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A new tire..

After a breathtaking visit to Big Bend NP, our focus now turned to more of the mundane: replacing our blown RV tire.

I closely track the mileage on my truck and RV tires. I knew our original Westlake RV tires --the same ones that customers have nicknamed "China Bombs" because they are made in China, and tend to violently explode for no apparent reason-- were coming upon their max life limit of 10,000 miles. We had been talking about replacing them for a while now, but were waiting for "just the right time". Big mistake. Trading convenience for safety is always a poor decision.


We had made up our minds that we wanted our next set of tires to be Goodyear Endurance. They are very highly regarded by RVers and made here in America. So, being without cell service at the Stillwell RV Campground (outside of Big Bend), we had to rely on the corded phone attached to the wall of the campground's office and one of these!

It's been years since I've seen or used a phone book! Flipping through those Yellow pages, reminded me how limiting this "old school" technology was. I had no idea if these tire shops sold RV tires or more importantly, how near or far they were. After numerous phone calls, we found a dealership over in Midland that had a set of Goodyears in stock and provided installation. My concern was that the store was over two-hundred miles away and we would be traveling that distance without a spare. Our next order of business was to find the nearest tire store that had an RV tire our size (regardless of manufacture) just so we would not be stranded if another tire decided to flat-line.

After more phone calls, we found a generic tire that would fit our RV in the town of Alpine.

So our next goal was to drive the 76 miles to Alpine without running over anything that may damage our existing tires. Our senses were on high alert.

Breath slowly.. breath slowly..

The first leg of our journey took us back down the 45-mile stretch of lonely two-lane road (with no shoulder or cell service) between Big Bend and Marathon. We drove like we were 85 years old. But a surprise awaited us. Through the ripples of rising heat, we saw a dark lump up ahead. My speedometer fell faster than Icarus. As we approached, a second lump appeared. When they came into view, we saw the carcasses of two (large) dead javelines lying in the roadway. They obviously had fallen victim to a passing vehicle. We slowly swerved around the corpses and wondered what the vehicle must have looked like that collided with these creatures. Around the next bend was our answer; on the side of the road was a poor little car with its front end totally smashed in. So sad. We slowed to see if the driver was all right but there was no one in sight. We silently prayed that he/she found aid from a passing motorist (who are far and few between) and didn't decide to trek across the desert by themselves.


With the privilege of time, this detour turned out to be more of an annoyance than an obstruction. We pulled into the small town of Alpine (just beyond Marathon) and picked up a spare tire for $131. Instead of placing it under our RV, I had them put it in the bed of my truck, because I had hoped, if it remained unused, I might be able to sell it to another tire store down the road. After we concluded our business, we headed off to our next campground at Davis Mountain State Park, in Fort Davis.


Driving across Texas is a very interesting experience. You don't get a true feel for how huge this state is until you've driven across it. You see lots, and lots, and lots of open space. Back east, the only thing lying between the towns and cities are miles and miles of suburbs and shopping centers, but out here there's nothing but scrub brush, cacti and tumbleweed for as far as the eye can see. The only thing breaking up the monotony is the occasional abandoned farm house, or leaning fence post, or the slowly turning windmill that has yet to be told its job is long over. Oh, and there always seems to be a stray cow out in the middle of no where. This vastness reminds me of when I visit Delaware beaches and stare out at the Atlantic Ocean which spreads out endlessly to the horizon. The Texas landscape, although not nearly as beautiful, seems just as wide.


The town of Fort Davis began as a military outpost in 1854. It protected the crossroads of two critically important trade routes running east-west from San Antonio to El Paso and the Chihuahua Trail which ran from Mexico up into the New Mexico area.

The fort, is neatly tucked into a canyon surrounded on three sides by sheer rock walls. This location was chosen to protect the garrison from the severe winter winds that blow through this area (which we experienced at our campground as explained below). My initial impression was that the surrounding rock walls would allow enemy combatants to easily and safely shoot down into the fort, but apparently this wasn't a concern of the military.

There is one soldier that served here that I would like talk about briefly. Henry Ossian Flipper. Henry was born a slave in 1856 in the state of Georgia. After the Civil War and his emancipation, he earned an appointment to West Point. In his autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point, he describes the humiliation and ostracism he faced being the only "colored cadet" at the academy. Although he felt fairly treated by his instructors, the other white cadets tried to bully him out, but his "turn the other cheek" attitude rendered their actions fruitless. They then excluded him from all fraternization. The "unofficial" order went out that no cadet was to assist him in the orderly completion of any of his assigned duties. Not a friendly word was spoken to him, or kindly action offered the entire four years he was here.

In an interesting note, Henry did say that he got by because of the hidden acts of kindness shown him by the other "negro laborers". Hidden notes, morsels of food, and whispered words of encouragement always lifted his spirits.

In 1877, after four years of brutal hazing, Henry became the first African-American, to graduate from West Point. It became national news.

In an surprising conclusion to this story, during the solemn graduation ceremony, Henry was the only cadet to receive a standing ovation from the other cadets in recognition of his bravery! Afterwards, he was assigned to the Tenth Cavalry and stationed on the frontier. These soldiers became known as the Buffalo Soldiers. He first was stationed at Fort Sill and in 1880, transferred to Fort Davis.


Davis Mountain State Park was very nice. Full hook ups were available with lots of room between sites. That's our RV in the center of the below picture. The downside is, at the time of our stay, there was no cell service or Internet in this area. We were totally cut off from the outside world (or so it felt).

