One of my long-time friends was living in Dallas, TX at this time. She, Jessica, is a super adventurous world traveler. She can handle anything! I always trust her adventure instincts, so when she told me that she wanted to visit Marfa, Texas, I had no idea what it was but I jumped on an airplane to go with her during my last Spring Break of college.
She picked me up from the airport in Dallas, and then we drove seven hours out West to Alpine, Texas. On the way we stopped at In-and-Out Burger and Whataburger, very popular fast food chains that we don't have in Ohio.
It was dark, pitch black skies out in West Texas when we arrived to Alpine, TX to find our house that we had previously found on Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a website, similar to Airbnb, except more adventurous and it doesn't cost a thing. People host their couches, extra bedrooms, trailers, online to strangers for FREE! This is a great way to meet new people who also love to travel. The reason why it's free is because the hosts happen to have an extra place for strangers to crash, and they typically want to get to know you or do something nice. They even have other websites in certain cities like that, where they invite whoever to come enjoy a meal at their home with them. Couchsurfing is a great tool if you are a young traveler by yourself, or even with just one partner, and you want to meet new people. However, it can be quiet dangerous. Make sure to do your research before arriving to your host's home. The host that we chose had many positive reviews on his site, therefore, we knew he was trustworthy. We arrived late, driving slowly down a dark road, through this really sketchy neighborhood, mail boxes knocked over, worn down houses, no street lights. We were very nervous about our first Couchsurfing experience. We were prepared to sleep in our small rental car on the side of the road if we had to. There were no hotels around us. This was a small town in the middle of the desert. We pull up to the address, and park across the street. It was CUTE! It was the cutest house in the neighborhood, like they actually took care of their house. It looked inviting, oddly enough it was the only inviting house in the town. We slowly get out of the car, stand there, and stare at the house. Here goes nothing... The owner, a larger man in his mid 30's greeted us. He had scruff, and a very welcoming smile. He was so kind and welcoming, you just wanted to hug him. We talked for almost an hour! He gave us a tour of his house, which was perfectly set up to have many guests. He had a cozy spacious living room with a large space rug, a couple couches, a coffee table, all opening up to a large, wide window next to the front door. His kitchen was narrow, leading to the back door. Through the back, he had a large wooden porch, with a stone walkway through a garden to the building in his backyard. It was like a finished shed. Even the shed had a porch with hammocks and chairs, a cozy late night place to drink with friends. Inside the shed were bunkbeds. Tonight, Jessica and I were his only guests. We got to sleep in his spare bedroom. In his spare bedroom there was a full size bed, white carpet, a vintage trunk, a wooden rocking chair, and a full bathroom.
| Railroad Blues, Alpine, TX
504 W Holland Ave, Alpine, TX 79830, 432-837-3103
We hit up Railroad Blues for a late night drink. Railroad Blues will definitely make you feel like you are in Texas. So throw on your cowboy boots, your favorite pair of jeans and grab some beers here.
| Judy's Bread and Breakfast, Alpine, TX
113 W Holland Ave, Alpine, TX 79830, 432-837-9424
Come here for a good ole' fashioned Texan breakfast. From all kinds of fresh baked pastries, to fat, thick French toast. I mean they have healthy stuff too, eggs and stuff, if that's what you're into. I love the old wooden chairs just sitting outside of the restaurant, it creates a very homey feel to it. My favorite part about this restaurant, is that every cup of coffee is served in a different, unique mug. You MUST stop by this restaurant.
|Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is a world treasure, being one of the most remote and leave visited parks the country. It is also one of only 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the whole world. I would highly recommend adding this place to your bucket list, if you have not already. Unfortunately, you must have a car to explore here. With no public transportation, desert all around, and so much to see, a motor bike or car is required. We had rented a car in Dallas and drove out, from what I've researched, there aren't many rental choices around in Alpine. So plan ahead!
| Big Bend Hot Springs
Be prepared to hike! After a long drive through the National Park, the signs led us to the hot springs. The dirt road closer to the hot springs is extremely dangerous, nerve-wracking, and narrow with drop offs. I do not recommend driving big cars down the road. But many people make it. When you make it, park your car, put on your sunscreen and hike down towards the hot springs that you will find sitting right on the Rio Grande! On our way down the trail, we found little popup stores with a bucket for money sitting on the side of the trails left there by Mexicans for tourists. In the mornings, they will cross the river, leave their stores up, go back to Mexico, and sit on the Mexican side of the river all day with their horses. We could literally see them on the other side of the river.
