A CannonRide Around the Bend (Big Bend Region)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Riding toward the observatory.
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    Visitor center.
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    Quite accurate.
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    Some seven-year-old kid found this 1.500 pound meteorite near here in 1903. It made the rounds on exhibit and now rests here.
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    Museum exhibits at the visitor center.
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    I didn't take the full tour, but I did sit in on the presentation. Very interesting and it really puts things in perspective. Kind of humbling. Some will say it conflicts with about every religion on earth. They project some live telescope images of the sun during this presentation. Don't forget the sunscreen. :D
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    If you take the long tour you go inside one of these.
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    Since I didn't I got to check this one out on my own. Just ride up there and take a look. This is a visitor lobby and viewing area. The small tower next to the dome is a laser alignment tool for getting all the separate mirrors lined up.
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    Explanation of some of the components.
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    Looking back down the mountain to the visitor center.
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    #41
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  2. bigdon

    bigdon Long timer

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    Excellent!
    #42
  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Continuing on the Fort Davis day ride loop.
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    Nice run through the mountains. Scenic and sporty riding.
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    I sometimes run topo on one unit.
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    And City Nav on another. I used two units because I was recording tracks and verifying waypoints for others to use.
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    This extended drought has been tough in the region. Usually this is a nice looking plant.
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    Interesting rock formations.
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    Out of the mountains and onto a flat.
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    On to what is left of the small town of Valentine.
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    This town used to be something back in the day. A lot of cattle were shipped out of here by rail over the years. Rail shipping ended probably 20 years ago, now cattle are shipped by truck.
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    The town started up in 1882 with railroad construction. This was a rail division headquarters at one time.
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    Looking around, there seemed to be a lot of typical stuff you would find along the highway that is now abandoned (diner, gas, stores, etc). Much of the housing is abandoned as well.
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    Back in 1931, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck near here causing extensive damage. The quake was one of the most powerful ever recorded in Texas.
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    In the 1890s, Black Jack Ketchum robbed the store here in Valentine and took most of the candy. I guess that is how they figured out it was Ketchum because he was known for his love of candy.
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    City hall.
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    Water.
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    Someone put in this sculpture just outside Valentine.
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    It cost a few bucks to put in. It has since been vandalized and burglarized.
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    The location on the desert adds to the art.
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    After the initial round of damage, the exhibit was hardened with bullet proof windows and alarms. Some old boy had to test it I guess.
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    This guy came struggling by on a bicycle. He was going to Vermont.
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    He had been fighting the wind and was only making slow progress.
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    He was anxious to get to Valentine. I had to break the news to him that there was nothing there - that he hoped for anyway. I gave him my water as he needed it more than I did at the time. I saw him further down the highway later in the day and checked on him again. He was doing fine then.
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    #43
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  4. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    Cannonshot.

    That Prada Outlet store is amazing.

    You find the strangest things.

    Q~
    #44
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  5. The Toad

    The Toad on the go since...wait. where am I ?

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    Cannonshot is my hero :clap
    #45
  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Let me share a little historical background that will explain my next stop.

    Once people got indian raids under control, the next problem involved raids by Mexican bandits.

    The ranches and facilities in the Big Bend region were lucrative targets since they were so close to the border in such an undeveloped area.

    There were a couple of raids in the area I am exploring right now.
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    This is the terrain involved. A mountain range with rock escarpments limited mobility to certain canyons (as it still does today for modern day drug smugglers).
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    On Christmas Day in 1917, bandits hit the Brite Ranch. They picked the holiday because they figured the small army of ranch hands would be off the ranch visiting in town and the like. Most were, as were the owners.

    The ranch foreman saw the raiders ride into the yard and scatter for cover. The foreman grabbed a gun and shot the leader of the bandits from his position in the house.

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    The bandits captured a couple of ranch hands and sent one to the house to try to get the foreman's family to surrender. In the end, the foreman gave the bandits the key to the store to appease them. Ranches sometimes were like small towns in this very undeveloped area hence the store and post office on the ranch.
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    While the bandits were stealing stuff from the store, the postman rode up in his coach with two mexican passengers. The bandits shot the two passengers and hung the postman inside the store. (Local people really got pissed about that.) Also during the raid, a local clergyman rode up. The bandits allowed him to go to the house where the clergyman led a prayer and then promptly grabbed a rifle and started shooting.

    All the shooting got a neighbors attention. The bandits cut telephone lines, but the neighbor was able to raise help that came from town in automobiles. The bandits then took off with their loot, the best horses from the ranch, and all of their saddles.

    The Army showed up in vehicles. When the bandits cut through the rugged mountains where vehicles couldn't follow, the soldiers borrowed horses and saddles from a nearby ranch and took off after the bandits. During a running gun battle in the long pursuit a bunch of bandits were killed.

    The Army made a crossing into Mexico at Los Fresnos (a place I'll ride by later on) and recovered a bunch of the loot.

    About a month later, the Army and some Texas Rangers made a *punitive raid into Mexico. (*Punitive raid means "We are going to kick some ass and teach these bastards a lesson about messing with us".)

