Monday, March 17, 2003                       Fort Stockton, TX to Odessa, TX

Sure enough, the West Texas winds were strong on Monday morning. With the day's ride blown away < groan> , I could take my time seeing Fort Stockton.

Fort Stockton was home of the " world's largest roadrunner," 11-foot-tall Paisano Pete.

The Fort Stockton Chamber of Commerce occupied the old Santa Fe depot.

Oil was an important part of Fort Stockton's economy.

Next, I followed the advice on this sign.

A steel roof protected this old adobe structure from the elements.

The building where the local Boy Scout troop met featured this mural.

Soon I found myself at Happy Daze  for breakfast. The service was slow and the food was mediocre, but at least it was cheap.

Happy Daze promised to be " a blast from the past."

This mural on the side of Happy Daze honored half a dozen American pop icons of the 20th century.

Murals were pretty popular in Fort Stockton.

My next stop was Alpine, where I would have started my bike ride on a less windy day.

The Brewster County Courthouse was handsome but modest by Texan standards.

On the west side of town, I stopped at Apache Trading Post. It was a great place for browsing. My big find a book of interviews with Texas songwriters called Telling Stories, Writing Songs by Kathleen Hudson. This book had a table of contents that read like my stack of CD's: James McMurtry, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Delbert McClinton, Robert Earl Keen, Kinky Friedman... I had to have it!

Apache Trading Post was perhaps the best store for Texas items in West Texas.

Jack-assic Park was a feature of the Apache Trading Post.

And here was one of the jackasses.

I drove from Alpine to Marfa, part of the triangle I had planned to pedal. The terrain here wasn't too difficult (most of the mountains were to the north, toward Fort Davis), but I surely wouldn't have wanted to ride against that wind.

With the mountains for a backdrop, this picnic area was a great place for the obligatory car picture.

Marfa was a dusty little town known for two things: 1.) the Marfa lights: sometimes spooky, unexplained lights appear in the night sky near Marfa. I stopped at the  observation  area on US 67/90, but since  I was there around noon, there were no lights to see. 2.) The film Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean was made in the Marfa area in 1955.  There were  a lot of neat old buildings downtown, including a typically grand (for Texas) courthouse.

Downtown Marfa once had two movie theatres.

Unfortunately for Marfans, neither showed movies anymore.

The Hotel Paisano was a National Historic Landmark.

This was the First Christian Church of Marfa.

The Presidio County Courthouse stood at the head of the downtown commercial district (unlike many county seats where the courthouse is surrounded by stores).

This photo of the 1886 courthouse was taken looking northeast.

This close-up shows the blue dome.

The colors and style of the nearby jail complemented those of the courthouse.

Only the sign remained for the Stardust Motel on US 90.

I liked the ornamentation on the Marfa National Bank building.

This was US 90 about an hour west of Marfa.

US 90 eventually ran into I-10 toward El Paso. That city had heavier traffic and dirtier air than I had expected. I continued through town and north into New Mexico to add Dona Ana County to my collection. After visiting the New Mexico welcome center, I turned around and re-entered Texas. I bought a big can of macadamia nuts at an outlet store. Then I skirted the north side of El Paso on SR 375, which passed by North Franklin Mountain.

I stopped at a scenic overlook on SR 375 to photograph these clouds over El Paso.

There were ominous clouds ahead on US 54.

After dipping back into New Mexico on US 54 to collect Otero County, I doubled back and headed east on US 62. When I stopped at the border patrol checkpoint, the officer asked me what I was doing out there. Unwisely, I answered, " Well, I'm a county hunter." Fortunately, he didn't misunderstand me as a bounty hunter! Then I showed him my maps with all the counties filled in (what a geek!).

I drove to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home of the highest mountains  in Texas. By then it was dark and stormy, so I didn't get to take any pictures. I drove late  into the evening as the rain started coming down. By the time I reached my motel in Odessa, the rain was falling in sheets and all the decent restaurants were closed. I ate a few snacks out of my travel bags and went to bed.

Artist of the Day: Kinky Friedman - How could I drive through El Paso without singing Friedman's infamous parody of Merle Haggard's " Okie From Muskogee" ?

We don't have no love-ins in El Paso
We don't go to porno picture shows
We don't swap our wives with our neighbors
And we keep our kids away from Mexico...
And I'm proud to be an asshole from El Paso

In the 1970's, Friedman carved a niche for himself as the Jewish singing cowboy. Old Testaments & New Revelations is an excellent compilation of his best songs (though it's not for everybody). Although Friedman's music never sold well, he has found commercial success as an author, particularly of mystery novels drenched with his Texan humor. Aside from writing, his current " pet" project is the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, located near Utopia, Texas.

Honorable Mention: Marty Robbins - Naturally, his  1959 classic " El Paso" came to mind today. In fact, just about every time I saw a mileage sign on I-10, I thought of this song. With this tale of wicked Felina and Rosa's Cantina, Robbins defined the country sub-genre known as gunfighter ballads (another favorite of mine is his " Big Iron" ). By the way, Robbins also was a stock car racer in the sixties and seventies, back when NASCAR's popularity was pretty much limited to the Southeast.

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