Monday, August 01, 2011

The Stars at Night . . . by Diane Kelly

To the above left are my guys at the McDonald Observatory. Aren't they cute?

When you go on vacation in a remote area, it's important to take emergency provisions. That's me above on the right with my industrial-size tub of cheez balls.

The stars at night,
Are big and bright,
Deep in the heart of Texas!

My guys and I spent the weekend stargazing at the McDonald Observatory, which is probably more accurately described as being in the armpit of Texas rather than the heart, but was beautiful nonetheless. Given its isolated location near Fort Davis, there was no light pollution, making the Milky Way very vivid. I’ve never seen anything like it! Of course learning that the earth is basically a tiny, insignificant speck in the enormous vastness of space sure can make a person feel like a little Who in Whoville!

As a mystery lover, what I found most intriguing was not what astronomers have learned about space, but what they haven’t. Is there life out there? Do black holes really exist? Have we been visited, and had our orifices probed, by more intelligent creatures or is that just a bunch of hogwash? Who knows!

The second mystery of our trip involved a thirty-mile drive down the road to Marfa, Texas. We had dinner at the Paisano Hotel, the place where Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean stayed while filming the movie “Giant.” That place serves the best portabella mushroom burger in the universe! Once it was dark, we headed out to the viewing area for the “Marfa Lights.” These mysterious lights, which are of various colors and reportedly appear to dance across the desert, have been documented for centuries. Unfortunately, these lights are elusive, appearing only when they darn well feel like it. Last night they apparently weren’t in the mood. Though it was disappointing that we didn’t get to see them, the fact that they didn’t appear made them all the more mysterious to me. And now I have an excuse to come back to the area. I never expected to fall in love with this high desert, but the cooler weather and the clear sky have sold me on it.

Of course not everything on the trip was a mystery. As we drove through Pecos, Texas, a teeny town known for its cantaloupes, we noticed a sign proudly proclaiming Pecos as the home of the world’s first rodeo. No mystery there. The place is no more than a wide spot in the road in the middle of nowhere. Not much in the way of entertainment. I’m guessing one Saturday night long ago, a bored cowboy looked at his buddy and said, “Hey, Bubba, I double-dog dare you to ride that mean-looking bull over yonder.” Bubba agreed, on the condition that Billy Joe then wrestle a three-hundred pound javelina. Now that’s entertainment!

Back when we lived in California, we visited a place known as the “Mystery Spot,” which is in the woodsy mountains near Santa Cruz. Although the proprietors claim the place is a vortex with a mysterious gravitational anomaly, it seemed to me to be nothing more than a funhouse built on a slope. We still had a good time, though.

I also enjoyed visiting Chichen Itza, an extensive Mayan ruin on the Yucatan peninsula. My hubby and I took an excursion there while on our honeymoon cruise. I was fascinated by the fact that such an ancient culture could build an observatory to exact specifications when the staff at my local fast-food joints can’t even manage to get our order right.

What are some of the most fascinating or mysterious places you’ve visited? We’d love to hear about them!

I just received advanced reading copies of Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure! One lucky person who posts a comment today will receive an ARC. Check back at 9:00 pm Central Time to see if you're the winner!


Vanessa Barneveld said...

Oh, what a fantastic trip, Diane! I have a friend who's obsessed with Liz Taylor--I'll have to tell him about the Paisano.

I think Savannah, Georgia, might be one of the most fascinating places I've visited, and also the most haunted. :)

krisgils33 said...

Sounds like a fun trip! I was just looking at the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz last week. We're heading to SanFran at the end of the month for the last summer vacation and I was thinking about a day trip. We're actually going to Muir Woods/Sausalito instead.

I do alot of international travel for work and I have been to some very interesting and unusual places. So many....but one unusual one is in the UK in the coastal town of Hartlepool and their monkey legend.

I also found the TajMahal quite the disappointment. After hearing so many stories of the beauty and romance, the reality for me was quite the let down.


Sounds like fun, Diane. I need a vacation too. Sand, sun and fun.

Best wishes on the book.

petite said...

What a great trip. I have seen the specials on Marfa. A place that held me enthralled was Leadville, Colo. Historic, and fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Oh, what fun, Diane! I love mysterious places. In NM, we have lots of ghost towns that are just fascinating. I want to visit them all as well as the ones in Colorado. Such history!

Unknown said...

Sound like this was a great trip! I also love watching the stars. I haven't done that in years. We used to when we were younger just go out and lay on the hood of a car and watch the stars, but that was when I lived in the country. You don't see as many living in town.

Bev Pettersen said...

Sounds like a great trip, Diane! And congratulations on the new book. Look forward to reading it!

Elisa Beatty said...

Oh, I love traveling--just got back from a week in Ocean Pines, Maryland and a few days in Monterey, CA. I've been to the Mystery Spot, was silly but fun.

We're lucky to live in our favorite place in the world--the Bay Area. But my other favorite is the gorgeous Isle of Capri in southern Italy--we spent a couple days there on our honeymoon.

Kima said...

Hi Diane! What a great trip. We went to Roswell, New Mexico, hoping to commune with some aliens, but didn't see any. We did, however, see plenty of fun stuff taking advantage of their reputation as UFO capital.

Sarah S. said...

My husband and I went to French Polynesia for our honeymoon back in 2006. We started in Tahiti, but spent most of our time on the island of Moorea. But we had the most fun on the island of Huahine. This is a very secluded island and due to a land dispute the only way to get to our hotel was via boat taxi. It was extremely romantic. As soon as we win the lottery we will be going back.

catslady said...

For me it's a place called Coral Castle. I copied a blurb because it's hard to explain.
"Coral Castle is a stone structure created by the Latvian American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin (1887-1951) north of the city of Homestead, Florida in Miami-Dade County at the intersection of South Dixie Highway (U.S. 1) and West 157th Avenue. The structure comprises numerous megalithic stones (mostly limestone formed from coral), each weighing several tons.[2] It currently serves as a privately-operated tourist attraction. Coral Castle is noted for the mystery surrounding its creation, considered to be built single handedly by Leedskalnin using magnetism and/or supernatural abilities." It's quite a fascinating site!

traveler said...

A trip through the Canadian Rockies many years ago introduced me to this wondrous place. Hidden away was a lake which was entrancing and beautiful.

chey said...

Sounds like a great trip.
I enjoyed visiting Gros Morne national park in Newfoundland. There's so much to see and do in a relatively small area.

Diane Kelly said...

Sounds like you all have been to all kinds of neat places! Monkeys, rocks, hauntings, UFOs - wow! I think I need to start clipping coupons so I can go see some of these places!

Kristi said...

I've never been anywhere really mysterious, but the family and I went to the Secret Caverns last week. They were kind of creepy.
It had 100 foot underground waterfalls! It's about 35 miles from Albany, NY

Diane Kelly said...

And the winner of the ARC is . . . CHEY!!!

To claim your prize, email me at with your snail mail address.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by! I'll be giving away another ARC in two weeks, so I hope you'll come back and visit then!