El Paso, TX
It has always fascinated me that I can drive from California to Texas in 8 hours. But, that is from the Southeast corner of CA to the Westernmost extreme of Texas. From Los Angeles to El Paso is only about 13 hours. I can impress all of my friends by saying, “I drove to Texas for vacation last week”. People assume you drove to Dallas which is 24 hours away, when you only went to the border of New Mexico.
Tailgating is cultural
As West Texans are the spiritual descendants of the Comanches, aggressive behavior seems to run with the territory. The Hispanics there seem to be the passive ones with the lowest crime rate, but the whites over there have quite a reputation! On my 2007 or 2008 trip (forget the year) I was tailgated by four different large pick up trucks, two of which were monster trucks. This visit, I was lucky. I was only tailgated by a small pick up on a mountain road in Franklin Park. He tailgated me for two minutes and then passed me across a double lined road. The speed limit was 45, I was going 50, but he must have had to go to the bathroom badly to justify his behavior.
Patrolling the border
I saw the Border Patrol Museum and a Archeological Museum. It was interesting to learn techniques for monitoring that 1700 mile Southern border with Mexico. But, it would have been a lot more interesting to see video coverage of the high points of the history of the line. No wonder the museum was empty — it lacked pizzazz! The Archeological Museum had a nice nature walk with many types of desert plants. A backhoe unfortunately had cut off the more lengthy part of the walk that went into the desert far behind the museum. It was fun to see how native people had lived in the land long time ago. But, once again, this museum was also not that fascinating and I was the only one there!
Gardens and Rudy’s BBQ
My next intended stop was a botanical garden. When I got there, it was a garden supply store. I had been duped. The internet says it is in a park, but there was a parking lot — hmmm. But, on my way to this non-botanical non-garden, I was lucky to stumble upon Rudy’s Barbeque. I had wanted to sample real Texas BBQ, but didn’t have time to go to the places that the hotel brochures recommended. It was hit or miss, in this case a huge hit! They had a country store, with the red and white checkered country table cloth theme in the entire building and on the shelves as well. You could get snacks, drinks, chips, and “Sissy” BBQ sauce. After trying their regular BBQ sauce side by side with their Sissy sauce, I decided that both were mild, with the Sissy being extra mild. But, both were unique and interesting, similar tasting sauces with a little bit of tang and black pepper notes.
Ordering at Rudy’s
Rudy’s is a place where you stand in line and order at a counter just like a fast food joint, except it looks like a good old fashioned country barn with long rows of picnic tables to eat on. They gave me samples of their various meats. Jalapeno sausage tasted nice. Their turkey was flavorful and juicy (how did they manage that?) Briskey was their most popular cut and for a good reason. I settled for a pulled pork sausage with regular sausage and corn on the side. The mustard and au-jus on the pulled pork was phenominal. I would describe this simple meal as being one of my most pleasantly memorable this year!
Next, it was off to downtown to see the history and art museums. It was interesting to see how El Paso evolved from being inhabited by native people, to having Spanish rule, and then becoming a critical part of American expansion. El Paso and the Gadsden purchase were a critical part of having a year-round all-weather railroad line that would link coast to coast. I also watched a video about the problems that the Native Americans faced. Their culture was ridiculed by hispanics for centuries which lead to assimilation. Assimilation and intermarriage made it hard for local tribal members to be acceptable as “Indians” to other related trips up in New Mexico that had a similar ancestry and similar culture. In any case, the local tribes were trying to teach their language to their children, but having a hard time since nobody is still fluent in their language. Living in a melting pot has many problems and benefits as well. I guess that is another chapter in American history for better or for worse.
Mexico is far too dangerous to visit with the climate of the drug war waging on. I visited twice in 1995, but only for a few hours in Tijuana. Driving to downtown El Paso on the 10 takes you within feet of the border. It is basically, you driving on a highway, a small river, and quirky looking multicolored adobe homes awkwardly perched on small hills in Mexico. What I like most about this drive is that you feel like you are in a shantytown in Mexico. You are observing from the inside, even though you are on the other side of a border. I would like to observe that scene more slowly, but it is a place with a lot of tension with border guards all around. I don’t want to arouse their attention.
Back to New Mexico
This trip to El Paso was part of a 9 day trip to the Southwest. I visited many parts of New Mexico, and Arizona on this trip. I drove into El Paso from Las Cruces, NM which is only 45 minutes North of El Paso. After leaving El Paso, I stopped to taste a few wines, read a few books, and have a few tacos in Las Cruces’ historic Mesilla district! Then, it was off to Arizona to spend the night! What a long and exciting day I had!