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Van Horn, Texas

Posted by graywacke on February 21, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2084; A Landing A Day blog post number 512.

 Dan –  When I needed a USer to get me back below 150, what better state than the granddaddy of USers . . . TX; 152/183; 2/10; 149.9.  Here’s my regional landing map, showing I landed in the heart of West Texas:


My local landing map shows that I landed out in the middle of nowhere, a full 24 miles from the nearest town (which happens to be Van Horn):


My Google Earth (GE) shot shows a vague arid landscape:


Zooming back and looking southeast, you can see that I’m about 4 miles from a bluff marking the edge of what appears to be a plateau:

GE1 - A 

I’ll be closing this post with some photos from this high country, but first, what about my watershed?

 Well, Street Atlas showed me nothing, so I had to use the GE elevation tool and trace the downhill route that a drop of water would take from my landing.  After heading off to the southwest (towards the Rio Grande, I presumed), my drainage path headed in a northerly direction.  On and on I went, until I ended up in a closed basin (a playa).  Here’s a GE shot showing both my landing and the distant playa:


I noted that my drop of water crosses I-10 on my way up north to the playa.  Here’s a view of where the drainage crosses I-10 (looking south, or upstream):

 GE3 - at I-10

That’s quite the culvert, undoubtedly designed for a nasty cloudburst that results in a flash flood.

 Here’s a GE StreetView shot, looking downstream from the access road that runs right next to I‑10:

 GE I-10 street view at culvert

A north-south road (US 54) runs about a mile west of the playa.  Here’s a StreetView shot looking east from the road towards the playa.  Maybe the playa is the faint light-colored strip.  But then again, maybe not . . .

 GE playa

So little Van Horn (pop 2000) has some definite hooks.  I’ll start with a couple of points of minor interest:

 Point #1:  Van Horn has the distinction of being the western-most town in the Central Time Zone.  My more geographically-astute readers may be aware that TX is a Central Time Zone state, but would be inclined to ask, “What about El Paso?  That’s way out in the western tip of West Texas?”

 Well, check out this map!


Look closely.  Not all of Texas is in the Central Time Zone!  Most importantly, El Paso is in the Mountain Time Zone, and voila!  Van Horn becomes the western-most town in the Central!

 Point #2:  U.S. Highway 90 ends in Van Horn.  “No big deal,” one might be inclined to think.  But hey!  Route 90 begins in St. Augustine FL and is an important east-west highway along the Gulf Coast (and was way more important prior to the Interstate Highway system).  Anyway, here’s a map:

 US_90_map wiki

Point of minor Route 90 interest:  My wife Jody and I have very good friends who live in New Orleans (Yo! Susan & Kelly), on a side street only two houses away from U.S. 90 (Gentilly Blvd.).

 Second point of minor Route 90 interest:  Its entire length is part of the “Old Spanish Trail” which is an automobile route conceived of in 1915 and completed in 1920 that connected St. Augustine with San Diego (a trip of 3,000 miles, all on paved roads).  The far western part of the Trail was primarily U.S. Highway 80 (now replaced by I-10 and I‑8).

 Moving right along, here’s a little Van Horn history from Wiki:

 Anglo-Texan settlement of Van Horn began in the late 1850s, supportive of the San Antonio-El Paso Overland Mail route.  The town is instead named for Lt. James Judson Van Horn, who commanded an army garrison at the Van Horn Wells beginning in 1859. Lt. Van Horn’s command was relatively short-lived as the post was seized by Confederate forces in 1861 and Lt. Van Horn taken prisoner.

A lowly lieutenant was a garrison commander?  Also, I suspect that very few (if any) towns anywhere have been named for a lieutenant (unless the lieutenant went on to do something else).

 Of greater interest, the Wiki write-up has a section entitled “Space Tourism,” as well as a section entitled “10,000 Year Clock.”  Very interesting . . .  (said in the German-accented voice of Arte Johnson as the German soldier on Laugh-In.)  Oops, I guess I dated myself a little.  I regularly watched (and loved watching) Laugh-In which ran from January 1968 (my senior year in high school) through March 1973 (second semester of my last year in college).

