Marathon, Texas


With the Big Bend area behind me, a long drive awaited. It’s the unfortunate but inevitable end to a West Texas vacation — the hundreds of miles you must travel to get back to the 21st century.  Before settling in for the drive east on US 90, I spent a few minutes exploring Marathon, Texas, the small town at the crossroads of US 385 and 90.

Marathon is just a few blocks long, ending abruptly with desert and desolation on every side.  But the town itself is an oasis from that desert, offering places to stay for anyone heading down to Big Bend National Park.  Your most historic choice for an overnight stay is the Gage Hotel.

The Gage Hotel was built in 1927, to serve as a hotel and a headquarters for Alfred Gage’s 500,000 acre ranch.  It underwent a major restoration in 1978.

The best ghost signs in town are on the Ritchey Brothers building, across the railroad tracks from the downtown business strip.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find an old-fashioned general merchandise store inside.  Instead, the building houses a very modern fitness center, operated by the Gage Hotel.

Heading back over the tracks into downtown, I couldn’t help but notice this old concrete structure.  But, I don’t have any idea what it is.

There are also a few churches in town, including the First United Methodist Church…

… and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Across the street from St. Mary’s, you’ll find Marathon’s most unusual place to spend the night.  Eve’s Garden Organic Bed and Breakfast offers domed rooms that look a little like the Flintstones’ house from the outside.  Rooms start at about $150 per night.

You’ll also find a vintage motel on the west end of town, where I found this classic old sign, still sparkling with old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, after several decades.

Marathon is one of three small towns that serve as gateways to the Big Bend area.  Marathon is the furthest east, Marfa is west, and Alpine is in the middle.  I did not get the chance to visit Alpine, but you can check out downtown Marfa here.

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