Archive for the “Dream” Category

We no longer feel quite like newly arrived martians here at Landa RV Park in New Braunfels, but we sure miss the solitude and crazy scenes around the Big Bend. Until next time . . .

Marfa: Naval Tethered Aerostat Radar

Terlingua: It can happen to you too.

Mas Terlingua!


Texas mountain biking trails: Not for sissies.

Lajitas: Trailer park living at it’s finest

Black Gap dust storm

I recon we’ll be back next winter. We’re hooked.

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Ever since our Big Bend finale dinner at the Gage Hotel, it’s been one shitstorm after another.

Some of these costly irritations and guffaws are because of our own stupidity, some are just because it’s the nature of living in a rolling home. And of course, it all comes crashing down at tax time, you gotta love the Universe’s sense of humor. Sure, it could be worse, at least we’re not stuffed and mounted to a wall, right?

Tonight, I just want to reflect on the amazing culinary experience we had at the upscale Gage Hotel in Marathon. We’ve been dreaming about it for two years. Last time we were in town, we had zero money to spend on a fancy pants night out, so we ate nachos in the bar and watched diners chow down on the patio. We felt like two puppydogs in the window, it was pathetic.

However this year when we knew we were returning, we set aside $150 in our dining out budget so we could eat there. The last time we spent so much on a dinner was about two years ago! Yeah, I’m that cheap. We eat out at a variety of inexpensive places throughout the month, but we never spend that much all at once.

As two vegetarians, there wasn’t much for us on the amazing carnivore menu, but the dinner salads and sides sure had a lot to offer so we ordered THREE: a Tex-Mex shrimp cocktail, a beet and goat cheese salad and a seared scallop salad. They were AWESOME.

Of course our lean choices left plenty of room for dessert; a warm chocolate molten cake and homemade flan.

The Gage is such an obscure little hotel, it’s the kind of first-class oasis you’d never expect to find in the middle of nowhere. Our experience there was a dinner for the history books and well worth the splurge.

I’m so glad we went, because there’s no way I would have been OK with this frivolity had I known about the events that were going to transpire as soon as we arrived in the Hill Country.  Now when I feel a panic attack coming on, I’ll do my best to breathe deeply and think back to that one delicious night at the Gage Hotel.

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A few weeks ago Jim and I crossed the Rio Grande for a one-day Mexican holiday in Boquillas del Carmen.

After twelve long, lonely years of being closed off from tourists in Big Bend National Park, this rustic Mexican community is celebrating the return of adventurous park tourists willing to walk or boat across and explore this old world village.

Boquillas is a former mining town that quickly became a popular destination for U.S. and international park visitors when Big Bend National Park opened in the 1940s. Made famous in the song Gringo Honeymoon by Texas singer songwriter Robert Earl Keen, for many decades thousands of park tourists made passport-less jaunts by boat, foot and mule in order to eat, drink and party in a village untouched by time.


“Tied our donkeys to an ironwood tree
By the street where children played
We walked in the first place we could see
Servin’ cold beer in the shade
We were drinkin’ like the end was not in sight
And we drank all afternoon
We asked the world to wait so we could celebrate
A gringo honeymoon.”

Sadly, post 9/11 border security regulations quickly put a stop to Boquillas’ informal river crossings. The move nearly decimated the town’s population, but over a decade later in April 2013, remaining villagers, Big Bend locals and park authorities were elated when U.S. border officials re-opened the crossing – albeit with a $3.7 million checkpoint station and official passport rules regulating visitor requirements.

Today’s visitors will find that while much has changed on the other side, Boquillas continues to hold a special charm. Newcomers are still greeted on the river by Victor, the town’s unofficial director of tourism who belts out popular Mexican songs for tips and welcomes everyone with a giant smile.

Packs of burros stand ready for visitors too wilted to make the 20 minute trek to town on foot but pickup trucks also offer transportation.

Walking through Boquillas is like a visit to an early 20th century Mexican village. Unpaved streets lead to little more than the two restaurants and bar, a few dozen hand-built adobe houses, two plain churches and a school.

This off-grid community is pleasantly different from all other border crossings in that visitors aren’t assaulted with the usual traffic, grime and crowds found elsewhere in Mexican borderlands.

Since there are no grocery stores, liquor outlets or pharmacies, you won’t have the opportunity to do much shopping or get dental work done, but your American dollars can go to better use by purchasing handmade crafts made by locals of every age.

