Misadventures of Spring Break 2019
March 10, 2019
Spring Break 2019 a friend and I planned to ride the River Road Ramble Route at Big Bend National Park. We read everything on the site and made our plans. Since it involves backcountry permits (on a first come) basis, there was no way to reserve anything. We just had to show up and hope for the best.
The day came and we loaded up our bikes and gear and started the 6 hour drive. After reaching the park we saw there was a very long (like take a number long) line. I was still thinking we had a good chance though considering we were not planing on staying at any typical -on the map- campsites. After waiting for around an hour, our number was up. We spoke with the ranger, laid out our plans, and was politely told it wasn't happening. Not only were they simply full, but our route plan was not within their park regulations. If you are ever planning on riding this exact route, drop me a line and I'll be happy to share the details of what held us up to hopefully prevent you from the same fate. Anyway, plans squashed, hoped dashed, 6 hours from home, what can we do?
We drove out of the park North towards Alpine. As we approached town, and cell service, mu c-pilot began calling hotels, motels, air-bnb's, and whatever else we could find on the google-net. No luck - Spring Break simply fills this entire region. No vacancy anywhere. We could ultimately just keep driving and head home but we weren't ready to call it quits yet.
We drove West towards Marfa while still calling from the passenger seat in hopes of a lucky break. He found a place called "El-Cosmico" that said they still had tent camping spots available. He briefly described what he was seeing on his phone which included tepees, vintage RV's painted in odd colors, and a few yurts.... that's right, you heard me.
He flipped his phone around a few times and from the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a hot pink camper. Even though my mind was saying "this place is all kinds of shady" we were in no position to be selective and we were both kind of in an "anything goes, it's Spring Break" mood anyways. So... on to Marfa.
We parked in a large gravel lot with various types of vehicles including several 70's VW buses and a couple camp trailers in various stages of repair and integrity. All the tents were in the lawn area on the parking lot side and it looked like there were close to a hundred other tent campers trying to set up camp in the pointed beams of headlamps. We entered the office area and checked in. I was actually a little surprised at the place. I had set myself up for a questionable encounter but instead walked into a quaint gift shop with craft beer in the cooler and very friendly staff.
After setting up out tent near the outdoor public showers, we quickly made conversation with a couple camping next to us. After sleeping accommodations were prepped for later, we were invited to come hang with our new friends. We took them up on the offer and ended up chatting (some shared beverages may have been involved) into the early hours of the morning.
Most of the campers cleared out the next morning, heading off towards the rest of their spring break plans. We didn't have any so we decided that for the low nightly rate for a tent site, we would just go pay for a second night and go explore Marfa. We unloaded the gear from the bikes and rode to town.
We spent the day at a slow (anything goes) pace that is too often dismissed in daily adult lives. We had zero plans and even less expectations. Eating at a couple local spots with interesting vegan options, shopped a few local stores, even had an hour conversation with a communist art dealer. We stocked up on evening supplies at the local grocer and rode back to El-Cosmico.
That night we were pleasantly surprised by a couple bands that were actually very good. We hung out near the stage area and communal fire-pit and just enjoyed the moment. We did leave the next day for home.
Even though it was totally un-planned, it was incredibly refreshing to spend a weekend doing whatever sounded good at the moment. We ended up going back to Marfa a few weeks later with others.
A couple thoughts... 1 - Don't dismiss the idea of foregoing the scheduled activities for a chance to go with the flow. 2 - Marfa, and El-Cosmico, are both places you should visit. Not even just passing through, make it your destination for a pleasant, artistic, free, and completely refreshing weekend. Book a yurt, tepee, or just bring your own tent but mark it on your calendar.