West Texas: A surprising and delightful place

I was expecting a flat, uneventful area without much in the way of fresh food and modern conveniences, given how the towns of West Texas are located so far away from any major city.  I was wrong.  This area has a little bit of everything and we really enjoyed our stay here.  

Alpine, TX:

The Lost Alaskan RV Park:

You might be wondering why this place is called the Lost Alaskan.  The story isn’t completely clear to me, but it sounds like the current owners’ uncle came down here from Alaska a long time ago and fell in love with this area, so the locals called him “the Lost Alaskan;” however, I’m not sure whether the uncle was the original owner of this resort or not. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 

Regardless, the staff here was super friendly, giving us a list of recommended restaurants in the area, offering up advice on sites to see, and escorting us to our site in the park.  Their sites are spacious, the central shower, bathroom and laundry facilities are kept very clean, and the laundry is also more affordable at $1.50 per load.  Most of the time it was very quiet in this RV park; however, they are located near a medical facility, so we heard a few sirens while staying there, but nowhere near as many sirens as when we stayed in Indio.

I would definitely come back to this RV park if we were to travel to West Texas again.  It was lovely and one of our most relaxing stays since we have been on the road.

Alpine restaurants:

We didn’t eat out a lot while in town, but on the first night we went to the Reata Restaurant-Alpine and ate on their back patio.  They have some unique fare on the menu, and the patio was shaded and pleasant that evening, given the temperatures were in the mid-80’s.  The staff was friendly and they even had a visiting cat named Parker who live in the neighborhood and liked wandering through the restaurant grounds. 😻 I did not capture any pictures at Reata, but the next day we went for a hike in town and opted to swing by Sazzon for lunch afterward.  After roasting in the sun, it was really nice to duck into an air conditioned TexMex place and get a bite to eat. 😅 Their food was delicious, though the house salsa was very spicy, enough to make me sweat a little bit. 

Hancock Hill:

The day after we arrived in Alpine, we went for a hike up Hancock Hill, situated behind the Sul Ross State University student housing.  This is a popular local hike that gives you great views of the surrounding areas, and if you download a map, you can also find a bike tree and a desk up there.  Here is a nice write-up about the desk’s history, which I highly recommend reading.  We also saw lots of budding cacti and some interesting grasshoppers.  It is not shaded at all, quite rocky and lots of pokey things protrude into the trail, so wear sunscreen, long pants and bring plenty of water.  We had fun nonetheless and liked that the other hikers on the trail were really friendly as we passed by.    

Porter’s Grocery:

Normally, I don’t talk about the grocery stores, but Porter’s grocery is THE grocery chain in West Texas, they have a decent variety of just about everything, and we were thankful to have fresh, safe and reliable produce and meat options available to us.  However; like many places, inflation is setting in, so that fresh produce does come at a pretty penny.  I inadvertently paid $2.40 per apple…those apples are not going to waste. 😧

Road biking!:

After having our bikes unavailable to ride for a few weeks, I was excited to get back out on the road and make sure everything was operational.  It was a bit nerve wracking given we just replaced the wheel, but the only to find out if it was rideable was to give it a go.  I observed road cyclists all over the area, and most of the roads leading in and out of Alpine have generously wide, clean shoulders, so I felt safe riding here.  However, the one nemesis I would have to contend with were goatheads, these nasty little stickers that stick to your shoes and will puncture your tires.  Nevertheless, I was determined to get out on the bike and climb up into some of the surrounding hills.

For the first ride, I headed up Highway 90 toward Marfa.  There is scenic, hilly terrain just a few miles out of town, so this was perfect for me as I love climbing in the hills. 🚴🏻 As soon as the hills leveled out, there was road construction and the road shoulder narrowed, so I turned around and headed back.  Alas, on the downhill I got a flat tire.  Aargh!  I still do not know if the culprit was a goathead or a sharp rock, but regardless, I replaced my tube and managed to get home without any more issues.  Total mileage ended up being 30 miles and the elevation gain was just under 1000 feet.  My only regret was that I didn’t take any pictures. 😕

For the second ride, I rode on Highway 118 toward Fort Davis.  The shoulder is still safe and wide on this road, but the majority of the road was a lot rougher than Highway 90.  I turned around after 20 miles and thought I was home free, but as I was climbing up a hill, I noticed I was extra bouncy…I had a slow leak.  Gah!  Foiled again.  This time I decided to use my CO2 cartridge to pump it back up and see if I could limp back home without having to fully replace my tube.  I made it another 10 miles and had to fill it with a little more CO2 to make it back.  Total mileage for this ride was 40 miles, with an elevation gain of 1325 feet.  Again, I’m not sure if the culprit was a goathead, but if you plan to bike in the area, it’s best to use tubeless tires or get a sealant like this put in your tubes to prevent flats.  

Marfa, TX:

Marfa reminds me a lot of the Alberta Arts District in Portland, OR, but with an emphasis on minimalism and contemporary art, and a dash of ironic humor.  We like checking out the arts scene in places we visit, so drove up for the day to explore.  If you are in the area, the Marfa site is the most complete resource to find out about local artists and shops to visit.  

When we got settled, we popped over to a restaurant with some lovely shaded outside seating called Siempre Marfa.  They just opened three months ago, and had delicious drinks and food; however, we ordered one drink each, some guacamole and three tamales, and the bill came to over $70. 😲 Inflation anyone?  If prices continue to rise, we may need to curtail our eating out more than we have previously. 😬 Regardless, the food and drinks were delicious, the atmosphere was young and vibrant, and I would recommend this establishment.

Finally, most people will tell you that a visit to Marfa is not complete without seeing the Marfa Lights after sunset.  There is a roadside pavilion where you can view the lights for free, so we drove up on a Saturday night to see what all the fuss was about.  After observing for about half an hour, we saw red and white lights that would appear and disappear.  Matt looked at a map of the area, and after watching the lights disappear and reappear, we determined that they were all in a straight line, which seemed to lend itself to the theory that they are just car lights and nothing that unusual.  Is this the case?  Come see for yourself if you are traveling through, and decide for yourself. We won’t spoil it for you. 😊

Living in West TX:

How livable is this section of West Texas?  Is it really worth seeing?  What could there possible be to do here?  Surprisingly, there are quite a few sites to see, and this area is beautiful, the people are really friendly, and I felt at home wandering the streets, biking on the roads, and hiking on the trails.  Things move at a slower pace here, and I’m fine with that!

The towns are really small…in the immediate area all towns were well below 10,000 people, but they were all fairly walk- and bike-friendly, and the cost of living is between 10-20% lower than the US median average.  Homes here sell for an average price of $150-$200,000 and median income ranges from $36,500-$46,500, which isn’t that much lower than median wages in southern California, but without the higher cost of living and housing.  Admittedly, internet access was challenging while staying in the area…hopefully that will improve.  

Photo by Angelica Reyn on Pexels.com

Personally, I fell in love with this area.  Even being there 10 days, we seemed to just scratch the surface of activities to enjoy, sites to see, park lands to explore, and I was left wanting to see more.  I don’t think I could live in the area full time because it is so hot and dry, but without a doubt I want to come back again.  They truly have a slice of heaven out here, and it’s definitely worth going out of your way to visit…or maybe stay a while longer. 😊

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