After our visit to the Trinity Site we left Socorro and headed to Caballo Lake, New Mexico. We stayed a week at a small RV park owned by an 82 year old lady. It was one of the cleanest parks we have ever stayed at. Every afternoon she had Happy Hour on her covered veranda for everyone. She furnished snacks and each person brought something to drink. By snacks I am talking about meatballs in a delicious sauce, cheese and crackers, chips and guacamole, watermelon, cookies and cakes. Every day! After talking with other people we realized many of them come back for a visit year after year. I think these Happy Hours give the owner some social interaction and also enable everyone in the park to get to know each other. We can see why people come back year after year.
Next up was Las Cruces, our last stop in New Mexico. When we arrived we unhooked the tow car and discovered the battery was dead. Using the RV, Bill was able to jumpstart the car. We took it to Walmart and since the battery was bad and still under warranty, they gave us another one. But we also learned that the alternator was bad. After learning it would be over $500 plus labor at the Las Cruces Honda dealer, we hired the Walmart mechanic to come to the RV park when he got off work and replace the alternator. For a total of $280 he picked up a new alternator at Autozone, took out the old one and put the new one in.
After seven weeks, our time in New Mexico came to an end as we crossed into Texas. We took the bypass around the very congested El Paso and after overnighting in Van Horn, we stopped in Marfa, Texas for a three night stay.
Our reason for spending three nights in Marfa was to visit three nearby places we wanted to visit.
First up was the Fort Davis National Historic Site. Named after Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, it is one of the best remaining examples of a frontier military post and the role the military played in the settlement and development of the western frontier.
From 1854 until 1891 troops stationed at Fort Davis protected pioneers, freighters, mail coaches and travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. The troops spent much of their time protecting area travelers from attack by Comanches and Apaches. During the Civil War the fort was first occupied by Confederate troops in the spring of 1861 until the summer of 1862 when Union forces took possession back. After the war ended the fort once again protected travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road from Indian attack. By June, 1891 the fort had outlived its usefulness and was abandoned. It became a National Historic Site in 1963.
During the summer months they have more activities and living history programs, but on this late October mid week visit things were very quiet. After watching a film at the Visitors Center, we enjoyed walking through the buildings that were open including the enlisted men’s barracks, the commissary, Officer’s kitchen, the post hospital and Officer’s Quarters.
In the kitchen there was a woman in period costume making chili, corn bread and banana bread over a wood burning stove. She was a little flustered because her wood fire had gone out and she had promised to provide lunch to the staff at the Visitors Center.
The second attraction was the McDonald Observatory located 45 minutes from Marfa. The observatory is part of the University of Texas at Austin.
We had booked online a two and a half tour of the observatory. Before our tour started we looked around the Visitors Center and saw a movie. Our tour was a nice small group of fourteen and we had a fantastic tour guide. A former public school science teacher, it was quite obvious that she loves her job. After talking about the sun and showing us a live picture of the sun from one of the telescopes, we all boarded a shuttle bus to tour two telescopes.
The first telescope we visited was located on Mt Locke which at 6,790 feet is the highest point on the Texas highway system. The view from there was beautiful. The Harlan J. Smith Telescope was completed in 1968 and supported NASA. This telescope’s mirror is 2.7 meters or 107 inches.
Our guide told us and showed us about how the telescope and dome moved. She talked about the mirror monthly maintenance which involves cleaning with dry ice.
We all boarded the bus again to the summit of Mt Fowlkes (6,660 ft) to see the Hobby-Eberly Telescope dedicated in 1997. This telescope, after upgrades, is now tied with another telescope as the second largest optical telescope in the world (11-meter or 433-inch).
The mirror looks like a honeycomb made up of 91 hexagonal mirrors.
Our guide was so enthusiastic and eager to answer questions, our tour ended up lasting three hours instead of two and a half. Amazing to get such an interesting and informative tour for $7 (senior rate).
Mark you calendars – here is the time and places for the next Total Solar Eclipse.
Marfa is an interesting tiny Texas town. Most of the visitors, like us, pass through here on their way to Big Bend National Park. It has a very pretty courthouse and some interesting sounding restaurants, unfortunately for us most are only open on the weekend.
We did read about a Mediterranean food truck which had excellent reviews. Bill got a falafel called a Marfalafel named after the town. While Bill enjoys Mediterranean food, it was his first falafel and probably his last.
Marfa is also known as having a phenomenon known as the Marfa ghost lights. The town built a large viewing area outside of town with bathroom facilities and benches. One evening, just to say we did it, we drove to the viewing area and spent about thirty minutes looking for the lights. Other people there were convinced they saw the Marfa lights. We didn’t see anything that couldn’t be explained as man made such as lights from cars in the distance or radio towers.
Our last day in Marfa a cold front blew in. We had wind gusts up to 30 mph and that night a low of 27. Time to move on!
Next stop: Big Bend National Park, Texas