While originally I made plans to go to Texas to drive an indy car, I took advantage of my time there to also see some popular tourist highlights in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, then to hop over to the other side of the state to experience the allure of West Texas.
I basically had less than a day to explore Dallas and Fort Worth, with four hours being reserved for the racetrack, so I had to be really selective of where I wanted to go. With construction impeded traffic, getting between the two cities ate up a lot of unexpected time. Since I had not visited Fort Worth before, I made that my first priority. There’s one part of town that contains the historic stockyards, where you can visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, shop for cowboy gear, or if you’re lucky, see one of the twice daily longhorn cattle drives – the “Fort Worth Herd” at 11:30am and 4:00pm. I made it a point to get to the stockyards to make sure I could witness the morning drive! Let me tell you, on an excitement scale of 1 to 10, I may put it up there at maybe a 4, but still how often can you say you saw a cattle drive – even if the herd was only six cows?
After the morning drive, I had to abandon Fort Worth in order to make it to Texas Motor Speedway for my racing time slot, but not before I stopped in to the nearby cupcake shop, La Bella Cupcakes – something I love to do everywhere I go because I’m a cupcake snob. And it was worth it because I sampled an amazing Almond Joy inspired concoction that I’m going to have to replicate soon!
The advantage of arriving early at the racetrack was that I got to drive in the first group, which allowed me to zip out right after I finished and drive into Dallas to visit my targeted point-of-interest before it closed – The Sixth Floor Museum in the Historical West End neighborhood. The museum is housed in the former Texas Book Depository made famous by its deviant employee, Lee Harvey Oswald, who used the building’s vantage point to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in November 1963. ( I feel like I should also put “allegedly” here because I was obsessed with the 1991 Oliver Stone movie “JFK” and became quite the conspiracy theorist when I was a kid.)
|Oswald’s 6th Floor window (green arrow), grassy knoll to the left, motorcade route coming down Elm St. towards the camera with impact around the concrete patching areas.|
The museum presents several chronological displays about Kennedy’s life, his presidency, the events on that fateful day, and his legacy. Curators have also replicated the setup Oswald created on the 6th floor to block the view of his activities from others in the building. You can look out the window on to Elm Street and see exactly where Kennedy’s motorcade traveled, as well as the infamous grassy knoll. Besides The Sixth Floor Museum, the West End has several other interesting sites, but unfortunately I had to get into traffic to head back to the Fort Worth Stockyards in order to make it in time to see the Friday night rodeo at Cowboy Coliseum!!
After this whirlwind day and a good night’s sleep, I headed west for a visit with family near Fort Davis, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Midland/Odessa airport. This was the perfect time of year to visit the small West Texas town because they throw a great party for the Fourth of July! When I arrived, I had unfortunately missed the fireworks and parade, but I was able to meet up with my family for a picnic on the courthouse lawn. Our lunch was interrupted by the staging of a bank robbery reenactment, performed by the local preachers. This was a must-see event! After lunch, we meandered amongst the various tents selling handicrafts, and I actually found a fantastic gift for a friend – I haven’t given it to her yet, so I can’t say what it was except that I think it’s supercute! Later that night, my cousin and I pulled on our cowboy boots and headed to the annual Fourth of July dance, where men with their hat/boot/belt buckle combinations lead the ladies in country two-step, waltz, and swing dances on a sand-covered floor. The music was fantastic, and it was very entertaining to watch some of the amazing dancers. Ah the charm of small town West Texas life!
Fort Davis is one of three towns that form a triangle in the Big Bend of Texas, all about a 20 mile distance from each other. The other notable town of the three that has gained popularity in the past few decades is Marfa, Texas. This town used to be the center of a big cattle ranching area and was the location of a railroad water stop. It also was home to the Marfa Army Airfield, a training ground for WWII pilots. There’s a very cute hotel in the center of town, El Paisano, that hosted three celebrities in 1956 while they were on location to film the cattle ranch based flick, “Giant” – James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson.
Of course, Marfa is now also known by art aficionados for its modern art festival, Ballroom Marfa, and has become the home to a niche community of artists and writers. In the 1970s, Donald Judd founded the modern art movement in Marfa that continues to expand even after his death. An artist famous for his minimalism, Judd bought the land that was once Fort D.A. Russell in order to create a permanent art installation of his work and work of other modern artists, mostly his friends. Judd died in 1994 and the facility is now operated by the Chinati Foundation. When you enter into the complex, you can see many random hollow concrete blocks sitting out in the field that may lead you to think they are leftover from the military base, but they are actually one of Judd’s permanent works. What he is most famous for, however, are his 100 milled aluminum boxes housed in two buildings that were once used for ammunition storage. Judd gutted the buildings of everything but the walls – no electricity or A/C – and replaced the garage doors with large windows in order to present his pieces in the natural light that creates desired optical illusions and effects. Each box measures 41 x 51 x 72 inches and has a unique interior configuration.
|Some of the 100 boxes|
I am totally willing to confess that I do not like nor understand minimalist art. Some of the optical illusions were interesting, but that was maybe on only a handful of boxes, and I appreciated it more from a scientific, not artistic, perspective. If you were to ask me what kind of minimalism I appreciated on this trip, it’s more like these amazing photos of the big spans of West Texas land and sky!