The Expected and Unexpected in Texas





*I typed this in the car. It could be better. I will fix when I am on land.

There are some things I expected from Texas. I have seen ranches, cowboy hats and a man getting arrested in a gas-station Wendys. I’ve heard country music, “y’all’s” and a chatty woman casually utter a racial slur. But the most surprising thing about Texas is everything I didn’t expect.

The Landscape
Our detour into West Texas took us through Guadalupe National Park. I had no idea such an epic mountain range existed in the state. We drove through a forboding thunderstorm accompanied by high winds that blew smoke from a nearby fire. Coupled with the fact that we were one of the only cars on the road, I felt like we were driving to the end of the earth. It was beautiful and eerie.

On Friday we drove through Texas hill country, which is dotted with farms, peach stands and–as billed– hills. We passed through some adorable towns. Fredericksburg looks like something out of a movie. An adorable Texas movie.

Although it seems everyone in Texas knows about this place, I feel like I am breaking some serious news here. Guys,– assuming you like hipsters and randomness–Marfa, Texas is awesome.

At first glance, Marfa looked like all the sleepy, one-block towns we had seen in the southwest. It was already nightfall, so we weren’t going to be able to see the great art galleries my friend had recommended to us. The streets were empty and the town was dark, but we made it to The Miniature Rooster just in time to order dinner.

So I don’t have any pictures or the restaurant or Padres, the bar we went to afterwards, but somehow we had driven to a hipster oasis. Miniature Rooster had an amazing menu (shrimp and grits with some foam–sorry, this ain’t a food blog, but it was YUM) and decorations straight out of the pages of Ready Made Magazine. Padres had a stage and a back porch, lit by Christmas lights. We joined a small group of cigarette-smoking bearded guys to watch the Heat/Mavs game.

I was desperate to find out how this artistic community chose this area to make their haven. Sure, it’s cheap– but wouldn’t any remote town been just as cheap? In talking to the people in Marfa, it seems most are Austin transplants, but no one could say WHY Marfa. The only attraction there is the Marfa lights– but how did art follow? We drove through Roswell New Mexico and it didnt seem like alien sitings lured anyone funky. So I guess the lights arent the only mystery in the town. And speaking of…

The Marfa Lights
I think I saw them? We stopped at a viewing station they have set up, which is just binoculars and bathrooms. I can’t remember the last time I was somewhere so dark and quiet. I was even a little scared. You could barely see the person next to you.

I did see SOME stuff. I saw some light over the horizon and two shiny things that looked like headlights. The people that stood with us said that wasn’t it, but the woman at our hotel said that if you saw any lights, those were the Marfa lights. Okay! So… I saw the Marfa Lights?

I thought I’d have tons to say about Austin. After all, it’s the city I’ve heard the most about from our travels.

But Austin turned out to be exactly how I imagined. And I mean that in a flattering way. The food is amazing and overwhelming. The city doesn’t just have the very popular food trucks– they have food trailers. (Everything is bigger in Texas?) They are everywhere. And every single person you ask has at least five different recommendations as to where you can get the best BBQ and breakfast tacos. And as a design heavy city, each place had a well-considered brand and it’s own tshirt.

It was HOT and HUMID, so we didn’t do too much. We heard music on sixth street and went dancing in East Austin, but mostly we sat around. Driving for over a week and eating will do that to you.

I was most surprised with how unpretenious I found the city. In the past decade it seems the majority of all things cool in music, food and design originate in Austin and Brooklyn. I enjoy Brooklyn, but have found it scene-y, self conscious and intimidating. I assumed the same for Austin, but it just didn’t have that air. Is it cos it’s in the south?  Cos it’s too hot for people to care? Yet another Texas mystery.

I don’t remember hearing much about Austin in the 1990s. I am also curious as to how the city became what it is. A friend said she’d send me a link to a set of stories NPR did on the city’s growth. I’ll post them here for y’all. (See how I did that!)

Another thing that I found surprising about Austin: most places have fans instead of air conditioning. All the other southern cities I’ve been to blast the air. What’s with that, Austin? Not cool. Literally.


2 thoughts on “The Expected and Unexpected in Texas

  1. You were so close to Janet! She and Bob looooove Fredericksburg, and accordingly, they’ve taken me there a few times. I hope you stopped for an ice cream cone on the main street! Glad to hear you liked the great big state in general. Sometime when I’m visiting, you could too and how much fun would THAT be?! love xoxo

  2. Oooh, I need to visit Texas, especially now that you’ve confirmed Austin as awesome. Plus, I don’t mind the lack of A/C. You know me and my love of heat + humidity!

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