Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Guest Post: 48 Hours In The Far West Texas Twilight Zone

My husband, Frankie, had the entire week of Thanksgiving off from school, while I had only Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  He decided to go camping in Big Bend National Park by himself.  I asked him to write a post about his experience because it was all just so bizarre.  What follows is his post.  Enjoy!

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I had been wanting to go tent camping in Big Bend National Park by myself for a long time.  I decided that the first two days of Thanksgiving break would be the best time to go with another day after that spent in Alpine. For the camping part it would be 48 hours off the grid with no cell service and no one would know where I was. It would be only me and the wild outdoors, man and survival. Little did I know that it would be a strange 48 hours that I can only compare to the Twilight Zone.

I started my trek to Big Bend National Park early Saturday morning. I arrived to the park around noon and paid my entrance fee of $20.  There is a saying in Big Bend that goes something like, "The Native Americans believed that Big Bend is where the rocks left over from the creation of the world were dumped."  Instead of getting to see this wondrous beauty as I was driving through, all I saw was red and blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror.  You need to know that the speed limit is only 45 mph through the entire park of Big Bend. I was doing 78 mph....

The park ranger pulled me over and told me that the speed I was going could land me in court with possible lost of my CDL license (gotten so I could drive a school bus).  After a 30 minute scolding he marked my ticket as only going 70 mph which doesn't require a court appearance, but still carried a $200 fine.  Though mad at the scolding and at myself, I respected him for giving me a break and continued on my merry way but at a much slower speed.

The place I wanted to camp in Big Bend literally had a blizzard. High winds with snow and ice, the whole definition of the word. You have to understand, this is in a part of the world where it might snow once a year and that would rarely be in November!  I planned on camping in the Chisos Basin for two nights and I knew I had to get there early to reserve a spot.  As I headed further towards the basin it was about halfway there when the freezing rain, the sleet, and the snow started to fall.  I have been to the Chisos Basin many times but I have never seen it like this!

Snowy Trees Big Bend National Park

Icy Fog Big Bend National Park

It was very pretty, but I knew I wouldn't be able to camp there after I saw this sign!

Bear Sign Big Bend National Park

I decided to leave the Chisos Basin. I just wasn't prepared for that cold of weather with a tent and a few blankets. I knew I could find a hotel room somewhere else in the area. I wasn't quite ready to leave despite the weather so I decided to spend the next couple of hours in Boquillas Mexico.  The border crossing into Boquillas had recently been reopened in the spring of this year after being shut down for almost 12 years due to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Past the American side the crossing is very simple.  When I say simple I mean a man, his row boat, and a bullet ridden truck taxi.  (I have no clue about the bread and why it was there!)

Truck Taxi Boquillas Mexico

Once in Mexico I was directed towards Mexican Customs which is in a little trailer.  I was given a seven day visa free of charge and I got my passport stamped.  I was then allowed to explore the small town of Boquillas.  There really isn't much there.

Colorful Boquillas Mexico


I knew I didn't have much time because the border patrol crossing on the American side is only open 9 AM to 6 PM Wednesday through Sunday and it was already a little after 3:30 PM.  I didn't want to get stuck in Mexico!

One of the very first things I saw after coming out of customs was a man wearing a ski mask carrying an axe. I was a little hesitant being in Mexico in the first place with all the drug cartel violence taking place so when I saw that man, I almost lost control of my bladder!  I later found out he was just going to chop wood.  After my "near death experience" I needed food.

I went into the first restaurant I saw to get lunch.  Yes, there was more than one!

Jose Falcon Restaurant Boquillas Mexico


The food was good but it did have a tourist price tag on it! I paid the same price there as I would have at any Mexican food restaurant in Texas.

Burrito at Jose Falcon Restaurant in Boquillas Mexico


The English speaking waitress was very friendly.  I learned from her that the town had no electricity and everything ran off generators, and they burned wood for heat, hence the ski masked man with an axe.  I also found out they only had one satellite phone for the entire village and it only worked when the sun was out.   If you do decide to go be sure you have cash as there are no ATM or credit card machines.

