We keep looking for a spot to have lunch. Sanderson is a bit larger than Langtry, but the only place we see is not inviting. One of the beautys of Texas is that there are these little areas every 40 miles or so for folks to pull off the road and picnic or rest and get out of their cars. The beauty of travelling in an RV is that you have your kitchen with you! We can stop, make lunch, fire up the generator and brew a pot of coffee and discuss the route. While doing all that, I called ahead to a place we picked at random out of a guidebook and secured a place for a few nights. We want to camp outside Big Bend at first. It is a good 50 miles or so into the National park to a campground. We don't want to get there and find that there is no room!
So ... we find the Stillwell Store and RV Park. Now ... when I call this place a lady answers and says, "Sure! I got plenty of room! Y'all come on down here! But fill up your tanks at Sanderson! They charge too much for fuel and propane in Marathon, and you will pay even more in the park!" Sanderson is this little town that looked like something out of the TV version of Stephen King's "The Stand". We saw NOTHING alive except one dog. It was the middle of the day ... there were cars on the street .. STREET (just the one) ... and not one human being. Eerie. but we trundle on another 40 miles or so on I-90 and then turn south at the town of Marathon onto Rt 385. This leads directly into Big Bend Park and we are deep in the Chihuahuan Desert. It is barren and dry and harsh and very, very beautiful. 46 more miles of nothingness on 385 and we turn off onto FM2627. The "FM" designation is something peculiar to Texas, I am told, and it stands for "Farm to Market". Kind of like "RR" or Rural Route, elsewhere. 6 more miles of nuthin' and we are suddenly at the Stillwell Ranch. We see a low combination of buildings and trailers on one side of the road, surrounded by a conglomeration of campers, 5th-wheels and motorhomes. Across the road is a very large parking area with more hook-ups and a few more trailers, and the gates to the "Stillwell 4 Ranch". This place is a testimony to one family's effort to hold on to their land and ranch no matter what. We are greeted in the store by "Nan", who tells us to "Pick our spot" and gives us a brief history of the ranch.
Her grandmother "Hallie Crawford Stillwell" came to the ranch as a new bride in 1918. In 1916 she was a schoolteacher in Presidio, just across the Rio Grande from Panch Villa's stomping ground. Her family was upset with her decision to be independent and follow the profession she prepared for, but she had a very determined streak. After she fell for Roy Stillwell (20 years her senior) and told her family she was going to marry him, they tried to talk her out of it. They felt he was a reprobate who drank too much, gambled, and was just not suitable. She told them "I'd rather be an old man's darling than a young man's slave!" and they got hitched. Her family relented, and off she went. She lived to the age of 99 .. 2 months and 2 days short of her hundredth birthday. she is almost a legend in South Texas. Her obituary was carried in the New York Times.
Look at the kind of thing you can stumble across when you roam around the Country!!! We stayed there 2 nights ... enjoying live music in "Hallie's Hall of Fame" (a museum full of artifacts from Hallie's life on the ranch) and beautiful, starry skies that had us sitting out in our recliners with blankets until very late ... just looking at the heavens. These folks don't live lavishly, but they are rich in scenery and rightly proud of their heritage.
We drove into the Park. Jawdropping. Found 2 sites in Rio Grande village campground and we head there tomorrow. We are stepping into a magic land.