Alpine. Marfa. Big Bend.
Music. To. My. Ears.
I LOVE this part of west Texas. Sometimes when I’m feeling blue about living so far from some of my closest friends (who are surrounded by lakes, rivers, trees, hills, etc.…jerks), I take a little trip two and a halfish hours southwest, and all is right with the world.
How can you not love this?! This is a shot of Cathedral Mountain, taken about 20 miles outside of Alpine (courtesy of Hugh Macleod over at gapingvoid). Desert beauty, y’all. Soak it in.
OK, moving on. A few weekends ago, Spence and I treated my parents and sister to a weekend in Alpine while the Artwalk was going on. I know. Laugh it up. My dad at an “artwalk.” What’s even better about the whole deal, is that the trip was mainly for him. Spence and I were so overwhelmed by everything he and my mom did for our wedding, we wanted to do something for each of them to show our appreciation. Mom got an iPad mini. Dad got a trip to Alpine. He just really loves art, you guys. JK. He really doesn’t (at least not the kind(s) we encountered on this trip). The grande finale, both nights, was a concert. Night 1: Billy Joe Shaver. Night 2: Ray Wylie Hubbard. Now it all makes sense, right? Dad has wanted to see both of these guys play for several years. When the saster discovered they’d be in Alpine the same weekend, we knew it was exactly what we would do for him. Spence and I booked rooms and told the fam to pack their bags.
The day we left, a winter storm started to hit. So we hightailed it out of town immediately. We were not interested in being stuck in Midland when we had a weekend getaway to Alpine on the books. Nosireebob. I don’t actually have any pics of this because 1) who wants to go outside in an ice storm?! and 2) I just don’t. Sorry.
You know what I do have pics of, though?
Anthony Ray Write Band
Best instrument EVER.
Oh yeah, then there’s this guy. Do you know him? No. Take a closer look.
Mr. Billy Joe Shaver, in the flesh
He is old. He is a little batty. He is still arguably one of the best songwriters who’s ever walked the earth. He is Billy Joe Shaver. And he’s hilarious.
He just stands on stage, singing his clever songs, and manages to throw in some hilarious one-liners while he’s doing it.
Dad ate it up. I wanted to test out the photo-snapping capabilities of Alice’s new iPad mini, so I snuck this pic while Dad was craning to get a better look at BJS. As you can see,
Fun for everyone!
everyone enjoyed the show.
It was a blast to sit and listen to him play and sing.
Saturday began the art portion of the trip. Read: Dad sat in his truck while Alice, Jen, Spencer and me braved the ice to check out some hippie vendors. He said he heard us say at breakfast that we wanted him to drive us around town and show us all his old stomping grounds. To be fair, we did say that. But we also said we would like to check out the artwalk goodies first. He (apparently) did not catch that part, and ended up sitting in some parking lot while the rest of us slid around Main Street (Holland, actually) Alpine checking out the artists. I found some amazing jewelry, and Mom and Jen found a whole boatload of Pendleton blankets. Then, when we left the blankets behind [except for a few 😉 ] and headed toward the truck, we found this dude.
This, my friends, is a bonafide gypsy wagon. We spoke with the owner, who told us it’s a 40s model body (I don’t know proper vehicle terminology…muh bad) with a ’57(ish) motor/engine thingy. Translation: it’s awesome. And I want it. Inside that there door lies the coolest home-on-wheels you’ve ever seen. No, it’s not tricked out with a flat screen, nav system, etc., but it has a wood burning oven, a gas stove and some groovy floral curtains! Check out that interior! I immediately started having visions of weekend getaways to the Big Bend area, TX hill country…anywhere within driving distance that we could park, sleep, explore and be cool in our new g-wagon. Spence, was not quite as enthusiastic. (He actually checked the price tag before dreaming. Such is our relationship!) He eventually talked me out of it and we moved on. This is my mom, my sister and me with some “Santa’s sleigh” contraption that had been rigged up for the parade (which was cancelled. Thanks, ice). It’s kinda funny, but then there’s that super creepy looking dude over my left shoulder. What is that?? I honestly didn’t notice him until just right now. Weird.
