Wednesday, September 05, 2007

West Texas in the Rear-View Mirror

Shortly before having to trek to Alpine to buy underwear on Sunday, Kate and I drove up to McDonald Observatory for a daytime program. I found it somewhat long and ponderous, but it was still cool to watch a giant telescope move with the touch of a button. Our tour guide even let some little kids move the telescope. I was jealous of them.

Even more impressive was the vista from Mount Locke at the terminus of the highest roadway in the Texas highway system. This summer's above-average rainfall made the normally desert-leaning landscape uncommonly verdant. I half-expected Julie Andrews to emerge from behind a boulder singing "The Sound of Music."

After Alpine, we pressed onward to Marfa, where the annual Marfa Lights festival was wrapping up in front of the Presidio County Courthouse. We browsed through the Marfa Book Company and checked out the Hotel Paisano, where the cast of Giant stayed during location filming. Unfortunately, there were no decent restaurants open, so we wound up at Dairy Queen. I live about three blocks from a Dairy Queen I never go to because the food is always disappointing, but somehow Dairy Queens are better when they’re in small towns. Lack of choice will do that to you.

The foodstuffs weren't much better back in Fort Davis. We wound up having fajitas at Pop's Place, which was better than Dairy Queen, but not by much. My temporary 3-day membership at the Hotel Limpia Sutler's Club was still in effect (you need to belong to a "club" to drink in Jeff Davis County), so Kate and I decided to put away a couple of brews.

The Sutler's Club overlooks the Hotel Limpia's dining room from a balcony. A plexiglass window separates the two spaces so people in the bar can smoke. As we drank, Kate noticed a rather angry professional-looking woman reading the riot act to our waitress from the night before. Apparently something was wrong with her meal and nothing the waitress said could placate her. As this was going on, the angry woman's two male companions just buried their faces in their plates. They ultimately left a $2 tip after having their meals comped. Kate and I never did figure out exactly what was going on, but it was amusing to surreptitiously watch the scene unfold from above. After one last look at the stars, we retired for the evening.

We drove back to Austin Monday, stopping briefly in Fort Stockton for a Tex-Mex lunch in a dreary, windowless restaurant with no natural light. It looked like something out of The Last Picture Show. Even though the food was pretty good, Fort Stockton is best seen receding in the rear-view mirror.

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