• Marfa to Odessa-Midland, Texas: From the Unexplained to The Big Greasy

      236 miles - About 6 hours

      After an oddly normal night in Marfa, this route meanders north through the Davis Mountains to an area teeming with historical sites and western lore. Just about every town along this route can claim one or two outlaws as founding citizens. Older historical buildings and town sites merge into places of extraterrestrial artifacts and cutting-edge scientific achievements. The land softens as the route wends east through miles and miles of cotton fields into the oil rich Permian Basin and the land of the 'Big Greasy.'

      Here are just a few of the highlights on this route:

      Marfa, Texas (Starting point)
      Marfa, Texas has a classic town square and in its center is the Presidio County Courthouse. Texas has more examples of odd place names than just about anywhere in the USA, with the possible exception of sections of Kentucky. Marfa's name was probably derived from a fictional character in Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Marfa is also hub for visiting the Big Bend National Park. The Marfa mystery lights are unexplained lights that have been seen in the dark Marfa skies. Some 'directions' to see them....

      Fort Davis (mile 22)
      Fort Davis National Historic Site is located within the Davis Mountains. The site has over 20 historic buildings and over 100 ruins/foundations. This is a pretty incredible location for photography especially in late afternoon. One of the best web resources for exploring Texas is TexasEscapes.com; here is their entry on Fort Davis.

      McDonald Observatory (mile 38)
      McDonald Observatory is a UT-Austin owned facility located is the Davis Mountains at an elevation of approximately 6,700 ft. There is a visitor center and tours to see some of the telescopes. It is home to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, which is the largest optical mirror ever built (11.1 x 9.8 meters).

      Pecos, (mile 127)
      Pecos, Texas is located along the Pecos River on the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. Pecos is in the heart of cantaloupe country and the Pecos welcome sign says it is 'Home of the World's First Rodeo.' Pecos is also the home of West of the Pecos Museum. Pecos started life as a notoriously rough western town, click here for some history and a very good photo walking tour of downtown!

      Monahans Sandhills State Park (mile 174)
      Monahans Sandhills State Park is located six months northeast of Monahans just north of I-20. Some of the sand dunes are 70 feet high and these are the only sand dunes I've seen that have oil wells in the same proximity. The visitor center rents people-sized frisbee-like plastic discs that you can use to slide down the dunes. And keep an eye out for one of the most unusual oak forests in the world - the Harvard Oak trees are only about three feet tall! The Monahans area is considered the 'The Center of the Permian Basin' and it's a large oil and natural gas producing area. It's also home to the The Million Barrel Museum and a railroad museum.

      Odessa Meteor Crater (mile 213)
      Odessa Meteor Crater is located about ten miles southwest of Odessa.

      Odessa-Midland (mile 236)
      Odessa was established in 1881 and named by Ukranian railroad workers who thought the surrounding prairies looked like their homeland. The White-Pool House from 1887 is Odessa's oldest standing structure. There is a Stonehenge replica on the University of Texas-Permian Basin campus and replicas of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and Anne Hathaway's Cottage can be seen on the Odessa College campus. And just to keep everything in perspective, Odessa is also home to the world's tallest jack rabbit, standing just under 10-feet tall. People who live in Midland, Texas are called 'midlanders.' On the Texas and Pacific Railroad, Midland is half way between Fort Worth and El Paso. Midland is the hometown of Laura Bush and the childhood home of George W. Bush. It's also home to two incredible museums, one dedicated to the petroleum industry, and the incomparable collection of aircraft at the Midland Army Air Field Museum at the Midland airport.

      Two rodeo cowboys working a calf
      Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com © Forest Woodward

      Click here for more photos of this route by Gerald Thurman

      Comments 3 Comments
      1. Peter Thody's Avatar
        Peter Thody -
        We were in Marfa earlier this week; just a word of warning if you're planning to visit during the summer: pretty much everything's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (with some businesses managing to survive on just Thursday to Saturday opening).

        The El Paisano Hotel is recommended: it's where the cast stayed when they filmed Giant. We had the relatively modest room James Dean stayed in (he didn't become a major star until after his death).
      1. Mark Sedenquist's Avatar
        Mark Sedenquist -
        So, where are you today? (Peter and Carole are on one of their yearly epic road trips....)
      1. Peter Thody's Avatar
        Peter Thody -
        Hi Mark, currently in Alamogordo, site of White Sands National Monument (breathtaking stuff), home of Holloman AFB (stealth fighters) and, this weekend, location of Otero County Fair and Rodeo. So what are "we" doing as I type? Catching up on laundry in Holiday Inn Express.