Southpoint Travel Newsletter

El Paso

Next we traveled down to El Paso, Texas. We ate twice at the Cattleman's Steakhouse about 35 miles east of downtown El Paso.  We had a two pound T-bone steak that had to be the best we've ever had.  If you're ever in El Paso don't miss out on this dining experience.  The restaurant is located at Indian Cliffs Ranch. The restaurant itself has large glass windows all around.  We were able to see several coyotes come right up to the windows while we ate.  The staff puts out scraps for the coyotes. The ranch includes many animals on display including Texas Longhorns, Buffalo, deer, Belgian team horses and others. There is even a real rattlesnake pit. There is a lakewalk, a gristmill and an Indian maze. There are also movie sets, a hayride and the Fort Apache playground for kids. Movie sets can be seen for "Lone Wolf McQuade", "Extreme Prejudice", and "Courage Under Fire". Come a few hours early to take all this in before dining at Cattleman's. It is all free for restaurant patrons.

Juarez, Mexico

While staying in El Paso, we took an interesting tour van over the border into Juarez, Mexico. The traffic is heavy most of the time in the city. It is recommended that you have a tour guide take you. You wouldn't want to be in a traffic accident. Not many have car insurance and the police will put everyone in jail until the it is decided who is at fault if they are called to the scene. Our Mexican guide told us if you are in an accident and you are at fault you should ask the other party how much the damage is worth and pay them on the spot before the police are called in. The police drove around with their flashing lights on all the time.  The locals know to ignore them unless they honk at you.  Unsuspecting tourists who pull over will be given a ticket. We saw many children out during the middle of the day. Our guide told us the schools there were so crowded the children had to go in shifts--half in the morning and half at afternoon.  The main mode of public transportation in Juarez is via old revamped school buses from the U.S. There were many dentists, optometrists, and pharmacy's. Our guide explained many U.S. citizens come over for these services since they cost much less in Mexico. There were also many bridal gown shops with gowns selling for a fraction of the cost in the U.S.  We were told the average wage in Juarez was 20 cents an hour for unskilled labor and 60 cents an hour for skilled craftsmen such as carpenters or plumbers. This explains the huge traffic jam getting back over the border. Many people live in Juarez and drive over to El Paso to work each day where the pay is so much higher.

Next we moved on to Bandera,Texas which is Spanish for "banner" or "flag". We stayed at the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park. There used to be an old trail near here (now Highway 173) which was used by the Apache and Comanche Indians and later disputed by the Spanish. When a treaty was reached, it is said that a flag was placed on the trail and it became known as Bandera Pass. By the 1850s, settlers began to arrive, especially with calvary forts being established throughout the West for protection against the Indians. One of these forts, Camp Verde, was the site where Jefferson Davis as the head of the Secretary of War, brought in camels to carry supplies along the trails to California prior to the start of the Civil War. Cowboys later used this trail along with the Western Trail in the large cattle drives which took place. With its rich history, Bandera is known today as the Cowboy Capital of the World, with ranches all around. In the summer, you can tube or canoe down the Medina River. There is the old courthouse in town, along with several antique shops and restaurants, including one in the old bank. Be sure to tour the Frontier Times Museum which stores a rich collection of Western and worldly artifacts. We looked at an ancient wooden throne used by royalty from Venice, Italy dating to the 15th century. There is a shrunken head of a Jibaro Indian girl from Ecuador. After checking our email at the library, we headed to San Antonio and the Alamo.

The Alamo

In San Antonio, we toured the historic Alamo, where the famous battle of the Texas Revolution took place against Mexican soldiers (led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna) during thirteen days in February and March of 1836. Inside the old stone walls of the mission are several mementos of the period, including swords and the original wooden treasury chest of the Texas Republic. Some of the most famous Texans were David Crockett, the legendary frontiersman and a former Tennessee congressman, and Jim Bowie, famed for his "Bowie Knife" first used in a fight near Natchez, Mississippi. Although all of the Texas fighters (led by Colonel William Travis) were killed during the battle, their fight for freedom against an overwhelming army soon led to the events which would form an independent Texas frontier. The Alamo originally served as a Spanish mission, being built back in 1724. In Spanish, the Alamo means Cottonwood, the name of a Spanish town. It was later used during the Civil War by Confederate troops. Besides the mission, the area contains a museum, store, courtyard, theatre, library, and outside exhibit, which is maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. alamo.jpg (2476 bytes)

Next we stopped in Brenham, Texas to visit the Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory. We have been huge fans of the ice cream ever since it became available in our area. The factory first opened in 1907. It was named after the Blue Bell flower which flourishes in Texas. We watched a film on the origins of Blue Bell and then walked around the top of the production rooms and watched the process through large glass windows. We saw everything from the huge tanks of cream to the packaging process. We watched them make several flavors of ice cream and several kinds of treats. We learned that some flavors are made year round and others are available on a rotational basis three months at a time. Many of the fruity flavors are available only certain times of the year due to availability of the freshest fruit. Only the best ingredients at Blue Bell! The cream used comes from farms within 100 miles of the factory. At the end of the tour we received a complementary cup of ice cream of the flavor of our choice.

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