Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On to Big Bend and Severe Weather Beyond…

We left Hondo in the dust and rode for Del Rio, a three hour jaunt, where we had lunch at a great little side-road Mexican restaurant called Chinto’s. We noticed a lot of Mexicans hanging about, a good sign. Janice had Barbacao, a beef cheek taco with cilantro and red onion. She kept humming as she was eating - a dead giveaway that she’s loving it. I had a Guisado, a beefy stew in a taco - good, but not humming material.

Del Rio is right on the Texas side of the Mexican border, on Amistad Lake, which means ‘friendship’ in Spanish. Good thing because the lake is enormous and shares a lot of water with America.

We found our way to the Trav L Park RV resort, a couple of miles north of town, set up, and then went back to town to give it a better look. Later, we walked around the park - I was at a loss on a Sunday with no football. Janice wrote a nice poem for our friend, Charlie, who’s in her final days.

On Monday morning we took Highway 90, west, towards Big Ben National Park. By about 2:00 we arrived at the small town of Marathon, about 70 miles from the park. The Marathon Motel and RV Park turned out to be a very nice surprise.

Pictured is the park we stayed at in Marathon. The courtyard with the fireplace and the cool furniture was perfect for sitting around at night, with the fire going. The park even provided the firewood.

Also pictured are a couple of shots from the park.

We walked around Marathon, another pleasant surprise, which hosts the historic Gage Hotel, the James Evans Gallery, (kind of like the Ansel Adams of Big Bend) and a few other cool little shops and restaurants. We liked it enough that we decided to stay another day and take a day trip to the park from here, instead of staying in the park itself, which has very limited amenities.

We took the seventy-mile drive to the park in the morning. Whoa, if you want to see some beautiful scenery...

Pictured is the approach to The Chisos Mountains, the part of the park that we chose to explore up close. My camera battery calved completely just as I tried to take my first picture in the park, so these pictures and all the rest of the pictures in this blog are from Janice’s Nikon CoolPix.

Parking at the Chisos Basin we took the five-mile Window Hike. It was warm, sunny and dry. The walk was mostly downhill to The Window, which reveals a glorious view to the Chihuahua Desert below. Of course it was all uphill on the way back - really, not bad though.

Pictured are some shots of Big Ben National Park, basically, from the trailhead to the The Window, with Janice and I posing at The Window.

After the hike we drove west to the ghost town Teralingua and then north along Highway 118 to the university town of Alpine. When we got back to Marathon we went for dinner at the historic Gage Hotel, with our new neighbours from Ontario, John and Pat. Janice had Smoked Pheasant Enchiladas and I had Pork Tenderloin with Ancho Chile Glaze. The Gage Hotel is a beautiful piece of preserved history with original furniture and décor, and serves great food.

With January 31st came the conclusion of eight months on the road. We discovered that we’re still within budget, thus the nice dinner out.

After dinner we built a fire and shared some wine with Deborah and John, from Maine.

Pictured is Tim at the fire. It was balmy until about 10:00pm but, very suddenly, a cold wind kicked up and sent the thermometer plummmeting, and us scurrying inside.

We knew that there was a severe cold weather warning for the next few days, so the idea was to drive as far west as we could handle in the morning.

What a difference a day can make. When we hiked to The Window we enjoyed perfect temperatures in the low twenties, Celcius. We woke to freezing temperatures and howling winds. We hooked up as fast as we could and were on the road by 9:00. We bucked very strong head winds and blowing snow on highway 90 but made it to Alpine without incident, where we fueled up, for the first time that day.

We stopped for lunch at a picnic spot just before we reached Interstate 10 and then Janice took over driving for a few hours. In all, we stopped for gas three times during the day, with another stop in El Paso to look for a camera battery - unsuccessfully.

From the Wal-Mart parking lot in El Paso you can look across to the hillsides of Mexico, a quarter of a mile away, where hundreds of ramshackle, run-down, multi-colored but grimy, tiny shacks make up Ciudad Juarez. The Rio Grande, which separates El Paso from Mexico is, at this point, nothing more than a ditch. You may know, last year alone, Ciudad Juarez was the site of more than four thousand violent drug war deaths. It was also the sight where, a number of years ago, the mass murderer/rapist, single-handedly, took hundreds of women's lives. It’s hard to comprehend, when you see it, that nothing but a fence separates this sad part of a third world country from a bustling American city.

Pictured are some of Janice’s shots from the road.

After battling the wind and a lot of scary weather all day, we finally made it to Willcox, Arizona and the Fort Willcox RV Resort, just after 6:00pm. Owner, Barb, has promised us free waffles and coffee in the morning. We're only eighty miles from Tucson but it's supposed to dip to -11 Celcius tonight. It's forecast to start warming after that, we hope...


  1. Keep warm. It is cold in The Loops too but lots of sunshine. Your meals always sound so interesting and tasty. Janice, are you compiling a recipe book? Wonderful entry, hugs, cuz.

  2. Hard to believe that such dry looking country can also get so cold. It has warmed up to 5 C. to day. Rain tomorrow.

    Stay safe.