Marfa (pop. 1,747) is located in Presidio county which occupies a good chunk of the Mexico border and lies west of of Big Bend National Park, home to the Chisos Mountains and a beautiful stretch of the Rio Grande. We got the chance to explore this region for a week in the piping hot month of… April.
An old fashioned marquee sign announcing our kitschy RV Park, The Tumble In, hung proudly over the dusty desert lot, with nothing but a hollowed out travel trailer there to greet us. The drive was long and hot to Marfa and we were still battling to keep our exhaustion from SXSW at bay, when suddenly the check engine light flashed on with unbridled abruptness–a sure sign it was time for a drink.
Our luck seemed to turn as we ventured into Planet Marfa, an outdoor beer garden that only deigns to open it’s doors on the weekends, for which on this Saturday we were grateful. We would learn more about the town’s adversity to common business hours as the week progressed.
After ordering some beers, nachos and a hot dog, we took in our surroundings and got to know our fellow patrons – maybe a dozen or so spread about. One gentleman who could have either been a hipster or the town mechanic assured us that as long as the RV had oil and coolant, we shouldn’t worry one bit about the check engine light. We heeded the advice. Soon after, an older woman with a yappy little lap dog, a heavy tan, and giant rose-colored sunglasses asked us if the hotdog was good and if we would recommend it. Jonathan gave his expert foodie opinion – “Yes!”
The decor of Planet Marfa was part tiki bar, part pueblo, part brooklyn dive. It had lots of outdoor seating with little nooks and crannies to escape to, 50’s era tin signs, and an old school bus converted into a lounge (another recurring theme).
Marfa is famous primarily for two things – one is a picture of Beyonce in front of what looks to be a PRADA store in the middle of the desert (which is actually an art installation), and the other is its status in the art world thanks to Donald Judd.
In the 70’s Judd, well known for his minimalist style, essentially set up shop in Marfa after purchasing a 60,000 acre ranch nearby to escape the hustle and bustle of New York. Marfa is now home to many art installations, museums, and arts centers mostly focused around minimalism including Ballroom Marfa and the Chinati Foundation which Judd was instrumental in founding. The infamous Prada store situated on a lone desert highway in the middle of nowhere Texas is an homage to Judd’s art installations and overall aesthetic. And no, you can’t actually shop there.
We admittedly aren’t the biggest connoisseurs of art, particularly minimalism, so while in town we focused on what we do best – eat, drink, and shop!
Continue on to Part 2 of the Marfa series: “No pizza for you!”