Marathon - Situated alongside the Southern Pacific Railroad in far West Texas rests a grouping of towns that have made a name for themselves as destinations for those seeking respite from a quicker pace. The first is called Marathon, and in Marathon one is afforded the luxury of not having to do anything, because, quite frankly, there isn't anything to do.
We initially sought to take the train into Alpine, which is about 30 miles away, but the departure times from San Antonio (5:45am, Thursday and Saturday only) torpedoed that idea. As the beneficiary of government largesse, I guess it's not all that alarming that Amtrak hasn't taken it upon itself to adopt a more customer-friendly schedule. Probably for the best... I doubt it was the Orient Express.
|Amtrak this is not|
So we hit the interstate - U.S. Hwy 90 - which took us through many-a-speck-on-the-map - D'Hanis, Uvalde, Knippa, all sorts of places you can't pronounce. In Del Rio I had my first ever chilaquiles plate, a mishmash of fried corn tortillas, pulled chicken, serrano and ancho chiles, eggs, refried beans, and crema fresca. Everything a growing boy needs. After Del Rio you're kind of on your own. Nothing but asphalt and ranches.
Now, when I think of West Texas, I think Midland, Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock - arid and, on first pass, listless. The Tall City is where I saw my first tumbleweed. It was the size of a Volkswagen, moving 60mph down the highway. Hell maybe it was a Volkswagen. It's a rugged beauty that only a mother could love, and by "mother' I mean "local". But this far south-west, it really is quite beautiful. Rolling hills and plateaus dot the landscape and make for incredible scenery.
Then, suddenly, Marathon is upon you. To the north, a half-mile of storefronts housing antiques, art galleries, the diner (one), the bar (again, one), and the Gage Hotel, our final destination. To the south, the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Mexico, more or less in that order.
Rain was falling as we entered the historic hotel. Average annual rainfall in Marathon is 11"... more than 20% of which (2.35") fell during our two-day stay. So we resigned ourselves to the parlor just off the lobby, setting up full bar, cheese and cured meats, and music, and began what would ultimately be 12 hours of an intermittent domino game called Mexican Train atop the cowhide card table. The staff were thrilled.
The rain finally subsided around 6p, so we stopped by the French Co. Grocer for provisions (Cheetos, wine, and Topo Chico primarily) before embarking on an an early-evening booze cruise down the nearest gravel road.
The only game in town when it comes to foodstuffs, and
as any thriving monopolist would do, they price accordingly
That evening we enjoyed the chef's tasting menu w/ wine pairing at the Cafe Cenizo; as I write this I'm wishing I had brought my notepad b/c specifics from the meal are fleeting at best... excellent pours. Next time we go back I'll insist on every-man-for-himself, not that it was anything less than terrific, but two weeks later I'm still reeling that I didn't have the Chicken Fried Steak.
Saturday, more of the same. The exact same. And it couldn't have been more relaxing, which is exactly what we were seeking in this desolate outpost. That evening we donned our best duds and went to the town dance, paying $15/couple (no idea what they charged stags) and two-stepping in circles to classic country songs played by five old men who never saw an empty dance floor.