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Day 157 - Del Rio Westward, Across the Pecos (Photo's Added)

We drove west through a strong, gusting headwind all day and still managed some sightseeing!

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When we got up, it was mostly overcast. The clouds blew over quickly however and the rest of the day was mostly sunny. We weren't totally spared from the huge storm system however; we got lots and lots of wind - gusty, strong headwinds. I drove between 35 and 40 mph most of the day, not good for making progress but as long as I kept my speed down, we did OK. Tonight it's really cold (around freezing) and should be cold tomorrow, but after that it's forecasted to warm up again.

Amistad Nat'l Recreation Area was just a couple of miles from where we camped. This was created by a dam across the Rio Grande River that is shared by both Mexico and the United States. The dam created a huge reservoir that is used for water sports, especially fishing. Mom & I drove down to one of the boat launch ramps but didn't see any birds, probably due to the high winds. We visited the Visitor's Center, but didn't see the need to spend any more time at the lake since we're not into fishing. It was also a little too windy to spend time at a lake (unless you're into aerobic wind surfing, kiteboarding, or some such thing).

A few miles further on we found Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site. The Historic Site refers to extensive prehistoric pictographs in rock shelters found throughout the parks canyons. Due to their sensitive nature, you can only see the pictographs during ranger guided hikes. However, the Park Visitor's Center contains an excellant museum with a lot of information about the types of people who lived in the area prior to European settlement, how they lived, and also a full size replica of some of the pictographs. Since Mom can't hike very well, the Museum suited us just fine. In back, there is also a nifty overlook of part of the larger canyons.

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(Somehow, I didn't even think to take pictures inside the Museum). Just outside the Visitor's Center are several plants that are native to this area. Each one has a nifty sign by it to help Visitor's like us learn what the plants are. Mom is posing by a Huisache Tree. In the middle is a Century Plant, followed by a Yucca - very common in West Texas.

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One more windmill picture (for Becky?), I promise no more. This one is nice because it clearly shows why they still use a lot of windmills in Texas. There is a water cistern just below the windmill. Many ranches in Texas are quite large. There aren't any streams or ponds in most areas, so ranchers use wells to get water to the livestock. They use a windmill to pump the water rather run electricity all over open range. This tank is adobe brick, but many are cement or steel.

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After we left Seminole State Park, we continued heading west into a strong headwind. This was a little stressful, so when I saw a sign for a roadside picnic area I decided to pull over. This turned out to be the overlook for the Peco's River High Bridge. The Peco's River has very sheer cliffs on both sides, forming a deep canyon for some 60 miles. The picture doesn't show it, but the wind was blowing at least 40+ mph here and it was a bit scary just trying to get out and take pictures anywhere near the edge. The bridge is 1,310' long and is 273' above the water. This is the highest highway bridge in Texas and the 13th highest in the US. (By contrast, the Golden Gate Bridge is 220' above the water and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is 200' above water.)

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Looking in the opposite direction from the bridge, you can actually see the Pecos River run into the Rio Grande River(on the far left below).

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Shortly after taking these pictures, we drove across the Pecos High Bridge, in a strong cross wind, very slowly.

A few miles after we crossed the bridge, we came to the town of Langtry. The wind was still blowing quite hard, I just threw in this shot to give you some idea. These flags were quite stiff, they hardly flapped at all.

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I had picked up a brochure about this being the home of Judge Roy Bean. When we first came into Texas, the man at the Visitor's Center didn't recommend this stop, but we were here and there weren't any more towns for some time, so we stopped. Langtry also has a Texas State Visitor's Center and a museum about Judge Roy Bean (really just a few exhibits along the back of the center). Two people staff the center, which is odd when you learn that there are only 15 people in Langtry! Yes, population = 15. Since this town isn't at the border of anything (Mexico is across the river, but there are no legal crossing points) - the only reason I can think of for this is that the State has taken pity on the poor little town?

Anyway, the area behind the Visitor's Center has a couple of acres fenced in. This is where the actual Saloon & Billards Room for Judge Bean is located, which he called "The Jersey Lilly" in honor of the English Actress Lilly Langtry with whom he was infatuated.

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The State of Texas restored the saloon, but it has the look and feel of a very old, late 1800's wild west saloon - complete with gaps between the wall boards.

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It seems that West Texas was a very wild and lawless place in the late 1800's. The State decided to appoint a district Judge to try to bring some order to the place, and Roy Bean was one of the few men around with a business, his saloon. Most other people in the area were either outlaws, cowhands or temporary workers building the Southern Pacific Railroad and living in tent cities.

The State gave Judge Bean a large book of Texas laws, but he pretty much ran things the way he wanted. He had been something of a rascal before being appointed Judge, and while he did help bring some law & order into the area, he also tended to interpret or make up the law as he saw fit. Later he built this house for himself, but called it "The Opera House".

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The rest of the fenced in area behind the Visitor's Center consists of a Cactus Garden. These were all very well laid out and marked, not just what kind of cactus or plant it was - but also how it was used. This is just a small sample to give you an idea of some of the variety in their garden. (Click to get descriptions)

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After I took pictures of most of the other plants and signs in the garden, Mom and I decided to drive through Langtry and try to get a better view of the Rio Grande River. The Visitor's Center staff had said the main cross street had a good view the river. We quickly saw what happens to a town once most people leave it. Once the trains no longer needed a water & fueling station, the town didn't really have much need to exist, so there isn't much left. IMHO, they could probably drum up a little more business if they called themselves a 'Ghost Town', this is pretty much what most of it looks like:

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We did get a better view of the cliffs from the end of the road, but couldn't see the Rio Grande. There was a gravel road that led down the hill, but I decided it wasn't worth driving an RV down it, especially since we'd have other chances to see the river. The cliffs were pretty cool however (these are in Mexico since they're on the other side of the river).

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There is still one functioning gas station in Langtry (I am following my cousin's advice and buying gas pretty much at every opportunity in West Texas!) The sign was damaged a bit by today's wind, but the station was open and I filled up. The owner told me that as far as he knows, this has been in continuous operation since 1929! (They probably don't get enough rain down here to rust old underground tanks.)

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So all gassed up, we drove on to Marathon. This will be our jumping off point to drive to Big Bend in the morning. On the way we passed another roadside sign (they call them 'Historical Markers' here, but they use that term generously. Often they are 'Points of Interest', not necessarily historical - IMHO. Either way is fine, we'd still probably stop). This is the first roadside marker I've seen describing the geology, but it's a pretty big topic down here. In this case, the vertical rock bands on the sides of the hill cut away for the highway are part of the "Denuded Ouachita Rock Belt", an upthrust of about 290 million years ago.

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In Marathon, we found a great RV campground with wi-fi and bundled up for the night (forecast calls for it to dip below freezing tonight). I don't know if I'll have a signal down in Big Bend NP, it's pretty remote. If you don't hear from us for a day or two, we're probably fine - just unplugged.

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 174
Camped at RV Campground in Marathon, Texas (69 miles from Big Bend NP)

Posted by jl98584 22:17 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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