I know it's been a little while since my last post. As I said previously, cell connection is sparse out in this part of the country. Due to this, one tends to get into the habit of not looking at or handling your phone at all. After all, without connectivity, it really is just a camera. It's surprising how accustomed we have all become to our invisible tethers to the mainstream. When you suddenly find yourself in a place without any connection, it's a little disorienting. You almost feel lost and a little apprehensive. Eventually, the initial shock fades and you find that its easy to let go and just be in the moment. In short, it's liberating. I found that I enjoyed it so much, I was loathe to get back online again even after we left and came back home to civilization. Home. Yes, we are home now. Back to the normal grind of day to day life. I find myself yearning to be back out among the kindred spirits of in the desert area of Terlingua. If I ever disappear, you will find me sitting in a small, dusty bar out there, laughing with the locals, blissfully unaware of everything going on in the rest of the world. OK, so before we get to the town of Terlingua, let me bring you on our road trip and show you how we went about getting there. We left the peaceful sand dunes of Monahan's and headed south toward Fort Stockton then west through Marathon, Alpine and of course, Marfa. After a short afternoon break in town, we took the US 67 south to Presidio. With each passing mile, the landscape became more desert-like. The mountains, far off in the distance, grew ever so slightly as we drove closer to them.
Once we made it to Presidio, a mid sized town along the US-Mexico border, we turned east along FM 170 driving through Lajitas and on to Terlingua. Now, for those of you who don't know, FM 170 is called the Texas River Road. From Presidio to Terlingua, it runs along the US and Mexico border following the northern bank of the Rio Grande river. It is one of the most remote stretches of road in the entire US. It is also one of the most gorgeous and stunning drives you will ever take. Desert brown with sparse green shrubs and cactus on your left; lush green vegetation along the flowing river to your right. The two-lane road bends and switches as it heaves up and down following the path of the Rio Grande. Its mesmerizing to watch the mountains scroll by on the other side of the river. This is such an amazingly beautiful part of the country. Relatively untouched and still quite wild, it has a rugged, natural feel to it. We found ourselves stopping by the side of the road multiple times just to get out and take it all in. Breathtaking and serene are two of the words that come to mind. Standing there, listening to the wind and the river with no other sounds around, no other people, no civilization, you realize that if the world ends, this is precisely how it would be. ...and it is absolutely awesome...
The evening sky out here is a sight to behold. Far away from the bright lights of civilization, the desert sky explodes with billions of stars. You can see the Milky Way in all it's gorgeous color. It will blow your mind.
I feel like this remote drive along the river is a necessary passage to get your mind ready for Terlingua; a reset of sorts. It gives you a chance to clear your head of the hectic noise and bustle we live with all the time. Its an hour and a half of open road; an hour and a half of solitude and quiet. From the beginning of our road trip, we had passed thru the various stages of civilization. From big city to suburban mecca through numerous small outskirt towns, past the ruins and remains of times gone by and into the wild. Having passed through all of this, we were ready to head into the best-hidden gem in all of the US. Terlingua is an old mining town. Back in the late 1880's, they discovered cinnabar which sparked an entire mining operation. Shortly after that, the community grew to over 3000 people. As with many places this far away from the big cities, the boom eventually came to an end. If you talk to some of the locals and ask them what happened, you hear a mix of tales about the cost of mining being too high to people becoming ill from the mercury. However it came about, the population declined, and Terlingua became a dusty ghost town on the edge of the world. According to the 2010 census, the population of Terlingua was a grand total of 58 people... and a whole lot of old graves.
The first night, we stopped by the Starlight Theatre. Everyone passing through must stop here for at least an hour or two. You turn off the main road onto a dusty lane that takes you past ruins of what used to be tiny adobe cabins that housed miners. Not much is left of them, some are mere rubble while others are just a wall or two standing alone. Silent reminders of a time long past as they slowly dissolve back into the earth.
