Day 6: Ft. Davis, Marfa, and Alpine
The American Southwest may be one of the most under-appreciated areas of our country. Many consider the desert to be a dry, boring wasteland. However, there is life and a beauty to this environment that cannot be found anywhere else.
This spring, Anthony and I spent a few days road tripping through New Mexico and Texas. It was a wonderful trip. If you haven’t read about our previous days, I encourage you to go back and see all the fun places we have visited up to this point.
- Day 1: Corinth, Amarillo, Adrian, and Santa Fe
- Day 2: Santa Fe and Los Alamos
- Day 3: Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Alamogordo
- Day 4: Alamogordo and Roswell
- Day 5: Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, and Fort Davis
Davis Mountains Scenic Loop
We slept in a bit on this morning since we had stayed up so late at the McDonald Observatory Star Party the night before. We had a protein bar for breakfast and got some amazing coffee at the little grocery store, Stone Village Market, that is attached to the Stone Village Tourist Camp.
The coffee was from Big Bend Coffee Roasters. This coffee is amazing. I won’t say much on it right now because I plan to write a review on it later. I’ll just say we bought two bags to take home with us and I’m wishing we had bought more. I guess that just gives us one more reason to go back for another visit soon.
We really didn’t have any hard and fast plans for this day. This was pretty much a “wrap up day” of our trip. So, with coffee in hand, we decided to drive the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop. This loop is 75 miles long and is the highest highway in Texas. This loop is made up of TX 118 and TX 166.
There are lots of wildlife on these highways so take extreme caution. We saw a lot of deer and wild turkeys but we were also warned about the wild pigs. They referred to them as “suicidal pigs” due to them running out in front of cars and causing lots of wrecks in the area.
This is a beautiful drive and I would advise anyone visiting this area to take advantage of it. I would recommend taking several hours and stopping frequently for photos. Take a picnic with you. There are several places to pull over with picnic tables. The next time we are in this area, I want to do this same drive in reverse and take it a bit slower.
After our drive, we drove down to Marfa, TX. This town is very much different than Fort Davis. Fort Davis is more of a farm/country feeling town. Marfa is a very artsy, hipster town. It is very clean but there isn’t a lot to do in the town.
For lunch, we stopped at Food Shark. This is a very popular food truck. We were there before they opened and by the time they did open, there was already a long line. After we ordered, we wandered around their dining area. They have several old cars in the “yard” that make a great opportunity for some fun pictures. However, they don’t want you to actually get inside the cars. The dining area has old, school desks and chairs scattered around the yard. There is also an old school bus they turned into and “inside dining” option for rainy days. It is quite the eclectic collection but such fun.
We ordered the combo plate which came with two falafel balls with yogurt, tahini and harissa sauces, greek salad, hummus and flatbread. We also ordered one of their specials of the day: the Giant Slow Roasted Pork Burrito with caramelized onions, cilantro, and side of red salsa. I cannot express how delicious both of these plates were. It was our first time to have falafel and we were blown away. The combo plate has sparked our interest in Greek food, hence our recipe for hummus. Now, we just need to experiment with some falafel recipes. The burrito was amazing, as well. The slow roasted pork was so tender and juicy and perfectly seasoned. Man, my mouth is watering just thinking about this amazing lunch.
If you are in this area and want to try Food Shark, be aware that, as of now, they are only open on Wednesdays from noon to 3 pm. I did see another place that said they were open Wednesday – Saturday, so you may want to call to make sure of their hours and location. They are a food truck so they do move around every so often.
After lunch, we drove around a bit and then decided to walk around the square area. We walked through Hotel Paisano and checked out some of the shops inside. This hotel is a very swanky place and was made famous in the 1956 movie Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean.
We took some pics around the square and then drove over to the Marfa Public Radio station. In an earlier post, I mentioned that Anthony has decided to collect stickers from places he has visited so we grabbed a couple of stickers from the radio station too.
It wasn’t long before we felt like we had seen everything that was interesting in Marfa, so we decided to drive to Alpine, TX. The drive to Alpine is quite gorgeous. You also pass a couple of mountains, of which at least one is an extinct volcano. There are a couple of others I would guess are also old volcanos.
Alpine is a college town. It is the home of Sul Ross State University. I had never heard of this university but kind of wish I had when I was looking for a college to attend. We decided to check out the Museum of the Big Bend on the university campus. This is a fantastic, little museum. It was really cool to learn about the Big Bend National Park and the history. We didn’t visit Big Bend on this trip but we have definitely added it to our list to check out the next time we are in this area.
I started not feeling very well while we were in the museum, so we decided to find ourselves a “pick me up” treat. This is a great time to remind you that this is the desert and it is vital to drink more water than you normally do, even if you don’t feel like it. I have a tendency to get dehydrated very quickly and I’m pretty sure that was the main culprit for me feeling a little weak at this time. We drove around and was finally recommended by one shop owner to try the snow cones at Santana’s 99¢ Store. I had a blue coconut with actual coconut sprinkled on top. Anthony had a Polynesian. This was a great way to perk us up for the rest of the afternoon.
