Fort Stockton TX and Deming NM

Rocking, rolling, and bouncing in the truck while pulling a trailer along freeways, highways, bi-ways, and farm to market roads for 3,000+ miles takes a toll on the equipment. On Monday, February 20, rain pelted the truck and trailer a few miles outside of Fredericksburg, and then the trailer’s running lights failed to glow under cloudy skies. Great, something to fix.

On our way, we made reservations rather than end up driving around after sundown looking for a place to stay. Four rigs pulled into the entrance of Fort Stockton RV Park ahead of us, and we figured we were in for a long wait. Good thing we had called ahead because a man in a golf cart pulled us out of line, showed us to our spot, and said to check-in later when the office was not so busy.

The rain decreased to sprinkles allowing us to set up without getting too wet. We arrived with plenty of time before dinner, so I checked out the laundry room. A sour mildew odor smacked me in the face as soon as I opened the door. I didn’t bother to enter, just shut the door and walked away. Not doing my laundry in there.

We drove into town for a good dinner at Alfredo’s Mexican Restaurant, stopped at AutoZone to pick up a replacement fuse for the running lights, and with a little daylight left before sunset, we checked out Historic Fort Stockton, which had already closed for the day.

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Historic Fort Stockton

The complex includes original and reconstructed buildings that depict officer and enlisted men’s living quarters, guardhouse, kitchen, and parade grounds. Established as Camp Stockton in 1858, then abandoned in 1861 during the civil war, Colonel Edward Hatch, Commander of the 9th Cavalry, reestablished the fort in 1867 with buildings completed in 1868.

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Fort Stockton Officer Quarters
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Fort Stockton Kitchen
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Fort Stockton Barracks

Living History Day is held the third weekend in October at the Fort where life in the 1800s at Fort Stockton is reenacted with cannon drills, Native Americans and teepees, Texas Camel Corps, baseball, and a chuck wagon.

Maybe it was the gloomy weather or the temporary women’s restroom, but most likely it was the stinky laundry room. In any case, one night in Fort Stockton was enough for us. The one welcome surprise was the onsite café that served up a reasonably priced and delicious breakfast. It’s always nice to start a day of driving with a hearty meal of pancakes, eggs, sausage, and a cup or two of hot coffee. The bonus of not having to cook it or clean up the mess afterward was a treat.

A couple we met a few weeks back recommended the Little Vineyard RV Park in Deming NM. Since we missed seeing the Enchanted Rock when in Fredericksburg, I thought the City of Rocks State Park might make up for my disappointment. On to Deming.

We arrived at Little Vineyard with plenty of time to throw in a couple loads of wash. When I walked into the laundry room, I was pleased to see a woman cleaning the washers and sweeping the floor. No stinky smells here, only the freshness of cleaning products wafted in the air.

We’re not sure how Little Vineyard got its name because there was no sign of grape vines near the place. There are two wineries in or near town though, Luna Rosa Winery and St. Clair Winery. Unfortunately, we had no time to visit and partake in a tasting.

I already had seen a doctor after the little dog bit me in San Antonio. Now I needed a dentist. A portion of a filling fell out of a molar while eating risotto for dinner and more came out after breakfast. I didn’t really want to have an unknown dentist jam his fingers and tools in my mouth, but I was more afraid of my tooth breaking. Fortunately, Dr. Trevor Williams of Deming Dental Services fit me in at 2:00 pm to confirm my suspicion, and again at 4:00 pm to do the repair. Darn, no City of Rocks for me.

In between my dentist appointments, we managed to visit the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, housed in the old National Guard Armory, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a State Historic Site. For a city with a population 14,000 to 15,000 and a county population of only 25,000, volunteers have managed to curate an impressive array of historical artifacts for their museum over the past forty years.

