From Terlingua to Ojinaga is a 62 mile drive across some of the most beautiful scenery in Texas.
Ojinaga sits just across the Rio Grande from Presidio, Texas. The drive itself is a destination – people come from all over the world to drive River Road. At the end of the drive is an adventure and really good food.
This was my 4th trip to OJ and my 2nd solo trip. When I ask locals what there is to do in OJ, the answer is always “eat and shop.”
Received wisdom is that Los Comales is the best restaurant in town. I’d never been there before, so I was guessing, really- I figured it wouldn’t be hard to find. It’s not. It’s on the square, in El Centro.
Los Comales is the most expensive restaurant I’ve been to in OJ. Chips, salsa, pico, beef fajitas, baked potato, and salad – 175 pesos. That’s $10.41 in U.S. money.
The meat was delicious. The salsa was great, with a definite bite to it. The pico was fresh. I do think that chips, tortillas, and baked potato might be too carb-heavy- I left the potato and most of the chips.
Now for the shopping. The first time I went to this store I just kept laughing out loud at the prices.
The fruit and veggies are much better than anything we can get in Terlingua. In fact, we’d have to drive to Austin or El Paso. And Mexico is a non-GMO country.
Here’s some examples of the prices:
1/2 kilo (about a pound) of white sharp cheddar cheese – 57.2 pesos = $3.40
1 pound of coffee – cafe de altura – 84.9 pesos – $5.00
1 cantaloup – 9.3 pesos – $0.55
large bundle of green lettuce – 14.9 pesos – $0.88
1 kilo zucchini – 11.9 pesos – $0.70
750 milliliters of really, really good mescal. about $23.
You get the idea.
I want to make if very clear that I LOVE the Cottonwood store in Study Butte and am grateful to Rick and his staff. They do a great job keeping South Brewster County fed. They’re also a great example, in my opinion, of the problem with borders.
Wouldn’t it be cool if the trucks that supply OJ’s stores with produce could come across at Presidio and zip down to Terlingua to stock Rick’s?
There are few things that you can’t bring back to the U.S., like raw pork or chicken for example, but for me, the savings on the grocery bill- and the diversity and quality of the groceries – makes it an easy decision.
There’s also that “in the moment” thing that happens on adventures. In a different country where people speak a different language driving on roads where I can’t read the signs and don’t really know the traffic laws – or shopping in a store where all the signs and descriptions are in a different language and I’m the only 6′ + anglo in the whole supermarket –
There’s no time for ruminating or worrying. It’s “now” and the colors are vibrant, the sounds are new and interesting, and the culture is different.
I checked out some other stores. If I wanted glassware, pots, pans, etc. this is where I would go.
I’ve heard rumors of a music store with hand-made guitars. There are some interesting looking leather shops. There are a lot of dentists, some doctors, three hospitals, and who knows what else? I intend to explore until I find all the cool stuff.
I spent a couple of hours just walking and driving around el centro. Ojinaga is an old town and has been the scene of some historic battles. More recently, Pablo Acosta created a larger than life legend that is still celebrated in OJ.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room, doesn’t it?
The TV says the border is dangerous. Politicians say we should close the border and put up a wall. Media says to not go to Mexico because it’s dangerous, the cartels will kill you, you can’t drink the water, and it’s dirty.
I’ve lived on this border full-time for 3 years and part-time 6 years before that. The only danger I’ve encountered was a few over zealous young American border patrol agents who thought it would be fun to tailgate me down big hill.
My kids live in Chicago. Don’t talk to me about dangerous cities.
The water in OJ is better than that of Flint Michigan and the 32 other municipalities in the U.S. so far that have been identified with dangerous levels of lead and other chemicals in their drinking water. And commercial bottled water is so cheap that you can afford to drink that if you want. For me- I’ve got a lifestraw water bottle.
So far, I’ve limited my trips to the daytime hours, stayed out of La Zona and the bars, and stayed sober. I’m also polite and careful.
At the Starlight Theatre last night I was talking with friends who have lived here a lot longer and they’ve spent the night in OJ, partied hearty, hung out at La Zona, danced in the clubs, and definitely not stayed sober. They recommend it.
I’m sure you can get in trouble in OJ if you’re a jerk. Or stupid. I’m sure there’s random violence and crime there, just like there is here.
Bottom line, I’m pretty sure that if they put a fence between Texas and Mexico, I would be better off on the South side of it.
Ultimately, I’m not sure who profits from the fear campaign. It creates an artificial “us and them” environment. It makes our lives poorer in many ways.
I’ve heard people bitch about having Spanish language included on American signs or “having to press 1” for English. Bitch away. I’m very grateful when I go to foreign countries when they include English translations on their signs.
I’m not sure who’s behind this “divide and conquer” mentality that media tries to sell us. Borders are an anachronism. People are just people. The Rio Grande is just a river. The United States is not the former East Germany and I resent the hell out of having armed guards tell me where I can and can’t go.
Whoever is selling the fear and separation doesn’t have your best interest at heart. If you want to find out what it’s like on the border, or in Mexico- go see for yourself. You’ll never believe your TV again.
OJ is not pretty, but neither is Presidio. However; it’s just a short drive from San Carlos, which is pretty. It’s also the next place I want to explore.
I’m not making any guarantees or recommending that YOU do anything, but I’m telling you that I’m grateful that I’ve discovered OJ and I’ll be going back regularly.
Here’s some snapshots I took while I was exploring. Enjoy.