Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Law West of the Pecos

We pulled out of Marathon and started heading for the valley this morning, after about 2 hours we hit the town of Langtry, just a little bump on the side of the road now but back in the day it was known for being “Law West of the Pecos”. The state has a beautiful visitors center there and a museum dedicated to Judge Roy Bean. Right behind the center is the original Jersey Lilly on the original site, it's been restored to just as it was when the Judge was holding court and administering justice. The Judge like to combine work with business, so many times when found guilty the fine was to buy a round of drinks for the house and jury, since he owned the house the money went right into his own pockets. There are a thousand stories about the Judge, I'll include a few that you can click on and read.

The Original Jersey Lilley

History of Judge Roy Bean

A couple of Judge Bean Stories

More stories
Click and read Occupation

I got to belly up to the bar

Crossing the Pecos

White head Museum
We found out that the Judge was buried in Del Rio and since we're spending two nights there we figured we better pay our respects. His grave has been moved and is now at the Whitehead Museum, this was done to prevent further vandalism to the stone, by moving the grave here the museum had to become a certified cemetery with the state. We just planned on seeing the grave and being on our way but ended up spending close to two hours here, what looked like a small museum on the out side turned into 21 different buildings to explore. They had a very good history of the Del Rio area and a lot of original items to see. The building itself is historic, built in 1871 before Del Rio existed it was the largest general store between San Antonio and El Paso and has served has a courthouse, church, lodge, post office and now a museum.

What we came to see

Nativity scene in one of the bldgs,
over 2000 pieces

Click to see that this made from the tails of over
200 rattlesnakes

about the star

He was flexing his feathers to impress a female

They had a small Aviary and this was the king 

Del Rio of the home of Border Radio, Wolfman Jack got his start here.

Up to 100,000 watts pointed towards the USA.

And finally for the RVer who has everything and a rival for the Christmas Story Leg Lamp, how about a nice Armadillo Lamp Shade.  


Monday, November 29, 2010

West Texas and Big Bend

We spent our Thanksgiving in Fort Stockton, and I'll never make that mistake again, not the part about the holiday just spending anytime in Fort Stockton. We picked it because it looked like a decent size town and we wanted off the road for the holiday so we booked 5 nights, there is nothing in this town, they do have a Walmart but it is the smallest, oldest one I've ever seen and it had nothing. There were two grocery store, both owned by the same person so prices were right through the roof, we figured that we would spend a day visiting the Fort but that only took about 45 minutes and of course the Wi-Fi was down and they couldn't get it fixed until after the holiday.

Oh well on to Marathon, after setting up we drove into town and found a nice little garden park and the old city cemetery with real cowboy style graves.

Small Park in Marathon

Pond at the park

Water Tower

These Ruins hide the electrical system

West Texas style graves

It was still early so we drove over to Alpine to see if we could find a place for a late lunch, it was a good size town and had just about anything you would want. We found these two murals downtown and then down the block the Three Amigos.

Look for Hoss

The bottom is all the different Cattle Brands for the area

The Three Amigos

A new sunny day and we came her to tour the Big Bend National Park so we're off, it's just a 60 mile drive south to the gate of the park, our first stop was at the visitors center and that was a big waste of time. They didn't really care if you were there or not, so we took of looking for the Hot Springs, about thirty miles SW and we found the dirt road that lead us back to the old Hot Springs. These were started as a resort and the hot springs had healing powers, I can't imagine what the roads where like 
Hot Springs
Trail to the Hot Springs

back in the 30's and 40's but the place is reported to have stayed busy. After a pretty wild drive back the dirt road we came to the trail head, it was just a short easy walk back to where the resort was,(still there just a ruins now) there was a store and about a seven room motel. The trail back to the springs follows a cliff which had some Petroglyphs, I would thought that they were graffiti if they didn't have the sign there. When we reached the Hot Springs there were a couple of girls there enjoying the hot water (105 degrees). The old foundation of the bath house is the only thing that keeps the springs from becoming part of the Rio Grand River as you will see in the pictures.

Damaged Petroglyphs


Resort Store

The girls had told us about a ghost town outside the West Gate of the park so we started heading that way. The Ghost town is named Ghost Town, Texas it was an old mining town but when the mine closed up every one just up and left. There are ruins of old homes scattered all over the hillsides and it looks like people are reclaiming them and making them livable again, don't know if they are squatting or if they are buying the lots. We took a few pictures them stopped at the old town cemetery, I can't describe this cemetery so I'll just post a few pictures, we've never run across anything like this before.

