Las Cruces, NM is the second largest city in the state, with a population of 95,000, and is home to New Mexico State University. For thousands of years, the valley was inhabited by ancient Native Americans, the Mogollon. Las Cruces was incorporated as a town in 1907 and New Mexico became a state in 1912. We drove to the small “old town” bedroom community of Mesilla, where I visited Bowlin’s Books and sold four of my books to the proprietor. This area is very windy and dusty and we’ve decided we don’t want to move here.
Continuing on I-10 east, we entered Texas, which would take us three days to cross. There are many things about Texas that remind me of Montana (the time is takes to cross it, for one, some of the terrain, the “big sky” with cloud shadows in the distance, and the friendliness of the people.) The countryside is brushy, plains desert, which must have been a challenge rounding up cattle for shipment in the old days (or even today, if that’s still being done). We didn’t see many cows in the area.
El Paso is a large, spread-out city, with lots of room to grow. (Reminded me of the old song “Out in this west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl…:” I used to know all the verses!)
We spent the night in the small town of Van Horn, dining on a great steak at the Cattle Company.
Ironically, the speed limit in most of Texas is 80 mph, however, driving a loaded truck, we are keeping to 65-70 mph to save gas. West Texas is miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. I kept wondering about the early settlers, how they managed to travel through this country and why they decided to settle where they did. The picture above shows the long, straight highway and distant hills shrouded in dust. Our windshield needed washing and my sister-in-law commented, when I sent her the photo, it looked like the ghost of a tornado that must have picked up speed and gone on to Missouri and other states to wreak havoc. (It’s just a streak on the windshield however.)
The next stop was in Fort Stockton Tx, where I’d searched on-line for a possible place to sell books and found the Gray Mule Saloon and Gifts. But when we arrived, the Ol’ Gray Mule wasn’t what she used to be, undergoing remodeling to become a wine-tasting shop. Having not found our favorite Starbucks that morning, we were delighted to see Anastasi’s Pottery, Coffee Bar & Cafe right across the street. We purchased an excellent cup of brew and visited with Rhonda and Alfredo Ibarra. I mentioned I was an author, handed her my card, and Rhonda said she’d been looking for western-themed books to sell. Voila! Four more books sold!
Movin’ on down the road, we crossed the Pecos River, which reminded me of the saying “the only law West of the Pecos,” referring to Judge Roy Bean, the “hangin’ judge.” He established the Jersey Lilly Saloon in Langtry, Tx, and it is the namesake of the saloon in Ingomar, MT, where my grandparents lived. Bean reportedly was infatuated with the actress Lilly Langtree, and named the establishment for her. The top photo is the Texas Jersey Lilly and the bottom is the Montana establishment. (We didn’t actually make it to see the Texas saloon. Photo courtesy of 50Statesor Less.)
Onward ho, through Texas to San Antonio, where the climate and the terrain changes to lush and green.
Stay tuned for more adventures from the Penske Pair!