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Marfa, TX; March 14-15 2020

We left our B&B in Fredericksburg around 11:30 for the about 6.5 hour drive to Marfa. Looking for our morning coffee, we stopped after about an hour in a small town called Mason, but it turned out that the one coffee shop in town was closed.

After another 1.5 hour we stopped in a small town call Eldorado. I’m not sure who came up with the name for this place, but it must have been someone with a good sense of humor :- ) We pumped gas but couldn’t find any place for lunch so had lunch in the RV and stretched our legs.

The road for the most part was long, straight and not very interesting, but luckily we had music and audio books to keep us happy.

the road was long and (mostly) straight

While driving we had figured out that the best place to stay the night would be in the “Lost Alaskan RV Park” in Alpine, a small town about 25 miles before Marfa. We also discovered that there was a restaurant with live music in Alpine (Spicewood) that had its re-opening night just on this evening, so that was the obvious choice for dinner. We had made a reservation while we were driving and that turned out to be good, since the place was quite crowded when we arrived at Spicewood around 6:30 pm. The food turned out to be much better than we had expected for a small Texan town, but the service was amazingly naive and clumsy, bringing us the (cold) appetizers and (warm) main dishes at the same time. We managed to explain to them why this was not a good idea and ended up having a quite nice meal.

After dinner we moved to the attached dance hall, which had a country band and a lot of very Texan families, many of which seemed to know each other. It had a very nice atmosphere. We even made it to the dance floor!

We stayed until around 10 pm and then made our way to the RV park, just a short drive from Spicewood.

The next morning we left Alpine for the short drive to Marfa, which turned out to take us through some impressive desert landscape.

We parked the RV in the center of town at the impressive Presidio County Courthouse. In addition to the courthouse, there were a few other early 20th century buildings, like the Paisano Hotel and the (decommissioned) old Palace Cinema. Except for a group of motor bikers, the town was very empty though, which didn’t bode well.

Our plan was to explore this small town with about 2000 inhabitants. It was founded in the early 1880’s as a water stop; had a marine naval base until after WW II and since then has developed into a popular tourist destination and a major center for minimalist art.

In 1971, Minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York City and bought two large hangars to permanently install his art. He made Marfa his place of residence. He later acquired the decommissioned air-force base and transformed it into art spaces. Since his death in 1994 two foundations have continued his work and the town has become a center for, mostly avant-garde, art.

Unfortunately, this was the first time that we were confronted with the results of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the art exhibitions were all closed and it was not quite clear what else we could do in this small town. We used FourSquare to find a nearby coffeeshop and figure out what to do while enjoying out morning cappuccino. Luckily, the coffeeshop was open and had some seating outside that we were allowed to use.

We found an ad for tours of Marfa and called the number. 15 minutes later an older gentleman, Kim Thornsburg, showed up in his car to show us around. It turned out that Kim had a private museum dedicated to the holocaust and specifically the role the US played before and during WW II by refusing entry to many Jewish refugees. He has built models of the ships they traveled on and collected many books and other documents on the topic. While he also seemed to be a bit of a conspiracy theorist in other areas, what he told us about the topic all seemed verify-ably correct and his knowledge on the topic was incredibly broad and deep.

After spending well over an hour in the museum, Kim took us in his car to show us around town. He took us around some of the houses people from as far as California apparently have bought for considerable amounts of money, considering that this is a small town in the middle of the desert. Apparently there are people who believe that this will be a good place to move to when the country collapses into chaos. He also took us along some of the artist camps and talked about mysterious and weird things that tend to happen there. We’re not sure what of this to believe, but they’re nice stories :- )

He dropped us off at our RV around 3:45 pm. From an earlier internet search we had learned that the single music event in town on this Sunday was a performance by an Elvis impersonator not too far from where we had parked the RV, so out of curiosity we decided to go there and see if it was on, despite the Covid-19 restrictions. A bit to our surprise, the performance was in progress at the courtyard of the venue, a small cafe called “Planet Marfa”. The performance was fun to watch for about 30 minutes.

Since we planned our next stop to be in Las Cruces, NM about 6 hours drive from Marfa and we hadn’t had lunch, we decided to have an early dinner. For that we went to the Hotel Saint George, that turned out to have an excellent restaurant.

In addition to the arts, Marfa is famous for the Marfa lights, mysterious lights that appear outside town on clear nights. Explanations for these lights vary between car lights reflections resulting from atmospheric conditions, to extraterrestrial creatures. Although it was on the way to Las Cruces, we decided not to bother :- )

We left Marfa around 6 pm, a little disappointed that we hadn’t been able to see its most famous sights, but happy because we had some interesting (and probably more unique) experiences that we otherwise wouldn’t have had.