Got Lost in West Texas

After a thoroughly enjoyable day in Big Bend and a restful stay at The Gage we took off to explore the infamous town of Marfa. Filled with unique shops, modern art galleries, high-end restaurants, cute little grocers, funky food trucks, and modern-chic hotels, it is truly a baffling place. 

We had heard mixed reviews of the funky little town, some calling it fabulous while others leaned towards over-rated. We had experiences that made us think both. However, the more I conjured up thoughts of the rural towns I grew up near, the more I started seeing Marfa as a miraculous kind of achievement. Weird as it is to see the galleries around town, it is stranger still when you choose to drive 20 miles further into the desert to see the Prada Marfa installation- a free standing Prada store with no customers and an ever-stocked line of an old season of shoes and bags.  You kind of have to appreciate that someone took the time to bring thoughtful art exhibits to the most unexpected and remote of places.  It’s amusing and ridiculous and admirable all at once.

We parked our car and hit most of town on foot, even with some scattered showers. We perused the selection at Marfa Book Co., had a coffee at Do Your Thing, noted the surprising selection at the grocer, met the boutique owner at Freda Marfa, and visited Wrong Store. We saw the exhibits at Ballroom Marfa & Marfa Contemporary and fell in love with the works of art at Cobra Rock Boot Company, whose owner took the time to talk with us about his trade, Austin, and his published interviews. He has an 8-9 month wait for a pair of boots, but after watching him hand-cut details in the leather I could see why.  

After our drive to Prada Marfa, we enjoyed BBQ falafel from Food Shark and then headed to the Judd. A big thunderstorm came sweeping in as we tried to check in for our evening reservation, and since our accommodation was a tent, we waited and weathered the storm in the El Cosmico main house instead; it was perfectly equipped with free wifi and a cozy fire. A good friend from Harding came to check in right after us, which was a fun surprise! 

It isn’t unusual to run into roaming gangs of Austinites and Dallasians(?) who came for a desert getaway too. You will overhear many a conversation about the woes of traffic and the great Texas migration while servers who escaped the hustle and bustle of city life years ago kindly oblige with knowing nods of the head. One thing to note about Marfa is that things tend to run on Marfa time. The Museum of Electronic Wonders & Latenight Grilled Cheese Parlour (yep, it’s a real business) was inexplicably closed, and we were sad when Planet Marfa also decided to stay shuttered after the afternoon storms. 

We adored our stop at the historic Hotel Paisano for hearty dinner of pistachio crusted chicken fried steak and a mammoth burger. While we didn’t book the Elizabeth Taylor Suite, we did appreciate all of the Giant movie memorabilia. Fun fact, my Grammy and Papa saw this movie on their first date! 
After dinner we made it over to Cochineal, which is one of the few famous dinner spots. We had decided against reservations, but we got a lucky pair of seats at the bar and ordered espresso and an awesome piece of blueberry pie to share. The restaurant was beautiful and full of interesting people; we passed the time trying to make up backstories for each of the fancy guests who had escaped to the desert for the weekend.  A Marfan (again, ?) sat next to us and ordered his ‘usual’, the chilaquiles, a Mexican casserole that comes baked in a ceramic dish. We recommend getting that, because even after the epic chicken fried steak at the Paisano, it had our mouths watering for a second round of dinner.

Back at El Cosmico, we were excited to enjoy the perks of our safari tent, which comes equipped with electricity and a heated bed. The temperature took a surprising dip into the low fifties after the storm passed through, so we bundled up before dragging our chairs out for star-gazing. 
The crystal-clear night sky was sadly an unusual treat for us to see, and we enjoyed it until the next round of storms rolled back in. Luckily the next wave wasn’t as severe, so we could enjoy the rain in the tent without worry (or leaks). I have a feeling that this isn’t always the case, but our tent neighbors were very respectful and we slept surprisingly well for being at a camp-site. If you try it out yourself, consider booking a trailer. The bathroom situation is a bit breezy for the tents and tepees and would probably be worse during a busy season. In the morning, we woke up with the sun, packed the car, and grabbed a cup of coffee at check out. The staff member was fun to chat with and shared a lot of interesting stories about her internship with the renowned Bunkhouse group.

Instead of taking a direct route to Austin, we drove North through Fort Davis to visit an unusual desert oasis, the Balmoreah State Park and San Solomon Springs. It was a chilly morning and we had kind of given up on the idea of a swim, but we dipped our toes in and were shocked to find warm water. We made a costume change and dove in for a swim in the turquoise waters. 

It was a little unnerving at first to feel the schools of fish brushing by your hands and feet, but it was a dream swimming pool. There was an elderly gentleman taking a swim with us, and a pair of scuba divers just finishing training, which made the mammoth pool feel desolate. The 1.75 acre, 3.5 million gallon pool is extraordinary; more than 15 million gallons of spring water flow through it each day and the water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round. The locker rooms were well-kept for such an out-of-the-way destination. We ate a picnic lunch by the cienega and had fun chasing a roadrunner (meep, meep).

Later in the afternoon, we made a quick stop in Fredericksburg. We walked up and down the main drag and had our final hearty meal of the trip. At that point we gave up on healthy eating because when in Fredericksburg, good Germans must eat good German food. On our last stop, Matt sweetly pulled into the wildflower farm so I could get a glimpse of the fields of poppies and bluebonnets. It was pretty, but unnecessary with how colorful all of the roadways were between Austin and Fredericksburg.

If the pictures don’t do it for you, let me encourage you to take a trip out West next spring (or any old time you please for that matter). We discovered a whole new, and now favorite, side of this state.

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