It seems that to leave Texas heading west you have to go through El Paso. That is okay with Connie and me as both really like the area. We were excited to get on the road and heading back to El Paso for yet another visit.
We were sort of in a hurry to get to Fort Bliss because we wanted to celebrate our 27th anniversary in a more populous area than we had been in for a while. We arrived on our anniversary and in plenty of time to get set up and find the right place to go. In fact we got there so early we were able to go to the Post Exchange and Commissary and contribute a bit to the economic recovery.
Check-in at Fort Bliss was as easy as usual,although we were pretty lucky to get in. There could not have been more than a few empty spaces that first night. Getting set-up was particularly frustrating for seasoned motorhomers such as us. The spaces at Fort Bliss are triple wide. The left third is where the RV is to be parked, the middle third becomes the patio and the final third is where the picnic table is located. The sites are really quite nice. The pads are concrete with gravel between the sites and around the plantings. The portion of the slab where the vehicle is parked has two foot wide gap in the concrete filled with gravel. The idea is to straddle the gap so if there is any fluid leakage from the engine, transmission or cooling system it is contained in the gravel rather than staining the concrete. Well, the strip is only a few inches narrower than the space between our levelers. Levelers are four hydraulic rams with one foot diameter discs attached to the bottom. When activated the rams extend and when the discs make contact with the ground the computer adjusts the height so that the coach is leveled fore and aft as well as left to right. When we first put down the levelers the rear of the coach slipped into the gap as the cylinder was just to the inside of the edge. It took us about fifteen minutes and four or five moves of the coach to get all the levelers on firm concrete. We spent some time later wondering why we had not had this problem the last time we stayed at Bliss. As I was driving back through the park later in the day I saw another big rig with one foot firmly in the gravel and one on the concrete. Then I remembered that we had done the same thing the last time, quite by accident I might add. In retrospect I should have just tried to position the coach that way rather than fighting the gap. The big surprise was that no one ventured out of their rig to offer assistance. I am not saying I would have accepted any, at least not well, but I was none the less surprised there was no offer. We have gotten offers to help when just backing into a straight in spot in the past.
Anyway, we got settled and we got our necessary shopping done with time left to try to figure out where to celebrate our anniversary. We decided we wanted Italian, but not from a chain. As it turned out there were two choices on our side of town both of which had great reputations and ratings. So, we struck out for the closer one. We found it in the shadow of the main runway of the airport. It had been there for many years and it looked as though the neighborhood had evolved mostly toward the worse during those years. However, the parking lot was full and the cars looked pretty good, so we went in. We were immediately taken by lack of charm of this establishment. Plexiglas table tops with cheap diner chairs. Most of the room was setup for groups of ten or more. There were more screaming kids in the place than adults. We didn’t stay.
We moved on to the second place. It was better, but not great. The food, on the other hand was more than acceptable. We will be eating the leftovers for a few more days. While the choice of restaurants was not the most romantic place we have been, it certainly was better than some of the earlier years. All in all we had a good dinner and we remembered why we were celebrating. So, all was well.
On Saturday we did more shopping. Enough said.
For dinner Saturday evening we went to a place we had learned about in Del Rio called Rudy’s Barbecue and Fuel, or something like that. We had bought fuel there in Del Rio and Connie wanted to try the food. When we bought the fuel we got discount coupons for the Barbecue. There are two restaurants in the El Paso area so we gave it a try. Well, the food was just great! Like most good barbecue places you pay for the food, not the ambiance. The food was served in Styrofoam and on butcher paper. It was all put in a Coca Cola bottle crate. The diners pick up their own flatware and drinks and eat at long tables with folding chairs (inside) and picnic tables if you eat on the patio. As an added bonus we got there during the live music,live music at somewhere just shy of pain volume level. We couldn’t talk to one another while eating, so we just pointed and gave a thumbs up to each item from our shipping box. Just as we were cleaning our portion of the table the music stopped and we could once again hear one another.
I don’t want to make it seem as we had an unpleasant experience. It was a great time, but you have to know what you are getting into before you go to a place like that. If you think you want peace and quiet, that is not the type of establishment to go to. If you want wonderful barbecue and can handle the noise then this is your place.
As it turned out, Sunday was our big day. We looked at the map and decided that there were a number of places in a loop of about 160 miles that would be fun to visit. Most of the loop was in New Mexico, but north of where we would travel when leaving El Paso. I have created a map of our route. Hopefully, it will appear below so you can see where we were.
