Saturday, April 26, 2014

From Big Bend to Marfa to El Paso

Weather forecasters are predicting wind gusts of up to 60 mph for this afternoon, so we're going to hang tight where we are.  And where we are is El Paso, Texas.

As for the last couple of days: We left Texas’s Big Bend National Park on Wednesday and drove northeast to Marfa, Texas.  Marfa is windblown west Texas meets hippie art community meets upscale tourist. 

Founded when the railroad came through back in the 1880s, Marfa gained a bit of fame when the film “Giant" (starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, et al) was filmed there in 1955. More recently, parts of "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men" were filmed in Marfa.  

In the 1970s, artists started moving in. Tourists followed. For a town of about 2,000 people, it’s got to have more restaurants per capita -- including some upscale ones -- than most  "in-the-middle-of nowhere"  towns. It also has its own National Public Radio station.

As we are now on our way back to home base in SLC and also needed to do some shopping, we drove next to El Paso, where we spent a week late last month.  We met a family in Big Bend from El Paso who recommended a couple of places to eat. One was the cocina (kitchen) at Ranch Market, a Mexican supermarket.  Great idea.  

Ranch Market is big, clean, colorful, and full of baked goods and veggies I’ve never heard of. I bought Mexican squash, Jim took a walk on his ethnic wild side and bought Doritos, and we picked up some great take out.
Our last night at Big Bend National Park we were treated to a javelina crossing.  Javalinas look like pigs but are actually more closely related to bears.  We saw our first javelina in the wild on the drive to Big Bend; it was standing in the middle of the road. Jim had to slow down and honk to get it to move.  We later read that javelinas have a keen sense of smell but very poor eyesight.  Guess our rig has no particular scent.
The  Tumble In RV Park in Marfa, Texas, where we spent one night.  Our rig and tow car (with kayaks) is on the left.  We'd read several on-line Tumble In reviews that started "It didn't look like much when I drove up..." and that certainly was the case.  But it was clean, kind of charming, and in this photo it appears that only retro-looking RVs may apply.
Marfa has a lot of windblown buildings -- some funky looking, others sad looking -- but it also has beautiful buildings like the Presidio County Courthouse, built in 1886. 
Jim at Marfa's El Paisano Hotel, where we had dinner.  El Paisano was the headquarters for the cast and crew of the film "Giant," filmed there in 1955.  Several rooms are named for major cast members.  Per the hotel web site, the James Dean Room is the most popular and features " queen-sized bed and a European style bath (shower only). This room also has a set of French doors opening onto a window balcony facing the Marfa County Courthouse." While I wasn't a big fan of the hotel's food (I had their "Giant" burger and a margarita), Jim's fish tacos were good and it was fun to visit one of the town's landmarks. 
El Paisano's walls meet the steps meet the floor. The upper part of the walls are a plain, creamy stucco -- so it's not as vertigo-producing as it appears.
On our way to El Paso we got this close-up view of a Border Patrol blimp at the side of US 90. We usually see them  high in the sky and in the distance. Officially called "aerostats," their cameras and sensors can detect people as far away as two miles. 
Pro's Ranch Market, is an "upscale Hispanic shopping adventure," per their web site.  We agree.