It was more than time to leave the romantically named Stagecoach Inn in Carlsbad. It was convenient but a little less than our minimum standard; last night there was a barbeque outside of an adjacent room featuring around a dozen Hispanic workmen with more than enough alcohol. Fortunately they packed it in around 10:30 pm. Unfortunately, they turned in because they had to go to work REAL early (6:00 am), which featured a Mexican alarm clock consisting of 3 rapid honks of a pickup horn every 20 seconds.
Speaking of pickups, ever since we entered New Mexico and Texas, we have noticed that every second vehicle is a white ¾ ton crew cab pickup, Ford or GM only (I guess since the Germans took over Chrysler, Dodge just doesn't work in these here parts). Construction workers, oil field roughnecks and ranchers all appear to use them.
And so began our trip to San Angelo through Pecos, Texas as well as Midland/Odessa (famous oil field area that was the childhood home of Dubya and Laura Bush). I should also mention the historical figures connected to places we've been through: Roswell area is home to the stories of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; nearby Lincoln County had the aptly named Lincoln County War over fencing and water rights; Pecos featured Judge Roy Bean, "the only law west of the Pecos".
Our trip took us from sparse, dry desert to rolling farm and ranch country. The beautiful town of San Angelo is on the Rio Concho and has a river walk, a pretty historical downtown and a very nice Visitors Center. Unfortunately, the map we got from the Center was less than complete and the town is laid out with meandering streets (this is where the cows came down to the river for a drink and we just paved it?). This made our motel search frustrating and led to one of our very few heated discussions. We ultimately worked our way through it (I know it's hard to believe, but sometimes I can be a bit of a jerk).
We settled into our motel and went through the list of sights to see. There was plenty to take up a day so we booked for 2 nights and laid out our plans for the next day to do the river walk and see the historical sites.
We parked at the Visitors Center to begin our walking tour of San Angelo. The Center is right on Rio Concho so it was convenient and turned out to be a great choice. As we walked along the path, we encountered several individuals and groups fishing for catfish. There were black, Hispanic and white folks intermingled and all very friendly and smiling....some even with fish!
Using our tough to read map, we found a street of restored/relocated historic homes and the old San Angelo Railroad depot. We were looking for Fort Concho and finally found it. We had been looking for a stockaded, high-walled fort, which is the traditional defensive fort style. Fort Concho, however, was a fort from which expeditions originated to take the fight to the hostile areas, ergo, no walls.
We arrived to find the scheduled tour had just left so we hurried and caught up to them. Our guide was a large black guy in period cavalry costume and he obviously loved his work. Paul Cook was passionate about the history and he really brought the period alive with humour and descriptive visualization of the times. There are over 20 restored stone buildings, many outfitted with historical furniture and fittings. An interesting historical fact is that Fort Concho was the first significant home base for the 10th Cavalry, the famous Buffalo Soldiers black regiment (no Bob Marley anywhere, though).
We said our goodbyes to Paul and headed across the bridge to historic downtown. We went to lunch at Miss Hattie's Saloon and Café, a beautifully restored bank building named for a famous madam of frontier days. She had a bordello 2 doors away, which has been turned into a museum. My imagination ran riot with what would be featured in a bordello museum and we headed for the next tour. My imagination will have to do, because the museum was closed for 5 days...disappointing to say the least.
We used the available time well as we went across the street to Eggemeyer's General Store, one of the most fascinating stores we've seen on our trip. It is virtually a museum as well as a store. Large-scale model planes hang from the ceiling throughout the store; it features a large gourmet kitchen and cooking section and has many original and replica historical toys in another section. It had the largest wind chimes we've ever seen that, when gonged, vibrated for many minutes. Eggemeyer's is a worthwhile destination all by itself.
San Angelo is definitely a great spot to visit but it obviously is a bit off the beaten track to be really economically strong. It has made a great start in historical restoration and we hope they can raise the necessary funds to complete their work. We closed off our day with another great dinner at the San Angelo version of the Texas Roadhouse.