Travel: 2 days 1 night through West Texas
Having studied about Marfa, TX in architecture school here in Texas, I have always felt an urge to go explore this beautiful city. But the 8 hour drive always held us back. When our friends suddenly decided to visit us from Seattle on a random weekend, we thought it best to take them on this West Texas journey and acquire this pure Texas experience with them. What awaited us was totally unexpected and humbling. The first two images are from the city of Cisco which dates back to 1878. We stopped here to get some coffee but the shop was closed for Easter preparations. The town was so quaint that we got out to take some photos. We found this giant mural on the side of an old building and was taking pictures...when the antique store manager came out and gave us a little history about the town. The giant mural is painted on an old brick wall across from another building which creates a gap between the two buildings. During a project called Fill The Gap, this gap became a weekend open air concert venue and is now called The Gap.
People in Texas are always ranting about how Texas is boring and flat and there is nothing to do here. These are mostly people like us who live in the northern half of this huge state. What I have realized from this trip is that the bottom Southern half of Texas is an absolute surprise. This the region that is knows as Texas Hill Country - a region of 25 counties in Central and South Texas featuring karst topography and tall rugged hills consisting of thin layers of soil atop limestone or granite. Our route was from Dallas - Abilene - Odessa - Cisco - Alpine - Marfa - Alpine - Fort Stockton - Junction - Fredericksburg - Driftwood - Austin - Dallas. From Marfa to Driftwood our route was through I-10 which cuts through the beautiful Texas Hill Country. The highway runs at 80 mph and some parts of it are cut directly from between the hills where you can see the solid rock formations underneath. Since it is Spring and everything is new bloom - the colors of the valleys and trees were super green punctured with the abundant wild flower blooms. We kept saying to ourselves that this looks nothing like Texas. It was a very beautiful drive all throughout. We saw many cattle farms that included not only cows and horses but elks, goats, sheep, ostrich, zebras and camels!
We experienced this breathtaking sunset outside our Airbnb in Alpine. This little city sits on a high plateau in the Chihuahua Desert surrounded by Davis Mountains and Chisos Mountains. The high elevation in this part of Texas makes the desert air cool in the evenings making it very pleasant.
The little house we rented was super shabby looking from the outside but this is what was awaiting us on the inside - a very cozy and carefully decorated abode. The building used to be a butcher shop long time ago but now it serves as a two unit dwelling.
We went out to eat in Alpine in this hotel called Citizen Bar and Grille and sat in their beautiful outdoor courtyard.
After dinner we headed to Planet Marfa in Marfa, Texas. Marfa is a desert city close to the border of Mexico sitting between Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains. Over the years Marfa has become a major center for Minimalist Art adding to its artisan shops, historic architecture, art galleries and the mysterious Marfa Lights.
Planet Marfa was a very pleasant surprise with it's live music, wonderfully designed outdoor beer garden and the amazing mix of crowd. The owner is a 74 year old gentleman. He started this place when he was 68. The location is actually his Aunt's backyard and his Aunt still lives in the house that is carefully separated into a private quarter. The owner and his wife diligently works towards the beer garden every weekend. We witnessed this first hand as we saw them clearing and sorting out numerous empty bottles and plate/glasses along with the staff at about 1 a.m. in the morning. We had an enjoyable meeting with them and the other guests. We found that the people in the West and South are super friendly and amicable.
The place had a really good mix of Texan and Mexican style. It reminded us of our visit to New Mexico.
There was a bus parked inside the garden that served as seating. During the day this same bus is taken out of the beer garden and is used to give tours to Marfa Lights.
The next morning we went to eat breakfast in Marfa at Buns N' Roses. It's a breakfast joint that also sells flowers and plants, hence the name.
Outside the cafe was a display of vintage car and car parts.
We then drove down to the Chinati Foundation to see some minimalist art installations by Donald Judd. The courtyard just outside the foundation building reminded me of houses in the suburbs and villages of Bangladesh.
We walked down the terrain to experience the big giant concrete boxes carefully placed together and spaced apart from each other in vast landscape.
It was a long, hot and humid walk but as soon as we stepped inside the boxes it immediately cooled us down. The concrete was cool and the draft was blowing right through the openings. I think this was intentionally done by the artist.Donald Judd's work with mill aluminum.
There is an artist's den+studio outside the Chinati Foundation with beautiful landscaping surrounding it. The house is sometimes open for the public to experience the art and the dwelling.
Driving around the town of Marfa was so much fun that we kept pulling over every two minutes. It was tough to decide what was art and what wasn't. Everything was super quaint. It was like everyone was an artist and played a part in preserving the art and architecture of the city. Every house was different and had a character of its own. We kept stopping and taking pictures. This is an image of the historic courthouse of Marfa. It was Easter Sunday and everyone was at church, hence the empty streets.
Marfa water tower.
One of the many eccentric storefronts, but everything was closed or shut down to celebrate Easter.
The landscape throughout our two day mega driving was more incredible to the eye than a camera lens can hold. We were taken aback by the beauty of Big Bend National Park and Texas Hill Country.
The spring green was super saturated in color and suddenly there would be bursts of wild flowers. We were so excited that we forgot to take pictures most of the time or we just decided to enjoy the scenery and take a break from clicking the shutters.
Also the camera lens fails to capture the beauty of the landscape as seen through the naked eye. All the mountains and hills captured in these images seemed much more larger than the image perceives it.
The clouds were doing crazy things in the vast Texas sky. They kept coming and going and making wild cloud animals. At times there would be dark stormy clouds and lightning but there would be no rain. Desert weather is very weird.
We saw a lot of table top mountains atop which were miles and miles of windmills. And the valleys had miles and miles of oil rigs.
Sometimes we would spot a house far far away in the fields or carved out of the hills and wonder what it was like to live like that....away from everything.
The clouds sometimes touched the hills or seemed to be exploding out of them. The drive never seemed boring.
We had expected the drive into West Texas to be beautiful but we did not expect our 6 hour long drive along highway I-10 to be so spectacular.
Interstate highway 10 took us right through all of Hill Country from Alpine to Austin. We saw many beautiful cities on the way. There was a very cool statue atop a hill featuring the wild west in Fort Stockton. The city of Junction was very beautiful with giant vintage electric wire poles searing up to the sky from green hilltops.
We drove through the German town Fredericksburg and then drove up the hills to get a glimpse of the Llano uplift - Enchanted Rock. The drive from the town to the rock was absolutely stunning. The road winded through valleys and vistas and views of the vast hills. And in these hills were various types of cattle grazing. We encountered deer on the loose by the sides of the road and were a little bit nervous about crashing into them. But nothing crazy happened :) In Fredericksburg we saw zebra farms and camel farms and lots and lots of goat/sheep/lamb farms. The zebra and camels grazing in the green might have been the menagerie belonging to Charlie and Wilma Ward.
Enchanted Rock was truly enchanting. It seemed impossible to hike up just by looking at it from the bottom. Because it seemed sloped and slippery. But as we neared the rock we saw miniature silhouettes moving all the way up at the top. There are actually two big rocks adjacent to each other but the one in the image is taller smoother and outshines the other. The greenery surrounding the rock was picture perfect. There is water running through the rocks which keeps the plants well drained and gives birth to beautiful wild flowers.
This was a road trip very well worth it. It gave us a new perspective of the State we live in. Marfa was a very long drive and we might not go back there anytime soon but just the thought of a weekend getaway to a resort in Texas Hill Country is enough to get me going again. You need to experience it too.