In Which We Smoked Marfa Lights

A trip, guns blazing, out West

When good buddy Matt Sonzala asked if I wanted to drive a Mini Cooper out to Marfa for a few days and stay in a trailer in the desert, it took about three seconds to say FUCK YES HAND ME MY TRAVELING SCARF.

It was part of a promotional deal for Mini Cooper's new Countryman model, but that was all I knew. A handful of relative strangers would drive to the desert in German cars, hang out, and be filmed. After reading the waiver I wondered if we were actually going to be hunted by a billionaire cattle rancher. Or turned into a human centipede.

So off we went. Our Austin crew had heard about the wildfires, but had no idea how bad they were until we got to Fort Davis on Sunday. Then we got a nice, warm greeting. The fires looked apocalyptic but I was sort of awestruck. The billows of smoke were layered, like a painting: red, gray, pink, white. Some of them were soft, tall plumes, others what I'll refer to as a "firenado." (See photo gallery.)

Some people said it was a house fire that started it, others a rogue cigarette. Even miles away, I could feel the heat on my face. We often forget how powerful nature is, right there under our feet. Later that night we listened to Marfa Public Radio for updates. "We have breaking news," came a calm, deep radio voice. "There are loose cattle on the road."

Creeping wildfires and frightened cows aside, we had a grand old time rambling through Shafter, a prickly ghost town with a graveyard more than 100 years old, having a brush with Border Patrol, and camping under the stars. Shout out to Padre's for one of the best margaritas I've had in a while.

And shout outs to Mini, Sonzala, and travelmates Sun-Jue, local rapper Kydd (check his rhymes), Stephanie and Alie (check their store), and Aaron and Rachel of Knuckle Rumbler (check their parties). And yes, I did drunkenly suggest we request "Humpty Dance" from Marfa Public Radio Monday night, but I was just trying to keep spirits up. (They didn't have it, and played Bob Schneider instead.)

Boy did I feel lame going back to my "old car" after driving that baby at 80-100mph through West Texas. Thanks, Germans!

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