Friday, January 28, 2011

Birthday trip to the Middle Of Nowhere, TX


In an earlier post I mentioned we were off into the wilds of Texas for Chris's birthday weekend.  We packed up the car, collected Luke from school and hit I10 - 6 hours later we arrived in Fort Stockton where we were staying for the night.  I'm not really sure what it's famous for - it was once a military outpost and some of the buildings remain - other than a rather large roadrunner:


Unfortunately I was up all night being sick on Friday which meant we had to abandon our plans to see the town of Balmorhea (Pronounce Bal-Marie) on Saturday morning and instead we headed to the "city" of Alpine where the lovely hotel staff let us check in early so I could go to bed!  I think Alpine is the biggest of all the populated areas in this part of Texas - lots of hotels/motels, the ever present McDonalds and Dairy Queen, and most randomly, a university: http://www.sulross.edu/pages/1.asp Now, no offence to Alpine, but I wonder how many out of town students they have?  I can't imagine it's a "hot" destination for those looking at schools!

The sickness meant I couldn't go to the Star Party at the McDonald Observatory with Chris and Luke, which was such a shame, but I'm glad they got to go.  They returned full of stories (and in Lukes case VERY tired!) and we decided that if I was better we would head back the following day to see it again - which also meant the boys would get to see the big telescopes, which they couldn't do at night as the astronomers were in there working.

Luke being Jupiter.....

Getting to move the HUGE telescope


There's a whole lot of nothing out there.....


So after returning and seeing the Observatory by day (which was fascinating) on Sunday we decided to drive to the town of Marfa and abit further West to see "Prada Marfa", an art installation by the side of the road just outside the city of Valentine (I use the term city lightly - it has a population of just over 200 and the only life we saw were 4 dogs and a horse.  The library was the nicest building we saw - much to my delight!)




I'd heard about the fake Prada store through a post over at www.readitswapit.co.uk (if memory serves, it was through Anne Cater) - about the bids to fill the empty 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square.  One of the companies bidding previous work includes this, and once I found out it was in Texas I was hoping we'd have the chance to go and see it!

Sunday night was spent eating dinner in a proper diner with booths and stools at the counter and watching NFL playoffs in the hotel room.  We then ventured back out to Marfa - it is the home of the mysterious Marfa Lights - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marfa_lights  The city has made a special viewing area - although I thought the sign telling us it was for night time viewing only was a tad obvious!  We saw something, but whether it was "the" lights or not, I'm not sure.  It fascinated me how many people were there - the town plays on this though and has an annual Marfa Lights festival!  

Although I was feeling much better, I was exhausted by the end of the day!  Unfortunately  that night, both boys were up being sick.  Luckily (if I can call it that) Chris was only ill the once, but Luke (and therefore I!) were up every 45mins or so................fast forward to the Monday morning and a long long day in the car!  Thankfully, we made it home with no incidents and I can honestly say I've never been so glad to see my bed.

Illness aside, it was a great trip, and amazing to see the vast nothingness of the Big Bend region of Texas.  It's the polar opposite to the big cities and fast paced life that we've become used to.  I'll leave you with this great photo Chris took (the beauty of the isolation means that randomly stopping on the side of the highway is generally not an issue!):


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