El Paso Texas, Steak and Border Patrol

Next stop, El Paso Texas. After Abilene, we weren’t sure what to expect other than not a lot of buffalo (thank you Mr. Mooar). In July, in Texas, we knew it would likely be warm (clever us). I also had a picture in my mind of El Paso Texas as a small western town…you know…dirt streets, saloons, barber shop, brothel…that kind of thing. Since it’s right on the border with Mexico, I also pictured something along the lines of a Clint Eastwood movie, with everyone riding horses, wearing ponchos, toting six guns. Not so much. (I watched way too much TV as a kid). El Paso Texas

Jackie was driving as we approached the city, and I was in charge of taking the photos (never a good thing). I missed a photo of the city limits sign (Jackie wanted to collect those for all the cities we visited, but she found my photography skills to be lacking). El Paso Texas

My first impression of El Paso, TX was that it was way too big, and built a hundred feet in the air on cement stilts. As it turned out, I was incorrect on the second account. The city was large, but it was only the main roads that were a hundred feet in the air and built on cement stilts. El Paso Texas

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. We entered the city and found ourselves driving around lost on what appeared to be one gigantic cement roller coaster…no loop-do-loops, thank God. The city existed at ground level, but to get anywhere fast you had to take an entrance ramp onto the gigantic roller coaster, and there was way too much traffic. El Paso Texas

We got caught up in a whirlwind of traffic, and we couldn’t get out. Which exit to take to get to ground level, and how do we get over to an exit with all the cars traveling at light speed? Good thing Jackie was driving. I almost tore the “oh-my-God-bar” off the dashboard, hanging on for dear life. El Paso Texas

Our GPS, which I fondly refer to as Myrtle, appeared to be confused. I had been remiss in updating her within the last six months, and when we traveled on the giant system of raised highways, she appeared to think we were in the middle of a field. We finally exited the giant cement roller coaster, Jackie somehow managed to find our Marriott, and I got out of the car and kissed the ground, glad to be there. Unfortunately, the “ground” there happened to be cement parking lot, it was 116 degrees out, and I burnt my lips. Note to self, “Don’t kiss the ground in El Paso in July.” El Paso Texas

Jackie unloaded the car (I’ll stop mentioning this, since she did it at every stop and I’d like to stop reminding her of that). We settled into our Marriott room, and then headed off to dinner at a place called Ojos Locos Sports Cantina. I really like Mexican food, thought there should be some good stuff in El Paso, and it didn’t disappoint. El Paso Texas

We were seated, and after our skimpily clad waitress came and took our orders my daughter pointed out, “Dad, did you pick this place? It’s like a Mexican version of Hooters. Stop ogling the waitresses and eat your food.” Jackie has never been shy about expressing her feelings. El Paso Texas

Anyhow, the restaurant was great and the food was authentic Mexican, where you had to add your own spices to taste. It kind of ruined the scenery, though, when my daughter said, “Gee Dad. I can’t wait to tell Mom about this place.” I spent a lot of time staring at the menu and my food after that. The good news, the food was very good. El Paso Texas

We (by that I mean Jackie, the detailed one) had scheduled two days in El Paso for doing touristy things. Those things included the National Border Patrol Museum and Cattleman’s Steakhouse. The Border Patrol Museum is the place to go to find out everything you ever wanted to know about the men and women who protect our borders. Cattleman’s Steakhouse is touted as one of the best steakhouses on the planet, actually located several miles outside the city on a genuine, functioning cattle ranch. I should probably point out that Jackie likes steak almost as much as cheese. El Paso Texas

Our first full day in El Paso, we had breakfast, waited for rush hour to clear, and then headed out to the National Border Patrol Museum. We got there about ten o’clock, and the parking lot was empty, and steamy. I parked the car as close to the building as I could. It was 118 degrees out, and I feared that the tires were going to melt off of the Outback. El Paso Texas

I know the locals would tell you that it was hot, but this was dry heat and not so bad. I would have to call ‘BS’ on that. When the blacktop on the parking lot is boiling and sticks to your tennis shoes, it’s too damn hot, period. We moved quickly from the AC of the Outback to the AC of the building, trying to prevent the melted blacktop from sucking the shoes off our feet. El Paso Texas

We entered the building, and there was one elderly gentleman there, sitting behind the counter. He sold us tickets and commented that they didn’t get many visitors in July due to the heat. I found no reason to disagree. We thanked him and moved on into the museum. El Paso Texas

The museum was awesome! There were exhibits describing the history of the US Border Patrol. I didn’t know this, but apparently it all started with attempts to prevent Chinese illegal immigrants from entering the US through Canada. The border patrol agents weren’t originally part of the federal government, and they weren’t armed. El Paso Texas

