Ten Days In Texas

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:

Beaumont, Texas

I woke up in Beaumont Texas to a sky that looked like this and tornado “watches” being announced on TV. I moved from the two-story Best Western to the much more substantial Holiday Inn downtown to literally ride out the storm. Beaumont never got hit with a tornado, but the weather was pretty scary for twenty four hours!

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.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum, Beaumont Texas

Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias 1911-1956

Huntsville, Texas

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!

“Ol Sparky” the electric chair used by the state of Texas to execute 361 inmates on Death Row between 1924-1964

Who doesn’t enjoy a well thought out lethal injection display!

And finally a lovely exhibit of “shanks” with a ghostly shadow of me reflecting in the glass

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.

Dallas, Texas

The “X” marks the spot where the second shot killed President Kennedy. The infamous grassy knoll is in the background

This building was the Texas School Bank Depository Building where Lee Harvey Oswald worked. The shots came from the window where I indicated. The building is now “The Sixth Floor Museum” chronicling the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

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.

Langtry, Texas

An incredible canyon!

The wide-open wild west

Decaying reminder of the towns long ago history. Could a friend or subordinate of Judge Bean’s have lived here?

Or here?

The Torres Family

Judge Roy Bean was completely obsessed with an English actress by the name of Lillie Langtry, who he had the town named for. He apparently tried to get her to visit many times, he was unsuccesful until after his death when the actress finally did come to see the town named for her

I can’t get enough of these quirky Western towns, it’s like stepping back in time 50 years or more

Marathon, Texas

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.

Built in 1927 as a hotel and a ranch headquarters. Alfred Gage died a year after its completion in 1928

Dinner in the courtyard at The Gage and the chicken fried steak was beyond delicious

One of the main roads through town

The Gage Hotel was full and so was The Marathon Motel. The MM did have these “outside of downtown” accommodations, so that’s where I stayed.

The coolest thing about Marathon was seeing this Turkey Vulture up in the tree spreading his wings!

Route 385 to Big Bend National Park

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.

My first gljmpse at the Rio Grande, this side USA other side Mexico

Mexican Blue Jay-those are some angry birds!

My first hike in Big Bend a very enjoyable 5 mile trail called “The Window” which I kept calling “The Mirror” it lead to this cool canyon where you could look out through these rocks

My next hike was another 5 mile one straight out into the desert on a trail called “The Chimneys”

One of the Chimneys

When I climbed up the chimney, I discovered some ancient petroglyphs

Another beautiful hike to the end of Santa Elena Canyon, the rocks on the right USA, the rocks on the left Mexico

I was wondering why it felt so toasty in that canyon!

On the way back to the lodge, I got to see my one and only javelina, which was very cool, but wow are they ugly

There’s nothing like the beautiful solitude at the end of the day, I never get tired of it

Hey look, its an actual picture of me

Sometimes its nice to hike with new friends! Me, Molly and Kayla

It was a beautiful hike to the summit of The Lost Mine Trail, no matter how hard it is it’s ALWAYS worth it when you get to the top!

Teralingua

Just a few shots from the Ghost Town of Teralingua which is right outside of Big Bend NP

The old cemetery

Sign of days gone by

The old Starlight Theater is still in use as a restaurant and bar, I think it was me that took a crooked picture but I wouldn’t swear to it

Just when I think I can’t find a better sign on my journey, whoop there it is!

Storm clouds on the horizon

I absolutely love this shot! In a remote town outside of Big Bend State Park ( Not N.P)

Marfa, Texas

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)

Marfa, TX

The old Palace Theater on the main drag in Marfa

Marfa City Hall

Back roads of Marfa

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

Prada Store

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.

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10 Responses to Ten Days In Texas

  1. Jen Ottinger April 7, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    You find the coolest stuff! Keep on truckin!

    • halcyonhighway April 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      Jenny Sue !!! So glad you are still reading. I swear I was thinking about you tonight. The woman at the hotel when I checked in to the hotel in this little mountain town said ” Be careful when you drive we have a lot of erk” 🙂

  2. Jack Pruitt April 8, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Hey Marc… these are super pictures. I love your commentary. You have wonderful energy.

    Jack

    • halcyonhighway April 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      Thanks Jack it was very fun hanging with you in Tucson

  3. Mare April 15, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    Fantastic!!!!! Funny, the nick name I gave my next door dorm-neighbor in college was “Babe” because she reminded me of Babe Didrikson….it stuck.

    Incredible sites….thanks for sharing!!!!! Great info!

    • halcyonhighway April 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

      Thanks Mare, I’m so glad you’re still along for the ride. Hope you are well!!

  4. Molly April 16, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Great Stuff! So glad to meet up with you, looking forward to following your adventures…

    • halcyonhighway April 28, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

      Hey Molly it was awesome meeting you and hiking in Big Bend together! Safe travels

  5. Barbara Britton May 1, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Great blog Marc! We will keep reading your wonderful posts and enjoying this ultimate road trip. It was nice spending time with you on our Tucson to Mexico bike trip!
    Barbara

    • halcyonhighway May 1, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      Thanks Barbara it was really nice meeting you as well!

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