Yesterday we toured what I consider to be in the Top 5 small town museums in the United States, the Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio, Texas. We expected to spend an hour or two at most at the museum, but there was so much to see that we were there all morning!
The museum complex includes over a dozen historic buildings filled with thousands of artifacts chronicling life in Del Rio and Val Verde County from the days of the Indians, to the Spanish explorers, Anglo settlement and on to today. Exhibits include everything from military equipment to farm implements, to an early day doctor’s office, to a replica of Judge Roy Bean’s famous Jersey Lilly Saloon.
The old Perry Store, which was once the largest mercantile between El Paso and Eagle Pass, is filled with early day wares, and upstairs where the family lived, you can get an idea of what life was like for prosperous merchants on the frontier.
Judge Roy Bean, the famous Hanging Judge from nearby Langtry, was a larger than life Old West figure, and it is sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction when talking about his adventures. This is further complicated because Bean was a shameless self-promoter who made up plenty of wild tales about his expoits. And then dime novels and Hollywood came along to further muddy the waters.
But there is no doubt that the old judge was the Law West of the Pecos, and many a rustler and outlaw paid the price for their deeds when brought before Judge Roy Bean. When he died in 1903, he was buried in the Del Rio Cemetery, but later his grave and that of his son Sam, who was killed in the line of duty as a Val Verde County deputy, were moved to the Whitehead Museum.
By the time we had lunch, filled up with diesel and were ready to hit the road, it was almost 2 p.m., so I knew we would only have a few hours of daylight to drive in. We cruised northwest on U.S, Highway 90, passing through the Amistad National Recreation Area, with its massive 65,000 surface-acre Lake Amistad. The lake was created in 1969 by damming the Rio Grande River, and is popular with fishermen and watersports enthusiasts. We saw a lot of RVs camped along the shore of the lake, which reaches to 217 feet deep.
Sixty miles from Del Rio, we stopped at the small community of Langtry, where Judge Roy Bean lived and held court. His actual Jersey Lilly Saloon and his home, which he grandiosely proclaimed the “Roy Bean Opera House, Town Hall and Seat of Justice” are now part of a state-operated Visitor Center.
There is no cost to tour the old buildings, which have been carefully restored and are handicapped accessible. It was fun to walk inside the famous Jersey Lilly and think of all the hell raising that went on here. The Visitor Center also includes a Cactus Garden, with a beautiful old windmill.
Back on the highway, our old bus was starting to run at the upper limits of our comfort range on the temperature gauge as we climbed up an endless series of hills. U.S. Highway 90 through this area is a nice two lane road with lots of passing zones, but there is not a lot to see, and the hills kept slowing us down.
We realized we would never make Marfa by dark, and who wants to look for spook lights in the daytime? So we amended our original plan, and at Sanderson we turned north on U.S, Highway 285 and drove 65 miles to Fort Stockton, arriving at Parkview RV Park just before sunset.
The Passport America rate of $10/night got us an almost level pull-thru 30 amp full hookup site on a dirt lot. This is no destination resort by any means; it has less ambience than a New Jersey landfill. If we had more daylight left, I’d have kept on driving. But it served the purpose for a night. We had covered 190 miles, a lot of it uphill, and I was ready to call it a day.
Thought For The Day – It isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to forgive yourself.