Our route between Willcox, Arizona, and Bandera, Texas, required several overnight stops. We have learned from RV buddies a rule that many try to stick to – the 2-2-2 Rule. No more than 200 miles, stop by 2:00 pm, and stay 2 days.
El Paso, Texas
We breezed across New Mexico, but parked in Mission RV Park in El Paso, Texas for two nights.Although El Paso was a little more than 200 miles (235), we wanted to see some things in El Paso and not much in New Mexico (have done NM several times) so we just beat it to EP. We spent the rest of the afternoon setting up camp, doing laundry and grocery shopping. All that driving can really take it out of you, especially with winds and a lot of boring scenery. Thank heaven for Audible audiobooks and my knitting project to help keep us awake. The old part of the park had large trees and grass, but that isn’t where we were parked. We were on a large gravel parking lot, not trees, not even a picnic table. It was OK for two nights, however. The park and laundry facilities were clean, people were nice, and everything worked.
The next morning we headed out to see some sites in El Paso. Our first stop was the National Border Patrol Museum. With all the controversy about illegal immigrants and keeping our country safe by patrolling the borders, and having spent so much time in Arizona, where Border Patrol vehicles are everywhere, we decided it would be interesting to see what they do from their perspective. We learned a lot. This is not just about Mexicans. The very first people to be excluded were the Chinese who were trying to come to the US to work in the copper mines and build railroads. It’s not just about building a wall to keep our borders safe. It includes all ways (by air, boats, roads, horses, feet, tunnels, etc) that the US can be penetrated by people who may want to harm the US. The museum is also a way to honor those border patrol agents (including dogs) who have lost their lives defending us. It put a whole new spin on what I thought was their mission. Now the mission is mostly about keeping drugs from coming in from Mexico, and terrorists from everywhere else, not the poor Mexican who will take the jobs no one else will do.
We then toured the Magoffin House Museum in downtown El Paso. The Magoffin family was one of the founding families of El Paso back in the mid-1800s. The Magoffins came to El Paso from Chiuahua, Mexico, in the early 1800s and established a mercantile on one of the trade routes across Texas to the west, calling it Magoffinville. When Mr. Magoffin’s son returned from the Civil War, the son became an advocate for developing El Paso, as a railroad had recently been built to carry supplies west, and bring supplies to the mercantile. More people, more supplies, more progress, more success.
The museum is well maintained and our guide was passionate about the restoration of the property. Danny had been very hands-on in the process, even researching and helping to choose the wallpapers used in the restoration. The grounds are beautiful. Many of the artifacts are original, not just representations of the times. The tour was VERY thorough and didn’t seem at all like a memorized script. I am really glad we took the time.
El Paso is a huge city, the traffic is atrocious, and the roads are pretty rough. Although the two venues we experienced were well worth the time and effort, we were glad to put El Paso in the rearview. We really don’t like cities very much, especially hauling a 29-ft RV through bumper to bumper traffic and among semi-trucks.
Balmorhea State Park – Texas
On the recommendation of a friend, we decided to visit Balmorhea State Park. Not too far off I-10, this state park is an Oasis in a big, boring desert. It turns out Cooper and I had been here about 13 years ago but I couldn’t remember the name. When checking it out online, I realized it looked sort of familiar. The minute we saw the front gate, I knew we had been here before. This park is particularly noted for its hand-dug pools created by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in 1934. It took two years to create these pools which are spring-fed and filled with little pupfish and headwater catfish. It was so weird to be swimming with swarms (schools?) of little fish nipping at you. Kinda felt like mosquito bites. Because they are all-natural pools, there is also a lot of algae on the steps and silt on the bottom. But the water is heavenly! Not hot, but not cold either. Just right. And there was hardly anyone there.
The campground itself was nice and quiet, well spaced, and relatively inexpensive. The $22 price included water, electric and entrance to the park and pools. If we had had a Texas Parks Pass, it would only have been $15. We had lots of birds and bunnies all around our campsite. And the cienega (which means marshland) near us had lots of fish and turtles. It really was a pleasant stay. We might stay more days next time we go.
Due south of Balmorhea, about 60 miles and at the intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 90, is the little town of Marfa. It is a sleepy little town with about 2000 residents, but has a constant stream of visitors looking to see the Mystery Lights of Marfa. Reminiscent of the fame of Roswell, New Mexico, and their alien sightings, Marfa has capitalized on the eerie lights by creating a viewing area, an information center, and a viewing deck.
Upon arriving in Marfa, we drove the entire town (in about 5 minutes) to find an RV park for the night. The two parks in town are both pretty rough, not even having attendants to assist in registration. It is all on the honor system. We picked the Apache Pines RV Park (one pine tree in the park, nothing else but gravel) and hooked up. The best thing about the park was the internet. It was free and strong. Yay!!! No data usage!
Since it was pretty early in the afternoon (stop by 2:00 pm) and we couldn’t try to see the lights until after dark, we decided to visit the local museum and drive through the neighborhoods. The museum is a nice little museum but doesn’t really have anything special about it – other that an amazing display of local Apache artifacts, especially arrowheads. Most of the rest is stuff you would see in just about any small town museum.
When it got dark, about 8:00 pm, we headed out to the lights viewing area. The place was PACKED! The lights are not always visible, but I spotted one out on the horizon the minute we pulled up. We didn’t even have to get out of the car. The light was green and sort of hovering way out near the horizon. Cooper saw it too, but couldn’t swear it was moving. To me it was rising and descending, moving right and left, but basically in the same area the whole time. It was very cool! People have tried to explain the lights as everything from ghosts to quirks of the atmosphere, to reflections of car lights out on Hwy 67. I’m going with the atmosphere, sort of like northern lights. No matter what it is, it was worth the drive WAY off our beaten path to go see them. No pictures, sorry. The camera didn’t capture them. Bucket list item – checked.
The one other thing in the area that we missed (and is still on the list) is the Prada Store in Marfa. It turns out it is out of town and seriously would have been worth going there, if for nothing more than the picture. We didn’t even know about the Prada Store until Saundra Lear told us to send her a picture of us out in front of it. We took a different road to get to Marfa, but if we had known before going to Marfa, we could have used that highway and gone to Balmorhea after Marfa instead of before. New bucket list item – unchecked.