Sierra Blanca is hardly even a town, although they evidently have a jail. On a map it’s a pinprick, not even as big as Ozona or other West Texas towns along Interstate-10. Sierra Blanca is a border patrol stop point and it’s known for its dogs trained to sniff and find the scent of Mary. These canines are never going to win a Dickin Medal.
It’s fairly well known that Fiona Apple was arrested for hash and marijuana at the Sierra Blanca border patrol rest stop last Wednesday on her way to perform in Austin. (She did make the Houston show Friday night.) Willie Nelson was also busted at that spot but that’s hardly news considering Willie’s penchant for pot. Back in the ‘90s Nelson was popped for a roach in his car ashtray when a state trooper found Nelson napping in his car. But Willie was looking good though at last summer’s FPSF, he’s lost a couple of ounces.
I talked to a member of a band from Austin Thursday night and asked him about the Sierra Blanca rest stop and recreation area knowing that his group travels in a large white van pulling a medium sized white trailer. Without naming said band, he acknowledged that they had recently passed through said border patrol stop and had had their van and equipment trailer completely emptied in a vain search for drugs. He readily admitted that outside of El Paso they had smoked up the last of their stash in anticipation of the border patrol point but the acute senses of the drug dogs detected the sweet aroma that persisted in the van despite their best efforts to air out long before the stop.
Sierra Blanca is a little over an hour east of El Paso on I-10, still in Mountain Time and with signs warning of its arrival a few miles beforehand. (There’s also a border patrol stop point in New Mexico west of Las Cruces, which is north of El Paso.) The border patrol agents look you in the eye and ask one of two questions: Where are you from? or Are you an American citizen? To which you should reply in your best Dragnet voice without missing a beat, say if your name was John Smith, “John Smith, American citizen.”
If you wanted to circumvent Sierra Blanca while traveling into New Mexico you could cut up on state highway 285 in Fort Stockton, which takes you through Pecos (talk about barren landscape) and Carlsbad and then Roswell, where you can cut across the Smoky Mountains (state highway 380) to I-25.
Bottom line, when you’re driving east on I-10 in West Texas keep your shit food sealed, at least until you hit Van Horn.
— Michael Bergeron