Travel Texas to the Midwest and the Home of the Cowboys
Great plains, big cowboy hats, the ranches, the barbecues and big cities. This is Texas but Texas is much more. The Lone Star State goes beyond the topic. Dallas has a great variety of nightlife. So we planned a car route to cross a part of this huge state. Here we tell you all about our road trip through Texas!
Our road to the west continued in the direction of Texas. We left the state of Mississippi behind and we went to our next stage, which would take us to spend a few days in Texas. As soon as we cross the border of this immense state, we stop at the state tourism agency, which is on the same highway. Here we load maps of the area, maps of the most important cities and a magazine with discount coupons for motels and hotels.
Day 1 → Houston
The big flight is already there waiting for us to leave for Houston. The stopover in Amsterdam goes smoothly. The meal was not bad. There are empty seats on the plane. So I have two seats for me. I have to sleep a little as the day will be long. The trip is very pleasant and without problems.
It is 1:10 pm when I arrive in Houston as planned. It's great because it leaves a little time in the afternoon to discover the city. There are no difficulties to enter the US, and the recovery of baggage is easy. I am super happy to meet myself again in the USA.
By bus, I go to the rental car avenue where all the car rental companies are. A choice of 6 or 7 new cars is proposed to me and I choose a black Jeep Compass. I load my luggage and install the GPS but the windshield is too far! After a multitude of manipulations, I leave the airport taking the direction of the city center without the help of GPS.
Suddenly I remember that it is possible to make a reset. And miracle the road finally appears on the screen. I continue to Houston. The weather is nice and even hot but I'm fine, and not even tired! I did not plan to stay in Houston at the beginning of the tour. It is 4:00 pm when I arrive at the first site that I selected during the preparation.
To complete this quick discovery of Houston, I planned a drive in the avenues of Rivers Oaks, one of the chic neighborhoods of Houston. This district gives a real glimpse of the American dream. The houses are huge and beautiful with beautiful parks. I take photos of the houses, stopping occasionally with the car. A man returning home with a huge car from the 1960s comes to see me wondering why I take the house in photos.
It's almost October 31 and is Halloween. The houses are already decorated for this holiday that Americans never miss. I walk the almost deserted streets. The night begins to fall when I return to my hotel via Uptown, the shopping district in Houston. It is a riot of light on both sides of the road.
The streets are lit up like Christmas. I'm hungry and I easily find a parking space near a restaurant! I'm a little tired and I find a counter to eat a chicken sandwich. It's the first day, but I already feel like I've done a lot of things.
The road to the hotel is easy and I fully appreciate the GPS that takes me easily there! Arriving at the hotel, I go around the car and I realize that the right rear tire is almost flat. I do not know if it's just deflated or dead. Anyway, the shop is in my direction because I have to go back to the airport to take the road to Dallas tomorrow. So I will have a small detour.
I'm tired (like the car) after this very long day. Tomorrow is another day. Everything should be okay at least that's what I thought.
Day 2 → Dallas
The night is restorative and I feel a good mood. With a little apprehension, I leave the hotel this morning with a car whose rear tire is deflated. The 20 km course is a little stressful. Well, I can make myself understood and the employee tells me that I have to change car and choose another. So quickly I choose another car, unload my luggage and reinstall myself in a white Chevy that will carry me for the rest of the trip.
All this will take a little over an hour, and I leave satisfied with the delivery. To reach Dallas, I take Interstate 45, an extremely busy highway with a large and fast traffic. While driving, I think I would have liked to see the famous Southfork ranch, but it is over an hour east of Dallas while my course goes west!
By the way, this morning's shutdown will force me to change my schedule a bit and cancel the visit to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. So I head straight for the center of Dallas and especially Dealey Plaza. It's funny but when I'm on the site, I feel like I have already come there so these places seem familiar.
Before going to the JFK Memorial, I visit the Sixth Floor Museum, the JFK Museum. The museum entrance is on the side of the building. The Sixth Floor Museum located at Dealey Plaza, chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. It presents a contemporary culture in the context of the history of the time.
The museum holds in its collections about 45,000 items related to the assassination of JFK. But besides this part of history of America it is especially an immersion in the life, the culture and the social context of the 60s in the USA which particularly interested me. Over the visit, with an audio guide (included in the price of the entrance), I walk this iconic place that remained in the state of the time when it was the Texas School Book Depository, a warehouse of school books.
A collection of objects, recordings, films are presented to the public. The cameras of the reporters of the time are presented but also a camera Bell & Howell, 414PD model identical to the one that Abraham Zapruder used to make the most famous amateur film of all time, that of the assassination of President Kennedy .
On the seventh floor, there is a photo exhibition and especially the portraits of JFK. I leave this place with a little sadness. As everywhere, the merchants are present on the memorial to sell objects, DVDs and other magazines relating the events of the time.
I enjoyed discovering these places steeped in history, and thus better understand this event that upset the whole world 50 years ago. The weather is very nice and I continue to enjoy my discovery of Dallas, passing the Old Red Courthouse to the Reunion Tower.
