Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Law West of the Pecos

On our trip along highway 90 we stopped in Langtry, once the home of Judge Roy Bean, known as the Law West of the Pecos.

Judge Bean became a legend in his own lifetime.  His law library consisted of a single volume of an 1879 copy of the Revised Statues of Texas but it was rarely consulted.

Shortly before his death he presented the book to his friend W H Dodd, with a comment saying that they sent him a new book every year or so but he used it to light the fires with.

Judge Roy Bean was an ardent admirer of the famous English actress Lily Langtry, he named his saloon the Jersey Lily in her honour.   He wrote to her regularly and invited her to visit Langtry. 

Dispensing justice from the porch of the Jersey Lily, the Judge broke off every now and then to serve customers.   As there was no jail in Langtry, drunks were usually handcuffed to a tree until they sobered up and a lot of offences resulted in a fine which went straight into the Judge’s pockets.

The original Jersey Lily saloon, billiard hall, courtroom and Judge’s home burned in 1896, after which the Judge rebuilt this smaller version.

Inside the Jersey Lily.

In 1896 Judge Bean staged the Fitzsimmons - Maher heavyweight title fight on a sand bar in the middle of the Rio Grande.   As the fight was banned in the USA Texas rangers were sent to stop it, but as it was held on the Mexican side of the river there was nothing they could do and the Judge made a tidy profit on the fight.

This adobe building, Roy Bean’s Opera House, Town Hall and Seat of Justice, was actually the Judge’s home and he lived there until his death in 1903.

Lily Langtry was finally able to visit to Langtry in 1904, but sadly Judge Roy Bean never met her as he died the year before. 

She wrote this letter from San Francisco expressing her thanks to W H Dodd, who was then Justice of the Peace, to express her appreciation of the welcome she received from the people of Langtry.

As we left Langtry we saw a truck, the bonnet of which was covered in pock marks from the hail in the storm last night.   What a relief that Del Rio didn’t get hail that size! 

Have fun, we are!

Showers across Texas

The overnight storm had chased away the heat and left behind a cloudy showery day for our trip across Texas highway 90.

Not far from Del Rio we reached the Pecos River.   At one time crossing the deep river gorge was very difficult, in 1882 the first railroad bridge was built as part of the Southern Pacific Railroad.   Access to the bridge was by an indirect route through two tunnels going deep into the canyon.

A new bridge was completed in 1891, this bridge cut directly across the gorge on a high viaduct and was supported by 24 towers.   At the time it was the highest bridge in the USA and the third highest bridge in the world.  Passenger trains crossing the gorge slowed down to 6 miles an hour and actually stopped on the bridge so that travellers could enjoy the view.

Not far away a temporary camp named Vinegarroon (a type of scorpion) was home for thousands of, mostly Chinese, labourers working on the railroad.

During WWII the bridge became essential to the transportation of war materials and due to heavier trains and war demands a new bridge was constructed in 1944.   The bridge is still in use although the gorge isn’t as deep as it once was as the river rose when Amistad reservoir was constructed.

We stopped at the viewpoint on highway 90, it was very cold and blustery, as we looked down into the gorge we could see goats, well I think they were goats, climbing on the rocks on one side of the river.

The remains of two bridges across the deep gorge at Eagles Nest Creek.
Further along we passed Terrell County Airfield.   Built in 1919 west of Sanderson, the airfield was home to the 90th Aero Squadron of biplanes used for border patrol.   The squadron relocated, I know not where, and the aerodrome became an active field until 1941.   In WWII American Airlines and the government built a new civilian intermediate and emergency military landing field construction was completed in 1943.   Civil Air Patrol and Military Training exercises were also carried out here.

The clouds didn’t go away and by this time we were in dire need of coffee, luckily for us in Marathon we found a great coffee shop, the V6, which is part of the historic Gage Hotel.

Designed by Henry Trost, Alfred Gage opened the Gage Hotel in April 1927, sadly he died a year after the hotel opened.   According to legend when Zane Gray stayed there he wrote his most famous wild west novel.   Eventually the hotel declined but in 1978 it was bought by J P Bryan, a descendent of Stephen F Austin, the founding ‘Father of Texas’ and has since been renovated.

After we left Marathon we ran into more showers and heavy rain so despite seeing lots of historical markers we didn’t stop anywhere else.   It’s a shame the weather wasn’t good as on a warm sunny day it would’ve been a lovely drive.   Maybe one day we’ll get to do it again, who knows. 

Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Seminole Canyon State Park

Leaving Ozona we took highway 163 south, heading for Seminole Canyon State Park.

At one time this highway was incredibly dangerous, one of the narrow passes was named Deadmans Pass, and travellers would’ve needed to watch out for attack by wild animals and ambush by highwaymen, Comanche and Apache!
The Ozona – Comstock Stage followed this route, connecting Ozona with the Southern Pacific Railroad 80 miles away.

These are the remains of the first stage stand along the highway.   The stage left Ozona at 5.00 a.m. and reached the stage stand at 8.30 a.m. where fresh horses were harnessed for the next 20 miles.   Wagon ruts are still visible in the grass, although we couldn't find them, but they might've been on the other side of the fence.
At Seminole Canyon we planned to join a ranger guided tour to see some of pictographs in the canyon.   The canyon is subject to flash floods, the pictographs are thought to be about 3,500 years old, some of the oldest in the US.   In order to protect the pictographs the only way to enter the canyon is on a ranger guided tour.

It was incredibly hot by now and DB decided that as he'd seen enough pictographs in other places he'd have a snooze in the car, so I went off to join the tour.

On the edge of the canyon is the amazing statue.

Looking down into Seminole Canyon.

The bottom of the canyon.

Our guide was really interesting and there were designs and a yellow colour I'd never seen used in pictographs anywhere else.

While we were in the canyon the temperature alternated between lovely and cool and pretty darn hot!  Climbing out it was incredibly hot.

We stayed overnight in Del Rio and the storms that seemed to have been following us since we left New Orleans finally caught up with us.   In the middle of the night weather alerts came fast and furious, severe thunderstorms, torrential rain, dangerous cloud to ground lightening, dangerous hail, tornado watch, and finally, a flood warning. 

We’ve been in storms before but nothing quite like this and I certainly hope we’re never in another one; it turned out to be a very dramatic end to our day in Seminole Canyon.

Have fun, we are!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Ozona, Texas

Leaving Kerrville we re-joined I10 and headed west, stopping at Ozona, ‘the biggest little town in the world’ according to the sign to fill up with fuel and coffee.

Ozona is in Crockett County which was created from Bexar County in 1875 and named in honour of Davy Crockett who died at the Alamo.

After our coffee we drove into the centre of town to have a look at the Day Crockett Memorial on the plaza.

We’d been told that Ozona Museum is well worth visiting, but unfortunately it was closed when we were there.

There are some very interesting old buildings around the plaza, one of which was the Ozona National Bank, although I don’t know if it’s still open.

There seems to be a lot of interesting history in Ozona and the surrounding areas

Have fun, we are!

Passing through Texas Hill Country

From Galveston, we, thankfully, managed to avoid the snarl up that is Houston, took the ring road around San Antonio and headed to our next stop in Kerrville, Texas.

While our hotel in Kerrville was okay, the first room we were allocated absolutely stank of smoke.   I didn’t realise hotels still had rooms that allowed smoking.   I was glad we only stayed a couple of nights as I could smell smoke the whole time we were there.

But apart from that we had a great time and found a great restaurant called Billy Gene’s overlooking the Guadalupe River.

Guadalupe River.

One of the places we re-visited was Fredericksburg, our first visit was during our first year of RVing.   It’s a nice town and is very proud of its German Heritage; the National War of the Pacific Museum is also very interesting. 


Bandera, self-proclaimed ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’, is also somewhere we’ve visited a couple of times before, it’s a quirky, friendly place.   This trip we found a great new coffee shop.

Dog Leg Café, Bandera.

Have fun, we are!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

On to Galveston

From New Orleans we drove along bayous crossing the intra-coastal waterway several times until we reached Lake Charles.

We didn’t actually get to do much in Lake Charles as during the night we ended up under a tornado watch which was a bit scary and the next morning we were under a severe thunderstorm watch.   Somehow a trip out into the swamps and bayous to visit a nature reserve didn’t seem like a very good idea!

The next morning we left Louisiana behind as we headed for Texas and Galveston Island.   Our route took us along bayous on the edge of swamps and down to the Gulf of Mexico.
We stopped at a country store along the way where I learned that people thereabouts swim in the rivers.   When I asked about alligators I was told that ‘the ‘gators don’t bother ya much, leastways not where the boats usually go’!   I mean, alligators don’t bother you much! and don’t usually! go where the boats go!!!!   I think I’ll stick to swimming pools!

Following the Gulf we drove through Port Arthur, where we took the road out to the Bolivar Peninsula, before driving once more along the Gulf, where we boarded the free ferry to Galveston Island.