Strange Cemetry

Some of the Ruins and Homes

And then we found this

Then it was just a long drive home, driving into the north gate it was just flat dessert for about 60 miles, we did see a few mule deer and a road runner but other then that nothing but horizon. The ride home up Texas Hwy 118 was through and around the mountains, it was a fantastic drive with a different view around every turn.

I could post another 50 pictures but I think you get the idea, there's a lot to do around here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fort Davis and McDonald Observatory

A long drive for us, we moved from Lubbock to Balmorhea Texas, about 260 miles which is about a hundred miles more then we normally do.

We're camped at the Saddle Back Mt RV Park which is a nice park with long level sites and good hookups, nothing else here and it is located in just about the middle of no where, really, I'll explain that later.

Today we drove over to Fort Davis National Park, about a 40 minute drive through the Mountains which were beautiful. Fort Davis located in the town of the same name, (named after Jeff Davis who at the time was the Secretary of War). Today it is one of the best examples of a frontier military fort, may of the 50 original buildings have been restored and the foundations of the others are highly visible

From 1854 to 1891 it served the people of West Texas by protecting them from the Comanche and Apache Indians, keeping the travelers heading to California for the gold Rush safe on the San Antonio – El Paso Road which passed right in front of the fort. Buffalo Soldiers from the Ninth & Tenth Cavalry’s and the 41st, 24th and 25th infantry served at the fort. Lt Henry O Flipper, the first black to graduate from West Point was stationed here. In 1891 after the soldiers had brought all the Indians into the reservations it was decided that the fort was no longer needed and it was abandoned.

We started out seeing the 15 minute video about the history of the fort then spent about an hour and a half walking around the buildings, after seeing the Commanders house and some of the restored Officers house's we can understand why nobody wanted to leave this place. Their quarters were huge and first class all the way, we would love to have one to live in. Also this is probably the prettiest setting for a fort we've ever seen.

Waiting to be restored.

Enlisted mans quarters.

Covered Wagon on the San Antonio-El Paso Road.

10th Calvary.

Officers Row and the Parade Grounds

After all this we drove over to the McDonald Observatory, normally we wouldn't have gone out of our way to stop here but one of my brothers worked here for NASA during the mid 70's so we thought that we would take a look at it, sure glad we did. It's about 18 miles from Fort Davis and when you get there you finish up your drive on Spur Hwy 72 which is the highest paved road in Texas, around 6800 feet above sea level. When we got there we found out that they had a tour starting in about 30 minutes so we signed up for that ($8 a head) . The tour starts with a 20 minute film explaining how the observatory came to be, remember I said that we were in the middle of no where, well they confirmed it for me by explaining that they did a study to find a location for the telescopes and the top of this mountain is considered the “Darkest Spot in the USA” because of it's height and the fact that is located in the middle of the desert (the middle of no where). They have clear skies for viewing the stars about 90% of the time, which is important when you have scientist coming from around the world to use the facilities, they have very little down time. OK, after the film our tour guide came in and we were able to observe the sun through one of the smaller scopes, which is wired up so that we could watch it on the big screen. We were able to see different sun spots and solar flares and then he explained how they happen and how they effect the earth along with a lot of other stuff.

108 inch scope

 From there we boarded the tour bus and he took us to the 108 inch scope, which when it was built it was the third largest in the world. We went up to the fifth floor where the telescope is located and he demonstrated how the scope can turn any direction and how the entire top of the building rotates so they can point it anywhere they want. It was pretty cool seeing the building rotating around and the monster telescope turning. Another 15 to 20 minute talk here on how everything works then it was back to the bus for a drive over to the newest scope.
The Highlighted area in the center is the Mirror
 This scope is now the fifth largest in the world and is a spectrograph scope or something like that, he explained it but lost me half way through. I did pick up that this scope can rotate 360 degrees but is locked at 30 degrees, it is able to view 80% of the sky because of the rotation of the earth, it might take a number of days but eventually it cover the entire sky. One reason for this type of scope is that it only coast 13 million to build, if it was the same type as the 108 inch scope which can point where ever you want when ever you want, it would have cost 100 million.

Nope, Not Epcot
This facility is owned and operated by the University of Texas Austin, but they work in conjunction with many other universities all around the world, they are currently working with a large group that is building a new scope in Chile which will be something like 8 to 10 times bigger then this one, and when it's completed it will be able to see farther into space then the Hubble Space Scope.

This is the project my brother worked on.
The tour guide was excellent he keep the interest of everyone there including a couple of 10 -12 year old kids, who asked some pretty good questions, the tour ended a little over three hours later with us being dropped of back at the visitors center. So if you ever find yourself in the middle of no where, look for the signs that say McDonald Observatory.