Going Places: Take a road trip to Marfa, Texas to check out those world-famous flickering lights.
By MARILYN ROBITAILLE
As everything starts blooming and spring fever arrives, this year, perhaps more than all others, you’ll feel the need to escape. One of the best remedies ever involves you and the long, open expanses of Texas highways.
Nothing on earth can compare to a great Texas road trip.
If you haven’t taken to the open road since your college days, it’s time to reconnect to your free spirit and load up the car with a cooler of your favorite snacks and some legal beverages. Destination recommended: Marfa, Texas.
From the Ville, you can choose a variety of roads to follow west (and a little south). Any of the ones appearing on Goggle maps will take about six and a half hours. Decide if you want to follow your bliss through Abilene and Odessa on big Interstate 20; the more scenic option on Highway 67 through San Angelo; or take the dip farther to the south on Hwy. 190 through Brady and Menard.
Six and a half hours through flat land and big wind generators can seem a bit daunting, so it’s worth it to leave early. If you do happen to dawdle along the way, at least try to reach Marfa while you still have some light. Dark means dark on these roads west.
Depending on your lodging preference and pampering profile, you can choose a residential location through VRBO or Airbnb or the famous and very posh Hotel Saint George, which has been in operation since 1886. We opted for a small (and cheap) one-bedroom apartment right on the main drag.
Complete with all the amenities, it had a small deck protected from the street where we could sip our wine and contemplate Marfa’s main attraction: the world-famous Marfa Lights.
Whether or not you believe in the paranormal experiences, the Marfa Lights will inspire intrigue. These flickering lights appear at a distance across a wide expanse of rugged pasture, but to date, all the attempts to explain their sources have yet to be scientifically proven.
Plan your first day, so you can settle in and then proceed around dark-thirty to the Lights viewing platform just outside of town. Take a lesson from Peter Pan, and believe you’ll see them. Then squint a little, and there they’ll be.
Upon returning when friends asked if we’d seen anything, it was great to proclaim we had, indeed, witnessed them firsthand. I can’t say that it was a life changing miracle, but it did check-off a subset of my bucket list.
With the lights viewing out of the way, you’ll be ready to move on to other things. Don’t miss the galleries and house tour of the Judd Foundation. Donald Judd made Marfa an artistic hub that’s drawn artists from all over the globe. If you’ve visited any major art museum, you’ve seen his minimalist big sculptures.
You have to book the tours ahead of time because they fill up fast. Put on your culture pants and be inspired.
On certain days of the week, small markets spring up complete with all kinds of delectable things for sale. I came away with sprigs of dried lavender, hand-made soap, a crocheted hat, local honey, a jar of bejeweled tomato preserves, some kind of home-made cheese I’d never tried before, and a loaf of bread.
Of course, more conventional shopping can be had with a stroll through the arts area and downtown.
If you feel the need to balance these experiences with some history and science, Fort Davis and the MacDonald Observatory are just a few miles away.
Book ahead if you plan to take advantage of the popular guided star-gazing experience at the observatory. Led by real astronomers, you’ll come away with a newfound awe of those lights in the sky that science has explained.
As you venture out, thirty minutes outside of town in Valentine, you’ll discover the famous Prada store-front art installation, which has attracted attention from all over the world. This life-sized sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset was placed in 2005. The locked doors mean that you’ll never be able to buy that Prada bag you’ve dreamed of, but you can appreciate the concept of a “site-specific, permanent land art project.”
After you return (and not before you go), you might want to binge into the television series set in Marfa in 2016, “I Love Dick.” Starring Kevin Bacon as Dick and Kathryn Hahn as his wife Chris, the series romps through Marfa’s art scene. It’s fun to see the very locations you will have just visited; however, know that they’ve been processed in the Hollywood dream factory and designed with a good dose of what outsiders think a “Texas desert” must be like.
In addition, the series is very adult-rated with lots of bedroom scenes you would never want to watch with your mother.
Enjoy the drive, and let Marfa light up your life.