Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Great Adventure.

Once upon a time, a hard working nurse decided she wanted to leave town. Those lazy summer days were begging her to leave responsibility behind. Each night, when she would sit on her balcony, she would feel the breeze reassure her that the Texas heat wasn't all that bad, and reminded her to enjoy the season and all that it brings. Finally, the girl cashed in a few vacation days, and asked her beau to rearrange his work and school schedules as well. 

The boy and girl were not sure where they were going or where they were staying, but they knew they would be hitting the road together. On Thursday, the car was loaded up. At the same time, the couple turned off their phones and chucked them in the backseat. The girl got goosebumps, feeling her man's uninterrupted attention. No GPS. Just a map. And the two headed west. 

The couple thought they'd head to Lubbock and stay at the girl's sister's apartment for the night. Her sister wasn't even going to be there, so a free crash pad sounded like a great plan. After the girl had been driving for about 45 minutes, the boy checked the map and informed the girl that they had been going the wrong way. They laughed. It didn't matter. They turned around, and kept going.

The boy decided he'd drive. He was better with directions. The girl was glad, because she got to kick her feet out the window and take pictures with her fancy camera. But she promised she didn't go the wrong way on purpose.

The first place the couple got out to stretch their legs was at Runaway Bay. The girl shrieked with excitement. She felt like she was running away in the first place, so she insisted they pull over. The boy happily obliged. 

After frolicking around for a few minutes, the two jumped back in the car. The girl pulled out the map and told the boy information he already knew. They continued west for hours. Eventually, they switched drivers, and the girl pulled the car into a college apartment complex in the wee hours of the morning. The lovebirds crashed instantly, woke up early the next morning, and hit up the Pancake House in Lubbock, TX. Sweet potato pancakes sounded good that day.

After breakfast, the two decided they would go to Ruidoso, New Mexico. It wasn't much further, and they could stay at the family cabin. Ruidoso would bring cool mountain air, and the couple decided that sounded nice. 

Along the way, the couple made random stops anytime they wanted. They met an owner of a thrift store called "Cool Junk" who was quite a character. He responded to the name "Johnny Baby," and asked the couple to send him a postcard after their adventure. They stopped in Roswell, home of the aliens, and were not overly impressed, so quickly carried onward. Before their arrival at the family cabin, they stopped for dinner at a place called "The Magic Forest." Their waitress was incredibly quirky, and the entire meal felt like a dream. The two ate, then loaded back up in the car. They were very close to the cabin at this point. The girl asked the boy if she needed to turn her phone back on to ask for specific directions. The boy said he thought he could get there without them. He was right. He drove right to it.

 The boy and girl felt instantly welcomed by the boy's aunt and uncle. The boy and his uncle sat out on the porch and played guitar for hours. The girl sang along. The cool mountain breeze gently swayed the couple on the porch swing. When the girl got tired, she walked into the cabin and closed her eyes. She fell asleep listening to sweet tunes played by sweet people.

The next morning, the couple decided to go to White Sands. It was about an hour and a half away from Ruidoso. Along the way, they took a wrong turn, and had to drive back through a border patrol station. The girl was nervous. The boy reassured her, she had nothing to be nervous about, they were both legal citizens! After driving through, they made it to White Sands at last. The boy was right, and the girl was silly. When the two had driven deep into the dunes, they pulled over the car, and got out. There was silence. All they could hear was the wind hitting the dunes and stirring up the sand. The girl chuckled, thinking about Napoleon Dynamite and his grandmother's broken coccyx. The laughter quickly subsided after the girl began to look around. After completing a 360, she realized there was nothing but blue and white for as far as the eye could see. She was alone in a desert, and all she had was her best friend. She felt a mix of emotions ranging from freedom to fear, and sudden thirst, but mainly felt romance and her man's gaze upon her. The two ran and played in the sand. The boy cut the legs off his pants; it was hot, and his jeans had holes anyway. His jeans quickly became jorts.

