I’d woke earlier than I planned due to a couple of phone calls from the UK. I got up, showered and headed down for breakfast. This looked interesting, it was the first place I’d stayed at which offered bacon available in addition to the usual cereals, everywhere else had been crappy little omelettes and cereal. I piled my plate high with toast and bacon. It was awful; dry, tasteless and crunchy. Feeling very guilty I put it in the bin and helped myself to another French vanilla coffee.
On my way out I passed reception to check out and casually asked if there was anywhere in Alpine I should check out on my flying visit. The receptionist told me I should make an effort to go to the Marfa Lights Viewing Area this evening. I hadn’t come across this while researching my road trip and asked her to explain more. Enthusiastically she told me it was 15 miles West of Alpine and was an unexplained light phenomena in the desert. Red, green and orange lights danced in the desert and no one knows what causes it to this day. I unfortunately had a 4 hour drive to my next hotel and couldn’t stay the night. Kicking myself for not knowing about this ‘attraction’ which would have been right up my street, I set off to visit during the daytime and learn more.
MARFA LIGHTS VIEWING AREA, TEXAS
It was about a 25 minute drive out of Alpine and I stopped along the way to take photos too.
The road climbed through the hill cutting through jagged rocks before finally opening out into desert again. A sign proclaimed we were 1 mile / 5,280ft above sea level as a huge freight train raced alongside me with its errie horn blasting.
The road was straight and went on for miles, then in the middle of nowhere I saw a sign for the lights viewing area. The modern looking building looked out of place amongst the cacti and I noted I was the only car parked up.
A brass plaque explained that the phenomena was first recorded by a young cowboy in 1880 and his descendants had bequeathed a sum of money to build a viewing station which opened in 2001.
It explained that for over a century the lights were still perplexing people and many scientific studies had left without any conclusion proof of the cause. Some put it down down to the refraction of car lights (though I doubted this in 1880!), others swamp gases and some simply ghosts.
I was desperate to stay and try to experience the lights, but it would have made a long drive this evening or a very long drive tomorrow plus a wasted hotel tonight in Junction.
Whilst I was browsing a police car pulled up and I made a bee line to it for a chat. He said the lights were indeed “strange and beautiful” but they occur only a couple of times a month. On average 70 people gathered each night here hoping to witness them so I should arrive early to secure a front row view. However, in his opinion if I had a long drive and hotel booked ahead I should carry on with my plans. He obviously wasn’t working for the local tourist office so I thanked him for his honesty, told him I liked his cowboy hat and got on my way.
I had to drive back through Alpine to get on the interstate to my next destination. The car said it had a 64 mile range in the tank and Google said it was 88 miles until the next petrol station after Alpine so I pulled into a petrol station to fill up.
There was a huge queue at the first one I passed and when it was eventually my turn I’d already waited 20 minutes. Putting the petrol hose into my car I pulled the trigger hard. It made all the right noises but fuel was desperately slow to dispense. In about 5 minutes it had dispensed just $0.23 (about £0.19). Everyone was complaining about it so I went into the shop to ask. She said there reserves were high it was simply a technical fault. She pointed out that there was a rival station next door but 3, so I paid the $0.23 I’d taken so far on my credit card (!) and moved the the next station. It was empty. The owner was lovely and helpful and I bought a French vanilla coffee too (I needed it due to my early wake up calls).
Continuing on my way I passed the first petrol station seeing the same faces still stood at the pumps cursing and shouting. I honked my horn waving as I passed, confident in the knowledge that if anyone gave chase they’d probably run out of fuel before I did!
Just after leaving Alpine, I noticed a traditional Texas oil well by the road, I pulled over and setup my tripod on the roof of my 4×4 to shoot a cinema graph. The rental car had taken a hammering this last fortnight and my footprints could be seen all over the roof. I just hoped the person checking the car back in at the airport was a drawf, otherwise I might have some explaining to do!
The drive to Junction, although stunning, was pretty uneventful and I spent the time planning some business ideas in my head for when I get home.