When you’re ready for a break, head to the famous Park Bar that greets thirsty travelers with icy cold beer.

You can satiate your appetite right across the street at the decades old Falcon Restaurante and souvenir shop that serves up $3 plates of mini tacos and burritos, or you can walk across the street to a new competing eatery.

Touring Boquillas only takes a couple hours and you can make the most of it with guided trips led by residents anxious to practice their English and show off their community. Guides greet you when you arrive on shore and work strictly for tips. Although your participation is optional, doing so adds a personal touch to your adventure, provides for your safety and positively impacts Boquillas’ economy.

Boquillas is accessed by traveling to the east side of Big Bend National Park, near the Rio Grande Village campground. The crossing station is Wednesday through Sunday between 9 am and 6 pm and official passports are required. You can cross over on foot or by paying $5 for a round-trip row boat ride, and transportation into town for non-walkers costs anywhere from $5 to $8. For more information visit the Big Bend National Park website.

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This morning on my daily run, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the irony of willingly heading toward the Rio Grande. After all, just two generations ago, my Mexican-born grandparents were desperately getting away from it.

Ayi yai yai! Here I am today, with my gringo husband who speaks better Spanish than I do, parking our traveling home in one of the last vestiges of real isolation and ear-splitting silence in America, the Big Bend.

We’ve been bouncing along the Rio Grand between Lajitas and Black Gap since mid-February, but it feels like we just arrived. No matter where you look, the timelessness of every panorama just drives home the fact that we’re all just insignificant specs of cosmic dust. Time moves slowly here, if at all.

To the casual eye it appears that Jim and I do a whole lotta nothing, but we’re working hard on some big projects including Jim’s upcoming speaking engagement at Blog Paws. But for once, we’re not all about work (at least until summer when we return to Vicker’s Ranch).

We took a day trip to Mexico at the re-opened Boquillas Crossing in Big Bend National Park (more on that soon):

Then one of our dearest, oldest friends from Humboldt County drove a couple hundred miles out of his way to stop by. It’s always a blast when our current life intersects with our so very different old one.

After boondocking for nearly a month straight, we lived a life of luxury and paid for a week of full hookups at Maverick Ranch RV Park. Normally a “golf resort” park isn’t the kind of place where you’ll find trailerin’ folk like us, but our friends the Whitfords are playing a regular gig to the Prevost-driving gringos.

We haven’t seen Eldon and Ann since our last trip to Stillwell, and we’re so glad we caught up with these two! If you’re in the area, do not miss their hillbilly hour music show.

After Lajitas, we popped into Alpine to re-stock our provisions, but that was just an excuse to see a mind blowing show by the Texas Americana music legend, Ray Wiley Hubbard.

A cross between a derelict and a genius, a prophet and a pervert, Ray and his bluesy licks (with just one drummer accompanying him the entire time) kept the crowd dancing, grinding and singing for more than two hours. Not bad for a 68-year old stone cold sober outlaw resurrected from the ravages of addiction.

When it comes to the best winter snowbird destinations it don’t get no better than this.

Next week we’ll be heading over to New Braunfels for a month-long stay at our old love/hate destination along the Comal River, Landa RV Park. Until then, we’ll soak up as much quiet time and isolation as we can before jumping headfirst into the crazy Hill Country scene.

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On the first leg of our snowbird waltz across West Texas Highway 90, we made a pit stop at the Prada Store in Valentine.

After last year’s controversy about the Prada Store artwork versus the Playboy Hot Rod billboard and the legality of roadside advertising / art, we wanted to see if this landmark was still standing.

The good news: it’s still there. The bad news: it’s showings signs of age and it may not be here next time we come through.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT)’s order to remove the structure is still being considered. For now, we’re glad that government moves at a snail’s pace. Art still rules.

Later than night we made our usual pass through Marfa (a town that thinks a little too much of itself in my book) and directly on to the Marfa Lights Viewing Station, where we boondocked for the night, hoping to catch another glimpse of the glowing orbs.

When dusk fell and low clouds appeared, along with dozens of sky watchers, we had a feeling the lights wouldn’t show up, and they didn’t. One guy who’s been there seven times said he’s only seen them two times in seven, so we weren’t too surprised by their absence.

That’s OK though. The best part about this roaming lifestyle? There’s always next time.

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