Every April, daredevils from all corners of the country convene on a deserted stretch of West Texas highway to indulge in their drug of choice: pure, unadulterated speed. The Big Bend Open Road Race, a 118-mile test of nerve and skill that runs from Fort Stockton to Sanderson and back, has been luring adrenaline junkies since 1998. The objectives are simple enough. Most of the 150 or so competitors are ranked by ability and divided into seventeen classes. They must average an assigned speed, ranging from 85 to 160 miles per hour. Those in the elite “unlimited” group drive as fast as their reflexes and intestinal fortitude will allow.
Arguably the most challenging contest of its kind, the BBORR follows U.S. 285 and boasts more than one hundred turns and several hills. Even veterans do prerace surveys to supplement the official course notes, which offer descriptions of tricky stretches: “long left-hand sweeper uphill,” “blind right-hand turn over crest into downhill straight.” It’s no wonder many of the drivers (yes, mostly men) bring along a navigator (often their wives).
Given the nature of the course and the breakneck speeds involved—last year’s champ reached 166 mph and finished the second 59-mile leg in under 22 minutes—safety measures aren’t taken lightly. You may be able to apex a 90-degree corner, but you’ll never get the chance here if you don’t have a fire-resistant jumpsuit, shatterproof eye protection, a six-point safety harness, and a fully welded roll cage. “We have an ambulance, a wrecker, a fire truck, and the jaws of life in place every twenty miles and two airplanes in the air at all times,” says race coordinator Kenda Furman. Roadkill is scraped up beforehand to prevent involuntary buzzard homicides. And even though U.S. 285 is closed for the day, volunteers are stationed at cross streets and cattle guards to make sure no forgetful ranchers stray onto the course.
Although the BBORR is strictly for amateurs—there are no cash prizes or NASCAR points to be won—you won’t find any newly licensed teens or reckless joyriders in the starting grid. First-timers have to spend two hours in “rookie school” and then pass a BBORR driving test. Everyone must have a valid competition license—not to mention a souped-up ride. Corvettes are the car of choice, but there are more makes and models than you’d find in a CarMax parking lot: Porsches and Panteras, Lamborghinis and Camaros, Ferraris and Mustangs. “Station wagons, pickups with the camper shelling on—we let people drive whatever they like as long as it’s insured,” says Furman. There are always a few “classic” entries as well. Last year the oldest car in the pack was a 1964 Lincoln Continental, driven by a man from Montgomery, Texas. He may have finished in 108th place, but
being able to push the speedometer to 136 mph without fear of a future court date isn’t a bad consolation prize. From April 22 to 25; 432-336-3331, ext. 238; bborr.com
Long before David Beckham became a professional soccer player—let alone an international sports
deity—he traveled to Texas to compete in one of the most prestigious youth soccer tournaments in the world, the Dallas Cup. For the past three decades, thousands of players from soccer’s best under-19 teams have come to Dallas to vie for big-league attention. Club teams from nearly one hundred countries have sent their brightest prospects to be tested by the world-class competition assembled in Big D.
Although the round-robin tournament flies beneath many Texans’ sports radar, it has been compared to “a pilgrimage to Mecca” for aspiring players. The annual competition is like a suburban, soccer-only version of the Olympics. There’s a rousing opening ceremony (Pelé was on hand for the 1988 kickoff), and the city becomes a kind of diffuse Olympic Village for the foreign players. Beckham’s trip, which included daily breakfast runs to McDonald’s, made such an impression that he immortalized it in his 2003 autobiography.
Attendance at the Cup is virtually mandatory for college recruiters and pro scouts, who stand rapt on the sidelines: This could be the most important week of their careers. Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, and Freddy Adu are all Dallas Cup alums.
This year the future stars of famed Italian club AC Milan go up against the pipeline talent of another illustrious powerhouse, England’s Manchester City FC. The match is one of three marquee battles on opening night: Home teams Andromeda SC and Dallas Texans Red will tear up the grass against Brazil’s São Paolo FC and Argentina’s CA River Plate, respectively. International soccer—even the juvenile version—is notorious for its nationalistic zeal, so don’t be surprised if the intensity on the field temporarily nullifies peace treaties between otherwise friendly nations. In Frisco from April 5 to 12; 214-221-3636, dallascup.com
As immigration-related bills continue to pile up at the Lege, a new exhibit aims to re-create the experiences of our forebears. “Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America Through Galveston Island,” now on view at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, in Austin, takes us back to 1845, when Texas was a newly minted state and thousands of foreigners had begun disembarking on our coast. Although Galveston eventually became known as “the Ellis Island of the West,” it predated the
New York immigration center by nearly fifty years. For decades, it was one of the primary points of entry for would-be citizens from Europe, Asia, and South America.
Like an introductory social studies textbook, “Forgotten Gateway” lays out this oft-overlooked history in slightly simplistic, bite-size bits. Information stations have titles like “Deciding to Leave” and “Are You an Anarchist?” But more than two hundred artifacts and documents impressively convey the immigrant experience. Among the items are a wooden lemon squeezer used to prevent scurvy on transoceanic voyages, a Czech Bible from 1765 once hidden under a beehive to keep it from religious persecutors, a Yiddish-alphabet eye chart, and an 1816 editorial from a paper called the Texas New Yorker, which promoted the state as an “Eldorado of the young man’s hope.”
Oral histories of modern-day immigrants are juxtaposed with wall-size black and white photographs of nineteenth-century families awaiting inspection, identification numbers pinned to their chests. In the last gallery, visitors are invited to share their personal stories by marking their ancestors’ arrivals on a giant timeline stretching from 1500 to the present. The enduringly divisive question underlying the exhibit, of course, is this: Who should be allowed to live in America? Through October 11; 512-936-8746, thestoryoftexas.com
GO TO THE TRAVEL SECTION FOR MORE THAN 170 OTHER MARCH EVENTS, INCLUDING . . .
Spring migration brings more than two hundred winged species to Galveston. 4/2—4/5, galvestonfeatherfest.com
Mesquite Championship Rodeo
The weekly rodeo kicks off its fifty-second season. 4/3 & 4/4, mesquiterodeo.com
Fiesta San Antonio
Revelers pay homage to the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto during this citywide celebration. 4/16—4/26, fiesta-sa.org
Marfa Film Festival
More than fifty films are screened both indoors and under the West Texas stars. 4/29—5/3, marfafilmfestival.com