Published on October 6, 2020

Girls’ road trip gone wild: Part 2
We ventured to Mexico and hid from bears

By Jan Edwards
The Bulletin

In last week’s column, I recalled my “girls’ road trip,” which took us to the Big Bend National Park, where our minivan decided to have a fit and started leaking transmission fluid, stranding us in the middle of nowhere.

That’s how we met Archie, who owned the only repair shop around.

We drove up to the shop and asked for Archie. A wiry redneck grease monkey, wearing a dirty straw hat, greasy muscle shirt and jeans, came out. We went into his office and explained our situation.

He gave us some much-appreciated cold water while he assessed the situation. He came back and told us it was indeed the gasket that had ruptured – and that was all. He could fix that. Sigh of relief from we ladies. However, he did not have that gasket, and it would have to come from Alpine. So, it would be about three days.

We explained we were from Houston (turns out he was, too) on vacation, and this had already taken up two days of our explorations. Were there any cars we could rent? He said no – but maybe he could fix us up. Sometimes the Mayor of Lajitas rented out his old car. Archie called him and then gave us a lift to Lajitas Trading Post.

Lajitas was a tourist-trap town salvaged from its original purpose – a movie set. (Lone Star, Dead Man’s Walk, Streets of Laredo - part of the Lonesome Dove miniseries - were filmed there.)

Back then, the Unofficial Mayor of Lajitas was Clay Henry III, a beer-drinking goat, and you could buy him a beer if you wanted. (After two more replacement goats, the stable and general store where we went and where the human mayor lived, closed.)

We never met the Mayor, but the cashier in the trading post had us fill out the paperwork on the car, told us the car was hard to start – you had to wiggle the key in the ignition – and handed us the keys to this old boat of a Cadillac. We had breakfast at the post, and we were off again.

From Archie’s, we went into Mexico to find a bakery that Zoeanne had heard of. Back then, there were no checkpoints going into Mexico - you simply drove in. We looked for a bakery, or any sign of a city. The area looked rougher and rougher as we drove. Since none of us knew enough Spanish to ask directions, we retreated back to the U.S.A.

We spent three days cruising around west Texas in that Caddy. We had to check back every day to see if the minivan was ready.
We visited the art colony in Terlingua and had lunch at La Kiva. If you have never been there, you need to go. La Kiva means “The Cave.”

To get into it, you have to open this huge chandeliered door about 18 inches thick and walk down a long hallway lined with pay washing machines and dryers and rooms of pay showers (25 cents a minute for water) leading into the Cave.

It was a fantasy land interior, and the food was cooked by gourmet chefs. I had the BEST avocado burger there.

Each stop and start we made, that Caddy got harder and harder to start. It guzzled gas, but it was a kick to ride around in. Finally, on the third day, the minivan was ready.

Archie could have charged anything he wanted, but he only charged us $210 with a caveat that we send him some Houston Chronicles when we got back home. Done.

Kristin paid the man, and we asked if we needed to return the Caddy – or could he take it back? He asked us to take it back.
So, with Kristin in her van and me and ZoeAnn in the Caddy, we tried to return the Caddy.

This time, the hard-to-start car became impossible to start. Archie came out and determined that the transmission in that car died – right there at Archie’s.

He said he would take care of returning the car – he’d have to fix it anyway. We were never charged another penny for that car.
Our other adventures in Big Bend:

• A bear broke into a camper in the campsite. The Ranger told us to go into the bathrooms until the bear left the campsite. He said he would have protected the bear before the people because they just returned to the Chisos.

• The skunk fight right outside our tent one night and Kristin wanted to take pictures. I was concerned they would spray the tent and would not let her have the flashlight.

• The Javelina visit in the campground.

• The horseback ride to The Window.

• The drive to the old health spa hot tubs.

• The trip to Langtry, Texas.

Too many things to mention. I was happy to get home to Roy and George Mutt. But that trip, while kind of nerve-racking back then, made me and Kristin laugh upon remembering it.

It’s something that neither one of us would do today because of border issues, drug cartels, and COVID-19, but it serves as a lesson.
If you have good family and friends and an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, do it! Live your life so that someday you’ll remember good times, not wish you had done this or that.

You never know when circumstances won’t allow you to have a second chance.

(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)