Memory’s a funny thing.  I felt sure that my whole family sat around the TV watching Laugh-In, but obviously, most of the time, I must have been with college buddies watching it . . .

 Whack!  (I just slapped myself upside the head to get me back on track.)

Let’s start with Space Tourism in Van Horn.  Here’s what Wiki has to say:

In late 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of amazon.com, had acquired 290,000 acres (453 sq mi) of land 25 miles (40 km) north of Van Horn to house his fledgling space tourism company, Blue Origin.

An incredible hunk of real estate!  If it were a square, it would be more than 21 miles on a side!  And it just so happens that their launch facilities are very close to my drainage-destination playa:

 GE - blue origin

Here’s what Wiki has to say about Blue Origin:

Blue Origin is a privately funded aerospace company set up by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. The company is developing technologies to enable private human access to space with the goal of dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. It is employing an incremental approach from suborbital to orbital flight, with each developmental step building on its prior work.

The company motto is “Gradatim Ferociter”, Latin for “Step-by-Step, Ferociously.”  Blue Origin is developing a variety of technologies, with a focus on rocket-powered Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing vehicles for access to suborbital and orbital space.

Initially focused on sub-orbital spaceflight, the company has built and flown its New Shepard spacecraft design at their Culberson County, Texas facility.  Blue Origin hoped to be flying customers by the end of 2012.  As of 2013, however, the company website has made no statements about the date of its first flights.

Here’s a GE Panoramio aerial shot of the facilities by SoCalAviator:

 pano SoCalAviator

Here’s a GE close-up of the launch pad (in the foreground of the above photo).  It ain’t much, just a couple of hundred yards across:

 GE launch pad - 200 yds across

So, I went to Blue Origin’s website, which I encourage you to do also (not surprisingly, blueorigin.com).  I found this cool video of their launch vehicle doing its Vertical Takeoff & Vertical Landing thing (which happened in November 2011):


 Here’s another video, this of the capsule blasting off and then coming back down via parachute.  Normally, the capsule would be on top of the launch vehicle.  I believe that this video shows a test of the “suborbital capsule escape system,” which is designed to bring the capsule back down safely in the event of a problem with the launch vehicle:


 Ouch!  That landing seemed a little rough . . .

 Moving right along, here’s the Wiki article on Van Horn has to say about the 10,000 year clock:

 In 2009, The Van Horn Advocate announced that the Long Now Foundation was starting geologic testing for an underground space to house a 10,000 Year Clock of the Long Now, on the Bezos ranch, north of Van Horn.

 This “Long Now” clock was immediately familiar to me.  I searched my landings, and son of a gun there it was – in my Baker NV post (June 2010), I wrote about the Long Now Foundation and their 10,000 year clock.  It turns out that a location near Baker had been selected by the Foundation to build and house the 10,000 year clock. 

 Well, it looks like they scrapped the Baker site and are now focusing on the Van Horn site, perhaps lured by Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin.  As with Blue Origin, I strongly suggest that my readers visit the Long Now Foundation website:  longnow.org.  Pretty wild. 

 Here’s what Wiki says about Long Now:

The Long Now Foundation, established in 1996, is a private, non-profit organization based in San Francisco that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. It aims to provide a counterpoint to what it views as today’s “faster/cheaper” mindset and to promote “slower/better” thinking.

The Long Now Foundation hopes to “creatively foster responsibility” in the framework of the next 10,000 years.  They use a 5-digit date (02014 rather than 2014) because (quoting from their website):  “the extra zero is to solve the deca-millennium bug which will come into effect in about 8,000 years.”

