I was in full hibernation this morning enjoying the luxuriousness of the Holland Hotel. My watch alarm is set to beep at 7am, but I didn’t notice it until after 9am. This place was the best $90 I’ve spent to date.
After I finally shook the sleep out of my head and showered, I walked down the street and had breakfast at the “Bread and Breakfast Café”. It had a sign out front that read “Hippies use the back door – no exceptions.” I stuffed my face on my first real breakfast in weeks, including a giant warm cinnamon bun lathered in butter. As I ate, I listened to three older men seated next to me in well-worn cowboy hats and western attire discussing the recently passed health care legislation. One of them, with a satirical grin, told his table mates that the bill was a disaster because young people would now have better access to health care, leading to more young people and “what the world really needs are more old farts like me”. The three of them then started sharing their favorite Molly Ivins quotes. Somehow it wasn’t what I expected.
I walked further down the street past the movie theatre (children $3, adults $5) and a giant mural that includes the face of Dan Blocker (aka “Hoss”) who went to college here. A few blocks from the hotel I found Front Street Books, a wonderful independent bookstore. It is located in two buildings on either side of a street, but only one of them is staffed. You walk into the other, select your item and then take it across the street to be purchased. No cameras and no electronic anti-theft tags – just trust. Welcome to a small town.
The ride to Ft. Davis was uneventful, but scenic. On either side of the road were plains of dried grass and century plants; to the west, a backdrop of rust colored mesas. Ft. Davis is smaller than Alpine, but no less interesting. It even has a gourmet grocery store called “Stone Village Market”. After weeks of scrambling to find an apple or banana, I thought I had stumbled upon an oasis. The aisles were filled with a variety of organic fruits and vegetables, gourmet coffees, a full deli and bakery. I was almost overwhelmed and stocked up on food for dinner and snacks for the next few days.
I rode down to Ft. Davis Historic Site and walked around the remains of the fort on which this town was founded. Fort Davis was a key post from the 1850s to 1890s for the protection of the road between El Paso and San Antonio against the Mescalero Apaches. After leaving the fort, I walked across the street to a store that advertised birding supplies, gourmet wines, antiques, fudge and the “Wally Moon” museum. (As a baseball fan, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t recall him. I should have, but not because Mr. Moon had a very successful 12 season career with the Cardinals and Dodgers, but because he had the greatest unibrow in baseball history.) The interesting thing about small towns is that, with the exception of gas stations, grocery stores and real estate offices, stores can’t afford to specialize, there just aren’t a sufficient number of customers. As a result, you find a video store that is also the pizza restaurant; a garden shop that has a tanning booth and nail salon and even a birding-wine-antiques-fudge store that has a museum dedicated to a baseball player who doesn’t have any real connection with the town on the chance that it will draw in a customer.
Four miles west of town, I rode into Davis Mountain State Park and found the campsite that Don had reserved for us for the night. With all of the great food from the market, we decided to have a feast tonight complete with a nice Pinot Noir. Here’s today’s “ Survivorman” test. You are camping on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. The temperature is in the 90s and you have no ice. How do you keep your Pinot at room temperature? If you said store it in the toilet tank in the bathroom, you would be correct. Don is a genius.
Our repast tonight was under a sky filled with so many stars that it was difficult to identify constellations. The absence of man made ambient light in this area is the reason the McDonald Observatory is located nearby. Larry, a cyclist who is also riding across the US, joined us for dinner. We talked for hours about our experiences on the road, sharing insights and learnings and enjoying a wonderful evening. (As you can see from the picture, I have become a Mennonite on this trip. And, given the color of my beard, an elder as well.)