In the mornings , we used to walk down to The Oasis for a leisurely breakfast , but that closed down last year so it ’ s the V6 for coffee and Wi-Fi . I find myself there working a bit every day . Amidst all my screwing off on a motorcycle , I still maintain some ad clients that kindly pay for my screwing off on a motorcycle .
Eventually , we ’ ll pick a destination and ride . The River Road , Terlingua , a burrito in Marfa , Presidio , Fort Davis , and a milkshake and onion rings at the drugstore . Wherever we go , the air is bright , the views are forever and the roads are unencumbered by cars . We ’ re not in a hurry . We ’ re unlikely to get any speeding tickets . We all just find riding motorcycles around Big Bend to be that big exhale you do when you ’ ve been holding your breath for a while .
And Marathon is part of that exhale . Both the place and the people . Eventually , if you spend enough time there , you start to understand the rhythm of the place .
Every Friday is burger night at the French Company Grocer . Burger night ? Who the hell cares . Every damned day and night is burger day and night in every town in America . Why is Friday special in Marathon ? Damned if I know . But the dirt lot behind the French Company ends up being filled with half the town and burgers are cooking and there ’ s usually a band . It ’ s mostly locals , and occasionally a tourist wanders down from the Gage .
It ’ s just a burger . It ’ s a good burger , but it ’ s the center of the week for a lot of the people who live there .
Sam found himself in Marathon and ended up working out a deal to buy the little market . It ’ s the only market in Marathon , so it has to serve the people going into the national park , tourists staying in town and the folks who live there . The next closest market is in Alpine , 30 miles away .
And oddly enough , the French Company Grocer puts Marathon very high on my “ Caper Index .” Caper Index , you ask ? This is something I came up with while riding around The Big Empty over the years . I would end up in places and wonder why someone lived there and HOW they lived there . The Caper Index is simple .
Imagine you ’ re cooking trout almondine , and it ’ s early evening . You suddenly realize you have no capers , and trout almondine ain ’ t doodly-squat without capers . How much trouble is it to get some capers ? Let ’ s say you live 40 miles from the nearest source of capers . Now you ’ re looking at an hour and a half round trip for said capers . So that would rate really low on the Caper Index . Maybe a 1 or a 2 . But if you live in Marathon , you just walk down to the French Company and they have capers . They have everything from great steaks to hats to fresh sandwiches and cookies and little metal medallions that say “ Love Lasts Longer in Marathon .”
So that puts Marathon pretty high on the Caper Index . I ’ d put them at a 7 or 8 , considering Alpine is 30 miles away .
Then there ’ s the Gage . It ’ s a beautiful , historic hotel with a great bar and restaurant . The chicken fried steak is , in my opinion , the best in Texas and Texas takes its chicken fried steak pretty seriously . I get one every time I find myself in Marathon and I generally avoid food that will kill me . That ’ s my motorcycle ’ s job .
And the White Buffalo Bar . There is a real
white buffalo head on the wall . It ’ s a small place but it ’ s got good juju . It ’ s an amicable mix of locals , ranchers in town for a whoop and tourists . Sometimes you ’ ll see a line of shiny Ferraris all parked in front of the Gage because an owner ' s group raced out there for a weekend of shiny fast , and they ’ re all having drinks in the bar in Ferrari shirts .
They ’ ll be drinking ranch water with real ranchers , and everyone gets along just fine .
And there ’ s Danielle . She seems to be in the middle of everything that is Marathon . She ’ s lived there for years , is raising a family there , works for a hydrology company , works with the Marathon to Marathon , works with the library and local ranchers , and seems to be involved in just about everything . Oh , and she edits this magazine . One wonders when she exhales that exhale the rest of us do when we get there .
I ’ ve met a lot of people with the “ We stopped here for lunch and are still here 30 years later ” story .
Marathon just seems to be that kind of place . It ’ s not flashy or all that special when you first have a little taste , but eventually , you learn to love it .
For me , I compare it to a place like Fredericksburg . Fredericksburg is a nice place , very touristy with some real history , and I ride through and have lunch fairly often but I don ’ t love it . Marathon is a tiny spot of its own self at the end of a long journey and the water tastes good , the sky is big and very blue during the day and very black at night and the stars are all there waiting to see you because they can ’ t when you ’ re back wherever you live the rest of the time .
So maybe yes , maybe love does last longer in Marathon .
Maybe Big Bend Never Leaves You and Love Lasts Longer in Marathon .
I ’ ll be back in a couple weeks , and I ’ ll let you know . �
Cenizo Spring 202323