At the top of the tower, there is an observatory that offers a 360 degree panorama, a bar and a restaurant that turns on itself in 55 minutes. Access to the Observation Deck is via the main entrance next to the hotel reception. I'm surprised that there are few people. I have time to take pictures and admire Dallas from the top.
The rise and descent is done through a glass elevator, which allows to see the city while along the way. Time flies and I move to Pioneer Plaza, which is about 1 km from the tower. I am looking for a bit in town because I do not have a very specific plan. With sandwich in hand, I walk the streets and I easily find this very original site located in the business district not far from the city center.
In 15 minutes I arrive on the spot next to the Dallas Convention Center. By far it's impressive. The Longhorn (typical Texas cow) are in front of me in the street. Pioneer Plaza is a park that commemorates the beginnings of the city of Dallas. On the site are native plants, trees and a stream flowing in a natural setting. The animals and the characters are perfectly imitated and give the impression of being alive. Each work of art in bronze was created by the artist Robert Summers.
The statues of cowboys and longhorns give a very realistic effect. A small stream that comes from the upper part, winds in the middle of the park and gives a magical effect instead. Bucolic! On the hill is a cemetery with very old tombs dating back to early Dallas history. Four former mayors of Dallas, as well as famous people from the Texan Revolution, are buried there.
It is a very photogenic place, perfectly arranged which allows a good moment of relaxation. The sun begins to decline when I leave the center of Dallas, but it is still very hot in the late afternoon of October. I head to White Rock Lake which is approximately 8 kilometers northeast of Dallas. The route is no problem, and I appreciate these great avenues typical of major American cities, which can quickly reach the suburbs.
I do not want to go back to the hotel. So I continue hoping to find a small road. After a few kilometers along the lake, I find a road that leads to the banks. It's quiet and peaceful. Some bushes attract butterflies. The night begins to fall offers pretty colors for the photographer in me.
It's almost night time when I leave this place after a good breath of fresh air. The road to the hotel is fast. I give one last glance at the Reunion Tower that is all lit up. The day in Dallas was hectic, but very interesting because of different and varied visits. I do not regret my choice during the preparation.
Day 3 → Fort Worth
This morning around 8:00 am I leave the hotel in Dallas to reach Fort Worth which is about 50 kilometers away. Despite the first impression, the night was quiet at this hotel with average service.
This morning, it is much less beautiful than yesterday. The sky is overcast and the temperature is cooler. I head to Fort Worth and the historic Stockyards. Instead of taking the direct route to Fort Worth, I make a small detour to Irving
I see the Mustangs at Las Colinas located in Williams Square. This is a huge, very realistic bronze sculpture of nine wild mustangs galloping across a stream of granite. It is very well done. There is even the splash of water under the feet of the horses. Nearby, a small museum tells the story of the creation of the artist Robert Glen and presents other works. The visit is fast because it's the only thing to see in this office district.
It's not yet 10:00 am when I arrive in Fort Worth and Stockyards is not busy yet. At this hour there is hardly anyone. Would the Cowboys get up late? As the activity at Stockyards has not started yet, I take a tour to explore downtown Fort Worth. The Sundance Square is the point of convergence.
This urban center is architecturally in good taste. Today is no longer a (stockyard) cattle park, but rather a sort of big amusement park in a historic place. Here there are cowboys, saloons, rodeos, and longhorn parades (Texan cows with big horns). There is also a lot of restaurants, shops, and other mercantile places.
Everything is there for a beautiful discovery and to soak up the Texan culture. Located within the perimeter of the Stockyards, Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. This is the museum I preferred because it is a place totally dedicated to the cowboy culture. There are hundreds of objects and beautiful collections of saddles.
But the most impressive is the collection of means of transport of the time. The Sterquell Wagon Collection is the world's largest collection of horse-drawn carriages. Now it's time to go to the Stockyards Shopping Center. The site is full of shops of all kinds, for tourists but also for locals who come to buy professional equipment.
I was looking for a beautiful Texan hat, but I had some concern about having to wear it on the head in the flight back home. So I preferred something more transportable! It's almost 4:00 pm, but before the Longhorn parade, I have time to visit Stockyards museum. When I finish the museum tour, near the exit, I hear sounds like those of the auction house. I approach. Bingo, the door is open and that's what happens in this room. I am happy to have witnessed this always spectacular scene of auctions for the sale of cattle.
After this original moment, I go behind the building to see from the walkways the preparation of the parade. The footbridges overhang the corral where are gathered the animals. The major attraction of Stockyards is the Longhorn parade. All the beautiful, placid cows are framed by cowboys with cowboy boots, belt, blue jeans and broad-brimmed hat, the traditional outfit of the male Texan.
The beasts are accustomed, and quickly travel the few hundred meters in front of a delighted and enthusiastic public. Everyone seems happy. Time goes fast in this place where there is always a few things. It is now time to think about eating to gain strength for the rest of the evening that will be long.
Under the train station hall, this restaurant is a mythical place in Fort Worth. Opened by an immigrant this former grocery store now offers barbecue and homemade grill. It's night, it's busy, but I find a table quite easily. The place is in the image of the neighborhood. It is illuminated, noisy, happy, and actually friendly.
