We were in the middle of this large trip we had planned out. We had reservations and an itinerary for an entire 6 week trip. We had done research to see what there was to do in all the places we intended to visit. Stuff happens. We had to break off from our trip to take care of business.
Not wanting to lose all that preparation, I thought it might be useful to put the rest of our itinerary out there and talk about what we might have done at each of the destinations.
From Abilene State Park (blog post) we planned to go to Copper Breaks State Park for 3 nights. Quanah is the closest town to Copper Breaks. This would have been the second time we stayed at the park. Since this park was one of the host parks for the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd, I really expected to see some longhorns. No such luck. It turns out that the cattle can be at any one of four state parks. You have to find the herd manager’s phone number and call him or her to find out where the longhorns currently are. I planned to call as soon as I arrived in the park.
Somewhere around Quanah is the Downtown Medicine Mound Museum. From what I can tell, the museum is only open on Saturdays.
Next on our itinerary was three nights at Caprock Canyons State Park outside of Quitaque. This would have been our third visit to Caprock Canyons. On our first visit, I wanted to see the Texas State Bison Herd but they weren’t there. However, the second time we were there, we saw three real live buffaloes. The herd was dying out as a result of too much inbreeding. Ted Turner donated buffaloes to improve the Texas herd genetics. Now there are many more buffaloes in the herd (100+) than during our second visit. It’s a real herd now. Some have said it is like Yellowstone in Texas meaning that when you drive through the park, the buffalo are all over the roadways. Nice problem to have and probably a great photo (or two) opportunity.
Waylon Jennings said best in his song “Bob Wills Is Still The King” when he sang It don’t matter who’s in Austin, Bob Wills is still the king. Bob Wills, who largely defined Western Swing music, spent his formative years on his family’s farm located in the Texas Panhandle Plain between Lakeview and Turkey Texas.
On our last visit to Caprock Canyons, I discovered Turkey was the home of the Bob Wills Museum. Since I was already a Bob Wills and Western Swing fan, this was quite the find. On the way into Turkey, don’t forget to look for the Bob Wills Monument.
Even my brother Rob (who is totally into music) likes Bob Wills. His favorite song? Possibly “Roly Poly.” I’m sure he will correct me after reading this post.
I’m not sure that Roly Poly will appeal to everyone. Bob Wills Radio has a pretty good selection of Bob Wills music providing a better sampling of western swing music. Give it a spin!
I was also hoping to catch a movie at the Mid Way Drive-In Theater between Turkey and Quitaque on Highway 86. Unfortunately, I can’t find them as an active business on the Internet so they may be gone forever.
By this point in our trip, we would be in serious need of provisions. We planned a two night stay at the Amarillo KOA. Then we would move south 10 miles and stay for four nights at my second favorite Texas State Park, Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Amarillo is large enough that there is quite a lot to do in that area. Perhaps more than what we could reasonably do in six nights total.
I haven’t been totally sure how I could balance my desire to hike and explore Palo Duro Canyon, the nation’s second largest canyon after Grand Canyon National Park, against the other cool things to do around Amarillo. The following list (in no particular order) is more than what we can reasonably do in the time we have.
During the summer, the Texas Outdoor Musical show plays in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park amphitheater. We did the show in 2003 and it was amazingly good. Something to think about for a summer visit.
If you have been reading my blog from the beginning, you might have observed that I have a thing for railroads (Continuing With The Brownwood Train Theme, The Runaway Train Cafe, Quick Links and Railroad Tracks and Lubbock Windmill Museum). Linda doesn’t necessarily share my unbridled love of railroad museums so I might have had to visit the Amarillo Railroad Museum on my own.
The Jack Sizemore Travelland / Camping World in Amarillo houses The RV Museum. Since the first time I saw this featured in a magazine article, I wanted to explore the exhibits. Some of the museum’s RVs are older than I am. Others I remember dreaming about travelling in as a child.
