From Alan –
Population = 614,882, latitude 31º46’, longitude 106º26’, elevation 3,918 feet, average January low temperature = 31.3, Average July high temperature = 95, average sunny days = 297, annual snowfall = 5.8”, annual rainfall = 8.4”
The distance from Austin to El Paso is roughly 575 miles. We didn’t want to spend an extra long, miserable day behind the wheel, so we stopped for the night about halfway in Fort Stockton. The next day we learned a lesson about Texas: be sure to fill up your gas tank before you cross the desert. Just before El Paso we found a gas station and put 14.85 gallons into our 15 gallon tank. At Esther’s Folly’s in Austin they did a bit about Texas breaking up into five states; one for each letter. T is the Top, E is the East, X is the good stuff in the middle, where Austin is, S is for South, and A is for the Western part, also known as Ain’t cuz there Ain’t a damn thing out there. Very funny until you drive it and see nothing but sand for hundreds of miles.
El Paso is shaped like a big “V”, covering the tip of a mountain range at the point. The West half runs toward New Mexico, the East half runs toward Texas and Mexico, and the downtown is in the middle. El Paso is not the night-clubbing, honky-tonking, crazy weird street life kind of town that Austin is. The pace is a bit slower, the people a bit more “normal”, the rush hours not so massive frantic. There are no districts devoted to Weird. There are not even that many breweries. We found all two of them and they lean more toward gastropub than saloon. The taprooms offer creative food offerings to pair with the many craft beers.
The food tends to be more Mexican here than Tex-Mex. Sure, there are lots of taco joints, but there are also some great authentic places that serve distinctly non-gringo stuff. I ordered the machaca platter at L & J Cafe and got beef, chilis, and onions, mixed with egg, fried into a patty, and smothered with queso sauce. WOW! But don’t get me wrong, I do love a good taco. At the H & H car wash, the crew scrubbed down Gipsy as Marylu and I wolfed down succulent and juicy $3 meat and potato tacos in the attached diner. At Crave, I fulfilled a long-standing wish and had chicken and waffles. OK, so the classic version is served with maple syrup. This one was chicken breast wrapped around green chili, then stuffed into a poblano pepper. Lightly bread and deep fry until golden then place on a waffle with green chili cream dressing. Another WOW.
It turns out El Paso has some great museums and most are Free! Marylu and I took a couple of afternoons and went “museum surfing”. The Museum of History has interesting tales and artifacts, but is probably as well know for its “touchpad wall” where you select topics and times and scroll by dragging a finger along the wall. I could play with this thing for hours.
The Museum of Art has works by local artists, as well as some old masters.
The Border Patrol Museum has history, uniforms, and vehicles used by both smugglers and Border Patrol officers.
The Archeology Museum has dioramas and artifacts from the primitive peoples that lived nearby so long ago.
The UTEP Museum of Chihauhaun Desert is a little garden plopped into the middle of the campus that showcases many desert trees, flowers, and cacti. In the building next to it is the Centennial museum. It features archeology, geology, and mineralogy exhibits.
The Magoffin home is a beautifully preserved and restored home that used to house the richest and most influential family in El Paso. Much of it is original furniture and decor. The tour guide is a wealth of information on the construction of the home, the period, and the family.
There was one last bit of history that we just had to see; Rosa’s Cantina. You’ve heard the song about the gun fight on the “Wild Western streets of El Paso”. Maybe you didn’t know that there actually is a Rosa’s Cantina. The stories differ as to whether Marty Robbins ever set foot inside, but the legend continues. The menu serves up a big sloppy green chili cheeseburger that they named after him. If you want to keep the peace with the locals though, don’t play that damn song on the juke box.. AGAIN!
El Paso seems a nice town, just about the right speed for a couple of fogeys. Lots of good food and taprooms. A few golf courses nearby. Trouble is the blistering heat in the summer. Even though it is dry heat ( 8% humidity when we were there), it is still way hot half the year. And when the wind whistles down the valley, you can see the dust in the air. We are well into desert territory now. As a Minnesotan, I miss the green. Lawns are gravel and brick here! Just not right.
Next up: Albuquerque