• brandenfugate

Road Notes: Day 130

Out by 10am. That’s what I was told. I woke up at 7:30 to start packing. This wouldn’t have been terrible, except that our neighbors have a favorite song and that song is “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey which they played 5 times back to back and I didn’t have the energy to put up a fight. We are packed and ready to go by 10. But some of our neighbors haven’t even begun to stir. What’s the rush. We decide to go for one more awkward public shower before hitting the road. Then, we are off. We have a general direction in mind. No plans. No place to stay. But all of that can be discussed on the road. After all, we have about seven hours of driving ahead of us.

Leaving, I can’t help but think about how Branden and I almost moved to Austin. The beginning of our relationship was really a whirlwind. We started dating really quickly, and I moved in with him about two months after that. We were both in Ohio at the time, and we knew we didn’t want to stay there for long. I wanted to move to LA, but Branden had already spent a few years there. We had pretty much decided on giving Austin a try, without ever having visited. Then I got a call from a friend who had a room open up in her LA condo. We decided it was too good of an opportunity and went to LA instead. The entire time we have been here, I've been considering what it would have been like if we came to Austin instead. I have to admit that I didn’t initially fall for this city as hard as I thought I would. I’m sure we would have been perfectly happy in Austin, and maybe in the future it would be a cool place to stay put for a while. In some ways, Austin actually does remind me of LA. Driving through the hills near our campsite truly feels like the winding roads of Mulholland Drive. Great shopping. The impossible task of finding parking downtown. At the risk of making this sound like a diss on Austin, being here has made me appreciate the experience we had in LA at the time we had it.

Driving through Texas is breathtaking. More than any other landscape, the desert just seems stuck in time. We passed through ‘Texas wine country,’ which I just thought was probably some cute novel description but seems to be sprawling and legit. We stop in Fredricksburg for lunch. The sign to the town said “Willkommen” and we said wtf. This is an historically German town in the middle of Texas. Every restaurant served spaetzle, schnitzel, and sausage. Yes please. After a quick frolic for me to pick some wildflowers (because I am a nerd and like to press flowers), we get back on the road.

We drove. And drove. And drove. For about 7 hours.

It was dark when we arrived in Marfa, close to midnight. Fortunately for us, overnight parking is allowed at all Texas rest stops and picnic areas. The Marfa Lights viewing station qualifies. Free camping. Ye$.

We parked and headed over to see if we could see these mystery lights. Never heard of them? Here is the story:

​On clear nights, you can see strange orbs on the horizon near the Chinati Mountains. The lights are different colors. They disappear, reappear, and bounce around. Sometimes they move all in the same direction, sometimes in different directions. The earliest report was from 1883 from a cowboy who thought they were Apache campfires. The Apache thought the lights were falling stars. Today, there are many theories: UFOs, headlights on a distant road, military testing, electrostatic discharge, etc. One thing is certain…it is still a mystery. Those that have tried to locate the lights experience an unusual phenomenon. The lights that can be seen from a distance cannot be seen up close. The signs at the viewing station said something about “atmospheric conditions produced by the interaction of cold and warm layers of air bend light so that it can be seen from afar, but not up close.”

It was cold. Branden went to the camper to make us a Hot Toddy of sorts to warm us up (Four Roses, PX Sherry, China China, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon). Our viewing neighbors said that they had been at the viewing station many times, and this was one of the most active nights they had witnessed. We are skeptics. Deep skeptics. But this was...weird. My first inclination was to say that they were merely headlights. But these didn’t behave like headlights. At all. I’m sure there is a scientific explanation, but that doesn’t make the viewing experience any less magical.

Road Notes are timed entries—written in thirty minutes or less at the end of each day. Considerations are made for spelling/legibility but not for grammar. Deal with it.

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