Verdict on El Paso: Not a good bowl destination
One more day in El Paso, and it’s an interesting city. It is not a good bowl city.
There’s no crime in that. Oklahoma City wouldn’t be a good bowl city, even though it’s a wonderful place to live. The people of El Paso claim their city is a great place to live. OK. I can believe it. But that doesn’t make it a city you want to visit.
I know the Sun Bowl folks and the citizens of El Paso don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. It’s not a great tourist destination. Not great weather. Not a lot of things to do. The Sun Bowl seems to be providing good hospitality to the teams — the Sooners really seemed to enjoy their tour of Fort Bliss the other night, where they got to participate in shooting and tank simulations — and it seems to be a well-organized bowl. You generally don’t stay in business 76 years, and keep CBS as a partner for 42 years, without good organization.
The scenery is good; out here on the West side of town, where we’re staying, there are gorgeous views of the sun setting over the mountain range. I left Fort Bliss the other day to give OU’s Kenny Mossman a ride back to his hotel, and when I drove back to the base to pick up videographer Tim Money, twilight was descending. Some trees dotted the ground of the mountains behind Fort Bliss, and when the sunset hits, it looks like a painting.
And when you go up high — like at the Sun Bowl Stadium, which is virtually carved out of a mountain — and look at hte Rio Grande Valley, the cities, El Paso and Juarez, are very fetching. I’m looking forward to that sight tonight, when all the lights come on. It’s a little like that old Bette Midler song, “From a Distance.”
On the ground, El Paso is less impressive. El Pasoans have been touting for a month how safe their city is, and I believe it. It seems very safe. I haven’t once felt, uh-oh, I shouldn’t be here. Not even down at the border on Wednesday, when we went to shoot a video, and some guy walking in from Juarez yelled, “Go home.” But safety alone does not make a good bowl destination.
The border, of course, dominates the perspective of visitors, and I would assume residents rarely even think about it. To me, it’s a strange feeling to drive down a highway — in this case Interstate 10 — and look over at a foreign country, even discounting the troubled times in Juarez. It’s a so-near-yet-so-far feeling. You’re literally 100 yards from some place that you can’t go. Barbed wire or razor wire gives me a funny feeling, whether I’m near a prison or a place of business or a federal border.
Down at the border crossing, the lines to get into El Paso, both pedestrian and auto, are enormous. The lines to get into Juarez, virtually empty. I assume we’re checking things a lot more closely on our side, which is the way it was, on a lesser scale, when I went to Juarez in 1975 as a 14-year-old kid. They say that more than 60,000 people a day go back and forth across the border. I believe it.
I’ve been disappointed in the Mexican food. I’ve had it twice and went .500. Kiki’s was excellent despite awful service; Avila’s was mediocre. Jake Trotter also went to a joint on Saturday night before I got here and said it was mediocre. That’s .333. You can go into any three Mexican food restaurants in Oklahoma City, without any endorsements, just pick three off the streets, and bat .333.
I go to places all over the country. Some big, some not so big. Some I want to return for fun. Bring my wife and make a vacation out of it. Some I don’t care if I ever see again. Nothing personal. Just not a place I care to visit. El Paso might be a fine place to live, but I’m in no hurry to return.
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