The Road to Alpine

Leaving Las Vegas (and please, please, don’t ever play Ms. Crow’s song of the same name while I’m in the room), heading south, we glanced backward on the weather radar and concurred that our decision to leave a day late was the wise one.  Colorado’s I-25 was snow and ice bound by 8:00 a.m., while our weather was low clouds, fog, and dry.  We rolled into Rowell at around 10:30 and opted for Whataburger over the Alien Museum.  Roswell is a curious place, bigger than I remember, with green aliens helping market most businesses along the main strip.  Lots of personal injury lawyer billboards, too.

The remainder of the day was long highways.  And wind.  As if possessed, it bucked the car, awakened a plague of dust while dust devils danced a tarantella, hoovering silt and sand skyward, choking the sun and swallowing mountains, propelling tumbleweeds, slinging the thin bloom-rods of stumpy-bodied cactus like whips, as if attempting to sweep the already desolate land to nothing but bare rock and stone. 

Dramatic, ain’t it?

I won’t lie.  Aside from the Guadalupe mountains—arrogant, treeless, muscular peaks—the drive is boring, the landscape brown, nothing but short brush and cactus, flaccid or desiccated. Two road-killed feral hogs and plenty of border patrol cars were about all the excitement we had for four hours or so, except for the goldfish shaped giant TARS blimp sitting in the middle of the desert between Valentine and Marfa.

TARS goldfish zeppelin, Border Patrol’s eyes in the skies

The last bit, driving into Alpine, was beautiful.  The wind died down and the flat landscape rose, elegant peaks hugging the now winding road.  Alpine is home to Sul Ross State University, an impressive looking academic institution marked by colonial structures and the college of choice of our daughter. She’s not arriving back from her spring break until tomorrow, so, peckish as hell and hoping to redeem last night’s food fiasco, Cindy and I hastened to Spicewood, a newer joint at which Cindy had imbibed and ingested before.  The blackberry habanera margarita and Manhattan made with Amaro Averna rather than vermouth were surprising, complex, and delicious.  A half-order of nachos left us with too many, despite the outstanding balance of cheese, freshness, spice, and perfectly thin, crispy chips.  My wedge salad was a tad lettucy, missing the heaping mess of dressing, olives, tomatoes, cheese, and cranberries I douse mine with at home, but the cornmeal fried catfish was fit for Jehovah.  Cindy enjoyed a perfectly made green chili burger.  The meat was fresh and heartily seared.  The five-layer chocolate cake and Irish coffee provided the perfect dessert. 

Tomorrow: Big Bend National Park, and maybe the Marfa lights.  For now, it’s lights out.


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