When we left Marathon, Texas on September 27, 2020, we expected to be in Del Rio, Texas in 3 hours. Instead, after 1 hour of driving, we stopped the car, first in the middle of the Chihuahua Desert, and another hour later, at Judge Roy Bean’s original “Opera House/Town Hall”, Law West of the Pecos.
Our original plan for the day was to drive 3 hours non-stop so we could have time to do some sightseeing in Del Rio. Amistad National Recreation Area, Val Verde Winery, and Whitehead Memorial Museum looked good in pictures. Also, as a border town, I assumed the commercial areas in Del Rio would be interesting to explore.
The highway from Marathon to Del Rio is incredibly clean and scenic. So clean and white, I tried to put my sunglasses on and realized that I had them on already. At the end of September, the Chihuahua Desert did not look anything close to a desert. Instead, you could see an ocean of pink flowers, covering layers of mountains, near and far. The colors were so vibrant and impressive, and the thought of all these flowers being native and wild made us in awe.
We had to pull over the car to have a closer look at the natural beauty, which could be once of our lifetime of being in the Chihuahua Desert in September, during the blooming season of the pink flowers. Even today, I still don’t know the name of these plants. But I am glad I seized and enjoyed the moment on September 27.
We resumed our journey, still thinking of visiting some sites in Del Rio.
Judge Roy Bean Museum
When we were about 1 hour from Del Rio, my husband saw a road sign “Judge Roy Bean Museum” and decided to pay a visit. I went along with him, thinking to myself that it should be a good place for a bathroom break 🙂
The visitor center is absolutely a hidden jewel on Highway 90, in between Del Rio and the Big Bend National Park. When it was first opened in the 60s, there used to be 400,000 visitors per year and the center reached its peak with Paul Newman’s movie portraying the legendary judge/bartender. And then a new highway changed everything. Nowadays, there are only about 40,000 visitors to stop by each year. With the current Covid 19 pandemic, there are even fewer people visiting. But all the facilities were kept clean and the ground was kept nice. The employees there were very friendly and helpful. It is worth to pay a visit there.
The opera house
What I found intriguing the way that Judge Roy Bean had a peculiar way to dispense hard liquor and harsh justice in Langtry, Texas around 1880. He fantasized and idolized an English actress until the day he died. He named his residence “Opera House” in honor of this actress, who he never got to meet in person while he was alive. And he even named the town after this actress, who eventually paid a visit to Langtry, after his death. Jersey Lilly Langtry, the English actress, Roy Bean’s idol, was quoted to say: I am happy as happiness goes, for a woman who has so many memories and who lives the lonely life of an actress.
I wonder what she really thought after visiting a town bearing her last name.
By the time we finally got to Del Rio, it was dinner time. We ordered some Thai food and called it a day, a day full of spontaneous decisions and wonderful encounters. Sometimes, no plan or “off the plan” could turn out to be the best plan.
Until next time, please take care!