Saturday, April 2, 2016

2016-5 Marfa Texas to Del Rio Texas


new feature, basic camping fees as a full-timer

Roaming through southern Texas

Van Horn Texas



Del Rio

Campground:  Southern Star Rv Park.  Van Horn.  PPA rate:  $15.00  Full hookup including cable TV.  Some trees and concrete patio pads.

Campground:  Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing area.  Dry camping.  Free.  Restrooms available.  Texas permits overnighting in their rest stops.

at Marfa Texas, mystery lights

Campground:  Langtry Texas community center.  Dry camping, $2 donation.

Campground:  Holiday Travel-L Rv park, Del Ray Tx.  Full hookups, w/cable Tv 70+ channels.  Weak Verizon signal.  Nice pull-thru sites w/grass, some trees.  Swimming pool/laundry/club house.

Distance Traveled:  129 miles

I headed out of El Paso early in the morning and was able to experience there normally very congested I-10 traffic.  Actually I find it easier to merge into traffic when it’s going very slowly, like 5 or 10 mph.  After getting through downtown, the traffic eased up going east and all was good.  The local radio station had an article indicating that El Paso was recently rated one of the most congested cities in the U.S.  Not sure how accurate that is.  From personal experience, anytime I’m in city traffic during rush hour it’s always congested.  My first stop was about 30 miles down the road as I wanted to stop at a Blue Beacon Truck Wash and have the truck and camper washed and detailed.  They did a great job and it cost $69.50 for the full service.

Then it was onto Van Horn, just a one night stay ahead of the winds that I’ve been able to run ahead of for the past week or so.  Local news back in El Paso showed a near brown out with the winds and dust.  Glad I got out when I did.

Jack, who shared the story about the mystery lights of Marfa

RV’er tip:  Always try to drive in the mornings and get to your destination by noon to avoid the winds that often pick up out west from noon on through the late afternoon and evening.

Distance Traveled:  74 miles
Marfa Texas

Before heading out of Van Horn, I stopped in Margie’s Bakery for a biscuit breakfast sandwich.  While having my coffee Jack stopped by and started a great conversation about the local area.  He grew up in the area including Marfa Texas and we got to talking about the mystery lights just outside of town, since that’s where I’d be camping for a couple of day.  Now there has been much speculation as to the source of the lights which often appear as colored lights that separate into three or four smaller orbs, dancing around or moving around the area at will.  They have been observed since 1883

Jack has seen them since his youth and tells the story of coming back on a college break and bringing a friend with him.  They got dates and drove out to the sight to see the lights for themselves.  His college friend being very skeptical that they would see anything.  They drove off the highway and went south on the dirt road that was once a part of an Air force base.  Upon parking and turning their headlights off, they eventually saw an orb of light that began to move to the left of where they were parked and eventually separated into three or four smaller lights.  Again, in front of them, a second orb formed and started to move around to the right and behind them.  It also separated into about three individual lights, glowing and dancing around.  His college friend said he didn’t know how it was possible but that it must be the most elaborate hoax anyone could play on them.  Either that or it was sure some creepy phenomenon and he thought it best they leave.
mystery lights

Jack then tells of a local legend that attributes the lights to this occurrence.  An all black Army troop of soldiers called the Buffalo soldiers from Fort Davis were sent to the Marfa area to route out a tribe of Indians.  When they got there, there were only the women and children as the men were out hunting.  It has been told that the Buffalo soldiers proceeded to kill all the women and children and left the area.  When the Indian hunters returned at night, they started to look for the women and children using torches into the night searching for their loved ones.  Lights have occurred ever since in the area.  Was it just a legend?  You won’t find it in the visitor centers pamphlet.  Theirs refers to swamp gas,,,, in a desert?  As well as other common everyday theories.

waiting for darkness to see the mystery lights

Later that evening.  The sun finally set around 8:30 central time.  The sky turned from red along the horizon gradually getting darker and finally fading to night.  Folks were gathering on the viewing platform looking off to the southwest trying to identify a red beacon from a radio tower.  That was our clue to look in the area to the left, right and along the mountain range behind it.  Within a short time of the sun setting and total blackness engulfed us, flickering lights began to appear.  One, then two, now three and four.  Disappearing, some coming back or new ones showing up higher up on the mountain range.  What a sight, to think they have been occurring for over 100 years.  I can now say I’ve seen the Marfa mystery lights in person.

Jack had also mentioned that there were at least three Government sponsored efforts to find the source of the lights.  The last one being the U.S. government sending a scientist to do research on the sightings at a cost of 3 million dollars.  Neither the most recent scientist nor the previous efforts have come up with a plausible solution to the reoccurring night lights.

I’ve also come to this area to visit the town of Marfa as it is a most unusual place.  Out in the middle of nowhere, an artist community has been formed and as Jack mentioned the younger population is moving out and the current community, many of the same sex variety are not having kids to replace them.  I’ll explore some of the art in the area as well as a neat Rv park called El Cosmico.  It’s filled with a dozen or more vintage trailers all available as rental cottages.  There’s also safari tents, yurts, and even some Teepees.  Oh and lots of hammocks to lounging the day away in.