The first leg of our journey took us over the cross mountain road that connects Northwest El Paso with Southwest El Paso without getting on I-10. The road goes right over the mountain eliminating several miles and providing a wonderful view. From there we got on I-10 and headed west, which is really north into New Mexico. Several miles later we exited to I-25 at Las Cruces. A note, I once lived in Buffalo, Wyoming which is just south of the northern-most point on I-25. Las Cruces is at the southern end of the road. We hope to some day complete the full length of I-25 as we have already done with I-95. Anyway, we continued to US 70 and headed east toward the Organ Mountains. I have included a link to a photo album where you will find photos of the Organ Mountains from the east looking west.
Our first stop was at the Aguirre Springs National Recreation Area. This BLM campground is situated on the eastern slope of the Organ Mountains and offers some pretty great views of the valley as well as the mountains. From the campground we could see the White Sands Missile Range Headquarters, formerly known as the White Sands Proving Grounds.
After snapping a few photos from the campground we made our way to the Missile Range Headquarters. We wondered around the base and were surprised to find a small campground. We spent over an hour in the museum looking at photos and descriptions of what has gone on at the site historically, since the 40’s and to a much lesser degree currently. It was fascinating and as it turned out we could have spent the better part of the day there. We had to go on, though.
Our next stop was White Sands National Monument. Now, this is a place that has to be on everyone’s bucket list who hasn’t already been there. Connie and I have decided we will return and spend a whole lot more time there. As it was I took some 80 photos in the few hours were in the monument. It is very difficult to describe the level of white that exists in this place. My images do about as good a job as can be done, but I don’t think a camera can capture real white like exists there. I enhanced several of the images to bring out the detail that is lost in all the white. In doing so the color warmed up significantly and turned the very white sand a little too brown. However, the images remain very descriptive of what is seen. Just put your brown filter on while looking at the enhanced images. I included some before and after enhancement versions of the same images to help interpret the sights. I hope you enjoy them.
A cautionary note. In order to have time to read the captions and enjoy the images, I recommend adjusting the timing of the slideshow. Click on the photo below to open the album. Be sure to press the back button on your browser to get back to the blog.
|A Little Exploring North of El Paso, TX|
As the last photo indicates we ended our day with dinner at The Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliff Ranch, not associated with any other restaurant. I add that last point as there is a chain of steakhouses down here with the same name. There is no relationship between the chain and this place. The Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliff Ranch is a destination, not just another restaurant. Unfortunately for us, we had about a 120 mile drive from White Sands National Monument to the restaurant which is a good 35 miles from the RV park at Fort Bliss. I was making some rather unkind comments as we drove and drove and drove to the restaurant about our friend Rick who had made the recommendation to Connie for us to eat there.
Connie had read the directions to me a couple of times as the drive wore on, but I of course only half listened to her. When we got off the freeway at the Fabens, TX exit I was fully expecting to see a big building and a big sign marking our arrival. But, no, we had another five miles of winding two lane road to drive before we would see the place. Then the driveway must have been at least a quarter mile long winding up a hill passing a lake, an aviary and a variety of other attractions. Finally we arrived at this huge parking lot with parking directors to assist you in finding a place to park. We got to park next to a mini-corral complete with a saddled and tired horse.
I snapped the photo of the sunset within seconds of getting out of the car. That should say something for how late we arrived.
As we walked towards the entrance we noticed a lot of people waiting around. I nearly paniced with the thought that there may actually be a waiting list this late in the evening. As it turned out we were seated immediately. I will fast forward a bit here to save some bites.
Since this was a steakhouse and apparently a very famous steakhouse at that, we decided to eat beef, something we do only rarely these days. Connie ordered a filet and I chose the New York. Our dinners were absolutely wonderful. The side dishes are served family style making it a little easier to not over eat. We both did a pretty good job of not over indulging and as with the italian dinner we had on Friday, we will be enjoying the steakhouse leftovers for the next several days as well.
I have to send out a thank you and an apology to Rick. First and foremost thanks for the recommedaton. Second, I apologize for the negative thoughts as I wearily drove those last several miles to get to dinner.
Tonight we are in Lordsburg, New Mexico. It was a short drive, but we had an incredible head wind all the way, so we made a short day of it. Not much more to say about this little town.
We may be at a casino tomorrow night. Come back and see what we are up to.