The unexpected is the Tao of adventure…

edge of the plateau from the floor
The last day of perfecto before breaking-bad…an early morning view of the plateau’s edge from the Canyon floor gave no hint of the ice-storm coming quickly behind us as we trekked-up to the rim

The sun on the Canyon floor ended in a dark march 12 hours later with an ice-storm in hot pursuit. Leaving The Grand Canyon the next morning, we skated the west side of the storm and ducked into Jerome. Three days later we caught-up with the storm in West Texas. Every fence post, wire, and blade of prairie grass was iced.

fence in ice storm

ice prairie grass

The perfect surreal weather of the past 8 days had finally gone bad and couldn’t have picked a more appropriate place in time. Van Horn—home of the original Chuy’s, Diesel Fried Chicken, and El Capitan.

The unhinged NFL color commentator, John Madden, was legendary for his fear of flying and traveled to all his broadcasts via a flamboyant customized RV-bus…he loved this place in Van Horn and put it in his “Hall Of Fame” restaurants…the owner says the Chuy’s chain stole his concept but he takes pleasure in infringing on “their” trademark…one thing’s for sure: the big chain Chuy’s would not get a fair trial here at the Culberson County court house…some say they’d get exactly what they had comin’ to ’em
cactus art in front of chuys
Cactus art in front of Chuys and easily the most exquisite display of art in town…Van Horn sits in a unique micro-climate featuring barren rocky mesas, hills dotted with cactus, and flatland prairies complete with gophers…it’s a very odd place
diesel fried chicken
The drive-by view of Van Horn most people take away…evocative, but not the whole story

Every town’s “got that something” but it’s not always apparent at first glance. Van Horn’s something is not Diesel Fried Chicken or even Chuy’s—it’s the El Capitan Hotel. Restored by a couple from Fort Davis, they did it for love and $2.5M. It’ll never be profitable but the best things in life have nothing to do with profit. It’s the finest hotel on I-10 from Jacksonville to Santa Monica.

front door
Classic courtyard at El Capitan…designed in 1930 by architect Henry Trost who designed several hotels in West Texas…this is the most perfect hotel I’ve stayed anywhere in the world
leather chairs in lobby
Comfort, mood, and the finest installation of Mexican tile we’ve seen anywhere – including Mexico…a great stay worth adjusting your travel schedule…and the food is good
water fountain in lobby
Lobby of El Capitan – note the tile water fountain
Forget the elevator – take the tile stairways up to your room

The El Capitan was a surprising end to a shocking adventure in Arizona in the Winter of 2014. We got to the hotel and its restaurant bar just in time for the Super Bowl coin-toss. After a great meal we quickly lost interest in the game and wandered off in different directions to explore the hotel…and our rooms.

Jeff in lobby of El Capitan

icy road road out of Van Horn
Icy departure from Van Horn

Jeff and I left Van Horn that morning in a subdued reflective mood. Our strange adventure was coming to an end. We headed back to Austin and for a while things were quiet – a momentary interval of reason. Soon the truck was filled with the familiar claptrap of bogus insights on politics, life, and love…our mouths watering for Hill Country brisket, Shiner Bock, old flames, Asleep At The Wheel, and those priceless chimps in the Texas Legislature…they may be chimps, but they’re our chimps.

There’s something about Texas that always brings me home.

tundra in front of chuys

At the El Capitan Hotel in Van Horn, Texas – Winter 2014