The decor is loaded with ancient symbols but the flat screen TV on the walls immediately puts us back in the modern mood. The Tenderloin filet was good. It was a very nice time in this typical restaurant before going to the rodeo.
When I enter the arena, there are not many people. A tractor lit by searchlights is in the center of the track. The room has places in boxes close to the track and bleachers. I chose a place in the stands and I do not regret my choice.
The rider begins to spin and sounded a music that some Americans consider the unofficial national anthem: God Bless America. Everyone sings and the rider runs faster and faster. It was magical, intense, and moving to see this fervor and participation in the behavior of Americans.
The evening begins with the Bull Riding which is a pretty dangerous game, which requires skill and physical strength. A bull is in a kind of cage. On top of it, a young guy rides on the beast and the doors open. It is spectacular, as the rider clings to a rope passed to the animal's neck.
The riding of a wild horse is the most classic event of the rodeo. The whole arena screams and encourages each rider. It is a delirium. It is difficult to take pictures because the movements are extremely fast and I'm not equipped for this kind of shots. So the photos are a little blurry.
In fact, it's the daily chore of ranchers on the ranch, recovering the little calves. All Texan Cowboys and Cowgirls participate in this activity. Today in the arena, it's a fast sport and a race against the clock.
After intermission that allows you to relax a bit, comes the time of fun for the kids. Time passes and the last event announced is the Barrel Racing. It is already late when the show ends that I liked a lot. This evening was a really good time in the culture of cowboys but I I also better understand the subtleties of the rodeo.
It is already late and the night is well advanced, but it remains a must in Fort Worth, to dance on Billy Bob's honky tonk. From the entrance we notice many bars, restaurants, billiard halls, a rodeo, a concert hall, a shop, and a huge dance floor. This Honky Tonk prides itself on being the largest in the world. The atmosphere is warm mixed in a kind of collective madness as we rarely see.
And of course, what I feared happened! I used up the two batteries of my camera and the Ipad that I have in my backpack did not give me good enough photos to be put online. Tonight one of the most legendary artists in the country is in concert at the iconic Billy Bob's but it is late and the concert is underway. Too bad. I would have liked to see a full concert of country music.
After a busy day, strolling through music and entertainment is a bit tiring. I decide to return to my hotel which is 10 minutes from the Stockyards. Returning to the car, and following my battery problem, I suddenly think that I have a small camera in the glove box that I reserve for the photos to take on the fly while moving.
I search everywhere but I cannot find it. I'm sure I put it in the trunk between the seats in the Jeep I traded in Dallas due to the deflated tire problem.
Tomorrow really begins the immersion in deep Texas with a great milestone of 520 km that will take me further west on the Mexican side of the border.
Day 4 → Odessa
The night was really restorative after a long day in Fort Worth. This morning, the weather is good when I take the road to cross a part of Texas from east to west. Today's stage is about 520 km. The US 20 that I will follow, is the road that connects Boston in Massachusetts on the East to Newport in Oregon on the West Coast.
The road is long, but not too monotonous. The weather is nice. The country music is nice. The car is comfortable, and I like to drive on these roads. It's a pleasure! On both sides, the vegetation is poor. There is no tree only a few stunted shrubs. It is very hot in this autumn.
The road is wide and rolling. The habitat is sparse and the few street-crossed villages seem empty of any inhabitant. I stop to refuel because the service stations sometimes are far enough apart from each other. I arrive at Abilene around noon after traveling 250 km without a problem. The city is desperately dead.
I do not see a nice place to take a picture of this city except for some nice buildings in Downtown. There are churches on every street corner! I just take pictures of the magnificent bronze buffalo located in front of the Frontier Texas museum. And the pretty flowerbed of the park's shrubs.
I quickly take the road to leave this place without a soul. The road is always straight and rolling. In the distance, I see a large column of smoke rising from the ground. For a moment I think of a tornado such as we sometimes see on television. But the closer I come, the more I see it's dust. Here everything is dusty, all the way to Odessa.
But here, the dust is due to a car race that takes place on an ocher dirt track. I stop and as the entry is free, I sit in the stands where there are only a few people. The cars are spinning like hell in an intense dust. I emerge from this dusty and thirsty complement, but this little break was pleasant to me.
The more I walk, the more I see derricks, large black carcasses placed like warts in the fields. For a few years in Texas and particularly in this region, shale gas wells have sprouted like mushrooms. I see entire fields of derricks with pipes that run from one pylon to another to meet in large black tanks located on the edge of the ground.
From the city of Sweetwater the aptly named city of wind turbines, I see on the horizon, more and more wind turbines that stand in the blue sky. Now on the road too, there are many trucks carrying wind turbines or maintenance equipment.
The landscape is the same, always arid, and windy. I at this time approach one of the largest wind farms in the world in Roscoe.
I cannot believe it's impressive 360 degrees view with wind turbines everywhere. I can not translate the feeling and the photos reproduce only partially the spectacle that is offered to me when I arrive near this place.
You might think that the presence of all these wind turbines pollutes the visual landscape, but here in this flat country, I found it very beautiful. Slowly the wind turbines disappear to leave an arid and dusty landscape where the horizon seems blocked by a cloudy halo it is the region of Odessa.