We had the opportunity to watch mule deer wander through the park each morning.

And, we had a chance to experience those bitter "winter winds" that blow through these parts. Park Services instructed us to disconnect our water hose each night and let the water drip from the outside faucet. Each morning, we awoke to this:

Now, that's cold!


With a population of around 1,000, the town is not much to look at. Only a few shops line the "main" street.

And this was the heart of the town. Everybody from the campground met here because it was the only place around that had free wifi.

So, while we waited for our eggs to fry, we would quickly check emails and download movies from Netflix to our laptop.

Photo courtesy of

Here are a few other photos I took in town:


Although small towns lack the conveniences of their larger brethren, growing up in a place where everybody knows everybody, has its appeal to me. It has the warmth and comfort of a pair of well-worn sneakers. One day, we had stopped in for a coffee at the small market in town. As we stirred our drinks, we noticed a kindly-looking gentleman, sitting alone, drinking his drink. The next patron to enter greeted him and before you know it, there were four gentlemen, four different walks of life, chewing the fat and sharing their burdens of the day. This is small town America.

.. And we liked it.


Twenty-one miles outside of Fort Davis is the town of Marfa (Russian for Martha). It began its existence in the early 1880's as a watering stop for the railroad. At first glance, there's nothing unique about this small desert city in West Texas.

Except for one thing.. Something that sets this town apart, maybe from all others. Something that made us hop into our truck and drive a half hour out of our way to view it..

The paranormal phenomena known as the Marfa Lights.

"The first historical record of the Marfa Lights was in 1883 when a young cowhand, Robert Reed Ellison, saw a flickering light while he was driving cattle through Paisano Pass and wondered if it was the campfire of Apache Indians. Other settlers told him they often saw the lights, but that when they investigated they found no ashes or other evidence of a campsite." --Wikipedia

Waiting for the sun to slip behind the horizon, we spent a few hours wandering the streets and taking in some of the displays from the town's burgeoning art community:

As evening approached, we headed to the official viewing area eight miles outside of town. Our emotions were stirring with anticipation.

There were about half a dozen other "inquiring minds" waiting for night to fall. We chatted, we pointed, we waited. Finally, darkness descended and we all peered into the inky night. "Is that it?" was a questioned asked over and over. After about a half hour of head scratching, we saw a teeny-tiny pop of light in the distance. It would appear and disappear as it slowly moved in one direction then another. It was joined by a few other points of twinkling light. One was reddish, one had a greenish hew, and one was white. Even with binoculars, you had to really squint to see them.

photo courtesy of

Initially, I would have written it off as head and tail lights from a distant highway except the nearest road in that direction is about a hundred miles away, and the fact that there were no such vehicles in the 1880's clouds my judgement. Yes we saw specs of light out on the horizon, but they didn't look or act too mysterious. All I can say is, we left disappointed. The "truth may be out there", but it's just not here!


If you want to wash away your disappointment at not seeing anything too mysterious, stop by Hotel Paisano in the heart of the city.

This hotel was built in 1929, just days before the stock market crash that led to 'the great depression'. One of their claims to fame is that James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson stayed here in 1955 during the filming of the movie Giant.

No, that's not James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, these are three locals we met as we sat at the bar. We spent an hour or so, trading stories and laughs.


As you leave town, you'll come across an unusual display. Someone went through the trouble of setting up these giant cut outs of scenes from the above mentioned movie.

After a little research, I found that this display is titled: The ‘Giant Marfa Mural’ by artist John Cerney. It depicts film director George Stevens (seated) and actors James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson in iconic poses from the 1956 movie.



If you're in Fort Davis, stop by the McDonald Observatory for their evening show. They set up multiple telescopes aiming at various points of interest in outer space. One cool thing we saw was the International Space Station as it arced across the sky. Our guide told us it is traveling at 4.76 miles PER SECOND, that's over 17,000 mph!

photo courtesy of McDonald Observatory

It was a lot of fun but we froze our butts off. We WAY under-dressed for this occasion. If it's supposed to be cold the night of your visit, bring blankets.. lots of blankets.


After four days at Fort Davis, we drove into Midland. After about an hour and $800 later we had four brand new Goodyear Endurance tires and were back on the road, much happier and greatly relieved to have this behind us.

One Side Note: As the worker began to put the tires on our RV, I asked if they had been balanced. He said I hadn't asked for the tires to be balanced. This truly puzzled me coming from a store that specializes in tire sales and installation. I thought it would be a given that all tires be balanced before being installed, but I was wrong. I'm glad I asked.


Although it took about a week, I was able to sell the spare tire I had purchased in Alpine. I got $50 for it. Not a bad deal considering I was ready to donate it just to get it out of the bed of my truck.

My next post covers our drive through the Permian Basin (Yikes) and a visit to Carlsbad Canyon (Amazing!).

See you all down the road!

P.S. - If anyone is interested in seeing our travel map (as of February, 2019), I have posted it below. From the beginning our goal has been to stay in 70°-ish weather, hence when we left Delaware in the fall of October of 2017, we headed directly south to the Keys of Florida. When things started getting too hot, we headed north to Michigan and Wisconsin. That why our route has us moving up and down the country.

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Jun 23, 2023

Never a dull moment for you! You got through Texas and best of all, you saw the lights. What more is there? Your travels are now complete! 😆

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