Spook lights and Hollywood stars in quirky Marfa, TX
Presidio County Courthouse, Marfa, TX
The drive from Big Bend National Park to Alpine, a 72-mile-trip, provided scenery straight out of a western movie. Martha noted in her trip diary that it would have been a perfect backdrop for one of Clint Eastwood’s early cowboy films. One side of the highway is flat land as far as the eye can see. On the other are mountains near and far, endless canyons and landscape best described as hostile, she wrote. No wildlife. Not even road kill. We are traveling through the desert, again.
Alpine, population almost 6,000, has green grass, the most we have seen in a week; a nice college campus and a hospital, the only one for miles around. And our destination for the next couple nights is here—Lost Alaska RV Park. No, we’re not in Alaska. We’re in Texas.
Presidio Hotel in Marfa, TX., served as headquarters for such famous movies as 1950’s epic “GIANT.”
We parked, unhooked the tow car and drove into the main part of town in search of a car air-conditioner doctor. Two places were too busy for a couple days but a one person garage on Marfa’s main street, owned and operated by an 81-year-old mechanic, said the air conditioner just needed a shot of Freon. Two cans of the stuff later, the air conditioner still failed to respond and the mechanic scratched his head and told us to take it to a dealer, the closest of which was in El Paso, TX., about 200 miles away.
The other reason we came to Alpine was to visit the little nearby town of Marfa which has been featured recently in several television segments for its “quirkiness and minimalist art.” Television’s Morley Safer called Marfa, “The Capital of Quirkiness” in a recent 60 minute segment which continues to add to the town’s popularity.
Marfa, population about 2,000 sports some historical architecture, art shops of various kinds the classic Texas small town courthouse square and art galleries plus the mysterious Marfa lights.
The Marfa lights, described as a paranormal phenomenon including UFO’s and maybe ghosts, show up occasionally on a stretch of U. S. Highway 67 just outside town. It’s not a big deal for locals but the lights are drawing crowds of tourists to town in hope of getting a glimpse of the lights, which scientists suggests are nothing more than reflections of car lights and maybe campfires. Local tourist businesses aren’t complaining.
“These balls of light may remain stationary as they pulse on and off with intensity varying from dim to almost blinding brilliance” a local brochure states…”they just suddenly appear. They may dart across the desert or perform splits and mergers.”
There were signs along the highway between Alpine and Marfa, alerting us that we were now in the “zone” but it was daylight when we passed and apparently the ghosts or whatever, were still asleep.
Marfa has another claim to fame: it has been the filming location for several dozen Hollywood movies, including the 1956 Warner Bros film Giant, which starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Sal Mineo, Carol Baker and Dennis Hopper. The movie capitalized on the area’s stark, flat landscape and employed some locals as extras and stagehands. The downtown historic and restored Hotel Paisano served as headquarters for the movie personnel and stars during the filming and has a display of “Giant’ memorabilia on display.
More recent movies, including “There Will Be Blood,” “Fandango” and “No Country for Old Men” were also filmed here.
A ranch entrance on the highway between Big Bend National Park and Alpine, TX.
Marfa is located in the high desert country of southwest Texas and afternoon temperatures cool rapidly because of the near 5,000 feet elevation. We sat in the courtyard of the Paisano Hotel as the sun set and enjoyed a light dinner served with white tablecloth napkins and a couple adult beverages as the sun went down in the west. We drove home with the windows down since we were still without air conditioning in the car. Did not see the lights.
NEXT: Historic U. S. Army cavalry post Fort Davis