The entrance to the city of Odessa is not very pleasant. The warehouses and trucks raise a hellish dust. Before returning to my hotel, I stop at a pharmacy and buy an SD card for my camera. In the parking lot, a car catches my eye and the driver is thrilled to give me an enthusiastic demonstration of his limousine.
I booked the hotel quite late. So I struggled to find a reasonably priced hotel and stay overnight at one of the most expensive on the circuit. The establishment is perfect (normal for the price). Within the room, a small kitchen allows me this evening to dine in front of the TV. There is a very international menu with local sangria grape wine. A little tired, I do not want to come out tonight and nothing seems attractive in this city.
Day 5 → Fort Davis
The night was very nice at this hotel but I really want to leave this part of Texas to a little more austere one. I want to see a little more green landscapes and a more cowboy atmosphere. At 8 am, I go to the side on the Wild West. Here the sky is blue and even at the beginning of the day it is already very hot.
The landscapes are still as desert, but with some green spots. A few miles from Odessa, I planned to visit Odessa Meteor Crater. I read on the internet sharp reviews on the site. The comments today reflect perfectly my opinion. This site on many guides seems completely abandoned.
Anyway, it's just a tiny crater surrounded by barbed wire and oil wells. It has nothing to do with Meteor Crater on the side of Flagstaff which we saw in Arizona. I took US 20, which starts next to the city of Kent in this desolate West Texas oil region, through the cities of Odessa and Midland, and makes the transition between the Panhandle Plains regions, Big Bend and the Prairies and Lakes region. I leave US 20 at Monahans to follow the road to Fort Stockton.
There are few people on the road. Since the departure of Odessa, I cross only a few cars. I drove well in this sunny morning and I arrive at 10 o'clock at Fort Stockton. There is no one when I arrive at the parking lot in front of the museum which is also the entrance of the site. After the discovery of the outside, I visit the small museum that offers objects and weapons era and explanatory panels on the site.
The visit is quite fast because the interior of the buildings is not open to the public. The sun was very pleasant. I'm starting to enjoy this day and I'm riding with real pleasure to discover other aspects of Texas.
I will not go to Marfa where is this totally anachronistic stuff. The famous Prada shop is planted in the middle of the desert. On my way, is the city of Alpine (an original name for a desert city). It is 12:30. I go quickly to the Visitor Center but I feel like disturbing the good lady. I take a plan and I run away quickly.
In fact, I want to have enough time to visit the Fort Davis site which seems more interesting. A stroll through the city allows me to see gigantic wall frescoes adorning the walls. The closer I get to Fort Davis, the more green and mountainous nature becomes.
One of the first buildings I see when arriving at Fort Davis is the bank. A true image of West, it misses only the horses and the cowboys. The Fort is located in a canyon on the eastern slope of the Davis Mountains where forest, water, and pasture are abundant.
The visit of the buildings of the fort is very interesting. The bugle sounds giving the impression of being immersed in the heart of this military life of the time. At the foot of the mountain, at the bottom of the site, a path allows climbing on the heights to discover the Fort from the plateau. This trail is quite easy. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the belvedere overlooking Fort Davis National Historic Site. It allows us to see the extent of this military fort in its natural environment.
I then go down the path to reach my car after this visit which I liked very much because it allows to combine the discovery of the historic Fort but also to see the vastness of these places in Texas .
I have a little trouble finding, not that the site is unknown, but the inn is at the bottom of the RV Park of the same name and the house is not very visible in this vast place. The owners are not there. The door is open. A note for me is in the entry. Feel like at home. I visit and am super happy with my choice. The house is superb.
But I think it's still early to stay home and at 6 pm, I leave for Davis Mountains State Park, which entrance is a few miles away . I know I cannot do much, but I want to see the landscape. I take a small road that leads to the heights. And along the way, I discover deserted landscapes, bare, beautiful in the setting sun. It is so beautiful and calm that I decide to stay until the disappearance of the sun on the horizon.
It's almost dark when I leave Davis Mountains State Park. The return is fast on these busy roads and it's dark when I arrive in Fort Davis. I enter one of the few main street restaurants still open. Tonight it will be hamburger fries! My accommodation is only 2 minutes towards Marfa. I quickly join my beautiful home for a night of rest after this beautiful day in the heart of Texas.
Day 6 → Terlingua
I had a great night at this Bed and Breakfast in Fort Davis, and the breakfast was perfect. It is 8:30. The sky is blue. The temperature is already hot, but it has frozen that night because the windshield of the car is still studded with frost. There is incredible temperature difference between night and day.
The weather is nice this morning and I have a lot of fun taking the road for this new day of discovery of Texas. The road is perfect and there is almost no traffic, except for a few big trucks carrying huge bungalows. After Fort Davis, it is again desert with poor vegetation but the scenery is beautiful and there are no oil derricks like the side of Odessa.
The city of Marfa does not present any particular interest, but it seems to reign there a certain languor. It is related perhaps to the little hippie population who resides there, lost in the middle of the desert. The city of Marfa regularly hosts the filming of many movies. And it is here on the road 90 towards Van Horn, that the brand Prada has its famous improbable shop (today deserted) in the middle of the desert.
