Our target for the first day in this region was Marfa, population 2,100, home of the world-famous Chinati Foundation and the equally famous Pizza Foundation. Book ahead if you want to take the Chinati tour, an insider’s peek at the mind of minimalist artist Donald Judd, who decamped from New York to the desert in the 1970s and bought an old fort (and former German POW camp) to show his works. The first exhibit -- 100 of Judd’s massive, surgically precise aluminum boxes -- is set in two huge artillery sheds whose windows offer a stunning view of the prairie. In the distance, you see antelope roaming amid another Judd exhibit, this one of 15 concrete “units.” Stunning, despite the oppressive heat. (Go to www.chinati.org for more.)

Ilya Kabakov, named one of the 10 greatest artists alive in 2000 by ArtNews, created the second exhibit of the foundation: an abandoned Russian schoolhouse complete with dusty schoolbooks and broken desks. Our tour guide assured us everything was kept as the artist created it in 1993 -- dust and all, including the yard, where weeds reached our waist. This is where the tittering began. Like a bunch of seven-year-olds, we couldn’t stop. Even Judd’s admirable minimalist furniture could not stop the giggles. Only half the group made the afternoon tour of six buildings, each of which showcased a single installation of artist Dan Flavin’s colored fluorescent lights. For the philistines in our group, massive slabs of thin-crust pizza saved the day.

Our days in Fort Davis, meanwhile, passed with the girls hiking and the guys biking and barbecuing. One day, we headed east to Marathon and ate a luxurious meal at Café Cenizo in the Gage Hotel, which had historic cattle-country decor. Another day, we returned to Marfa again to see Andy Warhol’s permanent “Last Supper” exhibit before having drinks at Hotel Paisano, the hotel where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson stayed to film Giant in the 1950s. Here are two tips for great cheap food: Tacos Del Norte and the mobile Food Shark. For hotels, try the Hotel Paisano for authentic Texas or the Thunderbird Hotel for an updated-retro ’50s look.

Our final stop was at the viewing station east of Marfa to watch the lights, lights that supposedly have been bobbing and weaving across the southern sky for 100 years, dumbfounding scientists and delighting the conspiracy minded. (Check out www.marfa lightsresearch.com.) No one knows what causes Marfa’s mysterious lights, but somehow, while we were standing on the floor of the Chihuahuan Desert, gazing up at the stars, it didn’t matter that we had failed Art 101. We barbecued, and we bonded. Isn’t that what summers are for?