t do this post aobut my time in Texas without paying homage to this inspiring woman.
One of my favorite things about road tripping across America is when I come across a surprise. Sometimes it’s a beautiful surprise, sometimes its a really interesting surprise, sometimes its a shocking surprise, the Texas Prison Museum is the latter! I only had about twenty minutes to view the museum but I was able to get a pretty good impression of what life in a Texas prison was like. This is the part of Texas that you don’t want to have ANYTHING to do with!
So I bet at this point you’re thinking hhmmmm killer tornadoes, a woman who died of cancer at the age of 45 and various ways to kill people, Texas sounds like a blast! It gets A LOT prettier and much more fun, oh wait we have to do the JFK assaination photos in Dallas forst, hang on then, one more REALLY upsetting thing then we’ll get to the pretty part of Texas.
So when I passed a sign for The Judge Roy Bean Museum going West on Hwy 90 near Langtry, TX. I couldn’t resist the temptation to see the office and famous saloon once operated by the “Hangin Judge” known for professing to be “the only law that mattered West of the Pecos” One of the best things about this road trip for me is when I run into an unexpected little jewel of a town like this, which actually seems to happen quite often. Not only did Langtry have historic significance, you could see signs everywhere of how it had fallen into disrepair while at the same time making a resurgence with visitors. The one thing that hasn’t changed one bit, is how beautiful it is. I drove into town to see the museum and then I discovered this winding primitive dirt road which of course I had to drive down, this is what I saw.
Then there was an overnight in Marathon, where I had a great dinner at The Gage Hotel and stayed in a non-typical overnight accommodation.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park, how do I love thee let me counts the ways! This park is amazing. It’s not a mainstream national park so that means less people, I was able to get a room for two nights at the lodge, which was reasonably priced, the trails were beautiful and well marked, the vistas were incredible, I saw a javelina and I made a new friend. All of that adds up to one awesome visit to Big Bend.
Just a few shots from the Ghost Town of Teralingua which is right outside of Big Bend NP
A few shots from one of my absolute favorite places in Texas or the US for that matter the quirky arty little town of Marfa (click on the link to visit the official Marfa, Texas website)
OK now lets end this monster blog post with one of my favorite random things I’ve run into on the entire trip, the fake Prada store. You’re driving down Highway 90 and out of no where this is what you see
Artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset recently unveiled their newest sculpture, entitled Prada Marfa. The work is located on the outskirts of Valentine, Texas (pop. 120) near Marfa on desolate land with no other visible trace of civilization. It looks to be a luxury boutique with a display of Fall 2005 Prada shoes and bags
Just to give you the perspective of the “no other visible trace of civilization”
And there you have it, not the impression of Texas you had in your head is it? Just goes to show you, sometimes places will surprise you and that’s why you should go see them for yourself whenever you can.