South was Gold Head Branch State Park, northcentral Fla.
West is Fort Davis, Far West Texas.
We actually planned routes around Texas for years: Mistah had this idea that he didn't like the Lone Star state. Plus you have to travel on the I-10 if you're crossing west-to-east or east-to-west, and we like to stay off the interstate any time we can.
My sister Jane had gone to Big Bend National Park years before, and had raved about it, and I really wanted to go. We typically stay away from National Parks -- too expensive, too crowded -- and camp instead in the usually-free (of charge and of people) surrounding National Forests. But we like to check out a new one when we can. As we did this time. In 2004.
After a great week or so camping in Big Bend (actually, at the Stillwell Ranch outside of the Park), we headed north on highway 118 towards Fort Davis.
We'd met and talked to a couple our age -- who were traveling on motorcycles -- in Big Bend, and they said they were heading there next. We'd heard from several people that Fort Davis is a great place to visit, which often is what determines our itinerary.
We happily and coincidentally ran into Donna and Kevin again in Marathon, and decided to meet at the Limpia Hotel for a drink when we all got to Fort Davis later that evening. You can't miss it, they said. It's the old historic hotel in the middle of town.
Into Fort Davis we drove. We both immediately loved the place -- but shoot, there are a lot of places we immediately love. We headed straight for the Davis Mountains State Park, 4 miles out of town, but reevaluated, and realized instead of having to drive home after drinking with our new friends, and then turn our rig into a bed, we should just camp right in town -- $10 a night at the Overland Campground, where we could get ourselves set up, and walk to the Limpia.
We had a lovely time with Kevin and Donna, walked home, got up in the morning and made coffee, and Mistah set off for a walk around town.
He was gone a long time, but that's no surprise. Bill loves the thrift shops and book stores and weird little places in a new town, and he often gets talking with someone and goes at it for hours. (When he gets back from a conversation like that I say, "Life story?" (as in "You told your?"). Oh, yes.)
This time, however, when he got back, he said "I wandered into a little real estate office, and asked if anything interesting was for sale, and I saw this really cool little house." "Well, good for you, Mistah." "I think we should buy it." "What are you talking about?" "I do, I think we should buy the house." "What are you nuts? I know property values seem incredibly cheap out here, but until a week ago you hated Texas! We don't know anybody here, we're thousands of miles from anywhere!"
Over the phone, we applied for a home equity loan on our Connecticut house, which we'd been renting out during our years on the road. The bank approved the loan.
We bought the house.
We rented the house out almost immediately, and hit the road again. It's been rented to one tenant or another ever since -- except for this past winter, when we lived in it, and painted the entire interior, and had ourselves a great time, reconnecting with our Fort Davis pals.
The other times we've been back in town in the last few years, we've stayed at Davis Mountains State Park, working as volunteers.
Actually, in 2007 we stayed at our friends Jan and Clint's empty house for a couple of weeks, when it was briefly tenant-less.
Fort Davis is a gorgeously unique place. It's 5000 feet -- almost as high as Denver, the mile-high city. The High Desert. The High Chihuahua Desert. There's great hiking in the state park, a National Historic Site (the fort), the McDonald Observatory -- the University of Texas astronomers chose Fort Davis because of its complete lack of ambient light. It is an incredible place to watch a Full Lunar Eclipse when your Mom and Dad are visiting from Connecticut.
The neighboring towns of Alpine and Marfa, each a short drive away, complete the crucial triangle of the 3 towns, and each have their own unique awesomeness.