Every day that passes, I see the immensity of these almost desert lands where often. While preparing my tour, I thought that in Marfa, I would easily find the road that leads to Ruidoso. No indication, no directional signs, and the GPS does not find this destination! I will only find the indication of 2810 South much further.
I ask several people, but none was able to give me direction. It must be said that Ruidosa is more than 85 km from Marfa. I go back and forth to find the famous road and find myself by mistake on the road 90. In this desert nobody, except a car stopped at the edge of the road. This is my chance. The lady is nice, but does not know the road! She offers me to follow her to the city and there with her phone she will guide me to the junction of the good road.
With a little delay on my schedule, I'm finally on the right route. The Pinto Canyon Road begins with the 2810 South, straight in the desert but then, it turns into a track and passes through the Chinati mountains before emerging in the Rio Grande Valley. Of the 85 km, about thirty km is still unpaved track, part of which before reaching Pinto Canyon is particularly steep and rugged.
On both sides is the desert and in some places there is the indication of a ranch. It is very rolling and pleasant with this wonderful time of the month of October. The first sign of life I've seen for half an hour's drive is a red pick-up truck on the side of the road. I stop to ask confirmation of the way to the farmer who comes to see her animals.
She confirms to me that it is the road. The landscape is beautiful, but that the road becomes a little difficult. And it's a few hundred meters after I arrive on the unpaved runway. The landscape becomes more mountainous with rare vegetation, and the road more scabrous. The soil of this place is reddish brown, with sand and clay loams the ground is stony. The vegetation is some rare herbs, cacti and shrubs of the desert. It's arid!
My car is a SUV that for the moment behaves perfectly on the sandy track. The trail goes through private properties that are indicated by signs. I am a little apprehensive to venture on private land, but it is clear that it is possible without access to the surroundings.
Some places are particularly difficult in places a little steep, in ascents where the paved track is downright smashed but stable. In addition I have more and more the question: Am I on the right road? How can a road that connects two cities (finally a track) be so bad? I'm a little worried.
Looking back, I see that I did not take pictures in the most difficult, steep and beautiful places. I was focused on driving. I ride a long time and I do not see the end. Finally I see a car in front and run to ask if I'm on the right road. This meeting really reassured me!
Being alone, I cannot stop to take pictures because I do not dare to get off the vehicle. The descent to the bottom of the canyon is spectacular but easier and above all offers a beautiful landscape. While being a little worried, I am super happy to be there alone in the world, in the middle of the desert in Texas. It is a real moment of happiness!
I take the road again passing by the private properties without seeing any of the inhabitants. During the preparation of the circuit, I planned to go take a bath in the natural cavities of Chinati Hot Springs that are in the vicinity. Chinati Hot Springs has been a meeting place for desert travelers looking for rest, loneliness or rejuvenation in a natural and unspoilt place. I travel a few miles to get to a barrier. The site is closed!
I am disappointed because I really wanted to see this place described as quite magical. This is the best place to take a break from the world and all its problems. I quickly return to Hot Springs Road, with a small detour via the Crossover Road to Ruidoso. On the 85 km of this road, I crossed two cars on the coated part and only one on the track.
The arrival in Ruidoso and its few scattered houses finishes this very original course that I really appreciated. Afterwards, I had some frights to be alone in such remote places. In this place, the flash floods are frequent and the gauge indicates a passage of water of an impressive height.
The afternoon begins. I take the direction of Historic Terlingua Ghost Town by the route 170 which runs along the Rio Grande, natural border with Mexico. In a few minutes, I already see two green vehicles. It is very beautiful, but hot.
Immediately after the Pinto Canyon Road I take the road back to Big Bend National Park, especially the small town of Terlingua which is a few miles from the park entrance. We are mid-October. It's hot, and the sky is blue, but it's very pleasant to ride.
I follow a scenic drive that starts in Terlingua next to Big Bend National Park. It runs along the Rio Grande through the most remote lands of the United States forming the natural border with Mexico. This road is listed as one of the most beautiful scenic spots in Texas and I check it all along the route where there is always something to see.
Route 170 is also known as the "River Route" which crosses the most isolated area of the region for 185 km. I arrive at Presidio. It is often a stop for tourists visiting Big Bend, but it is also the largest city on the Rio Grande between EL Paso and Del Rio. I refuel the car. The price of fuel is a little more expensive here than on the side of Dallas or Austin.
On Route 170 to about 60 miles from Terlingua, lies the Fort Leaton Historic Site which is approximately 4 miles east of Presidio. I visit this fort which is very different from the ones I saw previously as Fort Davis.
The site is close to the road. The visitor center is in the fort. A small museum retraces the history of this place. It's the middle of the afternoon but there is nobody! After this break, I take the road again. I made the choice not to visit Big Bend Ranch State Park, another park of this corner of Texas.
The road is really fast, with beautiful scenery on each side. This scenic route is one of the highlights of this trip. On the road 170 to 7 miles from Presidio, I move to Casa Piedra Road, a dusty trail that seems to lead nowhere. I find the road to the hotel for the night in Terlingua.
