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The Longhorn Ranch - Terlingua, TX

The Longhorn Ranch Motel - North of Terlingua,TX

Yup, the Longhorn Ranch Motel, Restaurant and RV Park; that is where we landed for my projected 2 night stay.  I was not surprised to find out it is not part of a ranch nor does it have Longhorn cattle present.  The rest of it really belongs under the category of ‘That’s Terlingua for ya’.   The motel is 52 miles south of Alpine and 28 miles north of Terlingua/Study Butte and it is remote with a capital R.  No other buildings are visible through 360 degrees except for an old yellow school bus that is/was a shelter.   The full hook up 30 or 50amp sites are $22 a night (negotiable).  After being here for almost 2 weeks we have grown somewhat accustomed to the daily power outages that occur between 4 and 7pm.  There is no cell phone service for the 80 mile distance from Alpine to Terlingua–with one exception which will probably be the subject of a future blog entry.  Ditto on the over the air TV and radio — it just ain’t happening. So even though the Longhorn Ranch is not the Hilton or even the Motel 6, it definitely provides an oasis in the middle of nowhere and you come to appreciate the effort that just the minimal basics require in this harsh desert environment. They have wi-fi if you are within 30 ft of the office, a pool that is usually pretty clean and a phone in the office you can use.

Not the Hilton

The water comes from a well and even though the well is within state regs it is designated as non-potable due to high mineral content.  Even with our military grade water filter, it is barely drinkable.   It is less than 10 miles from our property which is CLOSE in West Texas parlance.  When we first pulled in here, I thought ‘Look at all that junk!’  now–2 weeks later– I am admiring the junk and figuring out how I could talk them out of some of it for our building project.

This is Terlingua folks.  Life here is as hard as it gets.  Brewster County is the largest county in Texas with a population of 9,000.  Two thirds of those folks live in Alpine.  80 miles south in South County, you drink the water you catch off your roof or you buy it. I would say more than 50% of the population is off the electrical grid by necessity.  The power lines of Rio Grande Electric Co-op tend to run the main roads.  If you are even a 1/2 mile from the closest power line, connecting in to the grid could run $10,000 or more.  Forget about drilling a well in most cases.  Wells run the gamut from 120′ to over 1200′ with no guarantee that you will even hit water.  A 1200′ well will set you back $20 grand.  Terlingua is a haven for misfits, anarchists, survivalists, malfeasors, greenies and free thinkers and introductions are generally a first name only or a nickname. It is an interesting meld of lifestyles that has grown here uniquely since the late 60’s.  I can’t say that it has flourished because for every 20 that arrive, only 1 is here 6 months later.

So just what is the attraction?  Why is the High Desert dotted with with everthing from million dollar adobe homes to 40 foot containers buried in the hillside to old school buses?  The locals, the hard liners that eke out a year round living here, lump it under the generic categorization of ‘Terlingua Time’.   Terlingua Time is a laid back, no hurry, no tension way of life.  Wrist watches are not common and there is no barbershop in South County. Barter and work trading dominate in a cash poor environment that only sees an influx of hard dollars when the winter tourists flock to Big Bend  National Park and Big Bend State Park.

Late afternoon storms brew over the Chisos

And then there is the Chihuahuan Desert and the mountains that soar to almost 8000 feet.  I have yet to see a picture that does these desert vistas justice.  We had 3/4″ of rain last evening and there is no way to describe the smell of the creosote bushes and the sage brush after that rain.  It was a parfume that could never be bottled or emanante from a can of air freshener.  Miss K and I have taken to sitting out of an evening when the dry desert air cools quickly.  A good cigar and good whiskey pair well with the panorama of a night sky that is not light polluted.  The Milky Way really does look milky and even the faintest of stars shine with a  brilliance unequaled.

Miss K and I find peace here.  We enjoy the solitude and respect the independent nature that defines this place. We feel at home.

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2 comments to The Longhorn Ranch – Terlingua, TX

  • I am sure you are enjoying that pool!!!!!

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    • admin

      Penny,
      Pools are pretty rare in South County and people who are off grid are suffering through this heat with little or no AC. Lots of them drop by here to take a little dip. There was even a group in the restaurant last night that went swimming after they ate!

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