El Cosmico

Donald Clarence Judd purchased lots of land around Marfa, 45,000 acres, and much of an abandoned Army base for his minimal art sculptures and to promote other artists as well in the area.  It is now run under the Chinati Foundation and they charge $25 to tour the facilities including the studios of approx. 20 resident artists.  I’m too cheap to see artists that make rectilinear concrete slabs and call it art.  There are currently 16 art galleries in town, but get a map and directions from the Visitors center as many are not well marked from the outside and most have varying hours of operation.

However, one of the galleries that I visited, called the Ballroom is also the organization that built the Prada store front stand alone exhibit on hwy 90.  Their current exhibits in the gallery setting is called “After Effect“.  The description the art installation is as follows:  “… features immersive artworks in painting, sculpture, installation and film that range from the cosmic and psychedelic to the sensual and visionary”.  Needless to say, the description was more exciting than the abstract painting, sculpture and film… though I will admit I enjoyed the psychedelic film from the 30’s and 40s.  A colorful montage of rectangles, circles and geometric forms in a cartoon style colored kaleidoscope.  Viewed on a large wall to wall screen, the rest of the room completely dark helped to immerse one in the visual movement and moment.

a unique art installation in the middle of nowhere Texas

My other stop in the area brought me to Fort Davis, a small unincorporated village home to about 700 residences and the NP Fort Davis.  The fort has much history having been built to protect the travelers along the San Antonio - El Paso road and settlers moving into the area.  The Comanche and  Apache Indians, both of whom were aggressive fighters and wanting to remain independent and free from the incursion of the white man were not going to go away easily.  Interesting to note that Fort Davis was one of the rare Army battalions called the Buffalo Soldier, that was mostly all Black Americans freed after the Civil War.  The fort is built in a beautiful box canyon and many of the restored building are original to the 1867 era, having been under both confederate and Union control at one time or another.

Fort Davis

Buffalo Soldiers

Prong Horn

I stopped in a local store that also had some great coffee and sandwiches.  After getting my coffee I sat down with a couple locals and learned more about the area.  It’s a peaceful small town where kids can go out and play and not worry at all.  Home are left unlocked and the last time a house was broken into, no one can remember.  The towns mayor and judge are county elected and receive only a few dollars to serve those positions.  It appears to me to be a great location for an extended stay. Higher elevation means cooler temps than elsewhere.

Distance Traveled:  219 miles

Del Rio Texas

April 1st is sure turning out to be a real April Fools day for me this year.  For starters, A rain storm has
moved in this morning, not a huge problem as I can take my time getting ready to head out.  I’m planning on traveling only about 160 miles today so it’s not as if I’ll be getting to a campsite late.  By 9:30 the rain had moved on and I was able to pack up, hook up the camper and head out.  Of course I would be heading towards the rain that had left the area, but it would be a relatively light rain on a very quiet country road with little traffic to contend with.

I’m crossing the desolate prairie landscape of southern Texas following a route (hwy 90) that keeps me fairly close to the Mexican border.   Sheep and goats are the main animals on the ranches in this area.  My destination is Langtry Texas home to the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center.  Judge Bean is known as the most colorful justice of the peace and he labeled it “The Law West of Pecos”.  He named the town after the English actress Lilly Langtry in the hopes that she would one day come to the town named after her.  Years later, she came by train to the town for a visit.  Unfortunately, Judge Bean had died a month earlier.

Roy Bean's Bar and courtroom

Lilly Langtry

a wonderful garden at the visitor center

not much else remains in the town

So, getting back to my April fool’s day adventure.  I drop of my camper at their community center for some almost free camping… a fee of $2 is requested for overnight camping.  I go to turn on the inverter for a/c electric and the inverter has an “internal error code” and won’t start.  Darn.  Well, let me call the Inverter company and get a service technician on the line.  Not gonna happen.  April fool’s two, I have no cell service.  That hasn’t happened in ages.  So I’ll have to wait until I get back on the road tomorrow and reach my next destination.  April Fool’s number three.  Since I have some time and I’m pretty sure my laptop in all charged up, I think I’ll do a little writing for my Blog.  Not gonna happen.  The laptop will not turn on.  Yuck.  Even removed the battery and re-plugged it in to see if that would help.  No it didn’t.  So, with the inverter, cell phone and my main laptop not working, it’s going to be a quiet evening twiddling my thumbs.   Sure hope tomorrow brings some solutions to each of the problems indicated.

I might also mention the “town” of Langtry has nothing except the Texas visitor center at the historical Judge Bean site and across the street is the post office.  That’s it.  A few lived in homes and a number of adobe homes that are now vacant and falling down.   If it wasn’t for Judge Bean’s story, there would be no need for anyone to stop here.  Did I mention the visitor center is about four times the size of the historic buildings being preserved at this site.

I’m heading to Del Rio and send this report out from there.  I'll report on Del Rio next week.

more photos on my PICASA photos

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