Time flies and there is always something to see on this road. I soon reach Terlingua. I take a short break at Colorado Canyon River where I have the opportunity to meet some bikers from Dallas. About 9 miles after Lajitas, I'm not very far from a place known by moviegoers as the Contrabando site. It is a film set built in 1985 that has been used for the production of many films.
It's really a very nice landscape! The arrival at Terlingua Ghost Town offers a rather surreal landscape. The city has a few houses and shops scattered in a rare vegetation and covered with dust. In fact it is a ghost town. I take a ride on the heights to visualize this place. The mining town went bankrupt and the miners left leaving their homes behind.
Today, there is a ghost town of dilapidated buildings, mine shafts, ruins and ugly beasts! There are cactuses, and rattlesnakes. The city totally abandoned in 1940 still feeds the legend of the wild west. I see a drugstore, but also a bar cum restaurant. A fresh local beer freshened me at the end of the day. It tastes great in this heat and dust.
I take a track that starts just behind the motel. I run the track for 2 or 3 miles to see the sunset and the beautiful colors of the end of the day. The night falls quickly.
After this return to the past, I go to my hotel which is 2 miles to the Big Bend National Park. The room is simple but it's enough. There is a tv but no fridge. I would have preferred the opposite in this country where it is still 30 degrees in the middle of October.
That ends one of the beautiful days of this road trip. The eyes are full of beautiful images, but a little tired. I will surely spend a beautiful night.
Day 7 → Big Bend National Park
This morning, we have a quick breakfast at the cafe next to the resort where I had a great night. Before I left, I spent a lot of time trying to organize this day's itinerary to optimize the movements.
I made the choice to take directly this track which allows to reach Santa Elena Canyon in 14 miles instead of 42 miles by the normal road thus to save time and especially of avoid a return trip on the same road.
This track goes through the badlands on the west side of the park while progressing towards the Rio Grand and the Canyon of Santa Elena that we can see far off. The road is sometimes rough and sandy with one or two fords with little water at the moment, but sometimes completely impassable because flooded ..
On the track is a place a little out of time. In the distance one can see the majestic Santa Elena Canyon, a kind of notch in the desert vegetation mountain. It is the abrupt change of direction of the Rio Grand that has created this narrow and deep gorge visible more than 10 miles around.
They are the most beautiful cliffs of Big Bend National Park which form walls of 450 meters high. It is still early when I arrive in this magnificent landscape. I discover alone because there is no car on the carpark where begins the path that leads to the end of the canyon.
I cannot wait to do this first trail, to discover Santa Elena Canyon. For my part, I found the surroundings of Rio Grand Village even more fantastic and more typical of Texas. The beginning of the trail is in sandy fields. Then there is a steep climb through stairs to a vista where the view is magnificent.
I advance in the canyon, where the shadows play with the sun. We go down gently to return to the edge of the water on a nice green path until the walls meet the water. Here is the end. It is impossible to walk beyond this small beach. The Rio Grande passes between two large walls that rise to more than 1500 feet (450m). The huge cliffs return the sounds and echo there is quite fabulous.
I remain a moment in this end of the world, alone, shouting things that the echo sends me back. What a joy to be there. The weather is nice. It's calm and I love the place. On the way back I meet a couple, the only people I see during the two hours of the trek. I really liked this place for the calm and serenity that emerge.
I return to my car happy to discover this natural wonder. On the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, I have a last look at Santa Elena Canyon. It's time to take the path to new discoveries from Big Bend National Park towards Castolon.
The site of Cerro Castellan lets burst its different colors to the right and to left of the road. It's really beautiful and quite surreal. It looks like snowy. The Cerro Castellan mountain has a conical shape. It is now hot, when I arrive at the car park of Mule Ears Spring Trail. I am always alone in the world in this desert vastness. With a bottle of water, sun protection, glasses, cap, I leave for this hike.
This path crosses the foothills of the Chisos mountains. It runs along a small mountain range and crosses several small streams dry at this time. As in many places (where I want to come back) I see a small stone totem. On the course, I see a lot of lizards and small birds.
After this journey, I start to get a little tired when I get back to the car. To reach the site of Burro Mesa Pouroff, we leave the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive on the left at Spur Road. A trail in the meadow with sand or gravel, leads to the foot of an ocher cliff.
At the end, the trail ends against a narrow canyon where the water carved an imposing vertical furrow. The rock is smooth and polished which indicates the power of the waters which flood this canyon during the torrential rains of summer.
It is a beautiful oasis of greenery in the desert and a great place for bird watching and wildlife. There are still fruit trees, like cashews. There is not much left to see. The road that leads towards the Chisos Mountains becomes more mountainous and the landscape greener.
A few miles from Chisos, I start the Lost Mine trail. There is a lot of people here. The small parking barely contains the cars of the hikers. I start without knowing the distance and I have not seen today the indication of the distance on the panels. After 15 minutes of walking, I wonder about the duration of this ride, knowing that it is already 1 pm and that I also want to spend time in Rio Grande Village.
So I limit my route to the first mile where I discover a breathtaking view of Casa Grande and Juniper Canyon. Then, the trail climbs steeply in the juniper trees, oaks, and pine forest. On the heights, we can see Pine Canyon and the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. In a few minutes, I am in the Chisos Mountains and I discover the nerve center of the park with the only lodge there.
