The last time I was in Terlingua was almost 20 years ago. There was nothing but dirt and dust, rattlesnakes lying in wait, a few alcoholic “desert rats,” some ruins, and this cemetery, which has been here since 1908. Terlingua was a mining town, mercury mining to be specific, and as our friend said, “Sure, what could possibly go wrong with that?” Between digging for mercury, outbreaks of the flu, and gunfights, the cemetery is pretty full.
The only places to get a drink back then were La Kiva, a run-down, semi-cavernous bar a few miles away where the aforementioned desert rats hung out, and The Starlight, which acted as the saloon/stage for the town. Our room was close to the action, although a bit of a come-down after the luxurious Gage. As my friend pointed out -the beds were comfy, the linens were clean, and it was air-conditioned. The thermometer had steadily risen as we headed south, so A/C was a good thing. We unloaded our bikes, washed our faces, changed clothes, then headed out to La Kiva for a margarita.
None of us could believe our eyes when we entered La Kiva! It was hip, it was cool, there was even a mixologist behind the bar – you could easily mistake this for someplace in Santa Fe. There were already quite a few folks enjoying themselves when we arrived. Beyond the bar was a sun-room with tables for dining, and a view of the bluffs. Out back through French-doors was a lovely stone patio with a low wall separating it from the arroyo, lots of picnic tables, and an outdoor stage with party lights strung everywhere.
After the murder in 2014 of the previous owner, and the ensuing trial, there was now a new owner, and he was doing an amazing job! After my initial reluctance to come Terlingua at all, I can’t wait to return. We visited with a couple from up north – down here to escape their winter. We met them in Big Bend Park earlier, talked about their bike, and then ran into them again, here. Throughout the weekend we kept seeing the same folks over and over.
We hated to leave La Kiva, but we had reservations for dinner (I know, reservations out in the middle of the desert). The Starlight looked pretty much as I remembered it, but this time it was packed. The food turned out to be delicious, the band was good, and it was a pretty spectacular venue as far as people-watching went; everything from folks living off-the-grid, to happy families in mini-vans.
There seem to be a lot more people looking to get out to the middle of nowhere these days. Hell, they’re even doing destination weddings in nearby Lajitas (where the Mayor is a beer-drinking billy goat) and in Marfa, too.
Now that Marathon, Marfa, and Terlingua have been discovered, we’re going to have to try a lot harder to find ourselves out in the middle of nowhere.