Day 24 – Hanging Around Alpine

B&B Cafe

The Bread & Breakfast Café. Good food. WiFi.

16 April 2011 (posted the next morning). For the first time on the bike trip, I spent part of the afternoon reading—in a town park, shaded by some nice trees with an ideal temperature of perhaps 72. Finding the right book was a challenge. It had to be both thought-provoking and lightweight. I bought Oliver Sacks’ Oaxaca Journal, about a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico with the American Fern Society to study ferns.

Long ago I read Sacks’ much better known The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and loved it. It may help me understand what makes engaging writing about a place, and how to provide an outlet for his interests that extend well beyond one’s primary work—in Sacks’ case, neurology, for which he is so well known. I too am very attracted to ferns. So far the book is very engaging (and small!)

Great little cottage

A wonderful little home away from home! Thank-you, Liz!

Holland Street

One of the two main drags in town: Holland Street. You can see the Holland Hotel where I was able to access the Internet and meet important people.

Holland Street - East

Looking the other way on Holland Street--in the early morning light. It's not a big town.

This morning, after dealing with photos from the day before in the cottage where I’m staying, I came into the center of town for breakfast at the “Bread & Breakfast” Café, where I had Internet access and could upload the photos and post yesterday’s blog. Nice place, relaxed atmosphere.

From there, I visited a few galleries, chatted with the adobe builder I had met the night before (who is also a jewelry maker—his primary vocation), and biked to the convention center at one end of town where there is a Gem and Mineral Show going on. I love looking at pretty rocks. I managed to only buy one that’s not too big! Rock collecting and bicycle touring are not well-matched.

Gem Show

The gem & mineral show crowd is an odd bunch. But it's fun to look at the rocks. One of those hobbies I might exercise at some point in life! Rocks and minerals can make such beautiful art!

More rocks

More rocks--of all sizes and shapes. I'm not sure what I'll do if I get a call that I won the grand prize raffle--a bunch of polished Texas rocks and minerals!

Gem Show

Colorful characters. There were vendors both in the convention center and outside.

From there, I came into town and had a great lunch at a Mexican restaurant that had been highly recommended by the intelligentsia crowd I shared some beers with Friday night. For some of the time, there were just two of us there, so I overcame my innate shyness and said hello. Turns out that JR Smith is an artist and head of the Alpine Chamber of Commerce. I was able to learn more about the town.


There's an Amtrak stop in Alpine. I stopped by and researched options for taking a train back home from someplace, but it doesn't look easy to get a bike back to New England. There has to be a train (and station) that deals with baggage. I could get to Washington, DC all right, and probably New York City, but not New Haven. Has anyone reading this brought a bike to New England via Amtrak?

There is really no industry here. The economy revolves mostly around tourism, the local university, a hospital, a few government agencies, and art. As JR said, “Throw a rock in any direction and you’re going to hit a writer, a musician, or an artist.” Some of the art in the galleries is great; a lot is okay. But I always enjoy looking at artwork of most any type.

Then the bookstore, my time in the park reading, and, finally, dinner at a restaurant that both Roger Ridlehoover and JR had both recommended: Reata’s. I had two of their signature items on the menu: carne asada topped with Reata’s cheese enchiladas and a side of jalapeno and cheddar grits. I enjoyed a margarita with that. And I ended up here, at the Holland Hotel (where there is WiFi) to plan out lodging for the next several nights. Enjoying a Shiner Bock in the bar.


Dinner at Reata's--the upscale establishment in town.


This was the first Reata's Restaurant, but there are now a few others--in big cities in Texas. Great food!

Reata's outside

The front entrance at Reata's. It was prom night in Alpine, apparently. Note my bike on the far left.

And I just had a conversation with Congressman Francisco Canseco, who just arrived from Washington to survey the are fire damage in his district. He was with three others, one of whom I suppose was the mayor or town manager. I introduced myself (I was the only other one in the bar) and described biking down through Fort Davis yesterday. We discussed biking, Vermont (a bit), and generally exchanged pleasantries. The mayor (?) thanked me for staying in their town, and the Congressman wished me well on the bike trip.

I suspect that Canseco is as right-wing as they come, but he was very polite. When I mentioned I was from Vermont, he asked if I was from Burlington—so he’s geographically literate. (Yes, I just checked Wikipedia: he supports extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and repeal of the health care legislation; he’s openly identified with the Tea Party; and he’s one of three Latino members of the Republican Study Committee—a caucus of “conservative” House Republicans.)


As I leave town Sunday morning, I'll just have to make sure I'm going the right direction!

So a relaxing day indeed. I looked into renting a car and driving to Marfa, but I’ll save that for another visit to the area. Tomorrow, I’m off to Marathon.