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Way out West Texas

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My car parked by the Marfa Lights viewing area.

In the morning I left Manor with a cooler my Couchsurfing host, Bill filled with left-over pizza we made from scratch the night before, a bottle of salad dressing, and lettuce. I prepared the best I could for this drive by filling up two water bottles and my Platypus with that wonderful Texas rain water. Bill let me know, “You’ll be happy to have that rain water when you get to west Texas, all their water is so hard and filled with sulfur.” I packed the car, Bill gave me a c.d. for the trip and I said my goodbyes.

I must admit, I really didn’t know what I was going to experience over the next six and a half hours. I didn’t expect much. When you look at the map west Texas just looks like this long stretch of NOTHING and it looks hot and flat. Even from the map, I could imagine hours of heat reflecting off concrete and driving cowboy riding into the sunset style.

Once you get on the road, you realize that while the world (and even those who live in the east side of the state) imagine this to be true, it is the furthest thing from the truth.

Around lunch time I started driving through a pretty happening little downtown area and I decided to stop. The town is called Fredricksburg and it reminds me of Thomasville, the town I left in Georgia… well, if Thomasville was German Western instead of Southern. It seems like a touresty little town, with lots of downtown shops selling outdoor goods, leather, women’s clothes, toys, ect. It also reminded me of Thomasville because it was slam packed with retirees and strollers on the sidewalk. I sat in a covered picnic area in a beautiful little park that had a giant statue of German pioneers on a maypole or something. I stretched my legs by walking downtown. There were some really nice high quality leather purses and such, but I really just don’t have the money to spend on that sort of thing.

After about an hour I got back on the road. And there are mountains! Yes, the land you drive is flat, but there are tree-less mountains everywhere. And some of those mountains have a ton of windmills on them. After driving on 1-10 for a long time, I got off I-10 at Fort Stockton. There is not much there. I considered plowing through town without stopping, but I decided to stop and take pictures at the fort, after-all when would I ever be in Fort Stockton again.

The road to Marathon became much smaller and less maintained. I wondered where I was driving. I had about 30 minutes to go. Occasionally I’d see a sign for a ranch, but other than that it was just the mountains, amazing eye-catching mountains. I pulled into a dusty little town and up to this junkyard turned hostel, called La Loma del Chivo. No one was around. I sat in the car for a little bit and then this man with a cut off shirt, wranglers and crazy white facial hair approached me, “Hey, you must be here to stay at the hostel. You’re the only one tonight. Everyone calls me Mr. Clean.”

The sunset!

The sunset!

Mr. Clean then explained that all these buildings are made out of papercrete. Shredded paper is mixed with concrete, which can then be shaped into whatever form you want. This hostel had once been a WOOFing location filled with lots of gardeners. I had a cold during this time, so I was actually pretty happy to have the room to myself. Mr. Clean lived in a RV that he had expanded by building on an addition with stone to make a larger house. From what I’ve seen and heard, that is actually very normal for west Texas, everyone has rusty cars in their yards anyway and many live in old RV’s, trailers, campers and school buses that may or may not have been built around for expansion with paper, rock or old wood. I did get to sit way up high on this roof/porch and watch the beautiful sunset. It was nice to have some solitude.

The next day, I woke up and walked to the little downtown area. I decided to scout out all the restaurants and pick on for lunch. I struck up a conversation with this other guy from out of town who was sitting at the table next to me. He came to Marathon for an art lecture at the historic Gage Hotel next door. He told me I had to see the hotel, at least walk around the courtyard. So I did. The courtyard was beautiful, but it also had astroturf. I soon found out that all of the most upscale places with nice grass out west are landscaped with astroturf. It makes sense, if I tried to grow grass out there, I’d give up too.

After viewing the hotel I walked into this little boutique. I thought it might be vintage, but it was mostly just dresses and skirts. The girl behind the counter said they sold dresses and skirts because pants and shoes have too many different sizes. Dresses and skirts will fit all body types. The girt behind the counter was very friendly, “600 people live in Marathon and we all work multiple jobs. I work in this boutique, but I also work at the library. My husband and I are biologists, so we do that, but then we also do yard work for these rental properties.” It’s kinda hard to live here, but it’s a good community, we’re social unlike some people in west Texas. Some people just want to be left alone. That’s why they’re here. “”Everyone knows everyone, like if someone comes to town and mentions they like bird watching to a local than they’ll send them over to us, because we’re birdwatchers.””The main thing is towing. We’re so far from everything… forget collision, what are you going to run into? But definitely get the towing, towing and more towing.”

Eventually, the girl behind the counter had to shut the place down for her lunch break, so I walked outside. Two older ladies were sitting at hi-top table, “We couldn’t help hearing about you’re trip. Tell us about your adventure. We’re also nomads.” I started telling the ladies about it, as they also told me their whole life stories. As their hamburgers were delivered they told me, “We’re actually from Alpine and it’s her birthday, so we came here for the hamburgers, they have the best hamburgers here.” Ok, so they drove over 30 minutes for a hamburger. “You HAVE to drive to Alpine. It’s wonderful! I moved here from Virginia for healing. It’s such a great place for spiritual healing. So quiet and restful.” “Too bad you are leaving so soon, there is a beautiful drive, but we’d have to drive you. It’s too dangerous for you to be rubbernecking!” I left he conversation learning about for housesitting, with an offer to give me a driving tour of the area next time I’m there, and with a new route for my trip.

I decided not to return to the interstate. I was instructed to stay on US-90 and then take 54. “You can’t miss the Guadalupe Mountains! You have to go that way! Plus you’ll be able to see Alpine and Marfa.” “Oh yes, there’s that great history of the Big Bend museum in Alpine.” So I drove to Alpine and I visited the museum. And I stopped for gas there and then I stopped for gas in Marfa too. I was so paranoid about running out of gas. I also stopped for gas in Van Horn.

I am so glad I listened to the good people of Marathon! I would’ve missed so many good things if I had just gone back to 1-10. I would’ve missed the old stage coach in the museum, the deco looking buildings in Marfa, the Prada installation art in the middle of nowhere. I might have even missed the giant tumbleweeds bouncing in front of my car making me a little nervous or the dust storm, which also made me nervous.  I wouldn’t of seen the highest peak in Texas or hiked a nature trail at Guadeloupe Mountains National Park. I want to go back! I can’t wait to plan my next trip to west Texas, to go check out Big Bend National Park and take those ladies up on their driving tour.


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