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Deming Luna Membres Museum Housed in the Old Deming Armory Building

Farm and military equipment are displayed outside the museum, as well as a memorial to the men who served in the 200th/515th Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Regiments during World War II in the Philippines. The monument lists every New Mexico soldier who was a prisoner of war during the Bataan Death March. Of the 1,900 that went to the Philippines, only 900 returned home.

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M42 40 mm Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Duster

Inside, rooms and display cases group the artifacts into themes or categories. These include a doll room; military room; art gallery; transportation annex; collections of nutcrackers, bells, and beer steins; Native American crafts; a Mimbres Indians pottery room; and more. The main street display was my favorite because it was like walking downtown and passing stores or service establishments. Such businesses included a barber and beauty shop; grocery, hardware and clothing stores; a café; and a funeral parlor. After seeing the implements of torture in the mocked up dental office, I was glad dental technology had improved considerably during the past century or so.

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J.A. Mahoney Hardware Store Depiction

The old jail caught my eye. It was in use at the Luna County jailhouse from 1918 to 1975.

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Old Luna County Jail
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Old Luna County Jail Lock and Keys

The Diamond A chuck wagon, built in Deming around 1900, had its own fenced-off section.

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Diamond A Chuck Wagon

I also liked looking at all the old transportation vehicles.

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American Lafrance Fire Truck
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Old Cars and Trucks Displayed in Transportation Hall
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Penny-Farthing, or High Wheeler
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Soap Box Cars

The replica of the silver spike used to join the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad was used during the March 7, 1981, Deming centennial celebration. Founded in 1881 by railroad employees, Deming received its name from Charles Crocker, President of Southern Pacific. Crocker’s wife’s maiden name was Deming.

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Silver Spike Replica

The Harvey House, designed in the architectural style of Midwestern towns rather than Indian or Mexican styles, operated from the 1880s to 1930s.

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Harvey House Depiction

We made the Luna County Courthouse our final stop for the day. Constructed in the architectural style of the Midwest, it is located 10 blocks south of the downtown business district. Originally built in 1910 and 1911, an extension was added in 1963, and major renovations occurred in 2007.

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Luna County Courthouse in Deming NM

That’s it for Fort Stockton and Deming, except someday I’ll return to see the City of Rocks. Next stop Tucson AZ.

Safe Travels

Las Cruces and Mesilla NM, and Alpine and Marfa TX

We hopped on Interstate 10 toward Las Cruces NM on Monday, January 23, 2017. With strong winds forecasted for the night and into the next day, we checked in at the KOA for two nights until we could safely travel. Braving the cold wind the next day, we ventured out to see Fort Selden Monument only to find a “Closed on Monday and Tuesday” sign on the gate. That will teach me to look up places online to check hours of operation.

Ace navigator here, I plotted a route to Peppers New Mexican Cafe & Bar on the Mesilla Plaza for lunch. Somehow the roads did not match the little map I held in my hand so we wound up driving in circles, in and out of historic neighborhoods, up one street, and down another before finally arriving at the plaza. The host at Peppers sat us in the colorful courtyard near the water fountain, giant palms, and ferns.

There are rumors the building is haunted and looking around the place it is easy to see why with the gold framed historic photos, mirrors, low lighting, lace, and red velvet curtains.

After our meal at Peppers, I wanted to walk around Mesilla Plaza to take more pictures, but one shot of the Basilica of San Albino and we ran for the truck to get out of the cold wind. Boy, we sure are a couple of wusses.

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The next morning, Wednesday, January 25,  we left for Alpine anxious to stay at the Lost Alaskan RV Park. We had wanted to stay there last year, but they were all booked up for the Cowboy Poetry event. On our way to Alpine, we stopped at the Prada store that stands alongside US 90 about 1.5 miles for the town of Valentine.

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Prada Marfa Art Installation

Why is a Prada store sitting out there in what seems like the middle of nowhere? It’s not a working store but a sculpture built in 2005 by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. The Department of Transportation designated the installation as a museum in 2014 after a Texas artist vandalized the building. I’m glad it stands as a curiosity on the highway. it would be a shame if it were destroyed or allowed to decay.