I thought about spending the night there at one of the local houses that offered a room.  I was advised that it would take awhile to find a room because it was very cold and not a lot of tourist had been over that day.  I waited for about 30 minutes as a place was being secured.  In that time I decided to just cross back over the border instead and get a room in Terlingua which is a small town just outside the park.  My trip to Big Bend cost me just about $250 and all I really have to show for it was a meal, some pictures, and a new stamp on my passport.  But that's the price when you can't predict the weather or read a speed sign.

If you have never been to Terlingua, you are in for a treat.  It is one of the strangest most weird and eccentric little towns you can find.  It is out in the middle of nowhere, at least 100 miles from the nearest anything!  It is home to the annual Terlingua Chili Cook-off but still considered a ghost town. I found a hotel called Motor Inn at the Big Bend Resort on the main road that had rooms for a fairly reasonable price.

I was hungry and bored, so I asked the hotelier where I could eat and hang out for awhile.  She gave me the name of two places in town.  There is one thing you need to know about Terlingua.  There are no street lights.  So when it is snowing and sleeting be careful of where you are turning.  You might be turning right into a ditch!  As I drove around lost for about 15 minutes I finally found the first place called the The Starlight Theatre.  I was expecting a restaurant andI just wanted something to eat.  Little did I know I was about to walk into the twilight zone.   This was no ordinary restaurant.  This place host burlesque shows and live music on a frequent basis in the absolute middle of nowhere.

I love little quirky things like that, so I got excited about the evenings prospects.  Unfortunately, due to the weather, there was no entertainment because they were unable to make it to the night's show.  The restaurant had already stopped serving food as well, but there were appetizers.  I sat for a spell and had some chips and salsa.  I stayed for about half an hour then left to find the other location the hotelier had told me about called La Kiva.

I started out towards the hotel and found the place nearby.  The freezing rain had started to come down harder, but I knew I was close to the hotel so I went ahead stopped in.  I walked to the front door, opened it up, and realized I had to take stairs down into the restaurant.   This place was underground!  I was the only person in the place so I decided to sit at the bar and talk to the bartender.  I ordered a brisket calzone, which was tremendously awesomely great and talk to the barkeeper named Gumby while ice pellets were falling through the thatched roof of the restaurant.  I quickly finished my calzone and left to return to the hotel.

Since it was too cold to tent camp and I didn't want to stay in Terlingua another night, the next morning I drove 80 miles to Alpine Texas. I planned on staying two nights now instead of just one in my most favorite hotel in the world, the Maverick Inn.  I had heard there might be road closure due to the weather but I didn't want to spend another day in Terlingua, so I geared up and left despite the weather.  About 60 miles later towards Alpine, the snow and the ice started to really accumulate. I was forced to drive 15 to 20 mph up and down hills!

Icy Roads From Terlingua TX to Alpine TX


Very Icy Roads from Terlingua TX to Alpine TX


Right outside Alpine there is a hill called, The Big Hill.  On that big hill there were live power lines across the road causing traffic to come to standstill for about 2 hours while we all waited for the electric company to come to the rescue.

Downed Power Lines Near Alpine TX


When they finally got there they cut the power lines with bolt cutters causing the other power poles as far as I could see to all snap in half  due to the weight of the ice on the power lines one after the other, like dominoes.  Not only could I see it, I heard them all snap!  It was crazy!

After all the waiting the last part of my drive took a whole ten minutes to reach Alpine.  I went to the Maverick Inn to see if they had a room for the night.  I had one for the next night but I had left Big Bend area a day early.  They were able to secure a room at their sister hotel called the Holland Hotel for me instead.

Holland Inn Lobby Alpine TX


The previous night Alpine had hosted their annual art and music night.  Many of the musician had gotten stranded in Alpine because of the weather and were staying at the Holland Hotel as well.  They started a impromptu jam session in the hotel cafe and lobby.  I spend some of the afternoon listening to them and just hanging out by the fireplace.  Another part of my afternoon was spent driving the 25 miles to Ft. Davis to view the white scenery since the roads were clear by then.  The fields were still winter white though.

Winter Cow in Ft Davis


That evening I strolled around Alpine until the weather got too bad.  The white Christmas lights embedded in the now white crusted trees gave off a great glow.

Christmas Lights Alpine TX


I got up the next morning, 48 hours after I started the trip, to head home.  Roads were clear.  Skies were blue.  The trip home was uneventful, just long, but still pretty.  I had come full circle!  Like none of it had ever happened. Can't you hear the Twilight Zone music queuing up?

