Big Bend National Park
Since I didn’t know when I’d be back in this part of the country, I had to shoot down to Big Bend National Park being that it’s “close” to Marfa and so far from everything else. Big Bend is one of the largest, most remote and least visited national parks in the US and gets it’s name from a bend in the Rio Grande river which marks the southern border of the park, the other side of which is in Mexico.
My first foray into the park was on an organized day trip by canoe on the Rio Grande. Erin, one of the guides was from Tennessee and guides river trips here in winter and back in Tennessee in summer. She’s in the process of building a stone home by herself. She described the process of building a poled roof first, followed by windows and then building the walls from stone found on her property. She has a bank of solar panels for electricity and although the area only sees about fifteen inches of water a year, she’s able to capture enough water from her roof to fill the large water tanks next to her house. In the summer, back in Tennessee she lives in a 1979 Chevy van with her dogs. What a hearty gal! So many ways to live.
Erin wasn’t a geologist or botanist but she’d studied up and provided lots of details on the flora and fauna and landscape we encountered. The river in winter runs rather low and the border with Mexico fluctuates by the season with the water depth as the deepest point marks the border. We crossed into Mexico several times and it was difficult to imagine how a border like this, so remote, could be monitored. In fact, each day, Mexicans from villages on the other side of the river would cross into the US, place some crafts along the riverbank or on a hiking trail with a jar for money and retrieve the money left by tourists who’d purchased one of the items. They would do this several times a day. There is one official border crossing in the park to the town of Boquillos and you need to have your passport. The border is only open a few days a week and you are rowed across in a boat then can walk, taxi or burro into town for lunch and souvenir shopping. On the return, you enter a booth that has a camera and a passport reader where you show your passport, and then pick up the phone to talk to someone at Border Control…somewhere. Once you’re cleared, you are rowed back across the Rio Grande to the US.
I won’t go into much detail describing the park, the photos speak for themselves:
Austin & San Antonio
I hadn’t been to a city of any size since leaving Scottsdale in late February so I was ready to move on from remote west Texas and get to a large city. Since I’d scheduled a service appointment for the Airstream south of Austin, I drove to Fredericksburg, which is west of Austin. It was my longest drive to date at 350 miles and it took about nine hours with two fuel stops. I can go about 320 miles on a tank of diesel but opted to fuel up when the tank gets to about he halfway mark. I usually will map out a couple of truck stops as the truck takes diesel and truck stops are easiest to maneuver through with the trailer.
After arriving in Fredericksburg and setting up I realized I was only four miles up the road from Luckenbach, TX which I’d heard of in that old Waylon & Jennings song. I had to go (as it was also a recommended stop by Marianne whom I’d met in Marfa) and I was glad I did…so nice to sit amongst the trees (which I hadn’t seen in a couple of months), sip a beer and listen to live jazz…I mean country music.
The next day, after dropping the trailer off for the service I drove down to the town of San Marcos, halfway to San Antonio and met my friends NR and Carolyn (from Alumafiesta in Tucson) for lunch. Good to catch up and share stories and future plans. Afterwards, I picked up the trailer and drove through rush hour traffic to Georgetown, north of Austin.
The next night, which was Friday, I met my Airforum friends Frank & Mike for the first time for a BBQ at their place. We’d been communicating through the Airstream forum for over a year and gave me a lot of great advice and guidance as I researched the trailer and full timing so it was nice to finally meet in real life. The food and company were great and I had my first hangover in a long time the next morning!
On the Saturday I met up with Frank and Mike again and had a tour or the Lake Travis area with lunch at Oasis, a restaurant on the hillside overlooking Lake Travis. The next day I ventured into Austin with plans to check out the Capitol Building and then wander to acquaint myself with the place. From the Capitol building I made by way down to 6th Street where there was a street festival. It was a hot day so I grabbed a beer and wandered but eventually settled into a restaurant to sit down and have lunch.
I’d finished my lunch but sat at my table for four reading a book on my iPad and nursing another beer. I didn’t realize how busy the restaurant had become so I was surprised when I looked up and an older woman (Maria) was asking if I was leaving. I invited her to join me to secure the table while I finished my beer and we started to have a nice conversation. I couldn’t help but wonder why she was there on her own but that question was answered soon after: Mom! What are you doing? Leave that guy alone! It was very funny how Stephen (Maria’s son) and his partner Jud came up, introduced themselves, apologized for intruding, insisted on paying for my lunch and then went on to buy about four more rounds of drinks! And it didn’t stop there…we rejoined the street fair with a couple of stops for drinks and then went out for dinner…a very fun night. We caught up a couple more times as well…great fun and look forward to meeting up again.
Before leaving the Austin area I made a quick trip down to San Antonio where I meandered along the river walk, saw the Alamo and found an excuse to drop into the Salt Lick for some BBQ on the way back to Austin.
Dallas and Fort Worth
Next stop was Dallas to meet up with my friend Brett who was going to be in town from Sydney visiting friends of his (also from Sydney) who were living in Dallas. We had a great time catching up on news since we last saw each other and his host, Melanie and Ed, kindly invited me to spend the night at their house in town (my first night in a real bed since late January!).
Turns out Melanie is in marketing for the company which owns Campari so whipped up a great batch of Americanos (recipe below) which we sipped over conversation in the rooftop Jacuzzi followed by a brilliant seafood BBQ.
Brett and I hung out the next day in Dallas…we walked and walked and walked but the CBD was obviously more of a place for work than sightseeing so once we discovered the museum was closed we found a nice spot for a glass of wine and conversation. The weather turned suddenly and thanks to Melanie, we were rescued from the torrential rain and thunder and lightning when she picked us up and drove us back to their place.
I didn’t have a lot of my Dallas list of “to do’s” but I definitely wanted to get to Fort Worth to see the Kimbell Museum which was designed my Louis Kahn and the Museum of Modern Art designed by Tadao Ando.