#13: My First Trip to West Texas

Here I sit, on the porch of the Austin Street Café in Marfa, a soft easy breeze blowing napkins off tables, birds chirping, and the threesome at the next table expounding on the merits of Italian sportscars! The Presidio County Courthouse is spectacular, but I cannot find the fabled Marfa galleries and shops. Maybe it’s the Sunday sleepiness.

I fully expected to be more charmed by Marfa, but so far, Alpine scores higher on the charm scale. Nonetheless, I love being in West Texas; it’s so similar to New Mexico and even Sun Valley. The Austin Street Café’s veggie wrap with black-eyed peas and a superb tomato-basil soup –– well, those hit the mark and made the short drive worthwhile.

My whole excuse for being in West Texas is the Writers’ League’s Summer Writing Academy at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, which starts on Monday and goes all week. As the WLT’s new E.D., I decided to come check it out. The drive from Austin yesterday was a hefty seven or so hours, but the spectacular scenery around Junction had me entranced (as did that 80 mph speed limit on Interstate 10!). Then the mesas appeared around Iraan and Sheffield, topped by those amazing gigantic wind turbines, kept me occupied. Far to the west, a thunderstorm loomed with spikes of lightning, a show that entertained me for a good fifty miles until I caught up with it and its deluge just outside Fort Stockton.

Fort Stockton I’m not so fond of –– it’s rather tedious, especially with all of the construction on the main drag, and took way too much time to find a gas station (then on the way back, finding food was on issue!). I was relieved to turn down Highway 67 toward Alpine. Even drifting in and out of the rain, the mountain views were quite lovely, and I had the great good luck to see two full rainbows!

My friend Nancy and her daughter, Lydia, were in Alpine, visiting their friend Kima, who was recovering from surgery, so I stayed the first night with them. Even with Kima being on pain meds, we had a laid-back slumber party vibe!

Alpine is delightfully funky (again, it rather reminds me of Sun Valley and Ketchum, but without the slickness or chichi shops). On Sunday morning, Nancy and I went to the Bread & Breakfast. I took my leave of the girls, who were heading back to Austin, and drove over to Marfa, thinking I’d meander around a bit. But not much seems to be open. The Marfa Book Company is quite the store, although all too quiet (I’m the only customer) and a bit too sterile/contemporary. I like the coffeehouse next door, though. But it’s time to head back to Alpine, so I can check in at the Sul Ross State dorm for the Summer Writing Academy.

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2 Responses to “#13: My First Trip to West Texas”


  1. 1 James Bunnell August 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I enjoyed reading about your first visit to West Texas. Your impressions are accurate, but there is more to learn about this interesting region. Maybe you should consider a fast (80 mph) return to see the Marfa Lights Festival (Sept. 5-6). By then my new book, “Hunting Marfa Lights” will be available in regional bookstores. You will not be able to find it in Austin bookstores until after the publication date (11/30/2009). Marfa Lights are rare events, but very real and fascinating.

  2. 2 wribbie December 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    San Antonio is the farthest West I’ve been in the great state of Texas, but I’ve always been intrigued by this place called Marfa. I think it had been in the news for something extraordinary, but I don’t remember what it was – maybe an extreme temperature drop or a UFO sighting or something. Marfa, Marfa Texas.


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