||One of Kevin Costner's least famous roles was as a University of Texas graduate who goes on a road trip through west Texas. While the locations in the movie Fandango don't often look much like where they're supposed to be, the meat of the story serves as an over-romanticized version of a similar trip I took with the drummer in my first band after college. We had four days off between gigs and Steve suggested that we see West Texas, specifically Big Bend. It is fair to say, even to this day, that I rarely pass on a road trip, especially if it has little vision, direction or advance planning. We drove all night on Interstate 20 from Dallas to Monahans, then headed south. As the early March sun cast the first hint of morning light on flat, cactus covered desert land, illuminating the Chisos Mountains off in the distance, I knew immediately that I was in a very special place.
(clockwise from upper left) The sout rim of Big Bend National Park; Park Bar in Boquillas; Park Bar interior; caballeros riding through Boquillas; dust devil kicking up
Big Bend and the surrounding area is unlike anything else this country has to offer. One could argue that this desolate, brown place holds very little beauty. However, I found myself mesmerized by the combination of rich blue sky, adobe colored earth and multi-colored vegetation dotting the landscape. By 9:00 AM we had arrived at the National Park center, the starting point for our backpack trip to the top of Emory Peak and the South Rim Trail. If you are in relatively decent physical shape, it is certainly worth the effort to get up into the highlands, even if only for a long day-trip. The views into the Chihuahuan desert of northern Mexico are simply spectacular. After two days of backpacking in freezing temperatures through the mountains, we decided to head down to the border. In one day we went from 22 degrees and goose-down jackets at the top of Emory Peak (elv. 7,835 ft.), to 82 degrees, t-shirts and shorts at Boquillas Canyon (elv. 1,800). A young Mexican boy manning a small wooden ferry greeted us at the end of the road. This hand-pulled vessel was the only means of crossing the Rio Grande river from the US to Mexico unless you wanted to get wet. He tugged us across the river and then offered burros to ride the two hundred or so yards up to the village of Boquillas. I had been to many a border town but none like this. The ones I had encountered cater to gringos, offering up all that a major border town has to offer... namely curios, girls, tequila & drugs for starters. The first (and I think the only) commercial establishment in Boquillas was a bar. It was clear there would be no hawkers in doorways this night.
All the houses were freshly painted and clean. The bartender explained that the Mexican government had sent in a crew to paint the town just a few days earlier. I noticed on the map that the drive from the nearest Mexican town was over fifty miles on a dirt road. We asked if there was anyplace we could eat and the boy (he hung around us since there was nothing else to do) suggested his mom's house. Skeptical, but feeling the need to be polite and not seeing any other options, we scooped up our beers and walked next door where there was an old table with two chairs sitting in front of a small house. A hand gesture from the boy indicated that we had arrived. He disappeared inside. About twenty minutes later a woman appeared with a plate full of eggs, tortillas and salsa..... real salsa. It was about that time that the sun began it's decent into the Chisos Mountains to the west. If someone tried to paint the sunset we saw, I would laugh at their overstated sense of color and dimension.
The skies turned to fire as the sun slipped out of sight
and every star that ever was...
well they all come out that night
as the wind swept through the doorway
I said, "I don't remember when....
... I'll have another margarita, y mi compadre, tambien"
There was the angel of darkness and the angel of light
put a hold on all my calls
I'll be Lost in the Land of Texico tonight,
Lost In The Land Of Texico
It is that occasional inexplicable interaction with the most simple of life's offerings that allows us to reflect on who we are and why we are even here. There, in Boquillas, Mexico, on one cool early spring night, I was allowed that opportunity.