We spent the afternoon driving around with Dad, letting him show us a few of the dozens of places he and his buddies wreaked havoc during their glory days. One was the trailer house where he lived (which has been replaced by a newer, not-quite-so-updated trailer house), one was the old arena where they practiced and hosted the SRSU rodeo (also doesn’t exist any longer), another was the graveyard where two of his friends managed to hog tie him and leave him for dead (that actually still exists)…the stories of their shenanigans were every bit as hilarious and irreverent as I always imagined. Dad has never been one to show much (read: any) emotion. But the older we’ve grown, the mushier he’s become. I love it. It’s especially fun on trips like this, because you can actually see the happiness in his eyes and on his face when he thinks back to what are probably some of the most fun memories of his life (post my birth, of course). We drove around looking for “the best Mexican food place in town” (which, surprisingly and disappointingly, isn’t there anymore either), walked through the Museum of the Big Bend, and just enjoyed being together. We were also saving up our energy for that night. It was Ray Wylie time, after all.
These concerts were supposed to be outside on a big lawn, but again, Icetober hit, and everything that could be moved indoors, was. There is randomly an empty hardware building on the main drag in Alpine, called the Foxworth Building. It’s even more awesome on the inside than on the outside. You enter through the door under the “weathered” awning (see what I did there?), and it is literally, exactly what you would imagine when you think about stepping inside an old, empty hardware store. The floors are sawdusty, and they roped off a little cubby hole in the back to sell beer. They threw up a stage right in that front corner. I’m telling you, the artwalk people had to scramble to get everything rearranged after the ice storm hit, and they did a damn good job. I seriously think the concerts were cooler because of the ambiance of this building. It was loud, for sure. But it was awesome. Plus, it was an ideal floor for dancing. And dancing, there was.
Now I have some bad news.
Ray Wylie Hubbard didn’t happen <insert sad wails>. He flew into Midland sometime Saturday, but was stuck there because of dadgum Icetober. (Seriously so thankful we left when we did, or we would have missed ALL of this!) Of course, the organizers didn’t spread that word around until it was time for him to come on stage (this wasn’t their first rodeo). I felt bad for the guys who they asked to play in his place. The emcee got up and made the announcement and we all made that audible, so sad “awwwww.”
Then the emcee was like, “But give it up for these guys who already played yesterday!!”
Sigh. Jen, Spence and me had already seen RWH live last summer, but poor Daddio was pretty bummed. He was a good sport, though, and hung out to humor “the other guys.”
The next day (Sunday) we all woke up and packed to head home. Oh, but wait. It’s still Icetober. We ended being iced in, so we extended our rooms for another night and set out to see what Alpine is like on a Sunday. As you might imagine, it’s pretty dead. Sunday in Icetober equalled us eating lunch at the same Mexican food joint as everyone else in town, stopping at Alco for some essentials (undergarments and board games), then heading to The Holland Hotel. They were open for business (read: full bar, kitchen that makes snacks, heated), so we stopped in and spent the afternoon playing Farkle and cards. It was actually pretty awesome.
The temps started to rise overnight, and by the time we woke up Monday morning, the ice was melted and we could head home (sad face). The trip was such a success. Even though one of our main attractions didn’t pan out, we still got to experience a little taste of Dad’s college life (I’m positive a little taste is all we could handle), eat some amazing food, sit in the most totally awesome gypsy wagon I’ve ever seen, and spend days together as a family. It was the perfect way to thank my sweet daddy for everything he did to make our wedding the most perfect day of my life.
No matter where you live, I encourage you to visit the Big Bend area. Marfa, Alpine, Fort Davis, Terlingua — they all have their own, distinct charm. No matter the personalities in your family, there is something to make everyone happy in this little piece of the world!