Thursday, January 30, 2014

The star on the mountain

El Paso, TX – We are a stone’s throw from Mexico in this far-west Texan city, and less than 50 miles from New Mexico.  As we approached the city, we caught glimpses of the Rio Grande, the great river that defines the entire southwestern outline of the Lone Star state, separating El Paso from a twin city on the other side known as Ciudad Juarez.

Tonight, after supper, we went out in search of a car wash for the Honda. There was a fiery sunset as we left, and by the time we headed back, it was dark. Our route back to the RV park was on a downward slope.  Before us, the whole city was spread out, with its sparkling lights and the dark Franklin Mountains as a backdrop. It was beautiful!

There is a huge star, 459 feet high, on the south side of the mountain, that is lit up every night from six till midnight.  People in the city can pay $50 to light the star for a special occasion or as a memorial to a loved one, and their gesture is announced in the daily paper. It sounds like a lovely idea, and I looked hard to see if the star was visible from our vantage point, but it wasn’t.

The name El Paso refers to an ancient pass through the mile-high peaks next to the city.  It dates back to Spanish settlements in 1598 and missions that were built here some years after that.  When the first settlers came through the pass and crossed the Rio Grande, they celebrated a feast of thanksgiving, on April 20, 1598.  El Pasoans mark the event every year, and claim it as America’s first thanksgiving, before the one held by the pilgrims in 1621.

The steady hum of traffic on the Interstate will be our lullaby tonight.  It’s hard to tell, when booking an RV site, what the environs will be, so we always have earplugs at the ready.  The trade-off is that we won’t have a long trip to the attractions we want to visit.

We covered about 240 miles today – our usual distance for one day.  It was pretty remote for a lot of the time, with vast stretches of desert terrain, studded with scrub brush and cacti, and with tumbleweed from time to time.  In the distance were several mountain ranges and mesas, and the dry ground was grooved with dried river beds that they call draws.

For part of the morning, Val had to battle with heavy gusts of crosswinds on the highway.  With no warning, we would suddenly be shoved sideways by a wall of wind!  We watched the big transport trucks struggling with the same challenge.  It was always exciting when these surprises happened while in the passing lane next to a semi.  Fortunately, the wind died down later on in the day.

Our Texan guidebook gave short descriptions of the towns we passed, and details about their significance.  One grew from an old Spanish trade route, another still grows cantaloupes of extraordinary quality; one is near mines full of talc, sulfur and marble, another has America’s only courthouse made of adobe.  One claims to have had the first rodeo in 1883, in a town where the railroad first brought cowboys and lawmen to its saloons and gaming rooms.  Other towns, too small to merit a paragraph in the book, whizzed past in a puff of prairie dust. The romance of the open road!

1 comment:

Ches & Michelle Somers said...

As we watch snow swirling in the backyard, and the detritus and snow from our street being piled high by the plow as it drives by, we are heartened by the fact that your are concerned with the soft winds of the south and the dust, and the fact that some of us, namely you two, are warm! Enjoy!