Thursday, February 19, 2015
Day 2 -- February 3, 2015
All four of us were in the breakfast room at the Best Western in Alpine at 7:30 so that we could grab a bite and head south to Big Bend National Park. You may wonder why this was our destination for today. For years, Frank and I have wanted to go there, but we never were “in the neighborhood” way down near the border of Mexico. When we decided to go to Galveston, we thought, “Why not go to BBNP while we’re traveling? It’s not too far out of the way.” Claudia and Ivan were amenable to our suggestion because they’d never been there either.
We were on the road by 8:00 to begin our two-hour drive to the park. This part of Texas really is beautiful, and those of you who might not think that The Lone Star State has mountains should travel here. Their mountains aren’t the Rockies or the Sangre de Cristos, but they’re mountains . . . and gorgeous ones, at that. My photos don’t do them justice because the sun wasn’t shining. In fact, around lunch time, it started to rain.
Claudia said that she likes traveling with us because Frank stops. Oh, my goodness, does he ever! And it’s nice because we were able to get lots of pictures. Nice in spite of the dreariness.
We stopped at two Visitors Centers on our drive through. At the first one, Chisos Basin, Frank bought a hat with a picture of Mule Ear Mountain and two books for me—Terlingua Teacher and Lizards on the Mantle, Burros at the Door. Both are memoirs. I was attracted to the latter because of the title. I love it! I’ve already started reading it and found the following quotation on page 15:
The sun has riz, the sun has set
And here we iz in Texas yet.
Truer words were never spoken! It takes forty forevers to drive across this state. Just as the song says—it’s “miles and miles of Texas!”
We enjoyed our stop at the Chisos Basin Visitors Center but didn’t even ask about a restaurant because we figured that the one at Panther Junction would have one because it was the bigger center. Wrong! Instead we found that the ONLY restaurant was back at Chisos. No problem. We’d find a store a little farther on after Panther. We found it, but there wasn’t much there. Frank and I had chicken salad sandwiches which the proprietor said were fresh because they arrived frozen, and he took out just a couple every day. They turned out to be pretty good, even if a bit wet from being frozen. Ivan had a turkey sandwich, and Claudia was satisfied with trail mix. I had THE BEST bottle of sweet tea. The brand was Gold Peak. It was the closest to REAL sweet tea that I’ve ever had! And some of you know that I’m a connoisseur of sweet tea, the nectar of the South!
The most important stop of the day was at the Rio Grande River. Ivan vowed that this would be the high point of the whole trip for him. As we stood on the bank of the river, we were only about 100 feet from Mexico! There were places in the river where a person could walk across. I doubt that anyone ever came to our country at this exact place because of the mountains so close to the river on the Mexico side, but I imagine that the places where they do cross look similar.
Before leaving for Marathon, TX, our destination for the evening, we broke in to our bag of Black & White Drizzlecorn. Oh, my goodness! If you haven’t tried it . . . DO!! Our friend Sherry Graeb gave us a bag to take as a snack. Yummy! Popcorn with dark and white chocolate drizzled on it! Snacks don’t get any better than this. We’re rationing it in the car, but we shared it with Claudia and Ivan before we set off for our destination.
I made reservations for all of us online before we left home. The Best Western was just a Best Western, but I was sure that The Gage Hotel would be “something else” . . . in a good way. And something else it was! You’ll see by the photos that it was an elegant old hotel that has been kept in beautiful condition. We found out that it was built by a very rich man in 1927. He decided to build his own hotel when he came to Marathon one time and couldn’t get the room that he was accustomed to having at the only hotel in town at that time. After the original owner died, the hotel fell into disrepair, and another wealthy man bought it in the 1950s and completely restored it, also adding additional rooms in separate buildings. The rooms in the hotel (where we stayed) all have private baths except a couple of them, left that way to preserve the original ambience. Besides, a young lady named Shelly told us, some people enjoy sharing a bathroom with others. Can’t imagine it! Have you ever seen European Vacation? The bathroom scene is hilarious but not for me!
After we checked in, Frank and I took a little tour of the area around The Gage, and toward the end of our walk, spotted Claudia and Ivan doing the same thing. We met in the lobby and decided that, even though we had made a reservation for the restaurant for the evening, we wouldn’t eat there for two reasons: it was TERRIBLY expensive and, even more importantly, the menu didn’t look all that good. We cancelled our reservation and headed to the bar (we liked to call it the Pub) at 6:00. No reservations required, and we snagged a great table for four in the only corner as soon as we walked in. We had already checked out the menu, so we knew what we wanted. Each of us ordered the White Buffalo Burger. “Delicious” doesn’t even come close to describing the burger. It had grilled onions and mushrooms on it, and it was served with the hugest pile of fries that I’ve ever seen on a burger plate! The whole meal was scrumptious!
We returned to the hotel with full tummies and ready to turn in for the night. We agreed to meet in the lobby for coffee and tiny muffins a little before 7:00 so that we could get on the road for the long drive to Galveston.