WEST TEXAS TRAVEL LOG by Loreta Kovacic
(super short stories about places and people)
FORT DAVIS ROCK SHOP
Fort Davis rock shop lady points to the small quartz rock hanging above the entrance to her shop. She claims that tis rock speaks about people to her. I guess it stays calm when a balanced person walks in?! I cannot resist asking her what the rock said about me? I am sure she expected that curiosity….All good and balanced, she replied, but you would be surprised by some people!!! She grabs my curiosity now completely, and we start chatting.
She fled here from Colombus TX where the city (Houston) was coming in too strong. She came here for more space. We both remember fondly the cool German polka band that used to entertain there in Colombus. Great guys! So I ask, is it lonely? No, she replies quickly, people here love space… Yeah, you get to her this sentence a lot from folk out here. Space. She continues to tell me why she loves it out here: kids show respect, take their hats off when entering a public place. Her late husband was a state trooper.
She recommends a rock. It’s for energy. She says that she carries hers in her pocket all the time. It’s up to me, she says, which one do I fell more energy with. I grab two and I feel tingling in my right hand where a rock she recommended was. Joe comes in and I decide spontaneously to give him the rock for his own healing. He needs it. Rock lady emphasizes the fact that no one else should be touching the rock, and that it can be cleansed in the full moonlight or in salty water. Oh my, I was feeling the Alchemist vibe here. And a little bit of a snake oil salesman? Still, it was super interesting talking to this lady, and her rock castle was vibrant!
TERLINGUA MILAGROS COFFEE SHOP
This coffee shop is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever been in, and Lord knows, I have been in a few… The view of the desert, seating only outdoors, yet comfortable despite of the heat. Menu was as sophisticated as my fancy urban coffee shop in Houston or Zagreb. It is a little desert jewel, completely unexpected.
Table next to us are two old man: one, not in best shape, with a stuck arm, perpetually staring at me. Looks so much like my dad…He must have been quite a looker when he was younger, and he still emanates a weird old Texas charm… Asking for gazpacho soup here, where one feels lucky to get any food at all! This man is something else…
And the place was a little like Kucice, my grandmother’s Croatian village, built completely out of surrounding stone. I leave the place wondering who is that old man with a stare?!
CYNTA, THE OLD HIPPIE
I met Cynta, the coolest, grooviest, tough feminist Bronx Cuban hippy that lives out here by choice and rents cutest casitas that she proudly built herself. Of course, she was able to inform me that the old guy with a stare at Café Milagros from the day before is a world renown paleontologist. Makes sense. This is Terlingua, the home of “passing wind”, passing traveler, a few cowboys, strong women and magical dogs.
She told us about the family feel here and how guys like their beer and how she has been single her whole life but she feels like she might get married when she turns 60. She won our kids hearts easily, with her stories about animals and how she did kayak tours and skinned a snake. Her and I both like the virgin very much. This we both display with our accessories: her kitchen pillow, my car sticker, her casita’s entrance image and my necklace.
Oh Lord, the view of the full moon last night from her casita porch hammock was the most magnificent I have ever seen. I was bathing in its light. I am sure that if I was growing up here, I would have had a big telescope and would have probabl developed an interest in astrophysics. Or paleontology. Music too. It’s quiet. Remote. To see a car on the road feels like seeing el paesano, a fellow human.
ROAD TO PRESIDIO
I have been on some crazy roads, but this one, from Lajitas to Presidio is insane. According to the mileage, you are thinking you will be there in one hour or less. In Presidio, you plan to finally cross the border into Mexico, and taste the salty and sweet, colorful world of a beloved country. But, you are in for a surprise! You quickly realize that you will be on this road for a while, and will you make it alive? This road curves, shows magical mountain views, intimidates with falling rock signs and feels like a crazy rollercoaster.
I was around these roads 25 years ago with a rental car full of Italian students from UH. My best memory of Big Bend was the rides on its “autostradas” with the wild Italian Mario Andretti fans speeding along and killing that poor rental car, with sardine like packed passengers screaming in the back. These days, I am too scared to fly like that, plus I just got a speeding ticket from Mr. Texas Ranger on the big highway coming out here. I guess I still own some of the racecar genes from Europe…
On the road to Presidio you pass traffic signs of bears crossing a road, you see many cute roadrunners actually crossing the road, and a weird teepee picnic area somewhere in the middle of this majesty suddenly appears. Like it’s there to tell you: chill out, take it all in! You are in awe of it, but you are also scared at times, because you loose hope of civilization in the near future. This road feels like it leads to nowhere and you showed up without an invitation! You are there alone, with animals and rocks, hoping that your car does not brake down, while daydreaming of riding Harley with your imaginary long hair blowing in the wind. It’s super romantic.
Speaking of romantic, I always thought that those RV’s are a romantic way to travel, until we made it to Presidio and passed by the RV park, smacked in the hot sun, in the middle of nowhere, looking more like a half way house for retired Republicans. Guns and amo was next door, just in case…
Most Americans are scared to cross into border town Mexico, but I am excited to get to Mexico wherever I can. I love Mexican colors, tastes, drinks and hearing local out of tune guitar player who sings about mi alma, mi amor, mi tierra, mi dolor. Presidio, the American side was a dying depressing town but on the other side, was a vibrant and happening little town of Ojinaga. It sounds almost Japanese, and there is a Japanese restaurant there named “Yuk sushi”. That’s as good of a name for a restaurant as “Leftovers”. We ate at a place named “Luby” with the best chille relleno I have ever had. It’s a lightly fried, stuffed poblano pepper.
My daughter observed that in Houston we always get humongous plates in Mexican restaurants, but here they seem much smaller, not big enough. She said, it should be the opposite, because here, we are hungry more often. This might be because here, we are more worried about when and where will our next meal come from. Also because here we go hiking in the incredible Big Bend Park.
Road to Presidio gets even better when you cross the border into Ojinaga, Mexico. If this idea sounds a little fishy to you, then take the road less traveled for it’s beautiful views and curves. It reminds me a little of “jadranska magistrala”, from Split to Dubrovnik, Croatia, without the added danger of tourists in bathing suits crossing the road to get to the beach. Here you might see a cute animal crossing the road, but definitely no humans.