Sunday, August 8, 2010

El Paso= one part Texas + two parts Mexico

As a general rule driving West through Texas things get increasingly Texan. Dallas is more Texan than Houston, Midland is more Texan than Dallas. This theory works fairly well providing you avoid the hipster influx of Austin. So along I drive on a Westward discovery of all things stereotypical of the lone star state.
Being that Fort Stockton is more Texan than Chuck Norris, George W. Bush and T. Boone Pickens combined El Paso decided Ft. Stockton the undisputed champion of all things Texan. Instead El Paso transitions to a slightly cleaner and safer version of Mexico. Other than being on the Northern side of the fence and being surrounded by the Border Patrol investigating a rental Hyundai it's just like the real Mexico.
El Paso overlooks Juarez Mexico playing the role of the slightly more legitimate neighbor to the North. El Paso has plentiful Tex-Mex dining, decent infrastructure and, from what I've experienced, friendly people. El Paso also catches it's fair share of stray bullets from Juarez and is a stones throw from neighborhoods where anything sexual, narcotic or otherwise can be made readily available. A true product of its environment, El Paso features an international border with the murder capital of Mexico coupled with a climate of intolerable heat. The only heat that surpasses the climate is that of the cuisine. Below is the Rib Hut, walking in the door is a walk back in time to 1985. I endorse the jalapeno cheeseburger and apparently need to consume it in a less gringo manner (less tears, sweat and pain).
El Paso ability to achieve an identity all it's own is partially due to its prime location in the middle of nowhere. Over 2 hours from the nearest Ruby Tuesdays conventional suburbia is kept at bay by hundreds of miles of nothingness as far as the eye can see. A trip up Scenic Dr. to Murchison Park provides a incredible view the sunset over El Paso and Juarez. It also seems to be a popular venue for locals looking to make out on park benches accompanied with a ice cream treat and some heavy petting.

Oil Booms along the Gulf Coast

Early June 2010
Fishing like there's no tomorrow while the oil creeps towards the shore

West Texas = "Texas Concentrate"

Texas is as unbearable to drive through as it is easy to stereotype. I grew up thinking the ingredients of Texas were cattle, rodeos, open range, firearms and old men who drop the pronoun "Sumbitch" as often as they can fit it into a sentence.
Fort Stockton is located South of Midland and sums up West Texas pretty concisely. Ranching, railroad jobs, oil fields and Texas stereotypes of all manner. Wide streets lined with white super duty pickup trucks on the good side of town, small homes with one foot in the grave on the other. In the center rather large Fort Stocktonites gather at the big ass Walmart. Spiders are also bigger in Texas, this little fellow below was spotted from a half block away crossing a side street.
West Texas is definitely off the beaten path. Much of it is miles away from the Interstate and accessible by long solitary drives of epic magnitude. While I complain about miserable long trips I'll be the first to recommend a miserably long trip to anyone.

South of the Border

As I drove South along I-95 the billboards began right after Fayetteville, NC. Billboards that promised cheap gas, delicious food and ample motel rooms grew in intensity as I approached Dillon, SC's very own South of the Border.
In the 1950's Alan Schafer created a beer stand South of the Border. What was once a small, no frills roadside store has evolved into a large, no frills roadside monstrosity. Schafer's beer stand added gasoline, fireworks and for short while baby alligators to their inventory. Today it's easier to list what you can't find while shopping South of the Border. Anything good.
As I entered the South of the Border cantina I immediately realized this was as close to time travel as I'd likely get. Aging vinyl booths, uncomfortable plastic chairs and extremely cheap ash trays pressed out of tin. It is now that the inherent charm becomes painfully clear, this may be one of the last places I will be forced to pay cash to get the option to smoke while dining on styrofoam wrapped poorly crafted fast food.
South of the Border... It's been real, I'll make fun of you, laugh at your tacky excess, but you and I both know when I'm in need of a 12 pack, a tank of gas and firework novelties there's nowhere I'd rather go.