2012 Roadtrip: Santa Fe, NM to El Paso, TX

We left Santa Fe at 11:16 a.m. and arrived at the Comfort Suites (that we had pre-booked) in El Paso, TX 4:16 p.m. (327 miles). We were driving on the I-25 through high desert with some interesting land formations. We brought our regular road trip lunch of crudités and fruit which we ate along the way. Wendy Stagg said in San Antonio, NM that there was only one gas station and at that one gas station they make home made ice cream. So we were looking forward to an ice cream treat. We got off the I-25 and went. At the gas station's shop, they said they have never made ice cream. They sell Dryers Ice Cream and they do make their own fudge. Oh well, calories saved.
Along the way we intersected the I-40 but never the I-30 or the I-20. Where are they? The I-25 turns east to El Paso and turns into the I-10. Audre thought that it was pretty cool that she was driving the I-10 in New Mexico and Texas--she used to commute on the I-10 from Santa Monica to Los Angeles.

El Paso has the Franklin Mountains to the east, a flat expanse to the west and is a city of over 600,000 people. It is at 31° North and is 3800’ in elevation. It was 100 degrees when we arrived at 4:30 p.m. with a breeze (thankfully) and it felt like an oven. That 4 degree difference in latitude from Santa Fe, and the 3200’ elevation difference, caused an explosion of heat. Wow.

We were under-whelmed with our suite at the Comfort Suites, El Paso (Comfort Suites, 5034 N. Desert Blvd, El Paso, Texas 79912  tel. 915-585-2008, toll free 877-585-2008, e-mail: gm.txb35@choicehotels.com). It cost $103 including breakfast and tax. The room was cramped and narrow—so narrow that when Dimitri was sitting at the desk, the space between the back of his chair and the coffee table (in what the website called a "living room") was too narrow to walk by. The photos on the web of the space in this king suite were totally misrepresentative. On the positive side, there was a sofa to sit on and watch TV (after dinner we watched a program on the TV (with a cable that we carry) that Dimitri had downloaded to the laptop called "Civilization, is the west history?"), a  mini fridge, microwave and a coffee maker. And we did have a view of the Franklin Mountains. The lighting, however, was not bright enough (for people our age).

But the absolute worst thing about the Comfort Suites was the air conditioning system. It was either 67 degrees in the room or 80°—it would cycle between the two and was noisy and awful. When we had the thermostat set at 75°, on automatic,  it would go down to 70° (according to the thermometer we carry with us) before climbing back up. And it blasted air out. There was no low setting. It was either blasting or not. At this very moment the thermostat is set at 78° and our thermometer says it is 70.2°. Dimitri is asleep and Audre has to stay up to keep changing the temperature the thermostat is set for.

We only took our overnight suitcases into the Comfort Suites. Consequently our car was still fully loaded in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn (supposedly secure) and we didn’t want to drive to a restaurant where we’d have to leave it exposed. Close to our hotel was the Texas Roadhouse, a franchise chain we had never heard of (Texas Roadhouse, 5010 North Desert Blvd., El Paso, TX 79912, tel. 912-832-0333, web: texasroadhouse.com).

Deserray, at the front desk of Comfort Suites, gave us a 10% off discount coupon for the Texas Roadhouse and told us she loved the bread they make.  We walked over in the 100° F heat (but there was a breeze). We entered another world—one we had never experienced. The person who seated us asked if we’d ever been to a Texas Roadhouse before. When we said “no” she started to reel off all of the features of their restaurant (“hand cut steaks, fall-off-the bone ribs, made-from-scratch sides, fresh baked breads”) but she was speaking so fast that we only caught a third of what she was saying—and we had her repeat it 3 times!

No matter, we knew what we wanted (Audre had been talking about having Texas ribs all day): 1 order to share of the “Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs,” half slab, for $12.29. That came with a choice of 2 sides. We chose a house salad with blue cheese dressing and a baked sweet potato. Our enthusiastic server, Mayra, asked if we wanted the sweet potato “fully loaded?” We asked what that meant and she said “filled with marsh mellow and caramel sauce”. We asked for the sweet potato plain and for some plain butter, wondering if there could be anything more vile that could be done to a sweet potato.

On the table was a big container of peanuts in the shell and we started munching them. They were good. We were brought the “fresh baked bread” and it was squishy (Wonder Bread-like) rolls that were sweet-ish. With the bread came a sweet butter that had cinnamon in it that we thought was awful-really foul. Our house salad came and was surprisingly good, crispy lettuce and filled with tomatoes and carrots. We asked for the dressing on the side and an extra plate and there was plenty of salad for the two of us. At about this time, one of the chirpy greeters brought us a gift that is given to all first time Texas Roadhouse guests. It was a bag of peanuts with a coupon for our next visit that would give us a free appetizer. There is a great deal of enthusiasm with each of the servers—on the back of their T-shirts it says “I love (with a heart) my job.” As we looked around, we saw that the other diners were 20, 30, 40 or 50 pounds overweight--at least. At about this time, our ribs arrived with some extra BBQ sauce. The ribs were as advertised, fall-off-the-bone, and delicious, as was the BBQ sauce. And the half rack was a lot of meat—too much for us but we finished it anyway (probably becoming overweight in the process). The baked sweet potato (unadorned) was kind of mashed and re-stuffed into the skin and was very good. The manager of the restaurant, Frank Garcia, came to welcome us and he too was Mr. Enthusiasm. He recited the special features of this restaurant and asked us if we liked the ribs. It was kind of fun to have all this attention as newcomers—we wondered what they do for their loyal return guests. The next shock was the bill—the total price of our meal (and we were stuffed) was $12.17, after the discount and with the tax, but before the tip for Mayra. (We brought the rolls we didn’t eat and our gift bag of peanuts to Deserray at our hotel because she said she loves them and was stick-thin.) 

We plan to get up tomorrow at 5 a.m. so that we are at the (included) Comfort Suites breakfast at 6 a.m. so we can leave and be at the border crossing early. At this moment, the air conditioner has stopped blasting and the temperature has climbed back up to 71.6°, no, now it is 71.8°.

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