West Tejas

Day 1: Dallas to Amarillo

STOPS: Copper Breaks State Park, Holy Smokes BBQ

Got off work a little early today and decided to take an impromptu trip, quickly packed and hit the road. Passed through a thunderstorm and made it to Cedar Breaks State Park, where I did a short hike with unbelievable red sandstone and blue/green grasses, like someone maxed out the saturation levels. Feeling hungry I went to Holy Smokes BBQ for dinner in Quanah then completed the journey to Amarillo and checked into my hotel.

Today's distance: 388

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Day 2: Amarillo to San Angelo

STOPS: Roasters Coffee, Helium Times Column Monument, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Panhandle Plains Historic Museum, Caprock Canyons State Park, Monomyth Coffee, Museum of Texas Tech, Gold Stripe Coffee, Vizo's African Restaurant, Big Spring State Park

Woke up around 6AM to shoot for Palo Duro opening at 7AM. I got coffee at Roasters and donuts across the street, then detoured to see the Helium Times Column Monument, both a monument to the importance of helium in the Amarillo economy and an enormous time capsule. I made it to Palo Duro Canyon (2nd largest canyon in US after Grand Canyon) just in time for sunrise. It was the perfect day for the lighthouse hike, which took about 3hr including stops for pictures. Highly recommend, the colors are amazing! I headed back to see some dinosaur fossils in Canyon at the Panhandle Plains Historic Museum. Heading down I-27, I detoured to see the official Texas bison herd (including baby bison) at Caprock Canyons State Park. I continued onwards to Lubbock, refueling coffee at Monomyth before making a quick stop for more fossils at the Museum of Texas Tech. I picked up more coffee fuel at Gold Stripe before getting some dinner at Vizo's African Restaurant. I headed onto my last leg, stopping in Big Spring to go to Big Spring State Park where I was rewarded with a double rainbow! Finally made it to San Angelo just after dark to check into my hotel.

Today's distance: 463

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Day 3: San Angelo to Dallas

STOPS: Sunken Gardens, San Angelo State Park, International Waterlily Collection, Buttercup All Day Cafe

Today woke up to a terrifying thunderstorm that briefly knocked out the power in the hotel! The forecast said it would slowly improve, so I meandered around San Angelo. First stop to Sunken Gardens, to see some local sculptures and a cute garden. It was too wet for waterlily photography so the next stop was San Angelo State Park. No bison or longhorn, but I did find a few turkey and javelina! Backtracking, I picked up coffee from Buttercup before becoming enthralled at the unbelievable International Waterlily Collection. So many waterlilies, each more beautiful than the next. Unfortunately I couldn't stay forever, so I had to get back in the car and make the drive home.

Today's distance: 285

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Day 1: Dallas to El Paso

STOPS: Monks Coffee, Whataburger

Had a short day at work, so I started my trip around noon. Drove to El Paso (8+ hours!) almost nonstop, except for coffee from Monks Coffee and dinner from Whataburger - because what else is there to eat in Texas? The drive was pretty unexciting until about Van Horn, there's definitely a change in landscape that lets you know when you're in West Texas. Made it to my hotel just in time for bed.

Today's distance: 637

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Day 2: El Paso to Alpine

STOPS: Scenic Drive, City Coffee Bar, Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso Botanical Gardens, Empanaderia, Chamizal National Memorial, Rio Bosque Park, Prada Marfa, The Sentinel, Davis Mountains State Park, Guzzi Up

My hotel was fortunately near the scenic drive, which had a pulloff and a great view of the sunrise. I tried to get into Franklin Mountains but it wasn't open yet, so I got coffee at City Coffee Bar and checked out the small Chihuahuan garden on the campus of UT El Paso (UTEP!). Headed back up to Franklin Mountains State Park where I did a couple short but moderately strenuous hikes, complete with cool bugs and hummingbird moths. I made my way to the El Paso Botanical Gardens to look at some cactus and picked up some empanadas (to last the whole weekend) from the Empanaderia. On the way out of town, I stopped by Chamizal National Memorial to learn a little more about border history (and feel sick at the sight of the border wall). I tried to go to Rio Bosque park but after multiple detours and taking a quick look, decided it wasn't worth it. I said goodbye to El Paso and backtracked then turned south at Van Horn. I reached the fabled Prada Marfa store for some pictures, then made it to Marfa! I refueled on coffee at The Sentinel, then decided to check out the nearby loop drive. There were barely any cars out, and despite the intermittent thunderstorms, it was beautiful! Davis Mountains State Park was at the end, and I made it just in time to enjoy the sunset over the mountains. I picked up some pizza from Guzzi Up then called it a night at my motel in Alpine.

Today's distance: 405

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Day 3: West Texas Wandering

STOPS: Marfa Lights, Do Your Thing, Davis Mountains State Park, Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Front Street Books, Cedar Coffee Supply, Frama, The Water Stop

Woke up early to watch the sunrise near the Marfa Lights viewing area. I tried to get a Marfa burrito but it was closed (sadness), but the coffee and avocado toast from Do Your Thing made up for it. I went back to Davis Mountains to do a short hike and find some jays (but no quails). I then spent a little time wandering the gardens at Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute (including the awesome cactus collection). I went back to Alpine to get some books at Front Street Books and refueled at Cedar Coffee Supply. I pretty much ran out of things to do at this point, so I went to hang out in Marfa where coincidentally they were holding the Marfa Lights festival with food trucks in the town square. I hung out for a bit then got dinner at The Water Stop, then headed back to Alpine to call it a day.

Today's distance: 244

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Day 4: Alpine to Monahans

STOPS: Marfa Lights, Prada Marfa, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Living Desert State Park, Carniceria San Juan, Monahans Sandhills State Park

Woke up extra early for a long day of adventure. Tried to get some star photos but no luck (need to practice some more). Found a great sunrise spot in Valentine, then continued north past Van Horn to an amazing scenic drive to the Guadalupe Mountains. I took a detour to see the nearby flooded salt flats (apparently this never happens?) then went for a hike in the Guadalupe Moutains, enjoying the best elevation that Texas can offer. I continued driving into New Mexico to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I didn't buy a ticket to see the caves, but I did wander the short trails outside and saw lots of pretty cacti and butterflies. I went to the Living Desert State Park in Carlsbad, which I highly recommend if you're in the area! I picked up some lunch/dinner from Carniceria San Juan, then drove back to Texas through some of the most empty counties before making it to Monahans. I briefly visited the state park for sunset before going to my hotel.

Today's distance: 428

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Day 5: Monahans to Dallas

STOPS: Monahans Sandhills State Park, Sibley Nature Center, Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Abilene Zoo

Today I caught a great sunrise at Monahans Sandhills State Park, watching it rise over the dunes. I started my long drive back to DFW. I stopped at Sibley Nature Center (not much to see), Permian Basin Museum (learned about oil), then made my last stop at the Abilene Zoo, capping off one of my longest daily mileage trips with some great animal encounters. Quite the marathon of driving.

Today's distance: 414

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