We decided to visit the chamber of commerce to get an idea of what we can do around town as we waited for dinner. The lady working the visitors center seemed like a real-life Leslie Knope. You could tell she really loved Alpine and wanted everyone to see what an amazing town it is. She gave us a list of all the historical landmarks and murals around the town. She called it their “selfie tour.”
This town is also a very artistic town and there are murals all over the place. They are gorgeous. It was a great way to spend the afternoon walking around and learning about this town we had really never heard of but was very fascinating.
I had no idea that Dan Blocker was an alumnus of Sul Ross University. Who is Dan Blocker? He played Hoss Cartright on 1960’s TV show Bonanza. He was also born in a town, DeKalb, TX, very close to where I grew up. So it was really interesting to see him on a mural in this town, as well.
After a couple of hours of walking around town and checking out their galleries and shops, we decided to see if we could get into dinner a little early. We had later reservations at Reata for dinner but they were able to seat us early. Anthony had informed them while making reservations that we were celebrating our five year anniversary and our birthdays. (Our anniversary and birthdays are all within a couple of weeks of each other so we opt for a vacation each year rather than giving each other gifts.) They offered us either a free dessert or champagne for our special visit. We chose the dessert.
We ordered the Bacon Wrapped Crab Stuffed Jalapeños as an appetizer. They were amazing but I ended up with a very spicy one so I only had a bite or two. Anthony loved them.
We decided to share the Carne Asada topped with Reata’s Cheese Enchiladas. I cannot even begin to express how amazingly delicious this meal was. The carne asada was so tender and perfectly flavored. The enchilada was smoky and not overly greasy. We have never been to the one in Fort Worth but after this meal, we have plans to go very soon.
For dessert, we had their West Texas Pecan Pie. Oh my, was this delicious. After all the food, I could only have a couple of bites but those bites were amazing. It was sweet but not so sweet that we thought we would pass out. It was nutty and soft and crunchy and just all around the best pecan pie, I have ever had.
Now, I must really brag on this restaurant. They went way over and above any expectations, I would have ever had as far as customer service. Since Anthony and I had split a meal, we totally expected to have to pay a split fee. However, when we received the bill, they did not charge for the split. They also gave us a dessert complimentary dessert for celebrating our special day with them. But the most amazing part was they brought us a card, signed by all the staff working that evening, wishing us a happy anniversary and birthdays. How sweet was that?!
Earlier that day, we had discussed how we had not run into anyone we knew on our trip. It is always ironic to run into someone you know while on vacation but it has happened to me almost every time I have traveled. However, this was the last big day of our trip and we had yet to run into anyone. Well, that changed at dinner.
We overheard the couple at the table next to us talking about visiting the Reata in Fort Worth. Later they overheard us talking about Fort Worth and Denton, and struck up a conversation with us. Come to find out, they are the parents of a girl Anthony was in high school choir with and knew very well. While chatting with them, the father texted his daughter and she called him. She and Anthony chatted on the phone for a few minutes.These encounters are always so fun but also remind you that you better always be behaving because you never know when you might run into someone who knows you or your parents. LOL
These encounters are always so fun but also remind you that you better always be behaving because you never know when you might run into someone who knows you or your parents. LOL
We had one last thing planned for our trip, a very strange event: the Marfa Lights.
The Marfa Lights are a strange occurrence in the desert between Marfa and Alpine. The story goes, these strange lights were first seen by the Apache Indians living in this area. The first documented sighting came from a cowboy in the area in 1883. There are many theories regarding what these lights are ranging from aliens to ghosts to headlights from cars traveling on US 67 to some possible scientific explanations. So, we wanted to see if we could see these strange lights.
This is such a popular stop that a parking lot and a building with toilets was erected to give a safe place for drivers to pull over and look for the lights. We arrived early but that gave us a good parking spot and the opportunity to claim a space on one of the benches.
Since we arrived so early, we decided to walk around a bit. They have set up several historical markers that tell about the history of the area and the mountains. It is a very nice spot to stop even if you aren’t interested in viewing the lights. Just keep an eye out for rabbits and snakes.
As the sun began to set, more and more people started to arrive. We had a great time chatting with other road trippers. It was a fun time of getting to know other people we would have never met otherwise.
We did see some lights. I’m not sure if they were the lights that we were supposed to be seeing. What we saw did look like head lights from Presidio. However, other people said that others have seen the lights further to the east which would not be in the direction of the highway. Very mysterious.
It began to get chilly and we were getting tired so we decided to call it a night and make the long drive back to Fort Davis.
The Stars at Night
Ok, so our craziness may not have ended with the Marfa Lights.
While we were at the Star Party the night before, one of the astronomers had told us that the Milky Way could be viewed after the moon set, around 3 am. So, we decided to drive back up to the Observatory at 3 am and sit in their dark parking lot looking at the stars. It was so cold and started to get creepy when we realized we were out in the dark, alone, in an unfamiliar area. Probably not the safest situation but I’ve probably watched a few too many police dramas, too.
After a few minutes of letting our eyes adjust, we were able to see the beautiful collection of stars. It was crazy, it was cold, it was even a little creepy but is was stunning. This is such a beautiful site that so many of us never get the opportunity to witness. We were very thankful for the opportunity to go on this amazing adventure.
What is your favorite food truck? What is the craziest thing you have ever done on a road trip?