The boy asked the girl to jump for a picture. The wind blew up her beautiful sun hat, and carried it deep into a dune. The girl chased for the hat, but there was a steep drop off, and the girl could no longer see where the hat went. The dunes had wanted it, and she let them have it. They thought they'd find a replacement at one of the many thrift stores they would visit. The two left White Sands and drove around New Mexico some more.
The couple drove around endlessly looking for beer. It was a hot afternoon, and they wanted happy hour. Nobody was serving alcohol! After going inside several different establishments, they finally found a place that would serve a cold Dos Equis with lime. After the drink, they drove around around aimlessly and found a great thrift store. The Classy Cat. The name alone drew them in. The boy found a great shirt, something about a Women's Quilting Terrorist Group, and the girl was out of luck finding a replacement hat. She did, however, enjoy petting the kitties.

The couple returned to the family cabins and got ready for dinner. They wanted to treat their aunt and uncle for so generously letting them stay in the beautiful cabin. They went to an Italian restaurant on the mountain. The four enjoyed the wine, food, and conversation. They discussed deep and relevant topics, and the girl felt richer after leaving the table.

They went back to the cabins, and the girl collapsed on the bed. The windows were open, blowing cool mountain air across her face. The air carried with it a light scent of pine and the calming sound of guitar strings being plucked on the patio. When the boy came into the cabin, the girl told him, "I think this is the definition of heaven. There is not a single thing I would add, or a single thing I could take away. My heart feels so content. This has to be heaven." She meant every word.

The next morning, the group of four went to breakfast. The aunt and uncle knew the chef and his wife, and they weren't lying when they said the food was amazing! Green chili huevos rancheros satisfied every tastebud in the girl's mouth. When she was writing about the adventure, a week later, her mouth even began salivating again...

After breakfast, the couple hugged the aunt and uncle, and loaded in the car again. They were going to head back to Texas, but take a long way home. The girl had wanted to see Marfa, TX, for various reasons, and they all popped up at different times, so she felt she was destined to go. Her mother, a teacher, had taught her class about enigmas. The most recognized enigma in the state of Texas was the Marfa Lights. Since the 1800s, these unknown, "Mystery Lights," would appear, float, flicker, dance, and change colors. People saw them differently, and had different theories as to what they were-ranging from "glowing jackrabbits," to UFOs, to Apache ghosts. Of course, the skeptics believed they were car headlights, but that reason did not explain the change in color, or why they were first spotted in the 1800s.

The couple had also covered a song in the boy's music studio called "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes for their sixth year anniversary gift to one another. The girl was slightly obsessed with this song, and when she discovered the music video was a series of film from the band's first tour (Railroad Revival Tour) in Marfa, TX (Population 2121), she knew she had to see it for herself!

Photo Courtesy: http://www.myspace.com/edwardsharpe/blog/394365531
Alexander (the lead singer of the band) had blogged about the band's adventures, and the girl felt inspired to see this mysterious, small town on the border of TX and Mexico. Seeing the lights would not be a guarantee, but she hoped she would encounter them.

The aunt and uncle had told the couple about a long way to get to Marfa that included a scenic drive through Lincoln National Forest. The couple was glad they took the long way. The views were unbelievable. They stopped and spread out a quilt, taking in the sights. The girl got frustrated with the boy for insulting one of her photo ideas. This was their first disagreement on the trip. Both the boy and the girl were surprised how quickly it subsided. They got back in the car, continued driving, and were back to being giddy.

Along the way, the couple saw a stop for a petting zoo and refreshments. They spontaneously (such was the theme of the trip) pulled over and enjoyed loving on some animals and eating childhood ice cream favorites.

They also found an old drive-in movie theater. Perhaps the best part of the trip was the lack of urgency, and the ability to stop at any and all interesting exits.
Another bizarre exit included a pistachio farm housing the "World's Largest Pistachio." This was humorous seeing as how the pistachio was a plastic mold of a pistachio, and one could easily make a larger one. But until then, they figured they ought to get a picture with a historic monument. The girl had always dreamed of standing next to the world's largest plastic nut.

