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On the Trail of the Western Forts

Magnificent craggy peaks, brilliant sunshine in bright blue skies, barren desert valleys stretching to the horizon, adobe homes, cool and dry. Then the wind, sand-blasting the earth, transforming blue sky to thick brown haze, gritty dirt between our teeth, but we were safe inside our van.

Couple with waiter at table
Mark, Kathy with waiter Felix

Six couples, plus yours truly, set off on a Western forts adventure tour. We began at the train station in Houston. When we learned the train was late, and later, and still later, we transferred over to enjoy a leisurely supper at nearby BirraPorettis in downtown Houston. By good fortune, Peewee’s Jazz band was playing so we got to hear lots of great music, much of it music we actually knew and could sing along with.

We were fortunate to watch the Basketball playoffs while waiting at the train station. We would have been more fortunate if our Texas Tech Red Raiders had won. We finally got on board our Amtrak train at almost 1 am. The roomettes are cramped but at least we could lie down. Breakfast in the Dining Car almost made up for the inconvenience, and watching the scenery go by from the observation car was delightful.

Observation car
Relaxing while the scenery rolls by

Once in Alpine, we were just in time to tour the Museum of the Big Bend and see the Davis map collection. Then off to Fort Davis and the lovely, historic Veranda Inn. Supper at the Limpia Hotel Bistro then Star Party at the McDonald’s Observatory on a perfect, clear night.

After a delicious Continental Breakfast at the Veranda, we made our way to Fort Davis. It is a national fort, beautifully maintained and Richard gave us an excellent tour, in addition to offering us rides on golf carts. Pure luxury.

Picked up a quick lunch at The Drug Store in Fort Davis before heading out to Fort Stockton, with a swing past Balmorhea which is still not quite finished. Melba did a good job for us while touring the small museum at the fort, maintained by the city, then home to Fort Davis. A quick run down to Alpine for supper at La Reata Restaurant.

Pool at Balmorhea State Park
Open for swimming but looking forward to summer.

Thursday was art day. With the wind picking up, we headed for Marfa and the Chinati Foundation. Horrifically expensive, the David Judd Foundation (fighting with the Chinati), has taken over many of the buildings of the old D. A. Russell World War II fort and converted them to minimalist artworks.

Huge warehouse rooms of 100 polished aluminum rectangular boxes, each just slightly different than its companions. Six long U-shaped barracks with slanted, blue, pink and green fluorescent tubes at the end of slanted hallways.

Minimalist art?

Finally back into downtown Marfa for shopping and a delightful dinner at Jett’s at the El Paisano Hotel where Giant was filmed. How wonderful to get to relax in such luxury. A great way to end the far too short trip. Next time, we’ll add two days and go down to Big Bend.

And we made it back to Alpine to find the train was on time and we made it into Houston by noon. A great trip, with only a few hiccups. We’ll do it again in the Fall.