Road Home Blue Skies Clear Road Alpine TX


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Panchos & Gringos Deli, Restaurant, and Grill - San Antonio, TX

After our visit to the San Antonio Art Museum, it was time to eat.  It seems like it is always time for that!

We knew we were close to this restaurant we had gone to one other time and really enjoyed it but all we could remember was part of the name, Panchos and Gringos.  The full name, is as it turns out, is Panchos and Gringos Deli, Restaurant and Grill.  It's a mouth full for sure!

The first time we went it was by complete accident.  We had gone to downtown San Antonio for some reason and just happened to drive past.  It didn't look like much on the outside and it didn't seem to be in the best of areas. In fact, one of the main the windows had been broken fairly recently by some jerk faced idiot (you know the kind who go around breaking windows just because they can).  But we have learned long ago to not judge a restaurant by its outside.  Much like you can't judge a book by its cover type of thing.

That first time we went in it was with hesitation but we still went in.  Good thing we did because the food was SOO good!  So when we knew we were in the area again we started hunting for it.  We really didn't know where it was but somehow in the dark recess of my mind I did remember that it was on Nolan street.  How I brought that up from the depths I will never know!

To put the address in the front of my mind, I have now captured it forever in a photo.

Panchos & Gringos Deli, Restaurant & Grill San Antonio, TX


They have many options to choose from.  Mostly sandwiches, with some salads, and breakfast is served all day.  Both times we went both got sandwiches.  They ingredients are simple but the combinations are appealing and delectable.

Here is a small sampling of their menu.

Part of menu at Panchos & Gringos Deli, Restaurant & Grill San Antonio, TX


And now for some food shots.  Because let's face it, if the food stinks (or is ugly), the restaurant won't be there long!  From the looks of it, this one is going to stay!

Side Salad at Panchos & Gringos Deli, Restaurant & Grill San Antonio, TX

Above is a fresh side salad with more than just the boring lettuce and tomatoes.  As you can see there is also some diced bell pepper and black olives with a side of Italian dressing.


Chicken with Peppers and Cheese Sandwich at Panchos & Gringos Deli, Restaurant & Grill San Antonio, TX


Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the the sandwich above.  It was Frankie's choice, so I didn't really pay much attention.  But it looks like it might be a type of chicken Philly cheese type concoction.  I do know that Frankie enjoyed it.

Italiano Chicken Sandwich at Panchos & Gringos Deli, Restaurant & Grill San Antonio, TX

This last photo is what I had picked and it was the Italiano chicken sandwich.  Along with the chicken it had roasted yellow bell peppers, mozzarella cheese and oregano.  It was simple and delicious! 

I had taken pictures the first time we went but then decided that I wasn't going to blog about it and deleted them. Shame on me! I do remember that I had ordered a turkey sandwich which had a cranberry spread and the house speciality of stuffing.  I don't like stuffing so I asked for it to be left off.  The owner was our waitress that day and she politely insisted that I try it, so I got a small plate of it on the side. It had been pan fried and flattened so it would sit flat on the sandwich.  I tasted it and realized that, yes, yes indeed, it would be GREAT on the sandwich.

If you find yourself near Nolan street in San Antonio, look for Panchos and Gringos.  You will be glad you did AND if the waitress suggest something just say yes!  Learn from me my friends, learn from me!

That's all for now.

Until later!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

San Antonio Museum of Art

Three months ago, Frankie and I took a trip to San Antonio to visit the San Antonio Museum of Art.  I don't think that waiting three months to post about our trip is too bad...who am I kidding?  That is just awful!

I said to myself, "Self, it really has been too long, just let it go. You don't have to blog about it."  

But then I argued with myself saying, "Self, you promised to talk about this museum in your last post.  Don't go back on your word."

So my first self said, "Fine, let's do this."

And now that you have taken this strange journey through my head, I will share with you our journey to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

San Antonio Museum of Art


We were both a little embarrassed to admit that we didn't know this museum existed until we were looking for a museum to go to. I am glad we did find it. You know when you see art before even going in, it is going to be good.  We saw this in the parking lot.

Word Art in parking lot San Antonio Museum of Art


The museum has a very large collection of art from Latin America and other Spanish speaking parts of the world.  Let me show you some of my favorites.

