A GREAT WEEKEND IN BIG BEND

ARE WE THERE YET? If ever there was a time to go to Big Bend, the weekend of October 10-12 is it. Period. (Let us clarify: For the purposes of our conversation, "Big Bend" means the Marfa-Alpine-Marathon corridor.) On Friday, head to Marfa, and before you retire for the night, check out the Marfa Lights . You could be one of the lucky ones who actually see them flickering in the dark sky. But don't wait around too long for something to happen; Saturday morning begins early in Alpine (about 25 miles east of Marfa) for the Marathon 2 Marathon , a 26.2-mile race across the thorny West Texas desert that winds up in, um, Marathon. For those of you who don't want to go the distance, there's also a 10K run and a 2-mile walk. Later that afternoon, writers Ann Cummins and Ana Castillo read from their works at the Marfa Book Company, where you can sip coffee and chill for a while. Clear the rest of the weekend for the Chinati Foundation's Open House 2003 in Marfa. Saturday night, take in the picturesque Presidio County courthouse as you dine alfresco while listening to a mariachi band (this year is the first time the annual dinner will be held downtown). On Sunday, spend the morning exploring the Chinati Foundation, where you can see large-scale pieces of art by John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, and founder Donald Judd and view "Notebook Pages: A Dialogue," an exhibit of drawings by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. For lunch, savor some tasty barbecue at Casa Perez, Judd's former ranch at the base of the Pinto Canyon, about 45 miles outside Marfa. After all this, you might not want to go home. (See Marfa: Museums/ Galleries; Marathon: Sports.)

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