Marfa roadtrip – the recap!

“Why Marfa?” If you had asked me this pre-pandemic, I would’ve told you “Because it seems like a quirky little artsy town in the middle of nowhere in the Texas desert.” Now that we’re in a pandemic the answer is still “Because it seems like a quirky little artsy town in the middle of nowhere in the Texas desert,” but with the added benefit that I’d feel safer hanging around outdoors there than in a big bustling city. That being said, pre-pandemic I probably wouldn’t have driven the whole way out to Marfa from Houston, but given the current situation, even driving out for hours at a time gave a nice reprieve from things for a while. At any rate, if I had to sum up my little road trip in 4 photos, it’d be these:

Oh, Marfa. So much of it is baffling in the best way possible. It’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s so small that you could walk from one end of town to the other. But somehow it’s completely packed with quirky art and little hole-in-the-wall kinds of surprises. All of the art galleries were closed when I visited (understandably so) and the town felt a bit like a ghost town with all the closures, but that’s what made all the little random things that I ran into so much more fun to find! Like this right here:

Closed car repair shop, right? Wrong. Try a fun little bookstore!

I don’t even know the name of this place, but we drove past and saw a lonely little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sign outside that said “BOOKS!”, so we pulled over to have a look and sure enough, it’s a tiny little bookstore built into an old car repair shop. Oh, and next door where the car repair garage used to be is a guy’s knife-making studio. No cars being repaired here, just books and handcrafted knives being sold. If anyone knows the name of this place please let me know, I’d love to give them the credit they deserve!

Even though all the art galleries were closed (even the outdoor portions that were open by limited reservation only had shut down entirely by the time I arrived – that’s COVID times for ya), there’s still some famous works of art on the side of the road in west Texas!

The Prada Marfa installation (not a real Prada store, all the purses have the bottoms cut out and only right shoes are displayed) might be the most photographed thing in Marfa, but I actually like the Tiny Target more because it just looks so lonely out there in the desert! The roadside tribute to the movie Giant (LOTS of references to this movie around Marfa since it was filmed there) is newer, which makes it look even more noticeable on the side of the road with all the freshly painted colors. It even has music playing from a solar-powered speaker if you get out to see it!

And of course while others are taking fashionable instagram photos in front of these installations, my potato self decided to be a MOTHEREFFIN’ DINOSAUR.

Speaking of art installations, this one was one of my favorite happy accidents in Marfa. I spotted this fun little shack with a spider on it thinking it was another random art installation and stopped to take some photos.

Turns out it’s not an art installation, but a hot dog stand! (because of course in Marfa I’d mistaken a hot dog stand for an art installation) The guy who runs the stand was next door (??) and saw us looking around, so he came out and told us they were closed that day, but they’d be open again the next day for dinner hours. He also told us all about his plans for the big spider on the wall, which was just so freaking fun and endearing to me. We looked up the menu and put in orders the next day and they were friggin’ delicious. Wienertown, y’all. If you ever find yourself in Marfa, do yourself a favor and get yourself one of these dogs.

One of the other big reasons I came all the way out to the western deserts of Texas (aside from getting away from the crowds in the cities) is because it has some of the darkest skies in America. Unfortunately the McDonald Observatory was closed, but I still got to see the brightest stars I’d ever seen in my life with the naked eye. Absolutely stunning.

Art, stargazing, little random finds, that’s all part of the Marfa experience, but the star of the show for this roadtrip was all this:

Big Bend National Park. Funny enough, I wasn’t even planning on coming here. At least not right now. I was originally supposed to visit Big Bend and Marfa back in April, and then I cancelled the trip because everything had shut down (national parks included). This time around I told myself I’d visit Marfa and the surrounding areas, but still save Big Bend for the springtime when the vegetation would be more green and the Texas wildflowers had bloomed, and hopefully when more of the park had opened back up. The original plan for that day was to drive 2 hours north to Monahans Sandhills State Park, hang out on the white sand dunes for a bit, then drive straight back. Then I realized that neither I nor my companion were THAT interested in the sand dunes to begin with. So what if the flowers weren’t in bloom at Big Bend? So what if it’s not as lush as it would be in the spring? It’s a freaking national park in the desert, it’s going to look amazing any time of the year. So we switched gears and instead of driving 2 hours north to spend maybe an hour max to see something we were only mildly interested in, we drove 2 hours south to spend an entire day in something we were definitely interested in. Best game day decision ever. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that Big Bend still isn’t absolutely gorgeous. Big Bend is one of the least visited national parks in the country, which made it even nicer because it felt like we had the place to ourselves almost everywhere we went. Definitely made for a great day to be out in the fresh air, take in some amazing scenery, and take mental notes on which of the longer hikes I plan on taking whenever I come back!

And of course I had to do this too:

Definitely got a friendly honk from a car driving by when we stopped for this photo! Just your friendly dinosaur visiting some parks.

And finally, the critter drop! I brought a happy little cactus with me to Marfa and left it outside of an adorable candy/art store called Ranch Candy, because how could I not??

It was basically calling out for me to leave it there (there’s a sign that said Cactus Adoption Agency!). I purposely left it outside of the shop instead of inside so that it wouldn’t be confused with the merchandise on the shelves, and out of respect for social distancing rules to prevent too many people from going inside at once to find it if I happened to have people out there looking for it (doubtful, but you can never be too sure).

I haven’t heard about the whereabouts of the happy little cactus, but when I walked past the same bench later in the afternoon it was gone, so I’m assuming it found a good home, which is good enough for me! Either that or the wind blew it somewhere down the street and now it’s rolling along like a tumbleweed. I won’t think too much on that possibility.

Otherwise it was a fantastic trip and a great way for me to get away from things for a bit while still feeling safe, and while I typically plan my travels as if I’d never return, this was a different situation where I visited knowing I’ll come back to get the full experience once we’re out of these harsh pandemic times. A great “sampler trip” for Marfa and the surrounding natural parks, and I know for sure I’ll be back sooner or later!

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