    The result was that in the middle of the night the Army and some Texas Rangers rounded up 15 men in Porvenir. The Army let the rangers take the men to a nearby hill where they were executed.

    This caused an investigation that got an Army officer busted and led to a complete reorganization of the Texas Rangers . . . but the killings were somehow justified.

    By the way, as proud as we all are of the Texas Rangers who really did a lot to secure the frontier, there was a time when they attracted some people that should not have been in law enforcement. That problem was eventually fixed.
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    As for the Brites, they built this fort on their ranch to house Texas Rangers and as a place from which to defend the ranch. It was never needed in a fight.
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    After the Porvenir massacre, the bandits launched a punitive raid of their own and struck the Neville Ranch a couple of months later in March 1918. The bandits picked a very isolated ranch to hit. One defender was shot in the head but not killed until the bandits finished him off with rifle butts. A woman was killed and mutilated in front of her children.

    Someone located a cavalry patrol about six miles away and the pursuit of the bandits was on. Additional soldiers and their horses were sent by train from Marfa to Valentine as reinforcements. The Army chased the bandits into Mexico. When the bandits saw they couldn't get away, they laid an ambush for the Army which resulted in the bandits taking a solid ass-kicking (somehwere between 10 and 33 dead). One US soldier was killed. The Army burned Pilares on the way out after capturing a supply of weapons and recovering some of the loot.

    More raids to come. Here is a map to help sort out the picture.
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    I mentioned that I stripped some tracks off before I published them. Basically what I did was eliminate any visits to the Brite Ranch and to the next historic site I will ride to. These places are on private property and they really aren't interested in casual visitors. I'll explain more in a bit.

    As for the Brite Ranch today, they don't mention their history on their web site, but they do promote their fine cattle and some hunting opportunities they sell. Some pix from their site.
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    EDIT: New security at Brite Ranch. https://fox6now.com/2019/09/27/how-...-technology-to-secure-its-land-by-the-border/
    #46
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  7. back2thefuture

    back2thefuture Adventurer

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    Hey Cannon.
    Been there too. last March, 2011
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    #47
  8. RideDualSport.com

    RideDualSport.com Zut alors!

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    Most excellent indeed! Nice to see Cannonshot in Texas! I am looking forward to more of this fine report.
    Last year the wild fires drove me out of Fort Davis, I was there in the smoke and ash that was falling.
    Everyone was panicing, it was scary. Things should be fairly green now, with the recent rains.
    Cheers!
    #48
  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    A view of Valentine.
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    This is one of the gaps that indians, bandits, and smugglers have used over time.
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    I read in a book that after the Brite and Neville Ranch raids, the Army built Camp Holland in this pass to block the canyon and support troops patrolling the border. I searched for it using aerial imagery and eventually traced the owners of this private property. I explained I was a retired Colonel that had a hobby of chasing some military history around and asked if I could visit the site. The owners generously allowed me to visit as an exception to their no visitor policy.
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    So, I'll share some pictures here so we all can benefit from my visit and then we'll leave it at that and not trouble these fine people about it in the future.

    As it was explained to me, ranch people don't have a lot of protection that many of us take for granted since they live in remote places. I think this is one of the reasons that "NO TRESSPASSING" is the order of the day on these ranches. Keeping people out is at least one layer of security. Hallie Stilwell wrote in her book that when she married and moved to a ranch her husband instructed her about visitors. If someone came around looking for work or a handout, they knew to only go as far the gate on the fence around the house. Coming inside the gate without being invited meant that the visitor intended harm and she was to immediately get a gun and shoot the intruder. I kept this in mind when I approached the gate to check in at a ranch. :lol3 :eek1 :lol3 :huh :lol3 :yikes :lol3
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    A view of one of the canyons that allows people to cross the mountains. A rancher I spoke to told me that they have smugglers crossing their ranch. Although the ranchers don't have contact with the smugglers directly, it is probably somewhat unsettling just knowing they come through. They say they see the border patrol on their ranches quite frequently and that there are sensors around that the border patrol responds to.
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    We also talked about ranching a bit. The drought has limited operations. This outfit sold off most of their cattle keeping only a small starter herd to use to recover once things improve. I read in another book that in a similar drought in the past, one rancher shipped cattle by rail to Colorado and Oregon to graze as there wasn't enough on their ranch and trying to graze it would have finished off the plants for good. This particular ranch was modest sized at about 30,000 acres. A rancher told me he needed to get one calf off of 60 acres to sustain his herd. Much different than Wisconsin for sure.
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    Anyway, after the raids the Army beefed up border patrols and dropped an Army camp in this pass.
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    The camp was to be a support base for the patrols. It could house 400 troops on site, but the troops were usually deployed.
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    The camp cost $16K to build. There was enough water here to allow the camp to have showers and a sewer system.
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    The place had two barracks, four officer's houses, a mess hall, and a guard house.
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    Mule packtrains were assembled here to be led out to support troops deployed on patrols. Keep in mind this was around the time of WWI.
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    The place had a bakery, corral, blacksmith shop, and a quartermaster store.
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    By 1921, the need for Army border patrols had passed, so the facility was leased as a base for Texas Rangers and customs and immigration border patrols.
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    It appears this place gets regular visits from the border patrol now.
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    Interesting to think what life was like along the border around the time of WWI. Ranchers were/are some pretty self-sufficient folks.
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    This canyon was also the site of a fight with indians. Come to think of it, Fort Davis had a remote outpost on the other side of this canyon at Vieja Spring back during the indian fights.
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    One of the large barracks for troops.
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    This part of the ranch relies on the flow of a spring. Windmills have been largely replaced with electric pumps. Long hoses and pipes are laid around some of the ranches to get water from place to place. This cattle tank looks pretty inviting.
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    Back in the day telephone lines were strung on drill pipe poles. Now many rely on cellular service instead.
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    Just missed running into this border patrol agent. He was creeping along patrolling a fence line on the ranch. These guys have a "deep layered defense" in the area. Ran into them quite a bit. By the way, I didn't take photos of the agents I met since their policy discourages it.
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    #49
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  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks for following along!

