Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wild West Texas

Amistad Dam
Amistad Dam Spillway
Shaman statue based on the pictographs.
Seminole Canyon Rock Shelter

Nanc warming up by the fireplace at the Marathon RV Park.
The Jersey Lilly

We started the spring travel season driving across West Texas. Our first stop was the Buzzard's Roost Saloon and RV Park in Del Rio, a campground that has a bar offering live country music. We decided to spend a couple days here so we could watch the Pitt basketball team in March Madness and were rewarded with a big win. While there we went to the nearby Amistad Dam that was built across the Rio Grande in the 1960's for flood control, hydroelectric power, water conservation and recreation. The dam is over six miles long with most of it located in Mexico and the road atop it serves as a border crossing. The dam has created a huge reservoir of the Rio Grande, Pecos and Devils Rivers with the water backing up 85 miles. The surrounding water and land are called Amistad National Recreation Area. The name was chosen because amistad is Spanish for friendship. The area has several camping spots and the lake is one of the best bass fisheries in the US with 8 and 9 pounders being common. Because of our short stay I did not get a chance to wet a line:( It is really different seeing these big Western lakes with all this water meeting the arid land.

On Monday we visited Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site which has some of the oldest and best pictographs in the US. In a large rock shelter above the canyon you get an up close view of these 4000 year old drawings. They have been able to carbon date the age of the drawings using chips that have flaked off because the paint included many things from nature such as animal fat and various plants. Because this is desert and the canyon is dry except for flash floods the pictographs are very well preserved. The only access into the canyon was with a park guide and her insight was very useful in understanding the drawings. The park has other trails for hiking and biking and is a worthwhile stop.

From Del Rio we drove to Marathon were we stayed at the Marathon Motel and RV Park, a great little campground and inn complex that has a beautiful courtyard bordered by an adobe wall that has a fireplace where the guests were invited to gather around the fire in the evening. We enjoyed the company of our follow travellers, including one who was bicycling the Adventure Cycling route from San Diego to Florida. On the drive to Marathon we stopped at the Judge Roy Bean Visitors Center in Langtry where the original buildings used by Judge Roy Bean are part of the center. Roy Bean was famous for being the "law west of the Pecos" and often handed out sentences like a "$40 fine and a round of drinks for the jury." His saloon was named The Jersey Lilly after the English actress Lillie Langtry who was know as The Jersey Lily. Unfortunately, the itinerant sign painter hired to letter the sign for food and drink misspelled the name and that continues to be part of the lore. Bean even named his home the Opera House in his efforts to get Langtry to perform there. Ironically, she visited several months after the judge died in 1903. The center has a great desert garden where many cacti were blooming and several exhibits showing the history of this little town.

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