Of course, I’m going to focus on the clock here in West Texas.  According to the website, the clock is currently being built inside of a mountain.  In fact, here’s a photo from the Long Now website of the clock site:

 long now-clockone-001b

This looks about right for the mountains just west of my playa and also just west of the Blue Origin facilities.  That would be my playa in the distance. in the above photo.  Here’s a GE shot looking back the other way:

 GE looking past the playa to the clock mountain


Here’s a short excerpt from the article entitled “Clock on the Mountain” by Kevin Kelly (on the Long Now website):

 The Clock is now being machined and assembled in California and Seattle. Meantime the mountain in Texas is being readied. Why would anyone build a Clock inside a mountain with the hope that it will ring for 10,000 years? Part of the answer: just so people will ask this question, and having asked it, prompt themselves to conjure with notions of generations and millennia.

If you have a Clock ticking for 10,000 years what kinds of generational-scale questions and projects will it suggest? If a Clock can keep going for ten millennia, shouldn’t we make sure our civilization does as well? If the Clock keeps going after we are personally long dead, why not attempt other projects that require future generations to finish? The larger question is, as virologist Jonas Salk once asked, “Are we being good ancestors?”

 Here’s a quote from Danny Hillis, the prime force behind the Clock:

“I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years.”

Once again, if you want to learn more about the Long Now Foundation, or about the clock in particular (the article by Kevin Kelly quoted above goes into great detail about the clock), go to LongNow.org.  (By the way, the Clock article mentions that they have a site in Nevada – I assume that’s the site near Baker that I mentioned earlier.)

 It’s time to circle back to my landing, and close with some GE Panoramio shots.  Here’s a shot by Popi Originals (about 10 mi NE of my landing):

 pano Popi Originals

About five miles east of my landing is this shot (looking west) by Brucewel:

 pano brucewel

I’ll close with this sunset shot (also by Brucewel), taken about 10 miles east of my landing:

 pano brucewel sunset

That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day

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Van Horn, Texas

Posted by graywacke on March 25, 2009

First timer? In this once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” above.

Dan – How sweet it is, when the LG decides that today is one of those Lone Star kind of days . . . TX; 116/148; 5/10; 19; 164.5.  Here’s my landing map:


And a broader view.


For the second time, I landed in the Wild Horse Ck watershed. The Wild Horse just kind of peters out in the West Texas desert, going nowhere that I can see (i.e., an “Internal” watershed landing).

So, you can see from my landing map that I landed near Van Horn. Something jumped out at me right away about Van Horn. From Wiki:

On Friday, November 10, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of amazon.com, had acquired 290,000 acres of land 25 miles north of Van Horn to house his fledgling space tourism company, Blue Origin.  Blue Origin is expected to start commercial operations as early as 2010, aiming for 52 launches per year from the Van Horn, Texas facility.

From the Blue Origin website, here’s a picture of the prototype vehicle (this isn’t just a nose cone, it’s the whole thing):


If you go to the website you can a see a couple of videos of an actual test launch.


It’s actually pretty cool.

From the Van Horn town website comes this picture:


From Lone Star Internet:

Van Horn grew from a wayfaring stop on the historic Bankhead Highway and Old Spanish Trail from San Antonio to California in the mid 1800’s. Still a primary road junction of I-10 (U.S. 80), U.S. 90 and Texas 54.

John Madden, colorful television football broadcaster, designated Chuy’s Restaurant for his “Haul of Fame”. Madden frequently crisscrosses the country in his bus to broadcast games and stops at Chuy’s in Van Horn two or three times a year. Just before Super bowl Weekend, he annually names his “All-Madden Team”. Plaques and photos of inductees hang in the Chuy’s restaurant at 1200 West Business Loop 10.

Here’s an enthusiastic TripAdvistor review of Chuy’s in Van Horn:

I live in Phoenix, where there are more Mexican restaurants than there are McDonalds! I know of a lot of good places, but nowhere have I eaten better green chile chicken enchiladas than at Chuys! They were just the right amount of spicy, and the sauce was delicious!  They brought my beer with a frozen mug, not chilled, frozen!  Beer Slushie!  It was the perfect end to a long hard drive!



What the heck, here’s a picture of good ol’ John:



© 2009 A Landing A Day

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