El Tango by Robert Henri -San Antonio Museum of Art

This painting had to be close to life size.  I love the tango outfit she is wearing.  We were really hoping to get to go Buenos Aires, the home of tango being Argentina, this summer but after watching a show about the counterfeit problem they have we decided against it.

Back of Venus by Fernando Botero -San Antonio Museum of Art


This is Fernando Botero's interpretation of Venus de Milo.  Botero really does like the plump look.  It is quite a bit different from the Venus we saw in the Louvre in Paris.

Milo de Venus


Moving on....

Dance Capes from Peru -San Antonio Museum of Art

These are dance capes from Peru.  What fascinated me the most about these was the fact that they were hand stitched!  Just look at the detail!


Detail of Dance Capes from Peru -San Antonio Museum of Art


This next one...oh this next one.

Cherub late 17th century from Central Spain -San Antonio Museum of Art

All I could think of when I saw him and all I can think of every time I still see him is...

TOUCHDOWN!

....and that just cracks me up.

This bear and bull were created by two different people.  I thought it was interesting how alike there were in material and in general appearance. 


Bear and Bull -San Antonio Museum of Art


Bull by Eliseo Alvarado -San Antonio Museum of Art


Bear by Felipe Archuleta -San Antonio Museum of Art

Finished with the first floor it was time to walk up the stairs to the second.  Turning the corner to the staircase we were greeted by this guy.  I don't know who it was by or the title but I fell in love with it!  


White Horse in Stairwell -San Antonio Museum of Art

I loved it so  much I made it my own art project!


Sunspot on White Horse in Stairwell -San Antonio Museum of Art

There were many art pieces and artifacts from Columbia on this floor but there was one that really caught my attention.

Face of Crawling Infant 500 BC from Veracruz Mexico -San Antonio Museum of Art

I am sorry, but that is the scariest looking baby I have ever seen!  Although, his little acorn hat is adorable! 

Ready for the next level we turned the corner to the staircase and, BOOM, there were not one but TWO horses!  I am liking these stairwell horses!


Two Horses in Stairwell -San Antonio Museum of Art


Close up of Horse Head in Stairwell -San Antonio Museum of Art


Hang with me now, we are almost through all the Latin American and Spanish arts.

We walked into a room and immediately our eyes fell on a large work of art on the floor. It is called Enamoramiento by Jose Luis Rivera-Barrera and is made of mesquite wood (these trees are found all over Texas).  Enamoramiento means infatuation in English and it is very fitting I would say.

Enamoramiento by Jose Luis Rivera-Barrera made out of Mesquite Wood -San Antonio Museum of Art


Close up of Enamoramiento by Jose Luis Rivera-Barrera made out of Mesquite Wood -San Antonio Museum of Art

There was an entire section dedicated to the Virgin Mary in art.  One of the most amazing pieces was a crocheted bedspread representing Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe or Our Lady of Guadalupe also known as Virgin of Guadalupe.  It was amazing and the details spectacular!

Crocheted Virgin of Guadalupe Bedspread -San Antonio Museum of Art

I also liked this statue of the Virgin Mary. The closer I looked at it the more I liked it and more details I could see.

Our Lady of Guadalupe from Spain -San Antonio Museum of Art


Close View of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Spain -San Antonio Museum of Art


Detail of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Spain -San Antonio Museum of Art

After many rooms and floors of art from the Latin American countries and other Spanish speaking countries, we moved on to more modern art.

David Lyon by Kehinde Wiley -San Antonio Museum of Art

Before reading what this one was all about, I was drawn to it.  Then I read what it was about.  It was a mash up of two different things.  If you would like to know even more you can click on the picture below to be taken to a larger view so you can read the description.  If you just want to see the two inspirations the artist used then I think you can tell without clicking.


Description of David Lyon by Kehinde Wiley -San Antonio Museum of Art


These two small statues were created by Luis Jimenez.  Compared to the three other statues I have seen by Luis Jimenez this one is tiny!  These are sitting on a pedestal and were maybe a foot tall, if even that.

Fiesta Dancers by Luis Jimenez -San Antonio Museum of Art

The first one I ever saw by Jimenez was called Southwest Pieta and I found it at conference center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Soutwest Pieta - Luis Jimenez

The next two I saw at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Tx.  This one is called Progress II.

