Alpine, Texas

May 23, 2017

After spending a full week in the Austin/San Antonio area it was time to move on.  Next stop, the little town of Alpine, 426 miles and 6 1/2 hours to the west.  I headed towards San Antonio on the dreaded interstate, took the bypass around the west side of town and got on state highway 90 which would carry me west.  If you do the math you’ll learn about something else which is bigger in Texas – speed limits! I was shocked when I entered the state on highway 21, and today when I got on highway 90, at how high the speed limits were.  Open roads (not interstates) were often 70 or 75 and when you got to a small town it might drop to 50 or 55.  In North Carolina you’re lucky to do 55 on a state road and usually 35 through towns.

After driving around San Antonio (where I saw a multi-level golf driving range pointed directly towards a Mercedes-Benz car dealership next to it) state highway 90 took me west through the towns on Hondo, Uvalde and eventually to Del Rio, right at the Mexican border.  Call me crazy (believe me, you won’t be the first…) but I’ve always wanted to go to Del Rio, the home of one of shock-jock Don Imus’ fictional characters on his WNBC radio show back in the early 70’s.- The Right Reverend Billy Sol Hargis. That character was a radio evangelist from the First Church of the Gooey Death and Discount House of Worship in Del Rio, Texas.  Every time Imus did his schtick as Rev. Hargis gospel singers sung his theme:

I don’t care if it rains or freezes,

long as I got my plastic Jesus,

riding on the dashboard of my car…

I can go a hundred miles an hour,

long as I got the Almighty power,

glued up there by my pair of fuzzy dice….

(to hear it for yourself there is an audio clip on YouTube)

But enough reminiscing….

After Del Rio it was a very long drive further west to Alpine.

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(photo credit: nps.gov)

The map above picks up Route 90 at Dryden.  About halfway between Marathon and Alpine I almost drove off the road laughing when I saw this just off the highway to my left.  I turned around and stopped to check it out…

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There is a set of railroad tracks right behind this structure and evidently some enterprising artist decided to transform an abandoned railroad equipment shed into the “Marathon Target”.  The signage is made of wood but the scale and letter font is right on the mark (on target, if you will…).  I think it’s hysterical.

Once in Alpine I checked in to my little “casita with the red door”:

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There were other casitas (small houses) on the property, each with a brightly colored door of a different color.  I would be here for 3 nights and chose Alpine for it’s strategic location to several of the things I wanted to see while in this part of the state. Here’s another map which shows where most of these destinations are in relation to Alpine.

FortDavis area

(Photo credit: lonelyplanet.com)

I arrived in Alpine on a Tuesday.  One of my destinations was McDonald Observatory, in the upper left corner of the map above.  They hold “star parties” for the public on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights.  I would be traveling further west Friday morning so Tuesday was my only opportunity to attend.  I broke my rule of not driving in unfamiliar areas at night and headed an hour and 15 minutes north to the Observatory.  Most of the day I was traveling in flat, desert conditions but this journey north would take me up into the mountains.

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You can see two of the telescope “shells” in the photo above.

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I will be making an entire post about the Observatory, and will be returning to this area in the coming days so you’ll be seeing and reading more about the area.

Another of the things I wanted to do in this area was one of my primary scenic roads, the white loop west of Fort Davis on the map above.  I drove it clockwise Tuesday afternoon, while killing time for nightfall and the “star party”.

It was a long but very rewarding day.  All told, 624 miles added to the odometer.