El Paso is located in the extreme Western tip of Texas bordering on New Mexico. The countryside is a continuation of the desolate, desert environment that we had experienced from Southeastern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico … evidently God was tired after creating the world and the leftover-trash became this forlorn region that the U.S. should have left in Mexico when they were drawing the territorial borders! On the other hand, there are bountiful treasures of minerals, oil and strikingly beautiful scenery …. but then, beauty is in the “eye of the beholder”!! Shy was impressed by much of the scenery, the rock formations, the desert flora, the vivid blue of the pollution-free sky and, the ever changing cloud formations.
Upon arriving in El Paso, we made our way to the RV park that Shy had arranged for us to stay … she is very GOOD at finding us a nightly “landing” spot. These people were very nice and helpful. They had a technician who came to our “bus” and helped Shy get “her” TV to work. Oh happy day … now we can sit and watch TV all night!!!
El Paso itself was an interesting study of what a dominate minority population’s influence can be. Similar to visiting China Town in San Francisco, the Mexican culture is prominent and the “dual culture” is a source of pride.
As the pictures below show, these scenes could have been taken in Mexico City … like visiting Mexico, without leaving the U.S. Sidewalk sales are the norm in the Mexican section of the city, which we found interesting, if not unusual. On one street, it was particularly busy and we quickly discovered it led directly to the “border crossing” between the U.S. and Mexico. The closer you got to Mexico, the more congested it became, as people working and shopping in the U.S. tried to get back to their homes in Mexico. A thirty foot high chain link fence funneled the crowds of people into a dozen or so check points, where they showed their passports, etc. Those fences cut through the city in both directions like a big, ominous curtain, bringing to mind the “iron curtain” wall in Berlin, Germany. There are many similarities in the two “fences”. On one side there is peace, plenty and prosperity; with a sense of “justice” and protected freedoms. On the other side there is rampant corruption, unchecked crime, nightly murders, limited opportunity for the masses and a sense of futility as the drug cartels battle for turf and the authorities. When we were in Casa Grande there were other tourists from El Paso and they told us it was extremely safe due to the presence of the border patrol. We would have liked to have crossed over into Mexico, but the risks were too high. The media informs us that tourists were regularly kidnapped, almost daily, and held for ransom, or held up and robbed … so we chose not to participate.
We had to find a place called “Rosa’s Cantina” as it is a bar in a song of country singer, Marty Robins … Shy used to be a country singer at a cowboy bar in Jackson Hole, WY in one of her other lives, so she knows things like this … I recognized the melody when she sang it to me … (and she has a fantastic musical ability!!!) The lyrics start out this way.
Anyway, the bar was a disappointment as it was now a small biker bar … not very impressive!
“Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl. Night-time would find me in Rose’s cantina: Music would play and Felina would whirl. . . “
The Tow Dolly
So after a couple hours of “scoping out” the city, it was time to “hit the road”. We had only driven 5-10 miles down Interstate 10 and were on the Eastern edge of the city, when a passing car honked it’s horn and pointed to the back of our rig. Again, we were truly blessed when we were able to immediately pull off the Interstate, cross a dirt strip to the frontage road and see we were in front of a small repair shop with a fairly large parking lot with numerous trucks, trailers and cars in various stages of repair.
Upon checking the tow-dolly with the pickup strapped to it, we smelled burning rubber and smoke was pouring off the very hot wheels of the tow-dolly. My first thought was that the wheel bearings had overheated and burned out. I walked over to the repair shop where there were about a dozen or so men working … all Hispanic and only one, luckily, who spoke English. He was extremely nice and sympathetic, immediately stopped what he was working on and offered to do what ever he could. He had a forklift lift the tow-dolly and carry it into the shop. He said they’d have to wait for the wheels to cool before they could see what the problem was. We asked him about local places to eat and he gave us directions to several local Mexican restaurants. He also suggested that we could go sight-seeing at the local Catholic missions in the area and come back later for the verdict on our tow dolly.
We had lunch at a little “hole in the wall” place … really good food and very inexpensive!! We visited two different missions, took pictures, rested in the peace and quiet of their shady parks, and had a perfectly beautiful afternoon.
The Soccoro Mission and Cemetery
San Elizario Mission, Museum and Park
Returning to the repair shop, we found that it wasn’t the wheel bearings, but the brakes had been locked in the stop position, and we had pulled it for 20-30 minutes with the brakes on. Yes, they could fix it, but needed to send out for the parts, which could be delivered first thing in the morning. He suggested that the owner had offered to let us park our RV inside their chain-link fence secure area. He said they had a guard dog, but all he did was bark and wouldn’t bother us. One of the employees lived in a small trailer within the fence, in case we needed anything….. of course, he didn’t speak English!! We gratefully accepted and moved our “bus” inside the fence, and settled in for an uneventful evening. The next morning we continued our sightseeing, and at noon went back to take the “dolly” over to a tire shop for two new tires arrange ford by English speaking welder who didn’t want us to get ripped off by a crooked shop… $250 later, we went back to pay our repair shop bill … a $175 for two new brakes. I tipped our “translater” $100 for all his help. My brother Garth later told me that we had gotten a fairly good deal on both the brake job and tires, as he had recently paid a lot more for the same thing.
We had time, due to our good or bad fortune however you choose to see it, to visit the White Sands National Monument. We felt lucky to have the opportunity to experience this natural gypsum sand environment. (Gypsum is the raw material that “wall-board” is made from). The countryside was almost other worldly because it is an optical illusion. It looks exactly like snow and makes you feel cold even though it is about 75-80 degrees. It was quite the experience driving through this “white” Alaskan wilderness … with the Air Conditioner on high!!!
Returning to “civilization” , we found our equipment had been repaired and with the purchase of two new tires, we were good to go. We are learning to “go with the flow” and take advantage of every “problem” as an opportunity to “explore” wherever we are and find out more about that part of the world. We would never have experienced the kindness of strangers, the beauty of a “foreign” culture nor appreciate and recognize the blessings we enjoy on a daily basis resulting from our “trials and tribulations”.