YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE. Out in the middle of nowhere this strange object is visible for
miles. Whatever this is, it belongs to the U.S. Air Force. I can't imagine a more
remote duty station.
oon we were entering the community of Valentine.
Don't let the name fool you. This place is far from hearts and flowers. The first thing I
noticed was a pile of junk which I figgured could be hiding a treasure -- maybe an old
wagon train still in mint condition. But Ms. Intrepid wasn't convinced so we continued on
past the dusty, ramshackle town still haunted by the two boys back in San Carlos playing
in the street with a deflated basketball.
Further on we spotted a thing on the horizon. Up
close it was still a thing -- some kind of airship anchored in a god forsaken Air Force
outpost. Maybe this is what folks in Marfa are all excited about when this thing cruises
around at night scaring all the tourists.
THE THUNDERBIRD CAFE IN MARFA. If
you want breakfast arrive before 11 a.m. and bring cash. They don't take two-party checks
or credit cards. This is a local hangout where the good old boys gather in the
morning for coffee and conversation. The food is good standard Texas fare. Eggs, omelets
and pancakes in the morning; burgers and chicken fried steak after eleven.
As we drove into Marfa, our primary destination, the road thru town wasn't
very inspiring. However, our main concern was real food. And looking down the road
thru town I was pretty underwhelmed by what I saw. We stopped for breakfast at
Patsy's Thunderbird Cafe for breakfast. I wasn't halfway through my first cup of
coffee when I shared my concern with Ms. Intrepid that there probably wasn't much to
write about in this place. Well, she ain't called Ms. Intrepid for nothin.
Then breakfast was served. Eggs tasted like eggs, sausage like
sausage, and so forth. Imagine that. And with a real meal under my belt my
disposition improved and we went exploring. Let me tell you, if you don't get off the
highway you're missing the real Marfa.
At an elevation of 4,688 feet above
sea level, Marfa is Texas' highest incorporated city which, as legend has it, was named
after a character in Dostoyevsky's novel, "Brothers Karamazov".
Established in 1881 Marfa was a water stop for the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, but
today the city's claim to fame is three-fold.
If you're a Texan and haven't heard of the Marfa Lights you've probably been
six feet under for over a century 'cause it was back in 1883 when a rancher Robert Ellison
first reported their existence. Since then an explanation of these "ghost
lights" have stumped everyone from scientists to kooks. But it sure hasn't hurt
tourism. In case you're interested, the Marfa Lights Festival is held every
year on Labor Day where celebrations and discussions are the order of the day along with a
street dance and live entertainment. (915-729-4942). To observe the lights you have to
drive east of town some six miles after sunset.
Historically Marfa's next claim to fame occurred when the
movie classic "Giant" was filmed there featuring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor,
Dennis Hopper and the truly legendary James Dean.
In 1979 the internationally acclaimed Minimal sculptor Donald Judd
relocated in Marfa after buying (with some help from the Dia Art Foundation) an abandoned
army base complete with 32 buildings sitting on 340 acres. His motivation was pretty
straightforward: "Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved
again. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art
and its context were meant to be."
Unfortunately, we discovered that the foundation's galleries are
open by appointment only and we didn't have one. The photo of installation of Judd's
sculpture pictured above is from their brochure.
If you're not familiar with
contemporary art the works at Judd's Chanati
Foundation may not make much sense; at the other extreme is the work of the King
of the "Cutaway", David Kimble. He lives
and works in the old Palace Theater. If you love cars and mind-blowing detailed paintings
Kimble is your guy.
Since Judd moved to Marfa the place has become a refuge for artists seeking
both isolation and camaraderie. The point was brought home when Ms. Intrepid and I stopped
in the Marfa Book Company Coffee and Wine Bar. If you're looking for art books this is a
world class establishment. And, according to Ms. Intrepid their "Red Eye", a
double expresso and fresh brewed coffee which was drawn for the Ms. as the first cup from
a fresh pot, was right up there with Jolt Cola. "Yes!" she exclaimed as I
turned to the waitress commenting, "I'll never shut her up now."
Continuing our tour we discovered this
community is home to some really beautiful structures and I was grateful that Ms. Intrepid
didn't let me whimp out while we were back at the Thunderbird Restaurant. If you
plan a visit you should at least carve out a couple of days, take your camera, and if you
enjoy modern art, contact the Chinati Foundation for an appointment.
Heading east on Highway 90 we stopped to read the
Historical Markers which provide some really interesting reading material. From two
of these markers we learned that Presidio County was formed from Bexar County back on
January 3, 1850 and Presidio proper, 69 miles due south, is the oldest town in America.
Located at the confluence of the Concho and Rio Grande Rivers this settlement
started up over 10,000 years ago and it is the site of the first recorded wagon train
crossing into Texas on December 10, 1582 headed by Antoio de Espejo. The town was so named
for the early fortress garrisoned by solders for the protection of the Big Bend Missions.
How's that for some interesting trivia?
PAGE 1: VAN HORN TO SAN ANTONE
PAGE 2: VAN HORN TO MARFA
PAGE 3: MARFA TO MARATHON
PAGE 4: MARATHON TO LANGTRY (AND BEYOND)
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Texas Hill Country Wine: Torrie de Pietra Vineyards and Winery near Fredericksburg
The Arcon Inn
215 N.Austin St., 915-729-4826
Hotel Paisano http://www.hotelpaisano.com/
Hwy 90, 915-729-4391
Borunda's Bar & Grill
113 S Russell Street 915.729.8163
Tex-Mex, Mexican, American
317 E San Antonio St. 915.729.3429
Tex-Mex, Mexican, American
704 W San Antonio St. 915.729.4471
Fast Food, Burgers, American
Mando's Drive In
W. Hwy 90
111 S Highland Ave. 915.729.8146
American, Cafe / Coffee Shop
511 W. San Antonio
Hwy 90, 915.729.3404
1317 Philadelphia West, 915.729.3212
Borunda's Bar And Grill 113 S Russell
302 E San Antonio, 915.229.3753
Chamber of Commerce
200 S. Abbott
P.O. Box 635
Marfa, TX 79843
915-729-4942 or 800-650-9696
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