At the hot springs, tourists were swimming across the river too. The water wasn't too deep, but you definitely couldn't walk across the river. You had to swim, and the current was pretty strong. If you weren't a fast, strong swimmer, you probably would get taken down the river a bit. I don't recommend swimming in it. We did, not knowing how terrifying it would be. We each took turns swimming across it, while the other would watch our personal belongings. I thought I was going to lose Jessica! Not saying she's a bad swimmer, she's a great swimmer, but the current was very strong! Now time for some cold, relaxing beers and food!
| Terlingua, TX, Big Bend National Park Ghost Town
1888, people struck...mercury...drawing Terlingua's population up to 2,000. By the end of the second World War, the Chisos Mining Company filed for bankruptcy. Terlingua still sits there in the deep West of Texas, as a former mining community. You can reach Terlingua traveling south on 118 from Alpine or heading west on 118 out of Big Bend National Park. It is off of Highway 170 west of the Highway 118 junction.
Starlight Theatre is a local restaurant in the small ghost town of Terlingua. Right before sunset, grab a seat outside, there are tables and bar stools facing away from the restaurant where you can enjoy some nice cold beers, a juicy burger and watch the sun set over the mountains in the distance. Make sure you make it to Terlingua for dinner. Starlight Theatre was filled with the nicest, most genuine people. I wore my "I (insert image of Ohio) GBD" sweatshirt from my college Miami University. I got so many questions about it from everyone who were genuinely curious. I met so many people who had actually been there, or who knew someone who had been there! There was a local guy...Ed Sullivan,
Ed Sullivan didn't buy his Coors Light from the restaurant, but had a cooler in his car. And he only drank Coors Light. He kept offering us his free beer, which we gladly accepted, and the restaurant didn't seem to care, since he was a local. Ed went to Columbia, and was waiting for his "fiancé" to turn 35 so she could "settle" with him, even though he told us never to settle. We had dinner with Ed, drank some beers with him, had a good laugh, and then he invited us over to his place. Ed...thank you SO much for the free beer, but I will have to decline your invite to lure two beautiful girls back to your home. And that was that, he went home, drunk and alone.
| McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, TX
McDonald Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned by the University of Texas at Austin. This is home of the Harlan J. Smith, Hobby-Eberly, and Otto Struve Telescopes. Located in the high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains, this observatory has some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region. And let me tell you, the DARKEST night skies. Make sure your car has gas before you head up there, you do NOT want to be stranded in the middle of the desert with some of the darkest night skies without gas. No, luckily that did not happen to us. But Jessica did want to stop the car and get out and enjoy the night sky, and it was a little terrifying. At the observatory, Jessica and I got the chance to enjoy an evening star party. These happen every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings. We got to go look at the telescopes and look at the stars through them and even get to see Jupiter. Very spectacular and amazing night.
| Marfa, TX
450 miles from Dallas, Marfa, TX is an art oasis in West Texas. If you are an art lover, and enjoy the trek out to the middle of nowhere, to a town nearly impossible to get to easily, or quickly, you'll love Marfa. It's a great place to feel the world lift off your shoulders.
If you plan ahead, you can reserve a safari tent, tipi, vintage caravan, or other bohemian-themed campsite. However, when we went, all the affordable places to sleep were booked so we made the trek back to Alpine at the end of the day. On Sundays, nearly everything is closed, other than some art galleries, the Hotel Paisano (see image of lobby above), Food Shark, Lost Horse Saloon, and another bar or two. There are some amazing, artsy restaurants in town, but they already had reservations booked, and the wait was a few hours! So, plan ahead! And keep in mind there isn't much to do on Sundays! Definitely plan to check out the Prada Store, located about 26 miles outside of Marfa.
Walking around Marfa on a Sunday afternoon, Christa Brothers kindly welcomed us into her home and art studio. She showed us around, and we got a private, extensive tour of her art studio where she was working on a painting. Coming from Germany, Christa came to Marfa following her dreams. She was such an amazing, humble, strong, very wise, and inspiring woman! She was by far the highlight of my trip to Marfa. Thanks for showing us around Christa! Check out her business here.
I've traveled all over the world, and West Texas was by far one of my favorite trips. The people were so kind, the beer was cold, the scenery was breathtaking, and the stars were bright and plentiful. Cities are stressful, dirty, loud, and busy. My favorite places are where the stars are bright, and the road is open.
I hope you all get to enjoy your Texan experience soon! I will definitely be going back.