This post is a continuation of our West Texas Gypsy Road trip. Make sure you read West Texas Gypsy Road Trip, Part 1.
Third Stop: Davis Mountains
For our last morning at Franny, the School Bus, we decided to take it easy and consume a full breakfast as our next stop was only 2 hours away. We made another stop on the way in Marfa and, although it’s a sister city to Alpine, we just didn’t enjoy the vibe as much as Alpine. Then again, we really didn’t stick around to enjoy it other than lunch at Bar St. George (not cheap, by the way) but not much else was open on a Monday afternoon when we drove through. And no, we didn’t see the infamous Marfa lights since we weren’t visiting in the evening.
Note: When we visited the Davis Mountains last year, we made sure to stop at the McDonald Observatory. I so wanted to do a Star Party there because, at this point in the trip, the kids kept saying that they felt like they were on another planet. Unfortunately, the Observatory Star Parties didn’t happen on a Monday night. So, if you’re making plans for this trip, make sure you can squeeze that in and make a reservation in advance!
Indian Lodge was the one night I splurged on accommodations. I paid close to $110 for one night but my goodness, the beds were comfy and the pool was divine! It was worth it after sleeping in cots in Franny. Nearby Ft. Davis has an interesting history, even if the downtown area is only a mile long. Indian Lodge was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
We swam in the pool, went into town for ice cream, and ate snacks for dinner since the hotel restaurant was under construction and closed. That was a bummer but we slept like babies!
Fourth Stop: Roswell (with Balmorhea and Carlsbad Caverns along the way)
Last year, my friend and I camped at Balmorhea State Park and we simply couldn’t do this trip without a stop there. Tuesday morning, June 6th, we had breakfast on the go and headed north to Balmorhea, a true oasis! A natural spring runs through the area and, in the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps under President Franklin D. Roosevelt built the pool and established the park. The water is always 72 to 76 degrees F and crystal clear.
Note: Balmorhea has recently set limits on how many people they allow in at once so follow them on or check their social media to make sure they’re not already sold out. They’ll usually send you away and ask that you come back at 3 pm. Because we were there on a Tuesday morning, we didn’t run into a ton of people. Also, bring a snorkel to see the pup fish and catfish swimming around! Another great use for our Texas State Parks Pass.
We made sandwiches and had a picnic lunch before moving on to our next stop, 3 hours away, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. We scratched another national park off our bucket list as well as getting more use out of our National Parks pass.
To get to the entrance was interesting enough but hiking around inside, away from the increasingly hot summer sun, was a welcome respite. The temperature is a cool 56 degrees F year round in the caves! I wasn’t sure if the girls would be up for a 2.5-mile self-guided hike underground after our experience and exhaustion at Big Bend but they agreed. Wow. It was wonderful.
When we came out of the caves a few hours later and had lunch in the visitor center, we saw that yet another thunderstorm was stirring up. It cooled down and kept us very comfortable as we drove to our next destination for a few days, Roswell, NM (about 1 hr 45 mins away).
On the way, the storm became quite furious and we actually stopped south of Roswell. With so much lightning and tumbleweeds flying around, I felt it was safer to sit in one spot for about 20 minutes to wait it out. After the storm, we were rewarded with a beautiful double rainbow that would be featured on the front page of the local newspaper the next day.
We stayed in yet another cheap but actually pretty nice motel, the Rodeway Inn, at $115 for two nights. The hotel had a pool and free breakfast. Our stay was nice other than less than tasty eggs for breakfast and the random outdoor smell of a cow farm (not all the time but when the wind blew just right, whew!) The first night, we crashed in our room, watched TV and caught up on social media. The aliens were just going to have to wait.
The next day, Wednesday, June 7th, we chose to stay put and explore the alien culture around Roswell, NM. When you visit Roswell, you’ll find the locals have a love/hate relationship with their alien history. In July 1947, a local rancher said an unidentified flying object crashed on his property just northwest of Roswell. Many others are said to have seen the loss of life from the crash, alien bodies. The U.S. Military soon claimed it was nothing more than a weather balloon but others gave a different story.
We visited a few places, all located downtown, that I’d recommend for some alien silliness and seriousness. The economy seems to be slacking in this area so the alien stuff may be what’s keeping the town alive. Also, take note that the street lamps have alien eyes:
International UFO Museum – lots of reading, videos and shared newspaper clippings from the event. Seriously scary first person accounts on video and in letters. Cool stuff.
Roswell Spacewalk – fun for goofy souvenirs and a blacklight walkthrough exhibit. The girls and I took lots of silly photos here.
Alien Zone Area 51 – We had so much fun here. Mind you, we were the only ones in the shop so we spent a lot of time and again, took lots of silly photos.
Roswell UFO McDonalds – while we typically don’t eat at McD’s, we had to visit this one and our meal actually wasn’t half bad.
After another lazy evening, including a swim in the hotel pool, we left early on Thursday, June 8th for the last destination of our trip.
Fifth Stop: Palo Duro Canyon
The drive to Palo Duro Canyon, back in the Panhandle of West Texas, is 3:49 mins from Roswell. Since we’ve never been to the Grand Canyon (one day!), we were looking forward to visiting the second largest canyon in the United States. We love to camp and it didn’t seem right that we hadn’t tent camped the whole trip so our plan was to set up our tents at a primitive site and then go explore.
We were very overheated by the time we were set up. And by we, I mean two teen girls who started fighting with each other so… mom made the call that we’d just relax before we went to our dinner.
Yes, we had dinner plans!
Palo Duro Canyon has a musical theatre show called…. wait for it…. Texas! The show runs from the beginning of June through mid-August so we made our plans just in time. For 3 show tickets and their chuckwagon BBQ dinner, I spent about $130. This meant I did not have to light a fire, burn coals, buy groceries, cook all of the food, dig out all of our supplies, and clean up so it was worth it to me. The food was a barbecue buffet and filled our happy bellies. We’re all musical theatre buffs so we were looking forward to the show that gives a historical account of the Panhandle settlers in the area. From all of my research, seeing this show is apparently what you do when you take a road trip to West Texas. 2017 was the canyon’s 52nd year of putting on this show.
Well… another really intense random thunderstorm stopped the show mid-way through, just in time for intermission. We pulled out our handy ponchos and sang and danced in the rain. It was our last night and dang it, everything had been perfect so far. We milked that moment for everything. After the storm, the show resumed and blew our minds. Go see it. I won’t give anything away.
When we returned to our campsite, super late after a very long delay in the show, we were a bit worried about how wet all of our sleeping accommodations would be. We were thrilled to see that even with the crazy storm, our tent was still there and all of our sleeping bags were dry. Yippee! We crashed hard but I woke up a few times to hear coyotes yipping and howling right outside the tent. While that may frighten some people, I smiled and went right back to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up earlier than usual and caught a gorgeous full moon shining down on us. After another campsite breakfast, we left for the 5:45 minute drive home.
Note: If we had more time we would have stopped at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo and eaten at The Big Texan. I also would have loved to camp another night at Caprock Canyons State Park.
We all said we could travel like this for months but when we got home, I realized how exhausted I was. Being the only adult meant that I had to think of everything and be prepared for anything. Maybe next time, I’ll get the kids more involved in planning so I won’t be so overwhelmed before the trip. We loved it. Loved every moment.
Have any questions? Let me know!