Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 3 & 4 - Marfa, TX.

Today, Sunday, October 18, we travel to Marfa, Texas for a couple of nights at the Hotel Paisano...

...the next leg on our journey through West Texas.

Bur first, since I am a creature of habit....

I like to have breakfast, pretty much first thing in the morning. I don't understand how some people can function on just a cup of coffee, or, worse, a soft drink first thing. Ew.

We woke to a beautiful morning at the Astronomer's Lodge, high up in the Davis Mountains, atop Mount Locke. As with dinner last night at the Lodge, breakfast is included in the cost of the room. And similarly to dinner last night, breakfast is self-serve. But they have everything I like, such as several varieties of cold cereal, with various fruits, or bagels, muffins, or assorted breakfast breads. The milk is over there in the refrigerator, as are a few kinds of fruit juices. Plenty of coffee, jellies, butter. We have to make another pot of coffee? No problem. It suited me just perfectly.

Before leaving the McDonald Observatory for Marfa, we decided to take in the 11:00 a.m. "Solar Viewing" program at the Visitors Center. They have a live camera set up for solar viewing, and they talk about all things solar: sunspots, flares, prominences, maximums and minimums, and the various stages of star development. It's very interesting, and lasted about an hour. Our sun is expected to hit its "solar maximum" again in 2012. Some are predicting it to be so strong this time that it might disrupt cellular and other electronic transmissions FOR YEARS, and maybe even worse. Could the Mayans have been that prescient? Let's hope not.

Most people in attendance next went on a tour of the 107" telescope, but we had other fish to fry. And stomachs to feed. Rumble, rumble. Time for lunch already. We took the easy route and ate at the Stardate Cafe, also in the Visitors Center, right next door to the Auditorium where we attended the Sola
r Viewing, which turned out to be a mistake. Not good. But you're a rather captive audience. Take a picnic lunch instead. Enough said.

Time to hit the road to Marfa, south from Fort Davis on state highway 17.
Another beautiful drive on a gorgeous day. So far, the weather has been awesome.

Marfa, while still at around 4400' elevation, sits on a broad flat plain, called, coincidentally, the Marfa Plain. The town has been known for many years for the "Marfa Lights" but more recently has experienced a boom in art galleries. With a population of around 2000, the town is still rather sleepy, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays, when we happened to be there. We weren't going to bother with the Marfa Lights. I figure it's just car lights anyway.

We rolled into town about 3:00 p.m. and easily found our destination, the Hotel Paisano, just one block from the county seat square. They call this "downtown" Marfa.

A block further south, where Marfa Public Radio, KRTS, is situated, they call "Midtown" Marfa. We had to laugh at that. A couple of more blocks south and you've left town.

The Hotel Paisano is quite beautiful. Built in 1930, it was a premier destination between San Antonio and El Paso. They filmed the movie, "Giant" in Marfa in 1955, and the cast and crew stayed at the Hotel Paisano. Naturally, the hotel management has been cashing in on this fact for years.

We chose to stay in Room 211, the "Rock Hudson Suite."

This second-floor suite (there are only two stories at this hotel) used to be two rooms which are now combined. There are two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, sitting room, and a massive outdoor (rooftop) deck. The place is really cool, BUT, if you ever think about staying here, I give you TWO CAVEATS. Well, three.

One, there is no elevator in the building, so you have to climb stairs. No big deal.

Two, on the outdoor deck, there is a huge tower smack dab in the middle of it that is the exhaust vent for the 1st floor restaurant "Jett's Grill" directly below. They turn on a motor around noon every day, and it grinds and grinds and grinds away until around 11:00 p.m. each evening, disrupting your peace and
tranquility on the deck. It's really very annoying, and loud.

Three, on this same outdoor deck, there is a very bright outdoor light that cannot be turned off at night. It is so bright that it totally blots out any stargazing you may have wished to do on the deck. There are chairs on this deck with high backs which are perfect for stargazing, but the bright light prevents you from seeing much of anything. The sky was dark and clear, perfect for stargazing, but it was impossible, and very disappointing.

I complained about these last two facts to the front desk, and the woman feigned ignorance. If you are thinking about staying in this room, ask them about items two and three. If they hem and haw, stay somewhere else.

Beyond that, the hotel is pretty awesome. Great location, a cool swimming pool, a large number of gift shops carrying some great stuff, and a decent restaurant.

While checking into the hotel, our first near-catastrophe hit: I lost all of my personal keys. I usually keep them in my right-front pants pocket and obsessively check for them throughout the day. Suddenly, during check-in, they were missing. A quick scan of the suite produced nothing, so, rather than panic, which the wife was doing, I re-traced my steps, and lo and behold, found them in the trunk of our rental car. Good think I didn't lock the car keys in there too!

We took the easy route for dinner our first night there (Su
nday the 18th) and tried out Jett's Grill. It was good, but pricey. There was absolutely nothing going on in the town, as far as we could tell. Too bad we had just missed the "Open House Weekend" at the Chinati Foundation.

When we awoke Monday morning at the hotel, near-catastrophe # 2 befell us: this time, the wife could not find her purse. This was potentially much more serious than losing my personal keys, and we rather frantically searched the room to no avail. If the wife panicked when I'd misplaced my keys, now she was close to hysterical.

Again, we re-traced our steps. No sign of it at the hotel front desk or lost-and-found. The restaurant? Did she even leave the restaurant with her purse? NO! The guy at the front desk let us back into the restaurant, and whattayaknow, there it was, leaning against the wall at the same table where we had had dinner the night before! Thank goodness! She'd had only two beers with dinner, and had totally lost her mind (and her purse). All's well that end's well.

Finding breakfast Monday morning, after the purse drama, was damn near impossible. Jett's Grill only serves lunch and dinner. We found a directory of restaurants in the area, and walked to two of them that were supposed to be open for breakfast on Mondays but were in fact both closed with no explanation. Welcome to Marfa.

As we were walking around "Midtown" Marfa, hungry, I noticed a guy opening up a barber shop, so I stopped him and asked him if he knew where to get any breakfast. He laughed and said, "There's maybe one place - Alices's Cafe, out west on 90. Too far to walk."

So we got in the car and finally found it. Thank goodness for the Mexicans. The place is run by Mexican-Americans (??) and served good old-fashioned stuff like eggs, bacon, waffles, tortillas, chorizo, huevos rancheros, etc. And lots of coffee. Two breakfasts with coffee for $12? Well, alright!

We included Marfa in our West Texas itinerary because we have a friend in Houston that also has a house in Marfa, which he visits monthly, usually. But not this time. He was supposed to be there when we were there, but he had to attend to other things and couldn't make this trip. Too bad, because without him, I'm sure we didn't get a good taste of the town.

The Chinati Foundation was also closed. Hell, everything was closed on Monday, and most still on Tuesday. But that's OK. This is, after all, vacation time, so we don't want to fill every minute with activities.

We did some lollygagging around on Monday, our full day in Marfa, and some shopping at the hotel, and took some time to read, since everything was closed. Another decent, simple restaurant we found was "Carmen's Cafe," another one run by Mexican-Americans. Great food, cheap.

Can't remember where we had dinner on Monday. No big deal. Tuesday morning, before the restaurant exhaust vent started grinding away and before we had to check out, we enjoyed some quiet time on the deck reading and ... you know.

Marfa is a nice place to visit (on a weekend, I guess), but I wouldn't want to live there.

To read about Day 1 - Amtrak,
click here.

To read about Day 2 - Observatory,
click here.

To read about Day 5 & 6 - Big Bend, click here.

To read about Day 7 & 8 - Terlingua, TX., click here.

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