During a recent trip to Houston, I decided to make an early-bird dinner reservation so I could get over to the Rice University campus in time for the evening viewing of James Turrell’s Light Epiphany. Open since June, the site-specific “skyspace” was commissioned to mark the university’s centennial. The pyramidal structure has been outfitted with LED lights that Turrell has programmed to change in particular sequences—one just before sunrise, one just after sunset—in accordance with the solar calendar. Seeing as how the sun always sets on time, I didn’t want to be late.
For many travelers, this far West Texas town is a last-chance pit stop before heading south to brave the wilds of Big Bend National Park. But, this past spring, after driving 407 miles (that’s roughly 7 hours and 143 country songs) from Austin to get here, my three friends and I were perfectly content to drop anchor in this desert oasis for a few days. Our plan: to brave nothing wilder than our TV-less hotel room. And so we spent 72 hours shopping, strolling, eating, and exploring along the short stretch of Highway 90 that makes up the town’s main drag. Read on for my Marathon trip guide …
In one of my favorite descriptions of Marfa, writer David McDannald points out that sometimes it’s “a shadow of a town” and sometimes it’s “a desert Mardi Gras.” At the end of this month, West Texas’s buzziest destination will be lit up like Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday when hundreds of Austinites and Brooklynites and Portlandiers (okay, and maybe some folks from other parts too) roll in for the seventh annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music and Love.
WHAT: Wild Boar Farms, a roadside farm stand worth pulling over for. WHERE: Stonewall, at the northeast corner of Hwy 290 and Luckenbach Road. WHY: For starters, the head farmer’s name is Daniel Bacon. That’s as good a reason as any to patronize this long, wood-paneled structure, which is less a makeshift farmstand than a mini country market. Plus, it’s open nine months out of the year. I went in thinking I’d buy a bushel of the juicy Hill Country peaches that were in season during my visit and maybe one of the watermelons out front, but once I saw the bounty inside—tomatoes, zucchini, pattypan squash, anasazi beans, jugs of peach cider, Oma’s mini cherry pies, I could go on—I started thinking of the empty refrigerator I’d be returning home to and how to fill it. BONUS POINTS: For ample parking, a public (if rustic) restroom for customers, and the sweetest hand-written note about Mama Bacon’s Mayhaw jelly.
If you’ve already picked up your copy of Texas Monthly’s September issue, you’ve noticed that the magazine has undergone a top-to-bottom redesign. In the new Touts section, you’ll find the debut of my Texas travel column, the Wanderer (or, as my colleagues like to call it: Breal’s On Wheels), which will be a chronicle of my three-day trip to a different Texas town or city each month. Since joining Texas Monthly in 2005, I’ve had the pleasure of writing about everything from barbecue and camping to fine art and six-man football, and I’ve probably spent more time on Texas’s highways and back roads than in my Austin office. As TM’s head honcho, Jake Silverstein, points out in his detailed rundown of the magazine’s new look, mine is an enviable job.
1. HOTEL LIMPIA
For his first-ever visit to Texas, Justin Carrasquillo, a Los Angeles–based photographer spent more than twenty days driving all across the state. He covered 4,847 miles and captured more than 13,000 images of vistas, from the mesas in West Texas to lighthouses at the Coast for our June 2012 cover story. Here’s more from the man behind the camera on his travels through the Lone Star State.
This time last year was the beginning of a record-busting heat wave that gripped the state, with several cities experiencing fifty-plus days of consecutive 100-plus temperatures and an average summer temperature of 86.7 degrees in 2011. Spring rains cooled things off, but the first day of summer is still approaching and with it expect above-average temperatures, according to John Nielsen-Gammon, the state’s climatologist.
1. Texas Seaport Museum/Elissa
Five years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a cocktail-craving thirty-something headed to a haute bar in Dallas’s Design District, a once-industrial enclave centrally located close to the Main Street District, near downtown. But now the Design District is attracting new retailers, deep-pocketed developers and plenty of shoppers, thanks to a slew of buzz-worthy restaurants, chic stores and daring art galleries opening up alongside brand-new apartments and lofts.