River Scenic Road and driving to Alpine

Trip Start Feb 09, 2013
Trip End Jun 30, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Monday, March 25, 2013

.Monday, March 25 - We left Big Bend National Park after almost hitting a coyote at the campground and headed west on 170.  Drove through the following:  Terlingua, Lajitas, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Redford, Presidio, Marfa and then Alpine where we stayed the night.  Along the way we stopped at the Contraband Movie Set Site,  Fort Leaton State Historic Site, saw Judd's art work from the road and then stopped at the famous Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Area.  

   The road we drove went along the Scenic River Road from Lajitas to Presidio (one famous author said this was the most beautiful village in the nation).  This road is definitely scenic with cliffs, the Rio Grande (dry in most areas), 16% grade hills, loose stock and I mean loose we passed a number of horses right on the road, one cow who almost ran into us.  Signs are posted telling you that they are loose.  I still say that the Blue Ridge Parkway is right up there with this drive but this scenery is totally different from anything in the world.

  Contraband Movie Site Set was built in 1985 and it is along the side of the road with one church, one house, a store, saloon etc.  George said they make this seem so big in the movies but the lot is only on about a quarter of an acre.  Some of the movies filmed here were Rio Diablo, Gambler, Streets of Laredo, Dead Man’s walk, The Journeyman and Uphill All The Way.

  Fort Leaton’s which is a reconstructed fortification that served as a trading post on the old Chihuahua Trail from 1848 to 1884.  It was later occupied until the 1920s.  Murder was involved in the fort changing hands during its history.  We think while we were in the fort two men drove up and were trying to break into our RV because our side door was shaking as we left which meant they tried the door but couldn’t open it with the dead bolt on.

  Terlingua – There is a ghost town here.  Cinnnabar was discovered here which metal mercury was extracted in the mid 1880. So the mines are now boarded up and that is where the ghost town is.  Most of this town looks Mexican with a lot of mobile and adobe homes yet it has three RV Parks.  What they do have in this town is cheaper gas than in the National Park.

  Lajitas – This used to be an Army post and a border crossing.  The town was bought in 2008 and now it is a resort with river running, golf, tennis, horseback riding, fitness facility, star gazing and cute shops in the Adobe style.  The Barton Warnock Visitor Center is located here which showcases the Chihuahuan Desert.  If you have a Texas State Park Pass you can get in free here, the fort and the state park.

 Redford- This town looks like it is dead.  School is closed and most of the houses are boarded up.  It was like driving in Mexico.

Big Bend Ranch State Park – this is the largest state park in Texas and it ran along our north side as we drove the 68 miles on the scenic route.  311,000 acres with a ranch for overnight and some primitive camping areas only allowed with a permit.  We saw a sign that said Visitor Center 27 miles in on a dirt road.  Needless to say we did not drive in.

Presidio - This was a Spanish settlement and it still is.  It is in the mountain area of Texas with a major border crossing.  There used to be a lot of water here with the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos Rivers meeting here but with all the dams this is another spot that is dry.  Yet, as you drive along you see areas that get flooded up to five feet all along this section of Texas.  Tourists like to visit the sister city across the border, Ojinaga which is isolated from the rest of Mexico.  Driving by the high school there was a sign up  PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR KIDS COME TO SCHOOL (sad,sad,sad)!  Taking route 67 north for almost 70 miles to Marfa you drive through the foothills of the Chinati Mountains.  Speed limit 70 – Karen driving 60 with all the hills, curves, and ups and downs!

Marfa – This town is different but it has a main street, historic hotel, homes and a lot of mobile homes but surrounded by working cattle ranches.  A number of New Yorkers and Californians have settled here and bringing with it restaurants and art collections to rival New York.  Many have moved in and bought up old Adobe homes and have revamped them.  There are a lot of Art Galleries  mainly because of Donald Judd a renowned minimalist artist moving his studio here and founding the Chinati Foundation located on the old military base just south of town.  We could see some of his structures outside but they are not open on Monday or Tuesdays.  There are eleven buildings here displaying work by a lot of artists. 

   This town also has a number of border crossing agents living here and then they travel 67 miles down to Persido and Big Bend to work.  We were stopped again for a border check coming into Marfa and the dog sniffing jumped up – they asked if we had another dog.  George thinks it was the food in the RV.

   Marfa used to be best known for being the site of the film for James Dean’s final picture GIANT starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and Dennis Hopper.  The restored hotel, Hotel Paisano served as the center of activity for making the movie.  There is a roaring fireplace in the lobby.

   Marfa was also known for the famous mystery lights the Lights of Marfa.  These are ghost lights and the viewing area for it is eight miles east of town which we stopped at.  Cowboys , farmers, and many others saw mystery lights that glowed on clear nights, split away and then came together again.  We saw some of the pictures of these lights and they are interesting.  No one can explain where these lights come from – it was thought they were UFO’s for a long time, some think it is from the mercury in the mountains reflecting the lights, and others from the cars on highway 67 heading into Marfa.  Who knows?

Alpine -  This town is a resort town and the gateway for Fort Davis where we are headed tomorrow.  There is a State University here which houses the Museum of Big Bend.  The Big Bend Theater Group also puts on plays here.  It has the feeling of a college town and is more alive than some of the run down towns we have seen today.  The area is cooler than the Gulf area and tourists come to golf, mountain climb, camping, and great viewing.  It is also known for the Woodward Agate Ranch and its famous Texas agates in all colors.

   There are still many other towns to visit in this area like Fort Stockton, Odessa and Midland but we can’t visit it all.  We will stay in Fort Davis for two nights and visit the McDonald Observatory and the Historic Fort then drive up to the mountains and head into New Mexico.

  Today when we started driving it was 37 degrees then it was 55 and now in Alpine it is around 50.  Considering that the temperature was over 90 the day before, George just cannot adjust to these temperature changes.

Monday, March 25 – Lost Alaskan RV Park, Alpine, TX    This park north of Alpine but close to everything has about  93 sites with full hookups and some tent sites.  The campground has a pool, playground,  laundry, recreation room, gift shop, and bath house.   Check in was quick, informative and they drive you to your site.  Free Wi-fi/cable and the internet  was very good.  A number of restaurants are near by and it is close to Fort Davis and the Museum of Big Bend at the local University.  Nice stay.  Cost with Good Sam was  $30 for a night.
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