19 November 2011

texas hold 'em

After welcoming the new Teach For America corps members to Delaware, I had to go to Texas to get all of my things, which were in storage there. I had left my belongings in Texas while living in Costa Rica, because it was cheaper than New York, and I wasn't sure where I would be living when I returned to the U.S. Since I had to go out there anyway, I decided to take a mini road-trip and see some of the sights I had missed over Summer 2010 due to my visa issues. While I thought Summer 2011 would be my last summer break as a teacher, I ended up not having much of a summer break because I had to start my new job just one day after arriving in the U.S.! So this road trip was a nice way to squeeze in one last summer break while I still had the chance. Here's a photo summary of my trip:

After flying into Lubbock, TX, I rented a car and drove to Palo Duro Canyon State Park."Home" sweet home

Happy to be back in Texas!

I just love these open roads with nothing around! Welcome to the panhandle.

A few hours later, I arrived at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. My dad had sent me an article from the New York Times about this park a few years ago, and I've been wanting to go every since. At 120 miles long and up to 1,000 feet deep, it is the second largest canyon in the country and is called the "Grand Canyon of Texas." It is amazing! And super hot in the summer.

When I arrived at the park, a friendly woman welcomed me and asked me if I was there to see the musical, Texas! I told her I was there to camp, but that I would be happy to learn more about the musical. She convinced me to attend, so I went that night, which happened to be the Fourth of July. The way the greeter described the show, it sounded kind of cheesy. And don't get me wrong--it was cheesy--but it was also pretty moving, too! When the announcer guy came out onto the stage to get the show started, the audience (many of whom had seen the show before) started hooting and hollering, and at that point, I knew. I knew it was going to be great. (Ha ha, dramatic much?) The opening scene was a lone cowboy sitting on his horse at the top of the canyon, waving a huge flag behind him, and of course, the cheering got even louder then.

The acting was so-so, but the singing and dancing were really quite good. The play was about how the panhandle came to be settled, and told the story of the six flags over Texas. At several points throughout the play, actors on their horses galloped across the natural amphitheater, streaming giant flags behind them, and it really was quite lovely.

The show ended with a special lighted fountain feature. (Usually, they have fireworks, but it had been too dry in the area, and the fireworks would have been a fire hazard.) In honor of the holiday, they added a patriotic light show to the end of their normally spectacular show. This may sound silly, but I seriously felt really glad to be an American and grateful for the chance to live in Texas during that show (I mean, I always do, but the show just reminded me).

The next morning, I hiked a little, but it was honestly too hot to move much.
Hiking along some "shaded" trails. This was the coolest part of the park, and it was over 100 degrees!

I skipped hiking out to Chimney Rock, one of the main attractions in the park, but I got to see it through the long-distance viewer scope, so I felt like I got my money's worth. I also got to see some awesome longhorn cattle up close and personal!

After leaving the park, I drove towards White Sands National Park, and managed to see some funny sights along the way.

Welcome to Roswell! It's on the way to White Sands, driving from Palo Duro Canyon, so I had to check it out. Look below the "Arby's" part of this sign!

Alien Invasion!

There were tons of these cheesy murals painted all over town.

A few hours later, I made it to White Sands National Monument, near Alamogordo, NM. I had seen photos of this place before, and I had always wanted to visit it because it seemed so enchanting. It did not disappoint! I got there too late to go on the ranger-led hike, because campers are required to set up their tents before sunset. I thought that was weird at first, but I totally understand now, because it was very difficult to see the trail markers among all the sand dunes, even in the daylight! After setting up my tent, however, I had plenty of time to walk around and admire the sunset.

This is not the campsite I was supposed to be at, but I couldn't find mine, as the trail marker had been covered by drifting sand! But it worked out just fine :).

Some views just didn't seem real!

I loved the way the sand looked, blowing in the wind. The squiggles on the left of this picture are sand angels some other visitors made in the sand.

The next morning, I drove around the entire monument, and talked to a friendly family, who let me use their track to go sand surfing on. Sand surfing wasn't that great, but I'm glad I gave it a shot. I sold the sled I had rented to them, and we both ended up saving money on that deal.

From White Sands, I headed back to Texas. I had heard great things about Marfa, and artsy little town in west Texas, so that was my next destination.

These signs on the eastern and western sides of Texas crack me up. How can a city in the same state be almost 900 miles away?! Texas is so freaking huge. Marfa ended up being kind of a bust. I guess you have to know where to look, but I didn't see much of interest there, and the motels were crazy overpriced, so I drove to a town about 40 miles away, where the motels were $40 cheaper! The extra driving probably cost as much, but it still felt better to me. And at that motel, I found out about the Marfa Mystery Lights, so I went to check them out that night, even though they only come out about 20% of the time. I guess the force was with me, because they came out that night!

The next morning, I drove back to Lubbock. On the way, I saw a sign on the highway that Stone Henge was in the next town, so I stopped in Odessa. While looking for Stone Henge, I found the Bush family's first home when they moved to Texas. (Just to set the record straight: the Bush family is not from Texas.)

It took a lot of driving around, and a call to my mom to figure out the address, but I finally found "Stone Henge." It was underwhelming, but you'd better believe I was going to see it after driving around looking for it for an hour or so.

By that point, I had to hightail it up to Lubbock to make it to the airport in time for my flight! I'll tell you about my time in the Valley next time.

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