After driving past the old cemetery, you come to the end of the road. Here you come upon the Starlight Theatre. As one might expect, its old, worn out and completely unexpected. The food is great, and the drinks are cold. Conversation is to be had with anyone and everyone. The mix of people is impressive; road trippers, hikers backpacking their way through Big Bend, weathered locals and bikers. You find yourself in conversations with them all. There is always live music that is just as unique as the venue itself. On our trips down there we have encountered everything from old-school country and western to a simple man on piano or guitar and even live swing music. You just never know which artists will be passing through.
After a few hours sharing drinks and stories, we turned in the for the night. We had plans to get up early and head to Big Bend for the day.
Now we have lived all over the US; Boston, LA, San Francisco, Miami, Memphis, Phoenix and DFW. Always up for a road trip, we have traveled all across this country several times. I credit Jack Kerouac for igniting the fire within me to travel the open road, having read his books as a teenager, they set a course for the rest of my life.
Our journeys have brought us to many out of the way places, but I have to say that Big Bend and all its wild beauty, is one of the most amazing places we have ever been. I will hold off on describing it at this point, as I feel it deserves its own post. I will do that another time. Suffice to say, we spent most of the day hiking to the hot spring and taking in the view from the Chisos mountains.
Later that afternoon, we drove back into Terlingua to the High Sierra.
Yes, that's it in the photo below.
I love this place. I realize to some, this image might seem a tad bit uninviting, but for someone like me, this is perfection.
It is my opinion that this little dusty dive is the best bar in Terlingua. We sat at the bar and chatted with some of the locals about how they came to live down here. So many colorful people from different backgrounds. We shared many laughs, drinks, and stories. Once again, the food was excellent.
Our bartender, 'Bobby.' Forever to be known as the best bartender in the world was an absolute joy. He introduced us to his unique margaritas made out of agave wine and his own concoction of mixers. I have to admit, we were skeptical at first, especially after he described the ingredients he used. He placed the glass in front of us, and after a momentary glance to one another, we each took a sip and were pleasantly surprised to find that he had indeed made a great margarita. Of course, he stood back smugly and nodded while we confirmed what he already knew...that he was the best bartender in the world. Here he is in all his glory, posing after he told me those exact words.
While there, we met a sweet musician couple, Aaron and Dani from Sweetwater, TX. After a little coaxing from everyone, they got up on the tiny stage and performed a few beautiful songs for us. Their harmonies were lovely. They asked for some song suggestions, and to everyone's surprise, an elderly French couple sitting quietly in the corner, having dinner spoke up with some requests. Aaron and Dani played a few more songs then sat back down at the bar. We invited the French couple to join us as we shared some shots of tequila from a bottle that Aaron brought in from his van. We spent the rest of the afternoon there laughing and sharing stories with several locals who came in for a cold drink. The best quote of the day, in fact, the one that pretty much summed up exactly why Terlingua is so amazing, came from one of these folks. He was an older man, deeply tanned, clear-eyed with white hair, a thick mustache, and beard. We mentioned to him how much we loved coming out here. He said "People come and go all the time. In order to stay here, you need to fall absolutely in love with the desert. It's the ones who are in love with the desert who stay." He then went on to say the best quote ever... Summing up Terlingua perfectly he said, "we're pretty simple here, we only really have one rule, Live how you want, be who you want. Just don't be a dick." Honestly, no more accurate words could ever be said about this remote place. This town is made up of artists, art lovers, merchants, ranchers, deep tanned, rugged men and women from all sorts of different backgrounds and ideologies. None of that matters. They celebrate their differences; revel in them actually. This is precisely why this is the most amazing place in the entire US. This is why, as I said earlier, if I ever go away from public view, you will find me during the day, in this dusty little ghost town having a cold drink laughing and living among some seriously amazing people. In the evening, I will be lying out under a blanket of stars staring up at the Milky Way in all its brilliant, colorful glory. As you can guess, we truly enjoyed ourselves down there. Yes, I want to go back...now....and stay. Perhaps some day...