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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peggy McCracken

Squarely Pegged

By Peggy McCracken

Gourmet food gives
trip a kingly touch

Elmer Kelton is almost as good a speaker as he is a writer. He spun some tales at the Way Out West Texas Book Festival in Alpine Saturday, dubbing his book about the 1950s drought as his signature work in Western fiction.

I bought the book, of course, and spent the rest of my vacation reading it.

Some of you have teased me about vacationing in nearby towns like Monahans and Midland. Well, what do you think of beautiful downtown Marathon?

Yes, Peggy Lynn and I spent two nights in Marathon, dining on gourmet food, scooting the boots and relaxing in an organic bed and breakfast named Eve’s Garden.

We made the loop down south, riding the river road, perusing old stuff in Hallie Stillwell’s museum, and eating more gourmet food. In fact, we hit three gourmet restaurants in that desertland. Who would have thunk it?

A mushroom at the Gage Hotel’s Cenizo restaurant was my favorite. We didn’t have a reservation, but manager Lane Williams graciously found us a table. In turn, we invited Carol Altom to move from her table to ours, freeing up space and giving us a good hour of conversation.

Just in case we couldn’t find food when we wanted it, we took a picnic chest and used it a few times. First at Balmorhea State Park, where we snorkeled the first day out. Peggy Lynn took to snorkeling like a fish takes to water. The pool is still as clear and beautiful as ever. We won’t have to go to the Caribbean to watch the fish and snapping turtles.

In Marfa, we dined at Maiya’s (overrated and pricey), stayed at El Paisano where James Dean is still Giant king, and walked around the historic courthouse.

Saturday’s book fair was the highlight of the trip, because we both are writer wannabes. We met lots of published authors and publishers of authors.

Joaquin Jackson, Alpine’s own Texas Ranger, talked about his two books and said he is considering a third.

Liz Rogers, an attorney I used to see often in federal court, moderated the “Publishing Without Perishing” section, where we learned it costs about $30.000 to publish a book. No wonder it’s hard to get a foot in the door.

Mind you, it didn’t cost me $30,000 to self-publish my two volumes of columns and memoirs. Even if I had paid myself for doing the work, it wouldn’t have come to a tenth of that. The quality may not be quite as good, but the words are the same.

Lajitas is dead. Long live Lajitas.

That Steve guy who bought up everything around Lajitas and tried to turn it in to a rich man’s playground pretty much ruined it for the common folk. The boardwalk is still there, but nothing is stirring. We had to drive back up the road to the Warnock center to find out where to eat. The restaurant hasn’t moved, but its entrance is obscure and there is no sign. We did have a great gourmet salad and tortilla soup there. Also pricey.

Scenery along the river road is especially beautiful this year, with lots of rain keeping things green. One thing I missed was blooming ocotillo cactus. The rains have made the “buggy whips” green, but they haven’t bloomed.

Did you know you have to pay $20 for a permit to drive through Big Bend National Park on US 385? What a ripoff. There is no other way to get to the river road, so you just have to bite the bullet. Fortuantely, I am old enough to qualify for the $10 lifetime permit, so I took it. Next time I can just sail right on through that old park.

We weren’t in the mood for outdoor adventure, so we didn’t stop in the state park, either. That’s a trip for spring or fall. Fort Davis has also built up, as has Fort Stockton. Tourism pays off, I guess.

Pay is mostly what tourists do. I am sure I will cringe when my credit card bill hits the bank, but for now I am happy to have had some quality time with my daughter and to have renewed friendships down the way.

We ran onto Ellen Weinacht at the book fair and stopped by Ann Talley’s house afterward. Both are delightful people. “They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.” Psalm 111:8, NIV

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise columnist and feature writer. Contact her at HYPERLINK ""

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