At last, the little red car crossed over the state border and back into their home state of Texas. They were getting closer to Marfa, and thankfully, the sun was beginning to set. The girl was filled with anticipation, hoping tonight the lights would come out to play.

Once they crossed into Marfa, they realized there were absolutely no cars on this endless highway, except for Border Patrol. After turning off onto an exit in hopes to view the lights, and coming back onto the highway, the little red car was quickly pulled over. The girl was nervous again. The boy reminded her she was a legal citizen, and not to worry. The authorities were actually quite friendly, checked the trunk, and let them continue on. The girl wished she had gotten her picture with them. As they drove closer to the observatory deck, the couple saw how heavily this area was patrolled by border patrol. The town of Marfa is so small, there is not a local police department (only the county and state troopers), but border patrol explained this area is a huge area of traffic for immigrants. The girl felt mixed with emotions. Initially she had fear, because she realized if there weren't a severe problem, there wouldn't be this many trucks driving by scouting the area. Then, as she gazed into the abyss of desert and Chihuahuan mountains, she felt sympathy for the people of Mexico. While she felt they ought to follow the rules and come to this country legally, she felt heart pangs imagining how hard life must be if a mother or father is willing to risk their family's lives just to come to this country. She wondered how many people were making the journey on that very night. She wondered if she stared long enough, if she would see movement that perhaps border patrol wouldn't see. In the midst of looking toward the desert, rather than seeing immigrants, she saw the reason they came.

She saw the lights.

She sounded like a girl that had seen Santa Claus for the first time. The couple quickly approached the viewing deck and the boy had a chane to gaze at the lights rather than the road. They saw the same lights at the same time, but saw them differently. The girl saw blue and teal mainly, while the boy saw mainly shades of red. They both saw gold, and they both saw similar movements of up and down, forward and back, flicker and fade. It was to date, the most mysterious and mind boggling event the girl had ever seen, and she was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Near the observatory was a little shack with blinking lights called "El Cosmico." The boy and girl pulled over in sheer curiosity. There were tents and tipis. The main entrance was closed, as it was about 1:00 in the morning, and the girl was slightly scared to stay in a tipi close to Mexico without speaking to the owner. In hindsight, she kind of wishes that she had.

The couple drove onward, and stayed the night in a regular hotel in a neighboring town called Alpine, TX. The couple felt safe and comfortable.

But the next morning, they wanted to go back to Marfa. They wanted to see what El Cosmico was...and wanted to see what the town of Marfa was like in the daytime. They backtracked about 30 miles, then went onward back Home.

On the way home, they saw a rattlesnake farm, multiple thrift stores with hilarious finds, the 6th largest meteorite crater in the world, Balmorhea State Park (home of San Solomon natural springs), and witnessed a wildfire with an ironic billboard in the foreground. When they finally got home, a band was recording in the studio. They had stepped out for a break and asked how the trip was. The girl wanted to gush every little detail, but felt it was still a sacred, secret little adventure. She didn't want to try to explain the trip and leave out an important detail, or describe it in a way that didn't do it justice. She realized she will never be able to include all the details, or describe just how beautiful and mystifying the Marfa Lights were...she will never be able to accurately describe the peace that overwhelmed her heart while listening to her favorite person play guitar under the mountain stars. She won't be able to describe the feeling of liberation and personal freedom when she disconnected from reality and hit the road. But she was going to try. In writing about the trip, and sharing photos from along the way, she had the opportunity to re-live the adventure, and until a magic time machine is invented, that's all she has.

Safe travels to all of you in your summer vacations. My hope is you don't let money hold you back from enjoying yourself. This trip was very inexpensive, and has made a permanent imprint on my heart that I will carry with me forever!


  1. A girl read a beautiful, truthful, inspiring story and found herself wiping tears from her cheeks. Maybe it was because she'd felt emotional all week or maybe it was because she felt this unexplainable connection to the heart of the author. She was overwhelmed by the author's spirit and had no choice but to tell her...she loves you. :)

  2. Aww Rach. Love. And thank you. :)

  3. I love this. It inspired me to take a similar trip with my husband and SOON. He'd love it if I turned off my phone for a few days!