Monday 29 to Tuesday 30 April
It promised to be a good knitting day – a long flat road out of Fort Stockton to El Paso in the very west of Texas.
The only decent coffee shop in Fort Stockton was not open, and there wasn’t much on offer until Van Horn, 120 miles (193km) along the 360 mile trek. Bruce was getting anxious.
We found the coffee shop, next to a church. A couple of customers were entertaining the pastor who also ran the coffee shop. He promised me he could make an espresso.
The coffee wasn’t bad but the customers had come from God – he had a red cap with Jesus emblazoned across the front and talked non-stop about saving the world. Turns out that their RV had broken down and they were parked on the church grounds waiting for it to be repaired. I have the feeling they weren’t in any hurry to move from this free camping spot.
Just out of Van Horn is a scenic lookout that was worth a stop. Beautiful cacti flowers were in full bloom. The lookout was first considered in 1881 to provide visitors with a panoramic view of the Franklin Mountains. In 1920, with the advent of the automobile, a 1.82 mile scenic drive was constructed that reaches an elevation of 4,222 feet (1,287m) with views to El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert.
It also provided an opportunity to take a snap of our rented Jeep.
It was an easy drive to El Paso. We arrived early so took the opportunity to drive past The Wall. I hadn’t realized that this huge monstrosity that Donald Trump had promised to build, was actually in place along much of the border between the United States and Mexico, in particular here between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, the town on the Mexican side.
Some form of barrier was first built in the 1970s and progressively strengthened. In 2006 President Bush authorized construction of a barrier along 650 miles of the border. The result was a record number of migrants died on the arduous trek through the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. It created a ghost town in Juárez and thwarted the dependence on labour and commerce between the two cities.
The current wall stands 18ft high and in some places is 6ft underground. Trump’s wall intends to add height to that and further alienate cultural communities.
We checked into our hotel – the Sunland Park Casino which is actually in New Mexico. It was too early and our room wasn’t ready, but our receptionist suggested a drive on the Scenic Pathway looking over El Paso. This turned out to be a short but enjoyable diversion.
My knitting project was nearly finished and we still had a considerable distance to cover to reach Los Angeles, so we went looking for a wool shop. The only shop that sold quality wool was in Juárez on the Mexican side of the wall. Instead I had to settle for one of the USA’s very ordinary but massive craft stores Joann. The choice was pitiful. I settled for some blue and green cotton and some imagination, which actually turned into a very nice little jacket for our bub-to-be.
We returned to our hotel. It seemed like a good choice as a one stop shop for accommodation and meals. The room was impressive and well appointed with a view over the famous Sunland Park racetrack. The food was another thing. As there were no events, the restaurants in the Casino were not open. The only offering was a pizza bar, where the very rude waiter didn’t even know how to pour a glass of wine.
Google came to our rescue the following morning when we found the 2Ten Coffee Roasters, in El Paso, for breakfast – the type that serves fresh orange juice, avo toast and good coffee. As has often been the case, they asked how we foreigners found them. I’m quite proud at how I can now interpret a good coffee or roaster café in USA. One option I avoid is ‘great place, really big serves’.
Not far out of El Paso is the old historic town of Mesilla. It is in an area that was disputed territory between Mexico and the United States, finally being purchased in 1853 as part of the Gadsden Purchase.
It’s a quaint town with a pretty town square full of adobe style houses. Various information boards tell of previous owners, who all seemed to have been murdered by Apache Indians or robbers or cattle rustlers.
Mesilla was once the Confederate Capital of Arizona and New Mexico and the original Capitol building became a courthouse. It was here that Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang in April 1881. He escaped from jail, continuing his killing spree, before being shot and killed two months later. He was 21.
The area around Mesilla and nearby Las Cruces in Doña Ana County is the worlds largest pecan producing county. The pecan is a native in the region around the Mississippi River. Pecan orchards were first planted here in 1932 and huge orchards of these massive trees line the roads.
There was no water in the Rio Grande which runs through the area – it appears to have all been diverted to the pecan orchards.
Our time in New Mexico was short – our next stop was Arizona.