I begin my journey at 9 a.m. flying down Highway 90. On my left sits my lead-footed husband, Jay, and on my lap is one of our two four-legged passengers.
We feel a gravitational force pulling us to discover the best of what the west has to offer so we grab our boots, load up the car, turn the radar detector on and let out a "Yee- haw."
The rationale for the road trip is nothing more than wanting a weekend to play in the dry desert heat, even if it is an eight-hour drive from Houston. West Texas is in Jay’s blood with his mother’s history wrapped up in the stark landscapes and laser-bright constellations that fill the unbelievable night sky.
After numerous bags of Funyuns and countless sing-alongs by yours truly, we arrive at the historical gem that is The Gage. The story is that in 1927 former rancher and banker Alfred Gage commissioned El Paso architects Trost and Trost to design a hotel and ranch headquarters for his 500,000- acre ranch. He passed away only one year after it was completed.
In 1978, J.P. Bryan and his wife restored the Gage to its original glory as a first-class frontier experience.
Our casita-like adobe brick room is rustic and amazing, complete with a fireplace and the perfect amount of Texas knick-knacks. (Make sure to book one of these rooms apart from the ones that sit in older part of the hotel.)
We drop our bags and leash the dogs to venture out and tour the tiny town. We come across Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery, with Shirley outside manning a flea market. We take note to come back in the morning for the most sinful homemade baked donuts.
We visit a few of the local galleries hoping to find the works of my father-in-law’s favorite local artist, Mimi Litschauer, but to our dismay the shop is closed for the day. So we cross the railroad tracks that run along highway 90 and discover an oasis mixed in with the ruins of a time passed. The Gage Gardens is a 26-acre park filled with native plants and trees accompanied by an orchard, vineyard and bounty of water fountains. I obsess over the gazebo overlooking the endless Yucca.
Parched from the unforgiving blow dryer-like heat, we belly up to the White Buffalo Bar inside of the Gage. Victor, the bartender, makes a mean martini and is the epitome of West Texas hospitality. We fall in love with the bar and everyone in it.
For dinner, we take 10 steps into the 12 Gage Restaurant for chicken fried steaks and poblano cheddar mashed potatoes. After blackberry pie and Mexican chocolate cake, we grab Victor and take off for a tour of the night sky. The stars are shocking in their intensity and our Star Walk App on iPad is on overdrive.
Alas, we are exhausted so we say our goodbyes and retreat back to the room to rest for the morning drive home. With West Texas in our hearts, I scoop the dogs onto the bed and we fall asleep listening to the only audible sound in the darkness — trains, whistling through the night.