The drive from San Antonio was a long one. We had booked a campsite at a place called "El Cosmico: Gourmet Camping." It sounded much more up our alley than the National Forest in Alabama, i.e. they had restrooms and it wasn't in the middle of nowhere. Plus we had our new big L.L.Bean tent from Lynn and John, we had gained back our courage and were ready to give camping another try, especially if it was gourmet.
Along the way I ran in to my first minor car trouble issues. My "change oil" light came on. Ah! This is of course is not a terrible thing and a car will give you a fair amount of warning before any desperate means for action need to be taken. But I pulled over anyways and walked up to a man in a jumpsuit who I figured was a mechanic. I said, "Excuse me sir, I'm not exactly sure how to check my oil could you help?"
Turns out the man was a TV Repairmen but... he was nice enough to help me anyways. We put a little oil in the car and he recommended next chance I got to stop for an oil change. Thank you helpful stranger!
We rolled in to town just before seven.
The camp ground was pretty hysterical. They had yurts, teepees and fixed up airstreams available for renting but on our budget we had to settle for the "primitive campsite." The office was a house in the middle of a field that was decorated inside like some swank sixties bachelor pad with oddly shaped furniture that was neither a pleasure to look at or sit on. A broad shouldered woman in a floor length dress took our twenty dollars and showed us where to set up. On our way across the field a man appeared and asked the woman if it was okay for him to fire up the hot tub. She said yes and he vanished as quickly as he had come. This place was odd. She handed us a map of the town and pointed to a star that said "bar."
"That's the bar. You can meet locals there if that's what your in to. They've got burgers."
We thanked her and off she went. We wrestled with the tent for a while before we finally got it standing and were able to step back and admire our work. Compared to the shitty Walmart tent this thing was a palace. Thanks Lynn and John! We ate some food we had left over from lunch and talked about how cool we were. We did this a lot. "God we're cool. Look at us. Could we GET any cooler?"
Not really. But kind of. ;-) But believe me this narcissism, as narcissism often does, would bite us in the ass later.
Anyways we decided to try and check out the town a bit, see what kind of a nightlife Marfa had to offer. We climbed back in the car and set off. Now this next part I don't really have a good explanation for. I don't know what I was thinking! For some reason I concluded from the map that the town was to the right of the campsite. Even though you could clearly SEE a town to the left. I thought that the map must mean that the real town of Marfa was to the right. Anyways, Annie fought me on the logic but not hard enough because to the right we went and in to the dark dark night of West Texas. But in some ways I am glad for the mistake because I learned something very important about the way the mind works. Or rather what the mind can do.
Now in West Texas there is nothing. There is nothing for miles and miles. It's just this giant empty space of nothing. And when the sun goes down it is DARK. So not only is there nothing but you can't even see the nothing that is there. It's just this long road going in to nowhere and all you can see is what your headlights illuminate. So we are driving, I am still convinced that the town will appear somewhere down this road. We start listening to the XX. Which you can listen to here for a full sensory experience of the mindset we were in during this time spent driving in to nowhere.
"Do you think 'firing up the hot tub' really meant firing up the spaceship?"
"Where did that guy even go? He just disappeared."
"There is no one around to hear us scream."
Things started getting pretty weird. Like... really weird. A vast expanse of nothingness gives room for the mind to create stories to fill that void. In the total darkness of a never ending road, aliens exist, the boogie man, crooked cops, serial killers, monsters, you name it. The mind, when given nothing to work with can create a world you thought you'd stopped believing in when you turned eleven. I am embarrassed to admit it but I think I drove about twenty miles down this road, my stubborness willing the town of Marfa to appear after every curve. Finally, we saw some buildings. No lights were on but we could make out the forms in the darkness and then, like something out of a bad horror film our headlights shown on a road sign: GHOST TOWN. We screamed, I am not joking. Annie grabbed my arm and I stomped on the breaks, spinning the car around as fast as I could and booked it the twenty miles back to the real Marfa with my tail between my legs.
Oh and by the way, on the way back we hit our first Border Patrol Station. These things are all over Texas, whether you are cruising the border or not. Giant German Shepards sniff your car and crank policemen ask you where you've been and where you're going, etc. But because this was our first and we were already unnerved by our misadventure I had no idea what to expect.
"Do I need my passport?!"
No.. you do not need a passport if you are in Texas and you are planning to stay in Texas. Come on Lila. Get it together! Anyways... that could have gone smoother but we got out alive thank god. We then decided we better go ahead and continue the night as we had originally planned. We went BACK to the real Marfa. Which was... of course, the town to the left of the campsite.
We went to the town bar the woman at El Cosmico had told us about which I believe was called Padre's. A woman working at a gas station told us that it used to be an old funeral parlor. Great, we thought, more ghosts. But we went anyways. It was quiet inside, and huge. A giant room with wooden floors, walls and ceilings. It looked like they had a stage area for live music but nothing was going on that night. A juke box was playing but when no one was there to add their quarters, no music was played at all. They had Shiner on tap, the cheap Texan beer of choice next to Lonestar, which to me tastes like stale popcorn. Annie got a whiskey and diet and we sat observing our surroundings. There were a couple people at the end of the bar, some young hip looking women and an older man in a cowboy hat. They didn't seem to have much interest in us at all. Like I said before, in most every where we went we got a bit of attention just for being unfamiliar faces in a very familiar place. But not in Marfa. We decided to check out the back patio in hopes of finding some friendlier locals. There was a woman in roller skates talking to the man in the cowboy hat who had been at the bar. We had to kind of aggressively bully our way in to their conversation but even when we had managed that it was hard to stay afloat. So instead of forcing our way in to this small town pretention we simply asked, "so what is there to do in Marfa?"
The Marfa Lights. The Marfa Lights are supposed to be this glowing orbs that roll across the desert. Some unexplainable phenomenon. There was an observation tower off the highway they told us about so we figured... mind as well. Not like the people in the town were anything to rave about. Maybe these mysterious glowing orbs would suit us better. So off we went...
We sat at the observation tower for hours, staring off across the desert... Needless to say we did not see any orbs that night. But who cares because the stars in Marfa were well worth the overnight. They sky was unbelievable. If you think you've seen stars you are wrong. I mean I grew up in North Carolina, we got stars. Nothing like this. We fell in to an in depth conversation about "what else is out there." We couldn't be the only living creatures in this universe and if we were... why? We drove back to the campsite that night exhausted and filled with questions. Cuddled down in our palace of a tent and fell asleep to the sound of West Texas wildlife.