I set out on an adventure today that I’ve been anxiously awaiting for over a year; the Writers’ Retreat at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. I’m not used to traveling solo, especially not to uncharted territory, but the lure of a week of seclusion, learning, and writing was just too strong for this introvert to stay tucked away in her usual shell. So, I hitched up my horsey and drove way out west! And I’m talking way out WEST! Not just westward; I’m talking desert, hills, mountains, cacti, heat, and miles of nothingness…that kind of WEST!
I’m listening to the blare of a train’s horn as it passes through town. I’m sure the residents don’t mind a bit; it’s the only way items are going to get here because I certainly didn’t see any eighteen wheelers on the road, though I’m sure there must be those as well. What supplies do they need in Alpine? Well, not many. They only have two fast food places and no big chain stores. They do have two grocery stores; the same chain, the same name of “Porter’s Thriftway” but positioned about two blocks apart. I’m sure there’s a lot of good home cooking going on here and I was tempted to knock on a random door and beg for my supper! The rest of the week I’ll be able to eat in the dorm.
That lonely stretch of road really was a breath of fresh air. How often can you fly down a deserted highway where the speed limit is 80, with a beautiful view of mountains ahead? No stop-and-go traffic, just flying and rocking to ‘Poke Salad Annie’ over the stereo. This is God’s country, big sky country, and yet I got a little nervous when I noticed a swarm of dirt devils off to my right. At one point I counted eight of them! They were dancing and carving their curses into the barren patches of soil between the desert scrubs. They stayed in place while I drove for miles, and I suspect they were just practicing and waiting for the sun to go down before they moved on to make crop circles somewhere. I’m telling you, these were dirt DEVILS!
I have found a gem here in Alpine, and I’m sitting in it right now. It’s The Maverick Inn, and it is kitschy to end all kitsch. It’s an old motor court, refurbished nicely to embrace the cowboy theme. I used to not care much for anything that was themed to resemble Gunsmoke. But that was before the summer I played Red Dead Redemption and fell in love with the old west. I had no idea I’d be entering its setting when I first registered for this writing class. I wish I could have entered town on a horse with my rifle firing at everything in sight! Lesson learned: video games do damage; they even turned this peace lover into a shoot ‘em up cowgirl.
There’s a little card on the desk in my motel room that says: “We think our train is quaint, but if ears it pains, plug ‘em and it cain’t.” It adds a note to use earplugs to block the train noise…for people who cannot decipher that little poem. I happen to love the sound of trains passing through town at night. It reminds me of visits to my granddaddy’s house in Ruston, Louisiana and my Granny’s house in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. I think the noise is quaint, just like the people who run this Maverick Inn. I think my kitschy cowgirl soul has found a place to rest easy for a while!