I've talked alot about I-10 in previous chapters, but have said very little about U. S. Highway 90. For those (like me) who travelled the southern coast-to-coast highways in the 1960's, Route 90 was the way to go. There were no interstates yet and Route 90 was the southernmost cross-country highway. It was two-lane most of the way, four-lane now and then, and I think it ran all the way from Jacksonville, Florida to Hollywood, California just like I-10 does today. In fact, much of I-10 now runs precisely where Route 90 did. Every now and then, however, Route 90 leaves I-10 and becomes much like Route 66 was about 20 years ago.
I got off I-10 onto Route 90 in Van Horn, Texas on my way down to Big Bend National Park. As I drove along through towns like Lobo, Valentine, Marfa (of Mystery Light fame, as discussed in Chapter 2), and Alpine, I noticed that many of these have preserved their traditional look, presenting the 60's and 70's much as Route 66 provides us with a glimpse at the 50's. The problem with Route 66 is that there's very little remaining -- I've tried a few times to follow it and have found some neat little towns in Texas, Central Avenue in Albuquerque, and I've heard there are some remains in Arizona and California also, but it's largely disappeared. Route 90, on the other hand, is still active and maintained. I'm going to tell you about some neat stuff on Route 90 in Texas in this chapter, then I plan to hit it again when I get over into Louisiana and Mississippi.
As you go along Route 90 through these small Texas towns, look to the North and you'll notice what looks like a main street running parallel to the highway, with mostly older buildings with false fronts common in mid-century. I didn't stop to check, but I believe these are the remains of old highway 90 running through each of the towns. I passed through several that were extremely picturesque before it struck me that I should take a picture. I managed to get this shot of the downtown street in Hondo as I started off from a stoplight -- not the best I could've gotten, but you'll hopefully get the idea. CLICK THE PICTURE TO SEE A LARGER VIEW. Many of these towns had antique shops and what looked like old hardware stores, etc. there on their section of old 90. I'd bet that someone who wanted to leisurely explore Route 90 through this part of Texas would find some real treasures in these old 90 sections. Maybe sometime I'll come through there and not be in so much of a hurry ... hoho.
Another thing you'll notice as you mosey along Route 90 is the strong Border Patrol presence. No problem as long as you're legal, but rather intriguing to those of us from other areas of the country who aren't accustomed to seeing any Border Patrol officers -- much less so close-up and watchful. If you've never been out West, you've probably never seen what I have in the two pictures below. The one on the left shows one of the many Inspection Checkpoints -- as you roll down the highway, you'll suddenly see a sign announcing an Inspection Checkpoint, followed almost immediately by orange traffic cones that force all traffic into the Border Patrol station. Sometimes they wait for you to stop, then ask you where you're coming from -- sometimes they just wave you through. I've learned that the best answer on where you're coming from is whatever town you just passed through -- I understand that any other answer may provoke more questions.
The picture on the right above shows a "mini-dirigible" I spotted near Marfa. There was a secure fence around it and I noticed as I drove by the gate that the site was some sort of U. S. Air Force installation. I later learned that these little blimps, about 1/4 the size of the Goodyear blimp, carry radar that's used to spot illegals sneaking across the border.
17. U. S. 90: Today's Route 66?
My Travel Log
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At Alpine, I dropped southward 100 miles to visit Big Bend National Park -- that'll be covered in Chapter 18. But after leaving the park, I got back on Route 90 again. Listen to the towns! ... Doesn't it just make you want to go explore them all? Marathon, Longfellow, Pumpville, Langtry, Del Rio, Uvalde, D'Hanis, Hondo, and Castroville. Of course, Del Rio is larger than the rest, but still as colorful. As I drove through, I checked all the radio stations. Of about 10 stations, 8 were Spanish-speaking and the other 2 were country music stations ... lol. That kind of spells out the 'feel' of the area. I don't intend to poke any fun at the area -- I was fascinated by the proximity to Mexico and the "true Texas" feeling in every town I passed through. For anyone with an interest in the "old West", I'd think this would be a really neat auto trip. Fly into San Antonio, take 2-3 days to visit all these towns, then fly out of El Paso. But wait! When you first get to San Antonio and are looking for a place for supper ... Do you like German food? If so, take a short drive up to New Braunfels and eat at Oma's -- (that's German for Grandma's) -- really great, really authentic German cuisine!
I kind of passed over it casually in the town list above, but Langtry is one of the main reasons I decided to travel on Route 90 in the first place. Langtry is actually a few miles off the highway, but I had noticed it on the map a long way back and it was one of my planned stops. Assuming you've all heard of the "Law West of the Pecos", you'll know why I stopped at Langtry. I've included a shot of their post office on the right. Beyond the post office, you can spot some of the deserted, "real ghost town" buildings.
I don't recall what the show was, but somewhere in my distant past I recall watching a black and white movie with Judge Roy Bean sitting on the front porch of his saloon dispensing western justice. Seems like Paul Newman was playing the judge. In Langtry, you'll see that exact porch where he sat! ... or at least it looks exactly like it.
As you first come into town, the post office shown above is on one side of the street and the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center (left below) is on the other. Then, after perusing all the displays in the center, you walk out back and there stands the saloon "The Jersey Lilly" (2nd from left below). Next to that, two shots of the inside of the saloon.
As you walk down Langtry's "main drag", you first pass some deserted "ghost-town-like" buildings, then a fully operational bar/restaurant, then more deserted buildings, etc. It's like people went through choosing which to restore and just leaving the rest. On the right, one of the larger deserted houses. In the center, the interior of the same house. On the left below, a shot of a business obviously run by the Torres' -- arch-rivals of Judge Bean in many of his endeavors. One of the Torres men actually got elected to the judge position for one year, then it later reverted to Bean. These are only a few of many buildings in the town. CLICK ANY PICTURE FOR A LARGER VIEW!
Interior of a big, deserted house
Exterior of big, deserted house