Finally. The last installment. It’s admittedly a little later than I intended; but we’re now reaching the finish.
Day 4 – Saturday
Steve & I woke up with – surprisingly – no hangovers. Must have been the rich food.
Alpine’s Mural in a Weekend. They completed this the last weekend of July 2013. It was inspired by Jesus Helguera’s “Poco a Poquito”.
We soon met my parents to take a look at the Alpine Farmers Market. It’s a rather small market. Not much in the way of fresh produce, but there were plenty of homemade goods like preserves, goat cheese, gluten-free baked goods, and pickles.
Alpine train station
At the farmers market
Fresh eggs. We didn’t buy any.
This gentleman and his granddaughters were selling all kinds of goat milk products. I bought 2 types of chèvre. It was great.
Chocolate goat milk ice cream. It had the texture of ice milk.
These folks had, oh, I don’t know, at least 10-12 flavors of preserves and chutneys. I bought the last cranberry chutney. I’m still savoring it.
We spent about an hour at the market and then took a walk through town. On the other side of the tracks, so to speak.
Not sure what this used to be. Almost looks like a market.
The Three Amigos. And Steve.
Someone’s rose bush.
Old buildings in old Alpine.
Blooming cactus. I think this is a Barrel Cactus.
When we went back across the tracks, Mom and I took a detour into a jewelry store that I frequent every time I go to Alpine, La Azteca Jewelry. The couple that own the store design their own jewelry into one-of-a-kind pieces. Beautiful stuff. And very reasonably priced. Mom fell in love with the store and bought herself a new ring. I bought two.
After this, we went our separate ways for a few hours. Steve and I headed to the Big Bend Brewing Company (http://bigbendbrewing.com) for their big barbecue and music party.
Big Bend Brewing Company. Since 2012. Damn good beer.
I offered to work the gate for Stewart. Steve, Mom, and Dad went on in to enjoy the food, beer, and music by the Doodlin’ Hogwallops (http://www.piggigger.com). Steve was kind enough to bring me a plate of barbecue, boudin, and potato salad. The lady who helped me at the gate, Mary, was a volunteer for one of my classes last year. I was happy to see her again. She lives in Dripping Springs and has family near Fort Davis. So, she comes out often. She sure seems to know a lot of people.
Lines for the food & beer.
The Doodlin’ Hogwallops
Mom & Dad enjoying the music, beer, and the food.
It was, from what I observed, the biggest event of the festival. I felt great for not just the brewery, but Stewart, too. It, to me anyway, was a very positive sign that the festival is becoming successful and can be even bigger next year.
Cowboy on tank.
By about 3pm, traffic into the brewery was had slowed considerably (the event was to end at 4), so Stewart let me leave. Mom, Dad, and Steve were off doing their own things – Dad went back to his hotel to rest; Mom and Steve to a Tito’s Vodka Infusion Class. I took advantage of the alone time to go back to my hotel and take a quick nap. Glorious.
Honeysuckle bush in our courtyard. It smelled heavenly.
I couldn’t tell what flower this was, but it’s lovely.
Later that evening, we went to our last planned even of the festival – Dinner at the Cow Dog. I’ve written about Cow Dog before in one of my previous Big Bend posts, but, just in case you haven’t read it, I’ll just say that those are quite honestly the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. And, with Hogan and Moss (https://www.facebook.com/Jonhoganband) providing the music, it was a wonderful ending to a fun festival.
The German: Bacon, Sauerkraut, Caraway Seeds, Mustard
The El Pastor: Red Onion, Pineapple, Cilantro Pesto, Lime Mayo.
We left the party early to head out to the McDonald Observatory for the Star Party (http://mcdonaldobservatory.org). Steve, Dad, and I had attended a Star Party before and the night was perfect – clear with no moon. Unfortunately, the night we went with Mom (who’d never been to the observatory), it was overcast. Once we arrived at the observatory, there was a bit of touch-and-go as to what they were going to do if the weather didn’t clear. Apparently, they do have contingency plans for just these sorts of events.
Sunset at the Observatory. What I could see, anyway.
One of the telescopes at the observatory the public is allowed to look through during the star parties. (This is a photo from 2012.)
When it was time for the Star Party to begin, we were informed that it was too overcast to go to the amphitheater Instead, the employees directed us to the indoor theater to talk to us about what we would be seeing that night if it was clear. Mom’s and my favorite part was when they displayed pictures from the Hubble Telescope on screen. We later agreed that we could’ve sat there and just looked at more of those all night.
