El Paso Weekend - Part 2: Scenic Drive & Border Patrol Museum

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a planner, so it should come to no surprise that this weekend adventure had an agenda; filled with recommendations from locals and places I found after combing through Yelp reviews.  When I sent the boyfriend a copy of our agenda, his work buddies got a kick out of our scheduled "Scenic Drive" after Cattleman's Friday night, assuming it was code for making out.  Well, sorta.  Except that it is a real thing.  

Full from our delicious dinner and a bit tired from his day of travel and the long drive back to downtown, we decided to stick to the agenda and we started the gradual climb up Rim road.  The drive begins just outside of University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and curves up the front of the Franklin Mountains, past some beautiful homes with breathtaking views of El Paso and Juarez. Here is a link to a map of the drive.  

At the front of the mountain, there is a small park and an even smaller parking lot.  As we got out of the rental Jeep, we walked towards the steps of the park and sat on the stone ledge.  I pointed out downtown, our hotel, and the border that was clearly visible by the bright lights along the fence. The lights twinkled and seemed to go on forever, deep into the city of Juarez.  The benches around the park were ignored by the mostly young crowd, all of whom probably still have a curfew.  As the car five feet behind us left, another car pulled in and treated us to the bass from his sound system.  Neither of us could identify the song, and it made me feel kinda old.  

We sat close together, a bit chilled from the wind; a huge contrast from the 90 degree heat that greeted him when he landed in El Paso.  We sat in silence for a few minutes, probably a combination of feeling happy and content mixed with exhaustion.  When disrupted by tourists taking flash photos in the dark (seriously?) we left after the 15th (or so) flash left us temporarily blinded.  We began the winding drive down the mountain to our hotel downtown.

Saturday morning, we started out with breakfast at the Good Luck Cafe, just east of downtown and had a typical diner breakfast, but with a Mexican twist.  We were given the option of toast or tortillas and chorizo (Mexican sausage, like spicy ground peperoni) instead of bacon or breakfast sausage.  I was very grateful to Mo for the recommendation - it was great!

Then it was time to start our museum tour.  I was bummed out when I asked a few locals about the museums and no one had been to them.  Setting our expectations nice and low, we (eventually) found our way to the Border Patrol Museum off Transmountain Drive.  This privately funded museum sits in a morton-style building and is essentially one room divided in half by the gift shop.  

The self-guided tour talked about the history of border patrol; patrolling the southern border began in an effort to stop Asian and European immigrants who were denied entry (due to health or criminal history) from entering the United States through Mexico.  In addition to photos, maps, and badges they had a homemade boat that was used by a group of Cubans trying to escape to the US and two homemade motorcycles that were captured in Arizona.  It reminded me of how much people are willing to risk to enter the US.  

The museum also has a WWII-era Jeep, 80s Pontiac TransAm and a M*A*S*H-looking helicopter that were all used by Border Patrol.  They also had on display a Model-A Ford that was used to transport drugs into the US.  The sign stated that it is not uncommon for drug smugglers to pack drugs into antique goods and attempt to ship the antiques to the US.  Unsurprisingly, the much more valuable Duesenburg that was seized at the same time was not donated to the museum. 

All together, I'd give the Museum a B- grade;  a good deal for the price (FREE!) and would recommend it to others, but probably won't visit again.   

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