Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Five: What I've Loved About El Paso

We're about to PCS (permanent change of station, Army-speak for move) to Georgia. We will have spent three and a half years in El Paso, Texas, and while I'm ready for a change, I'm also going to be sad to leave.

Sadness would have been last on my list of how I thought I would feel about leaving when we first arrived. El Paso wasn't our first choice, and it was hard to get used to. There are few trees, almost none of them shade trees. Most yards are full of gravel, not grass. For the first several months, I woke up every day with a dry throat and cracked lips. While running, the dry air made me feel like I wasn't getting enough oxygen.

But even as we were learning to drive in dust storms and deal with the fact that travel around the city takes forever due to having to drive around the mountain or Fort Bliss, we were also learning about all the city has to offer. Here are five of my favorite--and it was hard to pick just five!

1. Franklin Mountains State Park. Hands down my absolute favorite thing about El Paso. Much of the land surrounding the rugged Franklins is state park land, filled with trails ranging from wide and flat to steep and arduous. To avoid the daily usage fee, annual passes can be purchased, and they're good at all state parks in Texas!

2. McKelligon Canyon and Scenic Drive. I couldn't pick just one. These two roads are El Paso's most popular for walking, running, and cycling. Scenic Drive is closed to vehicle traffic on Sunday mornings, and McKelligon Canyon doesn't carry heavy traffic unless an event (like the wonderful, free Movies in the Canyon) is happening at the amphitheater.

3. El Paso Public Libraries.  With thirteen locations and two bookmobiles (bookmobiles!), I haven't had trouble finding most books I've wanted. The bookmobile means you can place a hold online on books at any library and designate your library for pickup. When it has been delivered to your location, you receive an email. They also have a large collection of ebooks and audiobooks you can download straight to your phone or computer.

4. Food trucks. This is a recent discovery for me, and I wish I'd learned of it sooner. El Paso boasts a variety of gourmet food trucks, just like other foodie cities across the country! I've sampled some excellent fare, and I'm making it my mission to try the Mini Donut Depot and Holy Cupcake before we leave here. You can find out where they are by following the Food Truck Circus Facebook page.

5. The running community. Though you're more likely to see a group of cyclists working their way up Transmountain Road than a group of runners any given Saturday morning, El Paso has a vibrant running community. The local running store, Up and Running, hosts morning and afternoon group runs at their two locations, as well as fun and informative events. This city also has races you won't find anywhere else--like the World's Fastest 10k, which starts at the top of Transmountain, the highest paved point in the city.

Bonus: First Baptist Church. Our first morning in El Paso, a friend brought us to FBC, saving us the long process of church hunting and plugging us into a place where we have grown, learned, and made the best friends. It's a big-small church: there are lots of people, but everyone is glad to see you and help you find a friendly Sunday school class. If you move to El Paso looking for a church home, I recommend starting here!

More bonuses: The Las Cruces Farmer's Market, Cattleman's Steakhouse, the Lincoln National Forest near Cloudcroft, NM, the El Paso Zoo, the El Paso Museum of Art. There is so much to love about El Paso!

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