Monday, February 25, 2013

BeaterBlog Recommended Attraction: Terlingua Ranch

Every boy in Texas dreams of owning his own Ranch. When Texan, Racer, and All-American bad ass Carroll Shelby made it big he bought 220,000 acres of West Texas desert near the big bend in the Rio Grande. If the stories are true (and I really want them to be) Carroll and Co would fly in a DC-3 full of show girls for wild parties, desert races, good eating and whatever one cares to do far away from everything.  It's remote, but if you're in the neighborhood you might as well stop by.

I found myself on the desolate road that runs alongside the west boundary of the ranch and couldn't resist taking a look. Unless you own property on the ranch, the only place to visit is the lodge. Although only 16 miles, the drive takes close to 30 minutes at the posted speed. The lodge is really just a gift shop and real estate sales office, although they do have a nice collection of Ranch memorabilia. The "Private Property" signs are a bargain at only $2.50 each for big bad bunny logo.

The women working in the lodge were friendly, but couldn't answer any of my questions. When did Carroll sell the ranch? Are there any buildings or trails left from his ownership? Where did he land the DC-3? The most comprehensive story seems to be Bill Neale's account of creating the bunny logo and it's subsequent use in racing. He also sells bunny merchandise that's probably far higher quality than the ranch offers.

With no answers at the ranch, I looked elsewhere. The Terlingua Ghost town sits on the same road about 20 miles away. This charming turn of the century boom town is kept up by a few hundred people who also find it charming and enjoy being far away from people with more important things to do. It's not like other "ghost towns" I've seen before. The remains of tiny dwellings made from earth or stacked stones are scattered everywhere among the rusted parts of mining and farm equipment. It almost looks like the current inhabitants have pieced together abandoned dwellings from whatever was laying around and decided to stay for a while. There's a store, two restaurants and a cafe that serve tourists and locals without feeling like they've improved the place too much. Its a ghost town that's very much alive.

The Terlingua ghost town hosts a huge Chili cook off every November, which Carroll helped get started back in 1967. There's also a Shelby car event with drag races at a nearby airstrip every year. I'm not sure it's the BeaterBlog type of crowd but that's never stopped us before. Matt, want to drive the CSX-T down to Texas next summer? Maybe I can get the van sorted by then and slap some Shelby logos on her.

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