Tag: texas

The Bartay Vacation 2014: From Austin to Santa Fe

On Saturday, we left Austin for Amarillo.  That’s a 7+ hour drive across the outer Hill Country and Panhandle of Texas.  Lots of small towns with varied pasts, presents, and futures here:  everything from a nearly gone Wingate, to the booming communities out in the Panhandle around the rush for both wind and oil.  We got to Amarillo late, and found the hotel.

Derelict building, Wingate, Texas

Once we were in Amarillo, it was off to the infamous Big Texan Steak Ranch for steak. We were glad we went over here, it’s very kitsch and after a long day of driving, nothing is more fun than looking at a shooting gallery and a giant Hereford cow statue, all while we waited for our table.

The next morning, we awoke to a fine sunrise, a good time to go visit some interesting spots around Amarillo. First up was Combine City, a neat exhibit out in a field south-east of town.

Gleaner in the sun
Gleaner in the sun
Combine City, Amarillo, Texas
Combine City, Amarillo, Texas

Combine City is a rural display of antiquated combines, stripped of all valuable parts and buried end first. The owner decided it was better to let them serve this purpose than cut them up for scrap.

Combine City has about 12 old worn out combines buried rear first in the ground.  Instead of meeting the scrapper’s torch, they get to live out time stuck in the ground, for others to see.  After this trip, we ran back into town, and got ready to head west.  What’s west of Amarillo?  One of the most famous roadside attractions anywhere, Cadillac Ranch.  It’s everything you’ve already seen, a landscape covered with spray cans and 10 old Caddies covered in paint.

howdyI couldn’t think of anything better than a simple hi.


A commonly ignored TxDOT signTxDOT sign reminding parties that graffiti outside of the bounds of Cadallac Ranch isn’t legal.

After leaving Cadillac Ranch, we headed west on IH-40, what was once Route 66 through some small towns.  At Adrian, we came across the Midpoint Cafe. We were met here by very friendly folks in a cute, quaint diner.  The food was very good as well, trust us: you want to eat the pie.  This is a great bunch, if you’re ever out this direction stop in.

p781443582-6After Midpoint Cafe, we were on a pretty much non-stop trip towards Santa Fe.  The drive across IH-40 into New Mexico was plains, plains, and more plains. It’s so empty, TxDOT didn’t bother building exits or frontage roads for a ranch, they just put a few normal crossings in.  New Mexico offered more of the same, until we turned off IH-40 onto US-84 towards Las Vegas.  Quickly, the road went into the mountains out of the flat desert plains.  Soon enough, we were in Santa Fe for a couple of days…

SXSW 2014

This year’s SXSW was over-shadowed by the deaths of two participants – one local, one from the Netherlands, due to a stolen car running from a police stop down a very crowded (and very closed) street.  A large number of people remain in the hospital.  I was already home, but they remain my thoughts and prayers – no one should come to a town for a good time, and suffer due to the selfish and reckless actions of another.   Update (March 17, 2014 11:00am) – a third person has passed away in hospital from this crash.

My first night (Tuesday) I went to see a friends sister (Alyssa Kelly) play at a coffee shop on South Congress Avenue, and then walked around quite a bit.  Tuesday is probably the least busy night of SXSW – it’s the day where the Interactive portion is officially over, but the Music portion has yet to start.  People are coming and going, sites are transforming from their Interactive (think dot-com) setups to Music (recording labels) setup. On Wednesday night, Music was getting started, and you could notice a definite vibe around downtown.




My final night at SXSW this year was on Friday for a photo walk with some photographer friends, mostly from here in Austin.  Friday and Saturday are the biggest nights – college kids come back from spring break, people take a long weekend, so on – it gets pretty packed.

While a big part of “official” SXSW are big parties where you have to have a badge ($$$$s), a wristband ($$$s) or pay an inflated cover ($$s), my favorite parts are free – the acoustic musicians from all over on the streets, the rappers who show up and perform on the hood of their van until the code enforcement officers shut them down, the magical noises from all over.  While some of us local types complain about it, it really is a magical time in our magical city.





The fun and wonder of SXSW can be seen in Erica’s smile here – it’s a very joyful time for many.

The Austin Steamers

backups to go watch The Austin Steamers play at The White Horse (a self described honky tonk here in Austin).  The banjo player Joe Sundell and I went to the Fulbright School of Public Affairs together in 2000 (the camp even made it into the Christian Science Monitor that year).  Anyway, they play a really enjoyable style of bluegrass.  The guy next to Megan at the bar indicated he just walked in as he was walking home from work and was really pleased.  It’s good tunes, and you should check them out.  Anyway, we took a few pictures in our short time there.  Here are a few of my favorites, and you can find the entire short set here.








Go west, young man. – Horace Greeley

When Mr. Greeley made that statement in 1850 in Hints toward Reforms, I could not imagine he would expect a day when men and women would pile into a Japanese made sedan, drive 80 miles per hour along well maintained roads to a high mountain desert town to enjoy a nice weekend of photography, shopping at unique stores, and art viewing.  No, I don’t think Horace was expecting that one, even with the bold expectations of the Manifest Destiny.


See, Marfa isn’t just a place, it is a unique view into both the death and rebirth of rural America.  Marfa’s a place where cattle still roam the high grasslands and art is made (and found).  Where all the grocery stores are still independent, and the only chains in town are the Dollar General and a couple Stripes fuel stations.  In this corner of the most remote portions of Texas, one finds a small town thriving on beauty.


There is a beauty in desolation.  A beauty in truly dark skies, where the stars are big and bright  One finds this in a town like Marfa, or its sister high desert towns – Alpine, Fort Davis.  These towns are beautiful jewels and markers of a time long gone to many of us, within reach of our cars from our urban existence.  This high desert, where it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter, leaves you ready to never quite ready to return to the world of traffic jams and ‘big’ living in the ‘big’ city.  You never know, you might find that in a small town too.