Showing posts with label road trips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label road trips. 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  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Road Trip Tips

After one entire week! away from home, garden, and elderly mom duties, I am ready to dispense advice. Ignore at your peril. 

1. If the weather sucks, follow the sun. Hint: it's usually south.
We'd planned a bike ride and campout in Northern California. Surly clouds gave credence to the weather forecast—rain, hail, thunderstorms. Nope. All four of us agreed to abandon that plan and head toward Redding and its sunny forecast. 
2. Let others stew in die-hard plans.
Laurie and Steve soaking in the sun near Lake Sonoma.
Some stalwart friends would have toughed it out and slogged through the rain. I love them, but I'm glad they weren't there to say, Hell, let's do it anyway! This time PK and I were with Eugenites Laurie and Steve, and Laurie is an ardent sun seeker with extreme gloom aversion. 
Whatever's happening in the sky is reflected in her face and demeanor. Why does she live in rain-drenched Eugene? She's working on that. In the meantime, she leaned south, and so we went. Happily.
3. Look for the unexpected gifts of going where you didn't intend to go and doing what you didn't intend to do.
So we ended up in Redding, where we discovered a great bike path along the Sacramento River in the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and lots of good camping, hiking, boating and swimming in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area just 10 miles out of town. We'll definitely return for the biking and also may entice grandson Noah and his parents to Redding's hot dang water park. The beautiful Sundial Bridge alone is worth the trip. 
4. If it rains/snows/spits regardless of your efforts to escape, put on your raincoat, your best attitude, and shut up. As Scarlett said, Tomorrow is another day. 
We had some sprinkles during dinner prep camping at Whiskeytown. We turned up our collars and swilled more wine. Life was good. Still is. 

5. Pack lighter than light.
Four-Wheel pop-up is a super deluxe and comfy unit but does not accommodate excess. 
 This is a constant challenge, especially since we now travel in a small pick-up camper. Small is the operative word when talking about that camper.  I confess to toting more than needed and rummaging through 15 garments when half as many would have been enough. 
6. No one cares how you look, and looking good is a big part of over-packing. That and planning for every contingency. Relax.
Everyday advice. Not just for camping. Without anyone to compare yourself to, who cares? Only the people who want to look better than you do give a rip about whether your socks match. Screw em. 
7. Carry more maps than you think you'll need.
PK and I added "Atlas" to our always-bring packing list. 
8. Carry a smart phone.
We don't have one, but we will as soon as our phone contract expires. Thanks to Steve for supplying instant information via iPhone. In the meantime, our GPS unit came in handy, and sometimes our iPad, which is pretty worthless in the sun.
9. Bring a smart person, someone who likes to drive and isn't too opinionated or set in his/her ways.
 PK and I have been married for close to 40 years, and I am so lucky that he is the smart person. True, he is opinionated. But he's a great traveler, and he prefers to drive. I'll keep him handy for the next trip. 
PK and me near the end of a happy road trip hike.

Healdsburg host and blade runner/road warrior, Lanny says, Right on. Life is SO good.
Go with the flow, baby.