We have been to the Pan Handle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon Texas each time we’ve been to Palo Duro Canyon. This is a great museum covering a wide variety of topics relevant to the history of the peoples, geography, commerce and agriculture in the region.
I can’t pass up car museums. Bill’s Backyard Classics in Amarillo looks like a potential winner. Another activity Linda might be less than enthusiastic about.
When I originally saw Harrington House, I wasn’t all that interested. But it was a museum of sorts. I did one of those “Honey, does this sound interesting to you?” hoping Linda would say no. Well, she really liked the whole idea and I’m sure this one would have gotten slotted higher than say a RV, airplane, train or car museum. This mansion, completed in 1914 and purchased by the Harrington family in 1940, is furnished as it was lived in by the Harrington family. The Harringtons were extremely wealthy. The 15,000 square foot house is really nice. I’m sure I would have liked it.
Wildcat Bluff Nature Center is a place we would have liked to hike with the dogs. They have 5 miles of trails on a square mile of land.
We have been to Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge before. We drove the 13 mile auto trail loop and had a picnic. There are a number of relatively flat hiking trails. They also have a campground. When we were there before, the gate into the park was around 8½ feet wide. For large RVs, this might not be navigable. During times that birds are migrating either north or south, this is a great place to be as there is a lake in the center of it and migrating birds use this lake as a stopping point on their journey.
We want to drive through Lake Meredith National Recreation Area just to see if we might want to stay there on another trip. Alibates Flint Quarry National Monument is on Lake Meredith and would make a good extension to a Lake Meredith trip. The monument has a museum, hiking trails and offers tours where visitors can learn about Native Americans that inhabited the area before the European invasion.
After Palo Duro Canyon, we planned to stop over in Lubbock at the Lubbock KOA Journey (blog post) for two nights. We planned to meet up with friends and do a little site seeing.
The top Lubbock attraction on our list is the National Ranching Heritage Center on the Texas Tech campus. According to their website,
“The National Ranching Heritage Center is a museum and outdoor park with 50 historic structures dating back to the 1700’s. In addition to the 19-acre historical park, the NRHC has 42 life-size bronze steer sculptures and a 44,000-square-foot museum with seven galleries featuring art exhibits, photography and artifacts that capture historical and contemporary Western life.”
If anything, the above is a bit understated. It is a really good museum. Expect to spend at least an entire day to see everything. There is one thing I don’t like about the center. They have an absurdly strict policy on pictures taken of the site and used in publications such as in blog posts.
Other things to do in Lubbock include a Lubbock Windmill Museum called American Wind Power Center, a Lubbock Agriculture Museum called the Bayer Museum of Agriculture, the Buddy Holly Center, the Buddy and Maria Elena Holly Plaza (next door to the Buddy Holly Center) and a Lubbock World War II Museum called Silent Wings Museum.
The next park, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, is in New Mexico outside of Alamogordo. This would be the second time we planned to come to this park (had reservations) but couldn’t make it for some reason. The park offers good hiking opportunities and they offer tours of the original ranch house that went with the property. We planned for three nights at Oliver Lee Memorial.
However, the park is secondary to why I wanted to come and spend time around Alamogordo New Mexico. The following attractions are in no particular order and represent more than what we can do during a typical three night stay. There is a lot to go, see and do here.
White Sands National Monument is number one on my list of places to visit. I was looking forward to walking out onto sand dunes of that magnitude and scale. The monument is surrounded by two military bases. White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.
The Air Force base isn’t so interesting as it doesn’t appear to have any publicly accessible attractions. However, the missile range has two National Historic Landmarks. The Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb test was conducted in 1944 and White Sands V-2 Launching Site where German V-2 rockets were tested after WWII. Trinity Site (Ground Zero) semi annual public access is available for one day each April and October. I’m not seeing any way to visit the V-2 rocket test site.
The on base White Sands Missile Range Museum looks good and is open year round.
