The temperature forecast for Apache Junction was heading up into the triple digits and Al had finished his major maintenance projects, so it was finally time to think about heading out. We've never spent a lot of time in the motor home in the summer, but we knew that with single-pane windows and minimal insulation, the a/c was going to have a hard time keeping ahead of the heat. Oil slicks and the late departure be darned, we decided to hold to our original plan of heading east along I-10 until we couldn't stand it any longer.
So on June 1, after a chiropractor visit for Al and a haircut for Linda and an early lunch, we finally pointed the rig eastward. Our first stop was only 140 miles away at Roper Lake, near Safford, AZ. The first time we visited this state park, there was a film of ice on the lake in the morning, but this time it was about 100 degrees when we arrived. The additional 1000 feet of elevation didn't seem to affect the temperature much. There were only about three other rigs in the park, but lots of folks were swimming in the day use area. The photo below shows the view through our windshield, which is pretty hard to beat. As the sun neared the horizon, we took our chairs down to the lakeshore and watched the birds. To my surprise, I actually got a new life bird, a Clark's grebe. I wouldn't have even realized it, but I was somewhat surprised to see a large grebe here, so I hauled out the bird book to check the range and only then did I realize this bird was something different from the Western grebe I was more accustomed to seeing. And yes, it did belong in Roper Lake. So an auspicious start to the trip.
In keeping with Al's preference for not driving much over 200 miles a day, we aimed for Las Cruces, NM, for our next night. We also wanted to revisit the old town area of Mesilla which is a funky kind of place. Here's the view from our RV park in Las Cruces.
On our way out of Roper Lake, we had driven through a veritable forest of blooming yucca plants in their prime. I didn't get any photos, but on the road south of Van Horn TX there was another stand. As usual, a photo through the windshield doesn't do the scene justice, but believe me that the sight of the white yucca spires filling the landscape was impressive.
We were headed for Marfa, TX, but on the way I wanted to stop and see Prada Marfa, an installation art piece by the side of US90 near Valentine. It's a faux Prada store in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the typical west Texas landscape as you can see in the image below.
The interior of the store has actual Prada merchandise in it, some of which appear in the next image.
The unlikely juxtaposition of a global luxury brand and the emptiness of the landscape makes one think about the true value of something like Prada, which basically has no meaning in this context. Or you can make whatever you want of the installation.
We were on our way to Marfa, TX, to revisit the Chinati Foundation which is primarily devoted to minimalist art works. Donald Judd, a prominent minimalist artist, purchased an old military base in the 70's and modified several buildings to exhibit various art works, some of which are his. You can only view the exhibits on a guided tour, which is quite inexpensive. We had seen the afternoon segment in 2002 but I wanted to see the rest on this trip. We were able to sign up for both the morning and afternoon tours for the next day, Friday.
Minimalism in art is something that you either get or you don't, kind of like Prada Marfa. My dear husband is much less of an art afficionado than I am (and I'm only an amateur at the game) but he accompanies me with a minimum of grumbling. The site of the Chinati Foundation is itself quite interesting as are the various ways in which the buildings have been adapted for artistic purposes. The first exhibit was housed in two large buildings which were artillery sheds in the days of the fort but which now have huge windows to illuminate the installation. The installation consists of 100 milled aluminum boxes, each roughly 6 feet by 4 feet by 3 1/2 feet. The exterior dimensions are all the same but the interiors of the boxes are all different. This sounds pretty boring and wacky, but you have to see them to appreciate the way that the design of each box takes light and creates a unique optical effect. Al was fascinated, not only by the construction techniques (which is usually all he focuses on) but also by the effects. This image gives only a hint of the effect of one of the boxes. Note the reflections and the opening in the left edge which allows you to see through the box, at the same time appearing to be a mirror.
The other major permanent indoor installation is a series by Dan Flavin who worked in, of all things, neon lights. This installation consists of a dozen long narrow rooms, at the end of each of which is a neon light installation of differing colors. The effect of the same colors will vary depending on the installation. This photo shows one of the images that you get when entering a room, although you can walk up and look around the corner to see the actual light fixtures. Remember, we're looking at minimalist art here, where everything unnecessary is stripped away.
Marfa is a strange little town. The Chinati Foundation brings in a lot of arts-y visitors and there are a few upscale accommodations and eateries, even a few galleries, but it's generally just another west Texas railroad town. We had lunch at the Food Shark, which is a roach coach that appears for lunch under a large shade structure next to the railroad tracks. People come out of the woodwork to patronize it. The food was quite good and surprisingly sophisticated. My eggplant baguette featured fresh mozzarella, for example. You have to wonder about the juxtaposition of this sophistication and the backwater town, how this plays out in the lives of the residents. Kind of like Prada Marfa, now that I think about it.