Here it's green. The weather is cooler. The mountains are covered with trees and it's the place where the wildlife is most impressive. I only have a short time, only to book my room. The Christmas trees are already on display in the lobby.
It takes about 50 minutes to travel 30 miles to reach the river and the Mexican border. The road is perfect with signs of bears that I have not seen! The trailhead starts at Rio Grande Village Campground. The entrance is not obvious to find. We have to go to the bottom of the campsite to see the small path hidden under the foliage that leads to the site.
The trail begins with footbridges placed on the water, sometimes completely surrounded by dense vegetation. It is here that I see the first small objects made by Mexicans and deposited on the ground so that visitors put money in a box in exchange for an object. I will see much more directly on the banks of the Rio Grande where crossing a few meters on foot we are in Mexico.
The track is very picturesque and particularly well thought out to visualize the flora and the fauna and in particular the birds. Then the path climbs gradually a limestone hill with panoramic views of the Rio Grande and the Chisos and Del Carmen Mountains.
At the top we discover the Rio Grande which forms a natural border between the two countries. I return to Rio Grande Village where Campground seems to be particularly welcoming. But we are in the middle of October and there is hardly anyone. Yes, I have seen and talked with Dutchmen in a motorhome with NL registered plaque. It's funny and unusual to see a European plaque in the USA. There is a young couple finishing a big trip around the world by the USA.
It's already almost 6 pm when I approach Boquillas Canyon. Before taking the trail I get busy photographing the objects deposited on the ground by the Mexicans who take care of their horses on the other side of the river. The Boquillas Canyon trail starts at the foot of the cliff. From the summit, we discover the sun which slowly declines. From the top, we descend to the banks of the river. There the track is no longer visible. We must follow the edge. It's wild and sometimes a little swampy.
It is 6.30 pm. The evening will soon fall but I'm not alone. A couple of young people just started the trail at the same time as me. That reassures me a little because of the location and the immediate proximity of the border, which is a few meters away. This time I'm almost at the end of the canyon. The river narrows and the path is more difficult. It is necessary to stick to the wall to advance on this last part rather rugged.
It's the end. The trail stops, and only the steep cliff falls into the water. It's the end of the trail. This trail is fantastic. It allowed me to see different and changing landscapes at the end of the day. The proximity of the border was not a problem for me, despite what I had read before going on the subject.
On the way back, the night begins to fall. We arrive in Chisos where the sun still shines on the summit of the mountain. The accommodation in the motel is fine. It is perfect no frills for a good night's rest to continue the next day.
I had considered the restaurant tonight, but I'm too tired and I have dinner on the bed in front of the TV.
Day 8 → Del Rio
If during the day it is very hot, the nights are cooler in October.
The night at the lodge in the heart of Big Bend National Park was very relaxing. Like every day, it's an early start to a new day of discovery of Texas with today a step a little long to reach Del Rio, a border city with Mexico.
The road is easy, and straight. The weather is beautiful. I see a huge train and I stop a few miles later to make a little video. The trains here are huge and often have an impressive number of cars. I am talking about Border Patrol because in this region they are omnipresent. Green and white cars are often seen everywhere.
At the roadside, and especially at the entrance of roads, I noticed big abandoned tires (like tractor tires) tied together by chains.
I asked myself the question what could this do? And I finally had the explanation by seeing several times the use of this system by Border Patrol. In this very sensitive border area, this technique makes it possible to see if a car has passed on the way.
In the distance, I begin to see the expanse of water upstream of the Amistad dam, my next destination. The dam is a crossing point for Mexico but I do not want to cross the border with the car because the renter does not allow this option. I imagine that there is parking on the dam before the passage in Mexico.
When I arrive at the US border, there is no one. No car seems to head to Mexico. I get out of the car and ask the agent who controls the arrivals from Mexico. I understand that he gives me permission to go with the car. So I understood that I could go on the bridge with the car and come back without crossing the border post of Mexico.
I left and am happy to be there, on the road that precedes the bridge which is about 1 km away. After the dam, the river resumes its normal course. So after an hour spent on the bridge, I come back to the border post to enter the US territory. It's not the same agent now, but a lady. As soon as I present her my passport, she makes a funny face. She asks me stuff that I do not understand, speaks fast and loud. She even screams.
I try to explain to her that her colleague has allowed me to pass but she does not want to hear anything. In fact, I just understand that I should have parked my car and walked. She asks me to get out of the car. I must say that at this moment she seems intractable and tells me that I cannot pass.
I imagine that by crossing the border post with the car, I am supposed to have left the US territory, and there I come from Mexico and I have no stamp on my passport. It's been over 10 minutes that I am stuck. I see them consult a screen with the guard that I had seen at the entrance. She makes big gestures, while the others are calmer. When she returns, I expect the worst.
I tell her again that I misunderstood and that I'm on a tourist trip to Texas. She notes the references of the car, asks me the address of my hotel in Del Rio and hands me my passport. I quickly leave this place that gave me cold sweats.