The Gulf of Mexico along the Bolivar Peninsula.

The free ferry to Galveston Island.

There wasn’t too much wait for the ferry on the Bolivar Peninsula, but on the Galveston side it was very busy.   Our hotel was mid-way across the island and right across from the beach where it was much quieter; we had a great view across the Gulf.

The view from our hotel.

In the harbour there were quite a few different types of oil rigs ready to put to sea, at night we could see rig lights out in the gulf, they’re drilling for oil and natural gas.

One of the rigs in the harbour.

We took a trip around the Ocean Star Drilling Rig, a decommissioned oil rig, it was really interesting.

While we were in the harbour area this lovely ship was setting sail.

One thing we discovered was that at one time Galveston was a major port of entry for immigrants from Liverpool and Western Europe, we always assumed it was Ellis Island in New York.

When we visited Moody Mansion we discovered that some of the historic houses were built from limestone and bricks used as ballast on ships from Liverpool.

Moody Mansion.

The storms were still lingering in the surrounding areas, but the weather while we were on the island was mostly lovely, although when we paddled along the beaches rough seas had washed up an odd dead fish and Portuguese Men O’War, which while they look pretty have horrible stingers even when they’ve been beached for a while.

We had a great time in Galveston.

Have fun, we are!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Catching up & New Orleans

Once again I’ve got way behind with the blog, no excuses as to why, just having way too much fun I guess!   So here goes with catching up.

It was late, dark and in places decidely seedy looking, as we drove to our hotel on Beinville Street in New Orleans, the next morning everything looked much better.

For our first day we’d booked a Mississippi paddleboat cruise to the Chalmette Battlefield on the Creole Queen.  Our trip was narrated by an excellent guide who was full of information, there was so much to take in that I promptly forgot most of it.

Paddle Steamer on the Mississippi

At the battlefield an NPS guide gave a short talk on the history of the battle.   Basically, in about 1815 Chalmette was the location for the Battle of New Orleans against the British.   New Orleans won, we lost that’s about all I can remember.

Gun emplacement at the Chalmette Battlefield. 

Monument at Chalmette Battlefield.

Chalmette is a huge place and we only had time to see the small section by the Visitor Centre.   It would’ve been nice to have had time to see more, but the boat doesn’t wait if you’re late. 

Looking across the Mississippi to Algiers Point.

Back on dry land we picked up our ticket for the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus.  The bus travels a set route around different areas of the town and you can get on and off as many times are you like.   Our ticket was valid for 24 hours from the time of purchase. 

Jazz musicians on Jackson Square.

Jackson Square.

We stayed on the bus and listened to the guide as we drove all through the different districts of New Orleans. 

The Garden District.

I forget exactly when, but at some point during the day, we discovered café-au-lait and beignet!   I think absolutely scrumptious just about sums them up! 

Scrumptious beignet.

The next day we took a guided walking tour of St Louis No 1 Cemetery, one of the famous above ground cemeteries, Easy Rider was filmed there.   At one time the cemetery was in such a state of disrepair that you were likely to be mugged if you ventured inside.   These days the archdiocese only allows family members or licensed tour guides to visit, so thankfully we were dodging other tour groups rather than muggers!

St Louis No 1 Cemetery.

Although the graveyard looks small there are lots of tombs, it’s almost like a city and would be very easy to get lost; our tour guide was very informative. Among the many tombs we saw was that of Marie Laveau the notorious ‘Voodoo Queen’, legend has it that if you place your hand on her tomb and make a wish it’ll come true.   As I can’t remember what I wished for I doubt I’ll ever know! The cemetery closes at 4.00 p.m. and it’s definitely not somewhere I’d like to visit after dark! 

The tomb of Marie Laveau.

That afternoon, after more café-au-lait and beignet, they are deliciously addictive, (obviously totally calorie free, we wish!) we took another guided walking tour, this time a ghost tour.   The tour took us around the streets of the French Quarter, we heard tales of Jean Lafitte, villainous slave owners, Romeo and Juliet type lovers and haunted hotels, it was great fun, but as it was an afternoon tour it was all quite tame.

The French Quarter.

Bourbon Street.

While really enjoyed both tours, two walking tours, on what to us was a very hot and humid day was way too much, despite comfy shoes our feet were killing us and we were both absolutely shattered and yes, we did drink lots of water. 

The French Market.

There’s lots more to see in New Orleans and one day we’d like to go back. 

Have fun, we are!