In the Summer of 2015, Melinda and I began a long-planned downsizing of our life in Portland by selling our house on Langworthy Terrace. It was a great house and home to many good memories. There were Christmas mornings, celebrations for birthdays, proms and graduations, and many nights watching movies in our home theater room. It had a big deck, where we cooked out and hosted neighborhood parties and on occasion Melinda’s book group.
With part of the proceeds from our sale, we bought a townhouse closer to downtown and a motor home. We loved the motor home; it was just the right size for two people and a dog. We had dreams of traveling the West and visiting National Parks and out of the way little towns, where we could shop for rare finds for an antique business that Melinda had started with her mother. We had a few goods trips in the motor home, but not nearly as many as we planned.
The last big trip in the motor home was the epitome of what we hoped to do many times. In March of 2016, we headed east from Tucson, spending our first night in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is an historic little town near the border of Texas. We ate some great Mexican food and explored a Spanish plaza called Old Messila. Like much of the Southwest, there is much history in this area, which was first colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s. The area was popular with famous western characters like Billy the Kid and Pancho Villa. More recently, it was the setting for the Clint Eastwood western Hang ’Em High.
We then made our way through the sprawling metropolis of El Paso. Nothing charming there, just a big dirty city that sits across the border from Juarez, another big dirty city. We originally had planned to go Big Bend National Park, a place we had fond memories of from a trip there nearly twenty years ago. However, West Texas being a land of immense expanses, it was a little far for the time we had.
We went instead to Marfa, Texas, an enigmatic little town that has become a mecca for minimalist art and alternative culture. The town is cool and quirky and artsy, but still alive with history, with a well-preserved town square that screams West Texas middle of nowhere. Thirty-five miles out side of town sits the Prada Marfa, not a real designer boutique, just a piece of absurdist art in the remote desert. Then there are the Marfa Lights, an alleged night phenomenon, that could be aliens, paranormal activity or simply headlights reflecting through the hot dust of the Texas desert. We also visited Alpine, a delightful non-touristy West Texas town whose main draw is its authenticity and colorful murals.
The final stop of our trip was Guadalupe Mountains National Park, likely one of the more remote and unknown National Parks in the lower 48. The Guadalupe Mountains are considered the world’s finest example of a Permian era fossil reef, which was created by the build up of ancient sea life in the Permian Sea, nearly 300 million years ago. Guadalupe Peak at 8751 feet is the highest point in Texas.
There was a small campground where we secured a camping spot and took a nice hike up into the wilderness. There was great scenery with bald eagles and other big raptors. Unlike most National parks, there were few people there. Another interesting site in the park is the Frijole Ranch, a series of old buildings around a natural spring, where intrepid pioneers ran an Orchard operation beginning in the late 1800s.