Viva Terlingua!

Most all of its 125 residents and Big Bend neighbors donned their date nite duds to party at the Boathouse and raise money for local folks in need of a helping hand. Spirits were high and flowing to bluegrass and honky tonk bands while minglers bid on auction items and caught up on doings around towns. While Sheri looked like a tourist in her Canada hat, the owner of Milky Way Treats mistook Eric for a local and gave him the townie discount.

Looking like a local at the Milky Way

We started the evening at the Starlight Theater, the Ghost Town attraction famous for its local fare like chicken fried antelope strips and tequila marinated Texas quail, but the two and a half hour wait pushed us down the street to DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ to share the 2 meat, 2 sides, 2 Lone Stars special. If you’ve had the privilege of Eric’s brisket and ribs you would be disappointed with DB’s, but we didn’t have to wait and the beer was cold.

No frills BBQ and a Lone Star Terlingua style.

With no one on the pickleball court and all 4 of the art galleries closed, we hung at the Boathouse, bid on a poster and polished off a Snickerdoodle sundae of homemade vanilla soft serve topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and hot caramel sauce while the food truck next door filled the air with the heavenly smell beef birria and locals started a line waiting for them to open. Had we known …

The hottest seat in town. Show up early or prepare to wait for 2 hours.

After three days on the Upper Madera, it was time to move on. Huddled in the Clam sipping our hot coffee with the Little Buddy Heater chugging out precious BTU’s, we reluctantly cycled between breaking camp under a cold, windy overcast sky and warming up. We needed showers and groceries, plus a break from the cold front that had swept into the area. As it turned out, none of those things would be easy to fix.

A big crowd came out all dressed up for the silent auction and bands.

The only General Store between Upper Madera and Big Bend National Park is a General Store in Lajitas run by a Gucci resort and spa. We picked up a 4 dollar pepper, an 8 dollar bag of chips and a 6 dollar box of Great Value pancake mix. That was it for our grocery budget. Downtown Terlingua, which is the intersection of the road to Big Bend NP and El Camino del Rio (as opposed to the Ghost Town section) boasts a diner, gas station and RV park. Word had it that showers could be rented, 2 dollars for 5 minutes. The word was wrong as the water was out, which apparently happens quite a lot.

You’ll eat it if you are hungry and cold. The couple across desperately dials for a room.

Randy whipped up a passable burrito and tamale at The Chili Peppers Cafe while the couple at the table across from us were dialing for motel rooms as the previous night had proven too cold to be in a tent and forecasted temperatures were dropping further. Word! We ran down another cold lead from Randy on a hot shower before giving up and pointing Boss at the National Park.

Big Bend National Park

Chisos Basin Campground in BBNP is a SUPER hard to reserve locale with 360 views of the Chisos mountains. We lucked into a 3 day reservation using the click within one second of the reservation window opening method two weeks prior. Entering the NP, we queued in a long line of cars as a ranger let one car into the park for each one that left. Unlike the Ranch, which was often fully reserved AND empty, Chisos Basin Campground is 100% occupied. It is a “primitive” campground with no electricity or showers, but it does have flush toilets. By any normal standard, the campground is considered lovely with spacious protected sites. But we can hear and see people like they are in our tent which feels so strange. Night time temps are cold which causes generators to hum. Dogs bark. Babies cry. Hikers stroll by. There must be 50+ families here. How do people camp like this?

A familiar hike to the window for sketching and napping.

High elevation meant dropping temperatures on the 17 mile snake ride to Chisos Basin. We are hoping the propane holds out for our Little Buddy, but it doesn’t help when we have to make our own hot water for a washcloth treatment in the Clam Day Spa and Shower facility. It was a weird, inventive and effective MacGyver that made us feel and smell clean(ish) again.

Makeshift spa treatment when a shower just cannot be found.

In the basin, roads are paved, toilets flush and the views are to die for. We are soaking in the luxuries of the National Park experience while secretly contemplating if maybe this is the old us and not the new us. Two years ago this would have been roughing it in Roxie. Now we feel like we’re packed like sardines with an overlanding setup that would be happier in the middle of nowhere. Make no mistake, Big Bend National Park is more beautiful than the Ranch but it doesn’t quite fit with our newfound regressive nature. Guess we’ll just keep changing it up til we can’t anymore.

Welcome to Texas. Feel free to change it up.