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Gliding Above Marfa

Perhaps best known for the contemporary art museum called the Chinati Foundation and for its mysterious Marfa Lights, the tiny town of Marfa has in recent years become the Big Bend area’s undisputed cultural center. Art galleries, restaurants, and unusual lodgings attract sophisticated travelers from New York, Europe, and beyond.

But this is West Texas, after all, and sometimes you just want to get away from civilization and all urbane matters. That’s when you should call Kathie and Burt Compton, who can take you high above the Chihuahuan Desert on an exhilarating glider ride. “Our goal is to share the joy and peacefulness found high above the Marfa plateau,” says Burt, a Master FAA flight instructor who discovered Marfa in 1967 during a national soaring contest.

After a 20-minute preflight briefing at the Marfa Airport, the adventure begins: Carried upward 2,000 feet by a tow plane and then released, the crafts soar on Marfa’s famous thermal updrafts, affording passengers views of the Davis Mountains, Chinati Peak, and, when visibility is good, the mountains of Mexico and Big Bend, some 100 miles away.

Rides are available for anyone age 12 and older; tickets cost $95, but you’ll find $20-off coupons at the Marfa Chamber of Commerce office (207 N. Highland, 800/650-9696; For more details about the glider rides, call 800/667-9464;

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