West Texas and the Infamous Marfa Lights

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

The few days rest in Austin prepared me for the rough dessert in the west of the big state. I spent the following three days riding for hours straight with only the burning sun above as my companion in the lonely Texan west. As the burning hot asphalt passed in the mirror, the hills slowly turned into endlessly flat desert, the trees into scattered bushes, and the green grass into dust and dirt.

Knowing that for the next few days my only sleeping options would be in the tent, I set out following no particular route, simply heading west. It was all the same barren albeit beautiful wasteland, with nothing in the horizon except the mirage of the hot earth torched by the brutal sun that would not cease to torture me from above, like some cruel shop master overlooking his enslaved aptenice. There was no escaping it’s unchallenged power of the might ball of fire in the sky - a lesson I would painfully relearn again 5 years later floating in a canoe up along the river in the Amazon basin.

The first town I ended up in was San Angelo. Nothing particular makes San Angelo too interesting except that the huge blue stain on my map that once truthfully represented a lake now represents nothing more than a cracked lake bed, as dry as it had been since a couple of months that have not seen a drop of rain. What a moral gut shot, to be let down so ruthlessly, to be tricked!

Water is life, and on a motorcycle trip water is the main determinant of where I pitch my tent. From washing up your self and your dishes, to taking a dip in the morning or at the end of a hard day - my main suggestion is always camp near a clean water source.

The next day I continued west to an famous little town called Marfa. This was recommended to me by a couple I met at a Florida gas station. Marfa is the site of still unexplained lights that have confused and intrigued observers for over a century. According to wikipedia, “Some explanations are that they are caused by atmospheric conditions, swamp gasses, car lights and even ghosts of native Indians and conquistadors still searching for gold; but the most accepted explanation is that they are simply caused by alien activity”.

They appear quite often, at night in the distance, and they seem to alter their color and direction in a perplexing and inexplicable manner. The town even constructed a viewing post with binoculars and all, and it was on the top of that building that I planned to spend the night. I came around 7PM, scoped out the area to see if the building was climbable and to see where I could hide the bike, and then I went to the city park to eat with the plan of returning at dusk and setting up before anyone else showed up to the viewing post. I returned too late however and my plan to spend the night on the roof unnoticed was foiled. I quietly waited for the others to leave but by the time they did, it was already close to 2AM. It seems these lights attract people like flies. Today there is also a curious, if not out of place, luxury brand Prada storefront - an art instalation that also attracts many visitors to this corner of the lone star state.

When I was finally all alone, as if from a bad X-files episode, the clear night turned black and an eerie wind began to blow. Thunder flashed in the distance and all I could think of is how the weather report said nothing but clear skies and how suddenly everything felt so strange. The temperature dropped significantly, and now, for the first time during the trip, I found myself truly struggling under the weight of the black, cold, windy night, with nothing but the lonely desert in every direction and the infamous Marfa lights in the distance.

As for the lights; most are cars, I am certain. But a few of that night, I must admit, were very curious indeed. So definitely make it a point to visit Marfa - the sole city park has toilets & water - the look out station didn't have water at that time.

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