Land of the Pecos

Sunday, January 22, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

To Big Bend and Back, Day 18 

DEL RIO, Texas— Reluctantly we left our Lajitas hideaway this morning and departed this little slice of tranquility.  Yes, we'll be glad to return to the land of reliable cell signal and internet connectivity, but our three-day sojourn in this tiny town provided a much-needed respite in our one-night stand wanderings.


Big Bend was our westernmost destination for this trip, so today we began our trek back east toward Georgia.  To reach the road that would take us north to US-90, we drove back briefly through the national park this morning.  Then it was up to the town of Marathon (pop. 430) where we searched for a letterbox devoted to that legendary south Texas cowboy, Pecos Bill, the folk hero star of numerous tall tales.

In Marathon, we picked up US-90 on its run from the Texas border to Jacksonville.  The Pecos Bill styled speed limit for this two-lane road was 75 miles per hour, except on the rare occasion when you ran through a town, where you were forced to slow to 70.  Some two hours and 120 miles later, we reached the tiny town of Langtry (pop. 145), most noted as the home of another Texas legend, Judge Roy Bean.

Though the town is a bit off the beaten path, the Texas DOT has established a Visitor Center and museum at the site of the Old West's most colorful justice of the peace, Roy Bean, who called himself "the law west of the Pecos." Books have been written about the unconventional style of justice that Bean dispensed from his saloon and billiard hall, which also served as his courtroom.

Jersey Lilly's bar

Styled the "Jersey Lilly" after Lillie Langtry, the British actress that Bean greatly admired, the building still stands on the same site today, part of the DOT facility along with Bean's home, which he called the Opera House.  Since there was no jail in Langtry, Bean's sentences usually required the convicted to pay a fine, most often the exact amount the culprit had in his pockets.  These fines were transferred to the judge's pockets, considered by him as his due for reducing lawlessness.

Judge Roy Bean trying a horse thief from his Jersey Lilly "court" in 1900
After locating the letterbox commemorating Judge Bean, we continued our westward journey toward Del Rio, our evening's destination.  Along the way, we encountered one last Pecos superlative, the Pecos River High Bridge.


High canyon walls dominate the last sixty miles of the Pecos River before it enters the Rio Grande. Several bridges had been built to span the river, beginning in 1923.  All close to the water, each of the bridges was ultimately destroyed by floodwaters until this 1,310-feet long highwater bridge was completed in 1957.  At 273 feet above the river, it has never been threatened by flood water damage.  Thus ended our visit to the Pecos, where the mythic "wild west" begins, the land that produced the legendary Judge Roy Bean and the fabled Pecos Bill.

DAILY STATS:
  • Started in Lajitas, TX; ended in Del Rio, TX
  • Weather:  Partly Cloudy to Sunny, 40° to 75°
  • Miles driven:  300          (Trip total:  3,182)
  • States: 1 (TX)          (Trip total:  6)
  • Letterboxes found:  3         (Trip total:  77)
  • Coyote sightings:  1
More Photos from Today

Lajitas Cemetery
We wanted to check out the local Terlingua theater but didn't get to.
Weight loss meals a specialty at this Terlingua coffee shop?
Jersey Lilly
Pecos River