I am no fan of cruise control. In fact, the idea of letting my car drive my car is abhorrent to me. However, when one is facing a 400-mile trip on an 80 mph interstate, the charms of taking the foot off the pedal become very clear.
Today we drove from Austin to the town of Alpine, for reasons that will become clear in a moment. We cut across a pretty good sized piece of Texas, moving from the lovely hill country around Austin to the plains of West Texas – very different terrain.
You will understand that being on a road where the few people you share it with are also going at least 85 miles per hour leaves little chance to stop and take pictures. Even though you quickly adapt and feel you are just poking along, pulling over to the shoulder is just not a smart thing to do unless you have a real problem, not just a blog that needs illustration. I took life in hand one time to show you a sample of the hills and of the dun-colored mesas that ushered us toward the more rugged hillier scrub country that absolutely screams “cowboy movie!”
But let’s start back in Austin. With the benefit of a night’s reflection, we concluded that there just isn’t enough to do in Austin to merit another day there, had we thought about rescheduling. It’s like so many cities we have seen that long ago sacrificed the “old” for the “new,” and consequently lost a record of their history – and gained lots of parking lots in the process. We constantly see tourists flocking to anything that is special – some preserved artifact of the past, a beautiful building that could only have been built at least 100 years ago, a restaurant that does something special that you can only find in that place. New office buildings and trendy shops just don’t satisfy.
Now San Antonio has a lot of the new lining River Walk. But it has also managed to hang on to many pieces of its history, and the blend makes it very popular. With Austin, it’s the capital, and that’s about it. There is the music scene, of course, and from what we hear, it’s the most liberal place in Texas, so probably a great place to live if you have pinko Commie leanings.
But now on to why we are spending the night in Alpine, Texas. This is not our real destination. That is a town 25 miles away called Marfa.
Marfa is well-known to those hip to the current art scene, or those who are familiar with the works of minimalist artist Donald Judd. His Chinati Foundation evidently blends art, architecture and nature in this wild environment, and draws art lovers from around the world to this town, which can truly be described as the middle of nowhere. Tomorrow we take the four-hour tour and see if we gain a new understanding of his work when it’s not in MOMA, along with that of several much-heralded others. It’s supposed to be quite spectacular.
The town itself, which Judd worked in for many years, has become trendy chic, which was quite inevitable. It somewhat reminds me of a certain town in upstate New York where his daughter lives when she is not here, active in her father’s foundation.
We only walked around for about an hour, admiring the courthouse, and the lovely El Paisano Hotel, home base for the actors in the epic 1956 film, Giant. Just think – James Dean walked these streets.
So here we are in the middle of nowhere, following the paths trodden by art lovers from around the world. See? If you build it, they will come.