Big River

This breathtaking West Texas road trip wins over out-of-town skeptics

This breathtaking West Texas road trip wins over out-of-town skeptics

Bullock Texas State History Museum presents H-E-B Free First Sunday: Journey Into Big Bend
Closed Canyon is open for hiking. Photo by Sarah Wilson

Editor's note: Dallas resident Stacy Breen is an intrepid explorer of local culture with an instinct for making nifty discoveries. She's contributing a weekly column on her cool finds.

I wanted to go on a road trip. I had a 3- to 4-day window right before Thanksgiving where my family was going to be out of town, and a friend from Brooklyn was coming to visit. Marfa was the official destination, but this was about taking a road trip, and about showing my friend the beauty of Texas.

Like a lot of people outside Texas, he had this impression that Texas is all a red state. But I promised him that Texas is more than what you read about and convinced him to come down.

Marfa
Marfa has been dubbed a Brooklyn favorite. It has the art and shops and food. But with its remoteness and captive audience, your options are limited. It's almost like going camping. The restaurant situation is unreliable; some places close on a whim. It can be a two-hour wait to get a pizza, even if you want it to-go. A lot of people end up eating at the Dairy Queen.

We went to see the famous Prada Marfa exhibit, almost 30 miles outside of Marfa. This was a little doomed. We went in the afternoon, but it turns out that it's better to visit in the morning, because of the way the sun hits it.

And then as soon as we exited the parking lot, I realized I had a flat tire. In the middle of nowhere.

I called Subaru roadside and they sent a truck out to get us. It took more than two hours; by then, it was dark. We tried to make the best of it. We got some photos of a train going by. I found a tumbleweed. I still have it; I brought it home with me.

The tow truck came all way from Rapid Road Service in Van Horn to get us. Luckily, they had a tire that fit my car. The whole theme of this trip was driving, and it would have been stressful to do it on a spare tire. They saved the trip.

FM-170
Our goal was to drive FM-170, which follows the border between Mexico and the United States. Gas stations are few and far between. You're driving through mountains with views of the Rio Grande. There's elevation changes, mountains, all these beautiful views all the time, and Mexico on the other side.

We did two hikes: the Hoodoo Trailhead, named for the large rock formations called hoodoos, and Closed Canyon, a canyon that literally closes off until it's only water and you can't get through. We went right down to the Rio Grande River and tried to imagine how they could erect a wall. It's amazing that you can walk across the river and be in another country.

On our way back, we stopped at Hotel Settles, a historic Art Deco hotel in downtown Big Spring that reopened after undergoing a beautiful renovation. It's a good halfway point between Marfa and DFW, but it also had some neat historical items. We treated it like a museum stop.

When we got back, we stopped at Spiral Diner in Fort Worth, and then I took him to DFW Airport in time for his flight. He's done a lot of road trips and he said that Highway 170 was one of the best he's seen in the United States.