    Glad you are enjoying it Don!

    The incongruency of that sculpture being out in the middle of the desert makes it pretty cool I think.

    Thanks! Glad to have you along on the ride.

    Thanks for joining in! I have a feeling we aren't the only ones that got to enjoy that spur trail. :D

    Thanks! ROAD DAMAGE PMed about his experience there during the fire as well. I found out that 47 structures burned in Fort Davis. Listening to the fire people, this year could be another bad fire year as well. Burn bans are in effect all over the region. I really enjoyed my visit to this area and will no doubt be back.

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    #50
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  11. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it Supporter

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    I found it surprising how quickly and effectively Big Bend country gets its hooks in. :deal
    #51
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    A big problem for me is that there is so much interesting and scenic stuff to explore just beyond the geographic boundaries I set for this trip. As I was traversing Texas heading back to Wis-by-god-consin (that's southern Wisconsin ya'll) I was passing too much stuff that I should have been checking out. So . . . more trips are in order, perhaps one on the DL1000.
    #52
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  13. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it Supporter

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    I loved the DR350 on the primitive roads, and something smaller would have been even more fun. And then there's all that glorious pavement that would be perfect for the V-Strom..
    #53
  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Indeed, the dual sporter's dilemma. :D
    #54
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  15. BOOGIEMAN

    BOOGIEMAN Been here awhile

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    Nice report and history lesson.:deal
    #55
  16. Hipster

    Hipster Long timer

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    Bryan, great RR of the Big Bend area. It's on my list of places to ride.
    #56
  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Continuing on with the Fort Davis day loop.
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    There is an aerostat base along this highway.
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    The aerostat program is a program to detect drug smugglers using tethered radar balloons. I read about some of the maneuvers the interdiction planes would fly to get a reluctant pilot to comply. One was to fly at high speed under the target plane and then pull up right in front of it disrupting the air and causing the plane to violently drop. Another was to take that big ol' King Air and fly right on top of a small plane causing the target plane to lose lift forcing them down to the ground.
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    By the way, the Air Force was going to put in a radar defense station back in the mid-50s in the mountains over by Camp Holland. I couldn't track anything other than the announcement though.
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    This balloon was not deployed when I came through.
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    I borrowed the next two pix from an aerostat base I encountered in New Mexico when I rode the Great Divide. Some of these get power through the cable and some have 600 gallons of diesel on board to power a generator.
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    A cable reels this thing up or down.
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    I can't tell for sure . . .
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    . . . but I think I saw a couple of technicians on their hands and knees on the ground with one of these things in that last picture. :D
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    Much of the movie Giant was filmed along this highway.

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    Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean.
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    Right next to the aerostat base is a ranch where the Reata set was located.
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    I didn't think you could see the remnants of the big house from the road. In fact, just a moment ago I discovered that I accidentally took a picture at the aerostat base that had the house frame remains in it.
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    This is what the house looked like after some years. All that is left now is the frame. James Dean cult freaks visit these sites to try to get a souvenir.
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    Check out this trailer for more.

    <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/w2x6AT4mr3o" frameBorder=0 width=420 allowfullscreen></IFRAME>

    If you want the story, check here.

    Just down the road are the remains of the Little Reata set. James Dean sat on that old wooden windmall. Before this became overgrown, it was a large cattle tank.
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    The actors stayed in Marfa at this 1930s hotel. Ironically the hotel was built in anticipation of an oil boom that never happened.
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    There are some pictures on display from the movie.
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    Sometimes even a long, straight, and flat desert highway can reveal a few interesting sights.

    By the way, some of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood were filmed around Marfa as well.
    #57
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  18. bradatlarge

    bradatlarge Insha'Allah

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    Hiya Cannon!

    :wave

    The history is the best part! :deal
    #58
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  19. No False Enthusiasm

    No False Enthusiasm a quiet adventurer Supporter

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    Evidently the patch did not hold... the Marfa Aerostat crashed recently...

    http://alpinedailyplanet.typepad.co...dar-blimp-tethered-west-of-marfa-crashes.html

    Thanks for the military history of this remote area.

    NFE
    #59
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  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    "Sabotage!"

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    :D

    From the movie "The Train".
    #60
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