Cibolo Creek Ranch
Need your space but can’t afford to buy it? You can rent it by the night at Cibolo Creek Ranch, which clocks in with a whopping 35,000 acres of desert mountains, unexpected springs, and far-reaching history. The resort’s expansive nature extends to its rooms, big enough to share with a small herd of buffalo (but I’d bet they’d hog the makeup mirror). Accommodations are spread out across the property in three painstakingly resurrected adobe forts—El Cibolo, La Cienega, and La Morita—each with a distinct personality. (With 21 rooms, a pool, spa, dining hall, and meeting areas, El Cibolo is the most conventional. La Cienega, thirty minutes away, has 10 rooms and its own pool. La Morita is a low-tech hideaway for two.) There are no TVs or phones in the rooms, no cell phone reception anywhere, and Internet access in only a single guest office, but with horseback riding, skeet shooting, fishing, Jeep tours, hiking, mountain biking, and a three-thousand-volume library, you’d be hard-pressed to grow bored. From Marfa, go south on U.S. 67 for 33 miles (432-229-3737 or cibolocreekranch.com). Rooms from $450 for two, three meals included.
Gage Hotel, Marathon
Even after all these years, the Gage, which first opened in the twenties and was then revamped and reopened in the eighties after years of neglect, is still addictive. The rooms, a mix of cowboy kitsch (a horse’s bit as toilet paper holder) and thread-count sophistication, can’t help but be inviting. Café Cenizo and the White Buffalo Bar draw locals and tourists alike. And the pool is pure nirvana after a day on the road or hiking the hills. But it’s the hotel’s courtyards that get me every time. (I map out my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party in my head whenever I walk through them.) Plus, there’s just enough to do in town—a couple of great galleries, an import store or two, a nice little bookshop, a spa, a spiffy grocery with champagne and local produce, and the manicured Gage Gardens across the tracks—to avert stir-craziness, without applying any go-go pressure. 101 U.S. 90W (432-386-4205 or gagehotel.com). Rooms from $76 with shared bath to $208 with fireplace and wet bar.
Indian Lodge, Fort Davis
This is the rare breed of building that I find myself patting, partly out of affection but even more in an attempt to understand its mass. How else to appreciate, especially in the current era of ephemeral Sheetrock-and-metal-stud construction, the eighteen-inch-thick adobe walls, fashioned by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the thirties from 120,000 forty-pound handmade bricks? A five-year, $4.35 million interior renovation of this state park property, completed last summer, included stripping sixties-era mocha-colored paint from the extensive woodwork; refinishing the hardwood floors; updating air conditioning, heating, and plumbing that was well beyond a certain age; and gussying up all the rooms. By all appearances, the lodge enjoyed one of those infrequent face-lifts that restore youth without erasing a dollop of charm. From Fort Davis, go north on Texas Highway 118 (432-426-3254 or tpwd.state.tx.us). Rooms from $90 (reservations recommended far in advance).
La Posada Milagro Guesthouse, Terlingua Ghost Town
With its white-white walls and blue-trimmed windows, the interior of my room whispered Mykonos, but the startling view of the Chisos Mountains screamed Chihuahua. The bath around the corner, with its river rock shower and cavelike coziness, hinted at the tropics, while the hammock-with-a-view spoke distinctly of la-la land. These international effects, coaxed from an imaginative restoration of a cluster of rambling rock ruins, are no surprise considering the globe-trotting lifestyle of the inn’s owner, Mimi Webb Miller, longtime Terlingua resident and Hollywood casting director. Despite the fact that she was out of town when I stayed, I still felt the urge to audition, giving my all for a part in anybody’s movie as a patio-bound layabout with an eye for desert sunsets. 100 La Posada Lane (432-371-3044 or laposadamilagro.com). Rooms from $145.
When I crash this cool pad, I’m tempted to don a beret and dark shades and express my appreciation for its devotion to minimalism by snapping my fingers repeatedly. The revamped spareness of this fifties motel, however, doesn’t preclude wit and attention to details. The rooms have iPod-ready clock radios, a supply of sharp pencils, air conditioners whose fans can mask the sound of passing trains, and a basket filled with purchasable necessities like chocolate. Although there are TVs in every room, you might want to stick with the mid-century program and rent a record player and a couple of LPs from the front desk instead or simply jive poolside. 601 West San Antonio (877-729-1984 or thunderbirdmarfa.com). Rooms from $135.