We wrapped up our stay in Big Bend by doing something we hadn’t done yet on the trip…we backtracked. And we did it for brisket. After our awesome soak int the hot springs, we drove back to our campsite, listening to the fantastic reading of “Same Sun Here” by Silas House and Neela Vaswani. The book is a great story of two penpals, one a boy in an eastern Kentucky coal mine, and an Indian girl who is a fairly new resident of New York City. We were close to finishing it, and decided to make a drive back to DB’s so that we could have more time in the car to listen to the last chapters. Frankly, I think any excuse to go back for more of those burnt ends would have worked. We got 2.5 pounds this time, and then ate half for dinner and half for lunch the next day. Hopefully that was enough to forever imprint that magical flavor on our brain cells. Yum.
Big Bend may not be as big as all the Texans would lead you to believe, but the state itself is. The drive in was long enough to break it up with a stop in Marfa, so the drive out warranted a stopover too. We picked a little town called Marathon, which turned out to be much smaller than Marfa, but also had a renovated old-Texas hotel called the Gage. The hotel was beautiful, like a hunting lodge with timber posts and rafters, leather furniture and stuffed animal heads on the walls, but also with the Mexican influence of terra cotta tiles, decorative tiles and courtyards.
We had dinner in the hotel and it was one of the best meals we’ve had on the trip. We started with drinks in the White Buffalo Bar, with a Prickly Pear Martini that Saveur called the Best Margarita in Texas. A bit sweet, but really good. The bar would have looked like a cliche western bar if it was anywhere but west Texas, with iron racks where you could hang your hat, barrel tables and western style laced leather chairs. Plus, the namesake white buffalo head hanging on the wall. We later asked our dinner server what the deal was with it, and she said the owner of the hotel saw it in a museum in Montana or Wyoming, or somewhere like that, and asked how much it was. The museum told him it wasn’t for sale. So he bought the museum. Texas!
Our dinner at 12 Gage was in a dining room where the bench backs were upholstered in cow hide, and the sconces were longhorn skulls lit from inside. The food was amazing. We started with quail legs as an appetizer which was terrific, and then Wyatt won the prize for best ordering…his steak tacos were tacos fried with mashed potatoes inside them, with a terrific steak sliced on the top of the tacos. If we’d known that was what they would look like, we probably all would have ordered them.
Following our great dinner, we pulled out of Marathon and headed to Del Rio, or next stopover on the way to San Antonio. The surprise for us in this stop was that the campground had a weekly steak dinner and band. The steaks were pretty good, the cobbler was fine, but the band was a fantastic treat. They were a texas-swing group and Maya and Wyatt both got their first slow-dance lessons during some of the slower tunes. Maya was about 50 times more enthusiastic about it than Wyatt was, but he was a good sport and danced with me twice. So sweet.