El Paso Weekend - Part 5: Saturday Night & Sunday

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How did this three day adventure turn into a 5 part post?  It reminds me of those period dramas on BBC America that are a 4 part mini-series. Somewhere after part 2, I want to shout "get to the damn ending already!"  Turns out I'm a stereotypical American with a short attention span.  So I'll try to wrap up the rest of the trip in this post.  :)

After an emotional trip to the El Paso Holocaust Museum, we decided to up our vitamin D intake with a drive to the west side of the city.  I wanted to show the boyfriend my old stopping ground; where I used to stay on previous trips, where I lived when I relocated there - kind of a glimpse into my life in El Paso.  We drove up Thunderbird Mountain into the hills filled with high-end homes from the 70s to present day.  We drove up to my old apartment which sits at the top of the developed area, but still a long way from the summit.  

We continued on our quest for an El Paso Diablos (the minor league baseball team in town) hat but after three stops we still came up empty handed.  We decided to return to the hotel for a little R&R before dinner.  

Dinner was at The Garden, an upscale restaurant in the Plaza entertainment district - an older warehouse-type area that is now home to four restaurants and clubs.  It was prom night so seating was scarce but we gladly accepted seats at the bar and dined on Mexican appetizers and Italian main courses.  The boyfriend's chicken marsala was the best I've ever had; one bite made me second guess my wood-oven pizza.  At least until I tried it :)

Sunday brunch was at Crave, a trendy restaurant on Cincinnati street.  The peppered bacon was thick and perfect.  Now remember, I'm from Iowa; I know good bacon when I see it.  This, my friends, was perfect.  

Next, it was time to head out to Santa Teresa, New Mexico to the War Eagles Air Museum, recommended to us by one of my students, Mary.  War Eagles is home to over two dozen planes from WWII to present, plus 25+ cool or rare cars.  They also have an entire wall of the hanger covered in WWII newspaper clippings and maps.  Did you know that the US made special packs of playing cards that when pieced together created a map for POWs to escape?  At only $5/person and twenty minute drive from downtown, this museum is an awesome attraction for any visitor.  I'd rate this place a solid A.

After the Air Museum we headed back to El Paso, stopping at an antique store on Mesa Drive.  I'm not a fan of antique stores (they always smell funny and are super crowded - either with stuff or people or both) but the boyfriend digs them so I was a good sport and followed him inside.  Twenty minutes later we exited empty handed but with directions to a whole bunch of antique stores.

We followed Doniphan drive out to some red morton buildings that housed over a dozen antique stores.  As we parked, I suggested that I hang out in the car with my iPad while he spent as long as he wanted in the shops - that way he didn't feel rushed because I was bored and I didn't have to smell old junk.  It was a win-win.  About an hour later, he returned to the car with a few small purchases and we headed back downtown.  

He had also researched local attractions and was interested in visiting the El Paso Museum of History, just across the street from our hotel.  With only an hour left until closing, we started on the main floor.  I was really excited to see the Asarco display; the copper smelter had been in business over 100 years until they were shut down in 1999 due to air and water pollution.  The company hoped to restart operations in the 2000s but decided to shut down and tear down the facility in 2009.  The three minute video in the theater room was a disappointment and seemed to be an advertisement to buy the full length video in the gift shop and the photos, diagrams and displays were poorly labeled and looked more like an art gallery than a museum exhibit. The accompanying exhibit was on traditional medicine and customs from Mexico.  Once again the poorly curated display made it difficult to follow and very little tied it together.  After completing the tour of the first floor we were a bit disappointed. 

After exploring the gift shop and sneaking a peak at an upcoming exhibit which included a NASA jet plane, learned that the main floor was their temporary exhibits, and upstairs housed their permanent collection. Upstairs was completely different - well documented photos and displays documented El Paso history from the early settlers to the rail expansion to El Paso all the way to present day.  Sadly, we wasted too much time on the first floor and had to rush through the good stuff.  Overall, I'd give the place a C grade, but a solid B if you only visited the 2nd floor.  And with free admission, you aren't short-changing yourself by only seeing half the place.

Dinner Sunday was at State Line BBQ where we enjoyed ribs and brisket and homemade bread.  As the name implies, the restaurant sits on the state line; your car is parked in Texas and most of the restaurant is in New Mexico.  Full to the max, we retreated to the hotel and went to bed.  We made it an early night as I had to work the following morning.  

As I worked Monday, the boyfriend did a little more sightseeing, driving across Transmountin Drive.  When I drove from Des Moines to El Paso, I spent Saturday night in Amarillo, Texas and drove the last seven and a half hours from Amarillo to El Paso Sunday.  My average miles per gallon from Amarillo to the edge of El Paso was about 18mpg (if I remember right) but the crazy steep drive up Transmountain lowered my daily average to 11mpg. That means the roughly 5 mile trek to the peak ruined my mileage for the other 428 miles I drove that day.  

Monday night we enjoyed a late dinner with Monika and her daughter Abby at Carlos & Mickey's - a locally famous, authentic Mexican restaurant.  Dinner was great and the company was even better.  I am in awe of Abby, her maturity and intellect are well beyond her 8 years; total credit goes to her awesome mama.

We enjoyed a quick lunch downtown before he had to head off to the airport on Tuesday.  Thinking back on our long weekend together, I feel really lucky that we get to travel together as much as we do and grateful to have such a warm, friendly city to explore.  

So that's it - my five part mini-series for our long weekend in El Paso.  Hopefully I've inspired at least one person to explore El Paso or their own city - if not, you don't know what you're missing.

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