Last year I saw love locks attached to a fence behind the building and I was curious to see if they were still there. There weren’t as many as those seen in Lovelock NV behind the courthouse, but it looked like there were more than last year.

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Love Locks Behind Prada Store

A few miles down the road, we saw a white blob off in the distance. What was that big Snoopy looking balloon? Was it tethered to the ground? The wind was pretty fierce so it couldn’t fly. Finding a spot to park on the side of the road while pulling a thirty-foot trailer isn’t an easy task but eventually, we found a spot so I could zoom in to get a closer shot with my camera.

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Tethered Aerostat Radar System

It turns out the object was a tethered aerostat radar system. Having passed through a number of federal agencies over the years, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection assumed responsibility for its funding in 2014. The balloon provides low-level radar surveillance along the southwest border between Mexico and the United States.

The lady who checked us in at The Lost Alaskan RV park warned us about freezing temperatures overnight. We followed the instructions she gave us, but our water hose still froze along with our filter. Lesson learned: Make sure to remove all water from the filter and hose during an overnight freeze. Turning the water off is not sufficient. Duh!

Our son-in-law raved about Marfa TX and encouraged us to stop there. We couldn’t see what was so special when we drove through on our way to Alpine so we decided to give it a closer look the next day. On our way there, we stopped at the Marfa Lights Viewing area. Apparently, people have seen the lights since the 1880s and for years UFOs, ghosts, and other unexplained phenomena were thought to be the cause. Recent scientific research debunked those ideas and attributed the lights to atmospheric reflections of car headlights and campfires. The family of the first man to write about the lights during the 1880s donated the funds to build the viewing area. Around the property are brick kiosks with plaques that tell of the history of Marfa and the surrounding region, making this site an interesting educational stop during the day.

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Marfa Lights Viewing Area

Like most states, Texas offers plenty of plaques along the roadsides, which provide information on historical events that have occurred at that spot or nearby. We stopped at one that described the Paisano Pass, which emigrants used on their way to California. What we couldn’t figure out was why someone had cemented into the ground a ladder over the barbed wire fence. There was no evidence a trail existed there, but perhaps we didn’t look good enough. I wasn’t about to climb over and scout around.

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Ladder Near Paisano Pass Informational Plaque

Once we hit Marfa city limits, Jon slowed the truck and I scouted down each street until we found the one leading to the Presidio County Court House. Churches, hotels, motels, and businesses, including an NPR station, housed in historic buildings, also lined the roads. Art galleries and studios are scattered around Marfa and the town is home to a four-day Marfa Myths Music, Film and Art Fest held in March. I love that counties have preserved the historical character of their courthouses.

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Presidio County Courthouse

A sampling of churches clustered near the courthouse in Marfa TX.

The Hotel Paisano, built in 1930, was used by Warner Brothers during the filming of the movie Giant starring James Dean. The hotel includes a large gift shop where tourists won’t have trouble finding the perfect gift for friends and family.

A few of the buildings in Marfa TX.

We stopped in at Capri for a lunch of the best butternut squash soup we’ve ever tasted served with housemade hearty slices of bread. The restaurant offers many seating options, choose inside in the bar, in the garden, or on the patio.

Our short visit showed us why our son-in-law promotes Marfa with excitement. It is definitely a unique little town with a lot to offer the visitor. Fortunately, another trip is needed to take in the Chinati Foundation and the art galleries. More items to add to our must see list.

Back in Alpine, we walked down West Holland Ave. The Kiowa Gallery has a wide range of photos, paintings, jewelry, clothing, and other art objects for sale.

Looks like the occupants of this Tiny House have everything they need to live off the grid. The vehicle sported Alaska license plates. Were they visiting the Lost Alaskan?

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Tiny House

We could have stayed several more days but rainy weather was forecast so back on the road. Next stop, San Antonio after a night in Del Rio.

Safe Travels.