Showing posts with label Roadtrek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roadtrek. Show all posts

Monday, August 7, 2017

Marfa, Texas - A lesson in road-trip planning

Marfa, Texas, surprised us with a big ole dust storm and widespread fame.
We arrived in Marfa on our 10th day away from Oregon, having driven 240 miles that day from Las Cruces, NM. That doesn't seem like a lot of miles, but we'd had a rough morning hunting for yard art in Mesilla, NM. Fun! And then grocery shopping at Wal Mart for the next five days of van cooking. Definitely not fun, the shopping or the cooking.

Then, halfway to Marfa on Interstate 90, I discovered that we were within striking distance, with a half-day detour, to the McDonald Observatory. TripAdvisor confirmed it as a five-star attraction, and reports we heard later from travelers who'd managed more informed planning, said it was fantastic. I'd somehow missed it.

We had a timeframe that commanded obedience. And on we went. 

Next time.

We let go of the planning crisis as our son, Chris, called and we pulled off the road for a 30-minute conversation. He was about to embark on a 700-mile kayaking expedition into the Amazon basin. His  expedition ended with high drama that resulted later in the FBI showing up at our Oregon home

It's good to be clueless about some things in advance. When he's out of country, we're always grateful to hear from him. It makes trip-planning snafus meaningless. As it should.

I knew nada about Marfa, which turned out to be a Mecca for lovers of minimalist art. I include our illustrious RV park in that category. Minimalist. 
Our RV park. It even had tumbleweeds that rolled around during the wind storm.
With a population of just 2,000 Marfa is a national, if not international, art center. As such, it draws all kinds of quirkiness and plenty of star power. It even has an NPR station serving a "wide range." (We still listen to the Marfa station when programing on our local Jefferson Public Radio fails us, which isn't often.) 

Had we known that Marfa was a celebrity art town, perhaps we would have known to stop on Interstate 90 not far from city limits to gawk at the Prada installation. 
Oblivious, we bombed right past this roadside oddity in the West Texas desert, which is a minimalist art installation. Photo from the Internet.

Lesson, and note to self

If you book a camp or hotel in advance, at least take a look online to see what's there, even if there's practically no hope of anything fun or interesting, as was my mistaken opinion regarding Marfa.  A couple minutes on TripAdvisor would have had us hurrying to catch more daylight hours there, and perhaps built in a day to visit the McDonald Observatory.

Marfa revealed itself in stages during the late afternoon hours as we explored its wide tidy streets, slunk around a luxury art-and-fancy-guest-filled hotel, and strolled past closed art galleries and shops.

We were there fewer than 24 hours, but wish we'd had time to explore the art and other intriguing stuff. As it was, we were bombing along the highway by 7 a..m. the next morning to reach Big Bend National Park early enough to score a campsite, either in the  backcountry or  a campground.

Handmade stone church compares well with Marfa's water tower. 

What's the hurry? 

Why didn't we just chill and spend another day? Sadly, we'd violated a road-tripping rule by tying ourselves to a schedule anchored in reservations at a non refundbale Austin Airbnb and a date-specific commitment to friends in East Texas. (Later we were thankful for hurrying to East Texas for a most unusual and fun house concert/party and other great stuff with our hosts.)

Next road trip? If immutable plans must be made, such as for a music festival or wedding, at least build in unplanned days on either end just in case another McDonald Observatory or Marfa-type thing springs up.  

We're road -tripping. We're retired. We can hang a little bit looser. 

Earlier posts about Spring Road trip 2017

Arizona, a zone of its own

Joshua Tree National Park  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Travel Moment (s) New Brunswick

It was such a thrill to see this posing heron and others in his flock in New Brunswick's Kouchibouguac National Park, a place we stumbled upon as we were recovering from some rough travel the previous day. I learned that great blue herons, a treasured seasonal bird in our Southern Oregon home, nests here in New Brunswick. In Oregon we rarely see more than one heron at a time. Here, they hang out in gangs. Thank you, GBH. The older I get, the more such  moments thrill me. I enjoyed many such moments today.

Yesterday sucked. Even though we traveled from beautiful, rolling, church-spire-bejeweled and grain-silo decorated Quebec to reach New Brunswick, we disagreed about where we were going and what we were doing. You think that a married couple traveling in a small van for miles and miles and weeks and weeks doesn't sometimes think about divorce?  Gags? Murder? We're probably not the only ones. Right?

PK's a planner, and he's good at it. If he wasn't, we wouldn't be doing all this traveling.

But the problem with detailed planning and road trips, in my estimation? Plans put spontaneity on the back burner. If you have a destination, and you gotta get there on schedule, then unexpected side trips tend to well, slip aside. That's the crux. We managed to compromise with some mileage along a scenic route as opposed to a get-there-quick freeway, and arrived around 6 p.m. a few miles from our stopping point, Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick. (Hard to pronounce, easy to love, is the way they describe it around here.)

We found a municipal campground, scored a site in the trees, and started to relax. Our plan  for today was to roar on over to Nova Scotia and the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, a place we've talked and dreamt about for years. But we were just a few minutes from a national park. What the heck. Let's have a look. In a sweet burst of spontaneity, we decided to spend the entire day in the park and camp overnight. Thus began a day filled with wonder and fun, brimming with the travel moments that keep us on the road.

Canadian geese in, where else but Canada! They were feeding just a few pedal strokes from our campsite and the great blue herons were close by. 
PK getting ready to cycle. We practically had the campground  to ourselves, a Sunday in September, the
start of "shoulder season." Great time to travel! Even though it rained a bit today, and was windy, it was shorts weather.  This campground also has blazing fast wifi, which, coupled with a long relaxing day, is why I could whip out a blog post in short order. Wifi is not something we expected in Canadian parks, but it is often available. 

One of the park's claims to fame is restoring the pied plover population, which had dwindled near extinction here. One
of the interpretive signs provided this silly photo op. We rode our bikes here and that rectangle on my glasses is a bike 
mirror, in case you were wondering.
Just a few minutes down the boardwalk through the marsh, perhaps through divine intervention? we spotted this bird, which we believe, with the help of Stokes, to be a juvenile pied plover. Again, just unbelievable and thrilling to us both. Photo below, PK on the board walk where we spotted the pied plover.

One of many interpretive signs along miles and miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the bogs, lagoons, forests, and sea shore in this hard-to-pronounce national park.
Strong winds made the grasses dance but kept us safe from the local mosquito population, of which we were warned.

PK making his way through bog vegetation on a sinking boardwalk.
It was a warm but blustery day and we didn't expect to see people swimming or playing in the Atlantic Ocean on Kelly's Beach in the park.  But there they were, enjoying the last Sunday before school starts here next week. 
Yes, warm enough to swim, but PK and I stuck to wading and
splashing around a bit before getting back to cycling.
I liked the red chairs provided by the park service. By the time we got to the chairs to clean our feet and put on our
shoes, a middle-aged woman was occupying one and struck up a conversation. Within a few minutes, she spilled the news that her husband had recently left her for a much younger woman and was also deserting their sons, ages six and four. This was an unexpected torrent of anguish that didn't fit with our perfect day. But we both warmed to her and ended up in a discussion about love and marriage, hope and betrayal. I think we ended with hope. The last time she'd visited this place had been with the errant husband and their boys. She wanted to reclaim the powerful place as her own. I hope she did that. Our encounter reminded me that even when inevitable human suffering occurs, the sea and the sky, forests and mountains and rivers, birds and mammals, and even strangers on the beach, can be restorative.