The theater where we had our opening lecture.
Different ways people would navigate by the stars.
About 30 minutes later, it was announced that it was just clear enough to go outside and hopefully catch some of the night sky. We all got to see Jupiter. Mom, Dad, and Steve got to see the moon. I opted for the telescope pointed at Mars. However, by the time I got to that telescope, it had clouded over again. Bummer. We left not long afterwards. Despite the disappointing night sky, we all had a good time.
Back to Alpine. Then, to sleep.
Day 5 – Sunday
With the festival officially over, it was time to head back to Austin. However, breakfast with my parents before they left for home was in order.
Somewhere in his travels around town, Dad saw a sign for Magoos. A Tex-Mex restaurant that served Menudo. Well, there was no way he was going to pass that up.
Dad’s Menudo. It actually wasn’t too unpleasant.
In case you don’t know what Menudo is, I’ll tell you. It’s a rather hearty soup made with a base of chiles, broth, and beef tripe. Sometimes hominy is also added. You garnish the soup with onion, dried oregano, and either lemon or lime. It’s believed to be a traditional hangover cure in Mexico. If the tripe is cleaned properly, the soup has a rather mild and slightly gamey flavor. If the tripe isn’t cleaned properly – yuk.
I did try some of Dad’s Menudo. It was pretty good. It didn’t taste dirty at all. I don’t know if I would’ve eaten a whole bowl of it, though.
Mom, Steve, and I went a little more safe: Huevos Rancheros. They were excellent.
Mine – Sunny Side Up
Mom’s – Over Easy
Steve’s – Scrambled
After breakfast and hugs good-bye, Mom & Dad headed back to north Texas while Steve & I headed back to our hotel to check out and head back to Austin.
As is our wont, we decided to take an alternate route back home as opposed to driving back on IH10. We decided on US190 to US71. It took us about 2 hours longer than the traditional route home, but we did get to drive through some towns that time forgot and see some new scenery.
At a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. We were switching drivers.
At the middle-of-nowhere rest stop.
At the middle-of-nowhere rest stop.
Not everything out here is bucolic. Let me tell you, the gas fumes smelled awful. And lingered for miles.
While we were on US190, we passed through the towns of Girvin, McCamey Iraan, Sheffield, Ozona, El Dorado, Menard, Mason, and, finally, Llano. Some of these towns were simply a crossroad while some were almost bustling metropolises.
Girvin, TX. This is literally the whole town.
Heading into Menard.
While Steve was dozing in the passenger’s seat, I passed an old ruined fort. I decided to turn around and check it out. If, for no other reason than to stretch our legs. It was Fort San Saba (Presidio de San Saba).
Fort San Saba (Presidio de San Saba)
The original fort (presidio) was built in 1751 on the banks of the San Gabriel River. In 1757, it was rebuilt on the banks of the San Saba River where the remains stand today. Like many Spanish forts, it was a way to gain a foothold and hold onto conquered land, for protection, and to convert the native inhabitants to Catholicism. The fort was abandoned after an attack by native tribes in 1772 and was basically left to the elements. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission made attempts to restore the fort and, frankly, did a rather poor job of it. Most of what they restored fell to ruin once again. The Texas Historical Commission and the town of Menard both oversee the current restoration to see that it’s done carefully and properly.
Some of the walls in what was known as the “VIP Area”
The San Saba River at the back of the fort.
Prickly Pear along the front gate.
One we hit US71, we decided to stop at our favorite barbecue joint, Cooper’s. For me, it’s the best. Anywhere.
Of course, we way over bought and overindulged. Brisket, Sausage, Pork Chops, Steak, Potato Salad, Coleslaw, Bacon-Jalapeno Mac & Cheese (a new item for them; in fact, I bought more for home), and Peach and Blackberry Cobblers.
What the hell, we figured. We’ll just take it home.
Another hour driving. And, finally, home.
Steve & I decided while it was lovely to be in our own house again and settling in with the cats, we already missed Big Bend. It just has that kind of pull on us.
I mean, how can one resist this?
Just so you can get a little taste of the fun we had, here’s link to the official trailer of the Viva Big Bend Food Festival 2014 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRm-BIZThmc). Yes, I’m in there.
Hope to see you all there in 2015!