We left on Friday after a fantastic lunch of brisket tamales at Emelia’s in The Colony. Our first port of call in our West Texas road trip was Mineral Wells, described in the guidebook as a “winning town.” I beg to differ. Its first impression was that of a rundown, depressing place. The welcome committee was made up of boarded-up houses, empty shops and deserted streets.
The Baker Hotel, along with the Bat World Living Museum, is one of the town’s attractions. The 1929 building is a prepossessing building. The ugly chain link fence around it and the graffiti that defaced its walls could not entirely ruin its stately look. The cacti growing on the eaves contributed to its air of poignancy.
It was time for the next town. Palo Pinto is a few miles from Mineral Wells. It is so small that only the Main Street is paved. We wanted to visit the County Jail Museum Complex but it was closed. It sounds more grands than it really is: a handful of restored tiny historic constructions. It closes at 3 pm, in case anyone is interested. The park across the street is rather nice. It has a tabernacle and, according to a fading sign, it is forbidden to park inside.
We pushed on to Wichita Falls. This city has a rather deceiving name: it’s nothing like Iguassu Falls or Niagara Falls. Rather, the local falls are man-made (the original, natural ones were destroyed by a flood in 1886) and 54 (16 m) feet high. However, we weren’t disappointed because the whole point of coming here was to see these artificial falls. They are located in Lucy Park, which is quite a nice place for a stroll (but not when it’s over 100 F (38 C)!)
We spent the night in WF. Sean found a nice Greek restaurant called Salt and Pepper, where the food was very good. The highlight of the night was our waiter. As it turns out, he plays rugby at college, which is rather unusual as rugby is not the most popular of sports here. He was so delighted to hear that Sean was Welsh and played rugby at school that he sent a beer “on the home team.”
I slowly came to the realisation that this road trip was not about visiting spectacular landscapes or seeing breathtaking views. It was about slowing down, listening to people’s stories, appreciating the small things that make life worth living.
Our next stop was Memphis. Texas, of course.
We were greeted by a scene from The Twilight Zone. There was almost no car or pedestrian traffic on the streets. Like in most towns, the courthouse (a beautiful old building) dominated the centre. There was a kind of fundraiser going on which consisted of four stands selling trinkets and one selling food (smoker included). It had something to do with war veterans. It was the early afternoon and there was no one except us, a couple from Fort Worth and the stallholders.
We walked around the courthouse and, lo and behold, we came across a war memorial dedicated to the sons of Memphis who lost their lives in every war since the Civil War. There was the requisite Confederate soldier too.
There wasn’t anything else to see or do in Memphis so we pushed on. The further west we went, the redder the earth became. Red and yellow. The drought was so severe that everything looked dead. Even the nodding donkeys were still. There were countless black patches all over the place left by recent wildfires. Every single river we crossed was completely dry. Dust devils swirled here and there. Heat, dust, draught, road kill, a straight road without end: a typical Texas road trip.
Turkey was supposed to be one of the highlights of the trip. Yet it turned out to be another Twilight Zone experience. Just like Memphis, the streets were deserted; the shops were either closed or closed down. It was a big disappointment. The streets signs were pretty, though. The first settlers found wild turkey roosting in the area and called the settlement Turkey Roost, which was shortened to Turkey. A wild turkey is this ghost town’s mascot.
We were excited to stop for lunch at this little cafe called Peanut Patch, which I’d read about in that magazine article. We didn’t have the exact address but in a town this size, with one main street, it wasn’t really necessary. We drove up and down until we found the building, only to find out that it now housed a local museum.
Matador was a lovely surprise. This town is bigger than Turkey and more prosperous. It even has street lights and a grocery store! We checked in at the Matador Hotel. The 1914 building was lovingly restored by three sisters who are all retired school principals. One can imagine how efficiently the place is run. Their attention to detail, from the period furniture down to the chocolates on the pillows, is phenomenal.
One of the ladies recommended the Windmill Cafe in Roaring Springs for dinner. They do “Saturday night steak” from 5 till 9. We got there around 7. Just like in the old Westerns, as soon as we came in, the –mostly senior- clientele stopped chomping on their steaks or talking and looked up and stared at us.
To Sean’s chagrin, Motley is a dry county. We ordered rib eye steak. Words fail me to describe this flavoursome, buttery, tender, delicious steak. Hands down, the best I’ve had in Texas.
Thunder cracked and reverberated inside. Rain began to fall, softly at first and then with all its might. Everyone looked pleased and hopeful. We started chatting with our neighbours. They told us they hadn’t seen rain since July 2010. Many ranchers were selling off their livestock because they ran out of last year’s grass and couldn’t feed the animals. At least the price of beef is good. But they will have to start all over again next year, buy new cattle, and start bloodlines. Decades worth of hard work is lost in the worst drought since the 1950s.
Hi, I’m Ana. I’m originally from Argentina but I’m currently living in Dallas (USA) with my British husband. I’d like to share my experiences as an expat and as a traveller.