PHOTO GALLERY INDEX > KOAwsome!
Las Cruces, NM 11/16-20/08 (Day 765-769)
Since moving into our 23’ Airstream Safari SE full time in June we’ve spent almost 30 nights in KOAs across the country where we can always count on a convenient hookup, fair to great facilities, an internet connection (some weaker than others, it must be said) and sometimes even free pancakes.
It’s dark by the time we pull into the Las Cruces, NM KOA so we don’t see much of the place until we head to the showers which are spotlessly clean, have shower curtains that are actually long enough to keep the water from escaping and flooding the floor and even provide perfectly dry and perfectly clean rag-weave bathmats to stand on as you dry off and dress.
The next morning, the light of day reveals even more reasons why the Las Cruces KOA won both the KOA President’s Award and the KOA Founder’s Award in 2008 including a free vehicle and RV/trailer wash station, meticulous site maintenance and super-friendly staff that will even bake and deliver a pizza to your site for a very reasonable fee.
Then we see site #12. Located on a huge corner parcel on the edge of the campground, site #12 has an unobstructed view of the Organ Mountains plus a private gazebo with a table and chairs and your own personal gas grill.
We’re sold, even though the site is $12 more than the standard site we originally reserved, so we move into our new mansion of a campsite which literally has room for at least three of our Airstreams. We’re just getting settled in and deciding what to grill for dinner when a 32’ vintage Airstream bus pulls into a nearby site.
Out jumps Michael and Judy and their adorable dog Rose and before long we’re all enjoying cold beverages in our gazebo. Michael and Judy have been full-timing in their Airstream, which they’ve lovingly named Bess, for a long time and we really relate to their attitude toward life on the road. Namely, don’t make too much of a schedule—it’s just going to change anyway, don’t let the idiots get to you and never, ever make plans with other people if you can avoid it.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to snag the best site in the campground. We suspect that as soon as we leave site #12 Michael and Judy will move in!
From Las Cruces we head for Van Horn, TX but first we make a mandatory pit stop at the Lucchese cowboy boot outlet in El Paso, TX where Eric tries on about a gazillion different styles of boots. The place is packed to the rafters with hundreds of styles from subdued classics to flamboyant colors and fancy skins. Eric finally settles on a deliciously soft, dark -caramel-colored handmade pair that fit him perfectly—and at a fraction of the cost of regularly priced Lucchese creations.
We’re not big shoppers, but we’re sure these are boots that will prove their worth for years to come just like the boots Karen bought at the Alberta Boot Company in Calgary, Canada almost two years ago, which have become treasured (if slightly scuffed) possessions. Besides, you just can’t travel around Texas wearing sneakers!
After a night in the Van Horn, TX KOA, where the night staff actually stayed late in order to greet us when we checked in, we begin making our way toward Big Bend National Park. Our route takes us directly through Marfa, TX a quirker of a town that’s become a magnet for artists, nature lovers and general urban refugees and harmless misfits from all over.
Like so many roads in Texas, the route from Van Horn to Marfa is two lanes of pretty much straight flat pavement with a speed limit of 75 mph, which means we cover the 75 miles between Van Horn and Marfa in no time flat—even with a stop at Prada Marfa, an art installation by German artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset which opened in 2005 which consists of a petite replica of a Prada store (complete with actual Prada handbags and shoes on shelves inside) plunked down in the middle of nowhere.
The doors don't open and it's made of adobe which is meant to disintegrate over time and we don't exactly know why, but the place makes us smile.
The minute we hit Marfa we can see the cool. There’s the Thunderbird Hotel (owned by the same folks who run the desert-chic Hotel San Jose in Austin, TX, they’ll let you borrow an actual vintage turntable so you can play something from their vinyl library right in your room). There’s the Pizza Foundation which earns rave reviews from hippies and hipsters alike. And there’s Maiya’s and the fairly new and much-hyped Cochineal (opened by two former New York City restaurateurs who used to run Etats-Unis on Manhattan's Upper East Side) where even big-city diners marvel at their meal—and their celebrity co-diners.
To fill in the gaps between meals and star-sightings there are tempting book stores and hardcore coffee shops and cheeky, well-stocked second hand stores. Not to mention the thing that transformed Marfa from an obscure, half-dead dustbowl cattle town to the Brooklyn of Texas in the first place: Art.
New York City minimalist Donald Judd (though the vitriolic Judd reportedly preferred the term "empiricist") came to Marfa in the early ‘70s and soon began taking over massive buildings on an abandoned military base and other properties in and around town and turning them into galleries for his work. He eventually formed the Judd Foundation and opened the Chinati Foundation (named after Marfa’s neighboring mountain range) in 1976 and the influx of art-tourists his installations eventually attracted has been largely credited not just with Marfa’s survival but with its current boom.
Besides copious quantities of cool, the other thing we notice about Marfa is an amazing number of Airstreams. We count six without even trying on just one quick pass through town. Clearly art attracts art….
** This isn't a normal photo gallery with a slideshow because this post originally appeared on our Airstream blog. **