There were exhibits showing Border Patrol agent vehicles (Jeeps, helicopters, motorcycles) and uniforms. Other exhibits included ways in which illegal immigrants climbed, tunneled and flew their way across the border. One glass case included weapons that the illegals and the border patrol agents were armed with, and information on drug cartels and their tricks for smuggling drugs into the country. El Paso Texas

I especially liked a room with the very moving stories of all the fallen border patrol agents who gave their lives protecting our country. I was very impressed by the exhibits and the incredible job that these men and women do. It made me proud to be an American. Without them we wouldn’t have a country. El Paso Texas

We spent the better part of three hours at the museum. We planned to go back to the hotel to rest, and then to go to the Cattleman’s Restaurant for dinner. However, we were hot, tired and hungry, so we went with a Plan B. We decided to stop at another authentic Mexican restaurant for lunch on the way back to the hotel, have dinner later near the Marriott and have dinner at the Cattleman’s Ranch the following day. That’s how we found ourselves diving down a steep highway ramp and into a suburb of El Paso that looked, for all intents and purposes, like we were in Mexico…completely different from the rest of the city. El Paso Texas

I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I can say that Jackie chose it. It looked clean inside, although for some reason I had a bad feeling. I ordered the enchilada lunch, one chicken, one cheese, my standard order at a Mexican restaurant, and a diet Coke. Jackie felt adventurous and got the lunch special, a burrito filled with specially prepared spicy beef. She also had a Mexican beer. I will just leave it with, that night Jackie suffered and I did not. El Paso Texas

Next day we slept in, had breakfast, drove around El Paso for a while and then went to Cattleman’s Restaurant for dinner. Cattleman’s was several miles outside the city, smack dab in the middle of the desert, or prairie, or whatever that was. I became concerned by the sign that we saw as we left the city limits that read something like, “Beware, road construction begins at 9:00 PM and the interstate will be closed until 6:00 AM tomorrow morning.” El Paso Texas

We had reservations for 6:00 PM, my daughter likes to savor her food. Cattleman’s Ranch also had a small zoo, gift shop and other sites to see in addition to great food. I feared that we might end up sleeping in the car in the desert overnight. Jackie assured me we would be fine. Memories of shopping in Shreveport haunted my thoughts (see previous blogs). El Paso Texas

The last part of the journey to the restaurant took us through a working cattle ranch, and the rough dirt roads made me glad we were in my Subaru Outback. The AWD performed perfectly, with no problems handling the massive potholes, slippery sand and other obstacles. We finally arrived at the parking lot and found a spot. The place was packed, which bode well for the quality of the food. El Paso Texas

The restaurant looked like a massive wooden lodge, two stories of beautiful craftsmanship. The inside was decorated like…you guessed it…a cattle ranch. But the odors, oh the smells, nothing like a cattle ranch…no hay, cattle droppings, nothing like that. The odor of delicious steak, potatoes, onion rings being cooked to perfection. El Paso Texas

We both ordered a 12-ounce sirloin steak (I guess some things you probably don’t need to say), and I was proud that neither of us went for the 40-ounce sirloin special. I’ve seen steak houses where you could order a monster like this, and it was free if you could eat it all. At Cattleman’s, the deal was that if you could eat it all you’d likely need help to your car. El Paso Texas 

To be honest, that was the best steak that I have ever had, bar none, and I’ve eaten lots of steak. (Jackie probably gets her love for artery-clogging foods from me). And, the price was ridiculously reasonable. That food was so good I’d be tempted to fly back to El Paso, TX one day, just to go to Cattleman’s Restaurant again. Come to think of it, if it weren’t for that damned Chinese virus I might make a reservation for next weekend. El Paso Texas

Anyhow, we finished off dinner with a piece of chocolate cake and headed for the zoo exhibits. We saw sheep, goats, buffalo, cattle (big surprise), an ostrich and a couple of caged rattlesnakes. Then, we wandered through the gift shop for a while. I kept checking my watch, making sure my daughter saw me doing it, attempting to non-verbally communicate my concern without starting an argument. She expertly ignored me, and went about her business. I’m guessing she learned this useful skill from her mother. El Paso Texas

We finally left for the hotel, crossed into the El Paso city limits with seconds (or maybe it was half-an-hour, I can’t remember for sure) to spare. I was overwhelmed with relief that we wouldn’t be sleeping in the Outback overnight. I’m 6’7” with a bad back, so that wouldn’t have been good. Jackie was calm, cool and collected through the whole ordeal. So, we survived our adventure into the desert, and next morning, still full of steak, we headed out for Tucson, AZ. El Paso Texas

If you like this blog post, you might want to buy MURDER BY ROAD TRIP.  You could find out what kind of trouble PI Longfellow gets into in El Paso. He might even find a clue or two as to who’s trying to steal his teeth:) The  book is available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2HauHCg , Barnes & Noble at https://bit.ly/35lISh6 , and Indie Books at https://bit.ly/2I95at8 .