I quickly make the last miles to arrive at the border town of Del Rio, a Texas city with a very Mexican style. Before going to the hotel, I go for a ride in the wash to give a good look to my dusty car. The night is not yet there. I'm going to walk on the side of the river and the border. Along the river, it's green and bucolic.
I walk on the banks. It's super photogenic, but in the distance I see a military boat heading towards my direction. I prefer to get away. The sun goes down when I get back to the hotel with a small stop on the side of the historic center that gives me a very Mexican view of Texas.
At the end of a street, on a small square, dancers repeat in the setting sun. The reception of the hotel tonight also gives in the color and eclecticism of decoration.
Day 9 → Bandera
I had a bad night at this motel. The occupants of the room above mine, moved boxes all night between their car and the room. So a little grumpy I leave this morning to discover new landscapes to Bandera where I will spend the night.
The road continues along the Mexican border. While driving, I quickly see the change of scenery compared to Big Bend where I was yesterday. Now it is plain and it is the country of ranches and horses. The entrance of the ranches is always materialized by a portico.
It is really nice to ride on these roads along the areas huge crops in this part of Texas, where there are many ranches. I arrive early in Bandera. Bandera is also the city of bikers in the region, almost all in Harley Davidson. Upon arrival, I make a quick tour of the Frontier Times Museum.
I go into the countryside to discover the ranches. I continue my discovery of the surroundings of Bandera. In the huge meadows, I meet an old Texan, who travels the country in a cart like in the days of the pioneers. The American flag which is part of the culture of the Texan accompanies the trolley.
On the return, I stop at the camp of a family. Friendly, they invite me to drink a beer with them and allow me to discover their world of horse lovers. It's quite spartan but they are passionate. I drive a few more miles to visit the ranch, more rustic and more typical than the first.
In fact, in the middle of October, there were few people in the area and the ranches seemed to be bathed in a soft torpor. The end of the day approaches. I return to Bandera. I stay at one of the few hotels in the area.
Before dinner I go for a walk along the River Oak, very photogenic river at sunset. The sun declines on this day which was hectic and rich in discoveries. It is beautiful and peaceful but I am hungry! I have dinner in the restaurant next to the motel.
Day 10 → San Antonio
We went straight after getting up to Alamo. In the morning we arrived and check-in at the the oldest hotel in the southern states. After checking in the old hotel, we walked right to the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a kilometer-long path along the banks of the San Antonio River (in the city with other man-made canals). In the city center there are countless restaurants, bars, small shops and a few clubs along this route. We did an interesting boat trip across the San Antonio River along the Riverwalk.
Afterwards we rented bicycles and made a tour of the city. We visited among others La Villita, an old artists' quarter with small shops. We move to the Hemisphere Park, the Mexican market which incidentally is the largest in the US and includes many small shops that reminded me of Mexico City.
We went to the Buckhorn Museum, a very large Texas hunting museum with several exhibits. There are many hunting trophies, rattlesnake pictures, an exhibition on fishing, an exhibition on crazy misbehaved animals with two heads. Then we walked back and went in heavy rain on the Tower of the Americas, the highest tower in the city. There was also a 4D movie about Texas (which was not so good). In the evening we were in a British pub with very good live music.
Day 11 → Austin
In the morning we went on to Austin, the capital of Texas, only about 80 miles from San Antonio.
We stayed at a cheap motel this time which, however, served its purpose well. After checking in we went again on sightseeing tour. We started with the Capitol, where the Texas government meets.
We participated in an interesting, free guided tour. Incidentally, the Capitol is very large. The statue of liberty could easily be placed in the dome. Then we walked a bit through the city and wanted to visit the Barton Pool (an old natural spring bath). Unfortunately, that was not worth seeing, as it was only a concrete pool for swimming.
We drived to Houston. First stop was the Houston Space Center. We did a tram tour where we saw several rockets (including a giant Saturn 5) and the Control Center. We see a documentary about Mars and watched a spaceship exhibit. Of course, I also photographed the space shuttle.
Then we drove on to Galveston, a town on an island on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We looked at some nice villas (cities on the coast are mostly European because of the earlier settlement and look very fancy). Then we drove on to the Battleship Texas, which stands next to the Independence Monument of Texas.
Unfortunately, the guards were about to close the parks so we could not look at the ship. It is a warship, which has participated in both world wars and thus is very old. Incidentally, the San Jacinto Monument is similar to the Washington Monument, an obelisk, except that the monument is huge in Texas. We drove back to Houston.
In Houston, there was not so much to see. Contrary to many statements, there are sidewalks in Houston and there was absolutely nothing going on in the city. Afterward, we made our way back to Austin again. Unfortunately, it was already too late for the bus. So we had to take a shuttle into the city, which let us out directly at the party center.
So we just walked around the area, but there is not really much to see in Austin. In the evening we made our way to the Congress Avenue Bridge. At night, millions of bats are supposed to start their hunt there and darken the sky. We waited 2 hours and saw millions of bats, startled by tourist boats with red light bulbs under the bridge.
Austin is known for its party strip (6th Street) and calls itself the city with the highest density of live music bars. This, unfortunately, is not true because there were not even half as many live music bars in New Orleans or Nashville. The party mile was still really good.
Next morning we flew back home.