We often scout for new and interesting camping opportunities while traveling. We planned to stop in at the Lincoln National Forest Supervisor’s office in Alamogordo. National Forest supervisor and district office locations are often the best source of campground and dispersed camping information.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History looks like a good place to spend an afternoon. They have real rockets outside and moon rocks inside plus all kinds of space race memorabilia.
I originally had the American Armed Forces Museum in Alamogordo on the list. After a second careful look at their website, I’ve decided that they would have been a low priority.
There isn’t much information about the Tularosa Basin Museum of History exhibits and the Facebook page hasn’t been updated in some time. Low priority.
Our next park was to be the El Paso West / Anthony KOA located on the Texas side of the Texas/New Mexico border. We knew we would need to get ready for the next park after the KOA, Franklin Mountains State Park, whose only campground is without water, electricity or sewer. The plan was to spend two days at the KOA and three days at the State Park giving us five days in the El Paso area.
I was expecting that camping in the Anthony KOA would be comfortably boring leaving us with plenty of time to explore around El Paso. Franklin Mountains is a whole new experience. It is on a mountain, potentially with panoramic views of El Paso, the Rio Grande and Juarez. Lots of trails. Rocky desert landscape. I’ve never been in this park before and it has been on my bucket list for some time.
For a great view of El Paso, we might have taken the Wyler Aerial Tramway from the parking lot at the end of McKinley Avenue to the top of Ranger Peak, a 940 foot elevation gain. The elevation gain may not sound impressive but the top of Ranger Peak is at 5,632 feet and the city of El Paso fans out 1,900 feet below it.
The Magoffin Home, built in 1875, is a State Historic Site. Magoffin was an El Paso booster and helped bring industry and railroads into the area. Architecturally, the Adobe home exhibits an interesting blend of styles. Daily tours take visitors through the home. Tour guides help describe and provide context on the history and historical context of the home. I’ve found State Historical Commission guides to be excellent.
The El Paso Museum of History in downtown El Paso covers 400 years of the Rio Grande border region’s history. It is a large well funded museum with a number of exhibits.
Recently, Customs and Border Patrol has been receiving less than favorable press. The bad press has, in part, been a result of enforcement activity in the El Paso area. Oddly, the National Border Patrol Museum is located in El Paso. This museum receives no federal funds and is not part of the US Border Patrol. It looks interesting and odd. Given current events, I was inclined to give this a higher priority.
In the museum category, my top pick for El Paso is the War Eagles Air Museum at Doña Ana County International Jetport at Santa Teresa. This museum has a cool mix of airplanes, automobiles and military vehicles from WWII and beyond.
Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site was the next park on our itinerary. This is another park that has been on my bucket list since our first visit to Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site outside Del Rio. Both parks have pictographs or rock paintings dating back to prehistoric times. The pictographs in Hueco Tanks, going back thousands of years, span a longer time frame than the ones in Seminal Canyon. It is much harder to stay at Hueco Tanks than to stay at Seminal Canyon. Hueco Tanks has special rules to protect the delicate rock paintings and visitor movement in the park is restricted. We planned to stay three nights in this park. The park has enough to look at that we didn’t feel a need to see additional attractions while staying in the park.
After boondocking in Franklin Mountains and going without sewer in Hueco Tanks, we decided that we would need a bit of freshening up at the Van Horn RV Park (formerly a KOA) for two nights. While in Van Horn, we intended to visit the Clark Hotel Museum. The museum covers Van Horn and Culberson County history.
Our next stop would have been Guadalupe Mountains National Park at the Pine Springs (Elevation 5,822′) campground for two nights. This park has lots of places to see and is fairly spread out so we may not have been able to see everything on our list.
In McKittrick Canyon, the places to see are the Pratt Cabin and Ship On The Desert. The cabin was Wallace Pratt’s first home and the Ship On The Desert was his second home. Other places in the park to see are the Pinery (a Butterfield Stage stop), the Frijole Ranch and the Williams Ranch.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!