Progress II by Luis Jimenez Blanton Museum of Art Austin TX

The last one is called Border Crossing.  So as you can see the one at the San Antonio Museum of Art was tiny tiny tiny compared to the others I have seen.


Border Crossing by Luis Jimenez Blanton Museum of Art Austin TX

I never go to a specific museum looking for work by Luis Jimenez and now that I have seen four works by him just by stumbling on them, I am drawn to them even more.   Unfortunately he passed away in 2006 while working on a piece called Blue Mustang  for the Denver International Airport.  It fell on him and severed an artery in his leg. 

Here are a few others in the modern art section that caught my eye.

How Do You Spell America #6 by Willie Cole -San Antonio Museum of Art


Double Scramble by Frank Stella -San Antonio Museum of Art

I have to say that this one was so creepy that it turned out to be my favorite!  


Gold Horns by Susan Budge -San Antonio Museum of Art

Let's move in closer shall we?


Closer view of Gold Horns by Susan Budge -San Antonio Museum of Art


Now even closer!

Closeup of Gold Horns by Susan Budge -San Antonio Museum of Art


You can't tell me that isn't creepy!

After the modern art section we headed into art from many other countries.

There we saw art and artifacts from the Pacific Island,

Figural Dance Staff New Hebrides Melanesia -San Antonio Museum of Art


Iran,

Iranian Tiles -San Antonio Museum of Art

China,

Tomb Guardian from China Liao dynasty -San Antonio Museum of Art


(and you really need to see his face up close!)

Face of Tomb Guardian from China Liao dynasty -San Antonio Museum of Art


Japan,

Aizen Myo-o from Japan -San Antonio Museum of Art


Myanmar (Burma),
Face of Shakyamuni Buddha from Myanmar (Burma) -San Antonio Museum of Art


Tibet,

Vajrapani from Tibet -San Antonio Museum of Art


and India.

Yogini from Northern India -San Antonio Museum of Art


Did I mention how big this museum is?  After all of that we still had more to go.  The next room we went into had Roman and Greek statues.  Through our travels we have seen lots and lots of this type of art.  Those Romans and Greek were busy little people!

There was one that caught my eye though, it is a statue of Cupid and Psyche.  There had been some restoration done to the statue and you can see poor little Cupid once had a broken arm.

Statue of Cupid and Psyche Roman  -San Antonio Museum of Art

For whatever reason, I found his wings to be so adorable.  I highly doubt the person who created this wanted people years later to say that, but it is how I felt.  I loved those little wings!  Just look at them!


Back of Statue of Cupid and Psyche  -San Antonio Museum of Art

We had one more room left before seeing everything and it was the Egyptian room.  The Egyptians were even more busy than the Greeks and Romans because we have seen so many artifacts and art pieces from them in so many places!

Here are just a few highlights from the San Antonio Museum of Art.


Mummy Case of Nes-Khonsu-Pa-Khered Egyptian 1069-644 BC  -San Antonio Museum of Art


Face of Coffin of Na-Menkh-Amen Egyptian 747-656 BC -San Antonio Museum of Art


Face of Sekhmet Egyptian -San Antonio Museum of Art


Granite Lion

It is amazing to me how one museum can pack so much into it!  Before leaving we took a look through the gift shop and that is where I found a tiny evil eye charm.   Isn't my tiny evil eye adorable??


Evil Eye Charm from Gift Shop -San Antonio Museum of Art

Walking out we saw this road sign full of the stickers the museum gives to each ticket holder.


Pole with entrance stickers San Antonio Museum of Art


It reminded us of the pole we saw outside of the Rodin Museum in Paris.

Pole filled with stickers Paris

Here is a close up of the pole in Paris.


Rodin Musee Stickers on Pole Paris

And here is a close up of the pole in San Antonio.  That red sticker was mine!


Mine is the red sticker San Antonio Museum of Art

If you are ever in the mood to go to an art museum in San Antonio, I do suggest this one.  We had a great three and a half hour tour through it.

Eventually, hopefully sooner than I have done in the past, I will post about the restaurant that we went to after the museum.  It is called Panchos and Gringos Deli, Restaurant, and Grill.  I mean, come on, with a name like that, you HAVE to hear about it!

Until then!