28-31 March 2015 Texas - Palo Dura State Park

April 1, 2015

Saturday 28th March

We were up early and got on the road to make our way over to New Mexico with a couple of stops on the way. Picking up the I-20 we headed west past Abilene and turned off past Sweetwater onto the US-84 up to a small town called Post and the Post View RV park. We're now in the Texas Panhandle and southern plains country where the terrain has changed to flat sandy soil.The RV park was small and located just outside town off the main road. The area is very rural with cattle and horses in the fields and a pump jack oil well in the field behind the site just for good measure.

There was a nice Mexican restaurant down on the highway within walking distance. John went to have a look at the menu and found out it was dry - no alcohol. After all the miles Tony had done he definitely wanted a beer before dinner, luckily the restaurant agreed to do take-out. The land was so flat here it felt like you could see the curvature of the earth and the sunset was gorgeous.

Sunday 29th March

Headed north on the US-84 up to Lubbock and took the I-27 towards Amarillo. At Canyon we turned onto the 126 towards Palo Dura State Park. The landscape changed dramatically as we approached the park from flat land crop fields to desert scrub reminiscent of the cowboy films. We booked in at the park entrance and then headed to Hackberry campsite down in the canyon. The winding road down to the canyon floor had wonderful views around every corner, no wonder it's known as the "Grand Canyon of Texas". The park opened in 1934 and is 120 miles long and 800 feet deep and is the second largest canyon in the US. It was formed less than one million years ago by a fork of the Red River. The rocks are red clay stone with layers of white gypsum, yellow, grey, lavender mudstone and limestone, very pretty. There are three RV parks in the canyon all set in the round amongst trees. We found our parking spot right on the edge of the woods then Tony announced 'I'm parked on the wrong side for the hook ups' - meaning the water and electric plug in station that each site has was on the opposite side to the outlets in the RV. We drove back out of the camp onto the park road and tried to turn around which in the space available proved difficult, then Tony suddenly stopped and looked thoughtful, 'no, I was on the correct side for the hooks ups, I got it wrong and you two let me do it!' Definitely a case of a group senior moment. With some relief that we did not need to turn our long vehicle around we went back and parked. Shortly after we arrived Angela and her two dogs, Daisey and Loba arrived in the space behind us. A little later we set off with Angela and the dogs down the Comanche Trail for a walk.

There are many trails around the canyon of varying degrees of difficulty to cover all interests, runners,  mountain bikers, equestrian and walkers. The trail we took ran between a sandstone ridge and a creek and we got a close look at the layers of colourful geology. The gypsum was particularly pretty and looked like unpolished cream and pink marble. The dogs had a nice splash in the creek and then we made our way back to camp for a BBQ dinner - Angela joined us. At dusk a group of wild turkeys came past to roost in the trees at the back of the camp. The lead male bird was large with a red neck and magnificent black and grey plumage that he fluffed out to make himself look even larger.


Monday 30th March

We were woken in the middle of the night to the sound of howling and screaming coming from the woods. We realised it was the cry of coyotes communicating with each other and out on the hunt - they make some really eerie and unworldly noises? The coyotes sounded pretty close and we guessed were interested in the turkeys. The wildlife in the park was quite diverse, deer, roadrunners, rabbits, sheep, bobcats, rattlesnakes and of course coyotes.

Later in the day we made our way into Amarillo to find Route 66 - on the way we listened to our Route 66 road music CD's that Dave had put together for us before we left. The SatNav did its job well and guided us to 6th Street in the middle of town and there we saw the Route 66 signs. The area had seen better days and had a 1950's feel but there were some nice colourful shops with unusual gifts. It was time for lunch and we were looking for the Golden Light Cafe which was on the 66 in the area. I found this place in the 'Roadfood' (all one word) book which is about locating good regional food. We nearly passed the entrance to the cafe because it was just a door with two small windows at the side and the sign above but when we opened the door and walked in it was like being in a time warp. The place looked like an old fashioned American diner with wooden bench seats and a small bar, the atmosphere was great. We had a very warm greeting from our waitress Tamara and she helpfully talked us through the menu.

The oldest restaurant in Amarillo the Golden Light originally opened as a hamburger joint and although the menu has expanded since then we were still keen to try the burgers. We had two hamburgers, one bison burger, a basket of fries and ranch dressing for dipping, plus three beers. Well it was delicious, fries were greasy but very tasty and the burger topped with cheese and the bun reminded me of the burgers I used to have in the Wimpy Bar in New Street back in the 60's. After lunch we carried on along the 66 to the Cadillac Ranch which is a public art installation just outside the town in an open field.

The cars are half buried nose first into the ground and are covered in graffiti. Whilst we were there someone had a paint pot and was adding their own personal bit of colour on one of the cars.

Tuesday 31st March

I have been suffering from Sciatica for a couple of weeks but I think today has been one of the worst days so I have not been doing much. We did drive around the canyon circular road to take some photographs

 

and see if we could get some wifi at the Rangers office - the campsite had no internet or phone signal. We saw some birds of prey and stayed for a while at the bird blind that has been set up with feed to attract the spring migratory birds,  most colourful we saw was the Red Cardinal. Back at the camp there was a wild-life photographer set up with camera on tripod waiting for the turkeys to come through camp which of course they didn't oblige tonight. Angela joined us for chicken and Caesar salad dinner and we sat outside at the picnic table until after dark, talking, laughing and looking up things on Google. Angela had one bar of phone signal and was able to get Google! After a while we heard the coyotes, Tony shone a torch into the woods and sure enough two shining eyes stood out in the gloom. We made sure Sandy was securely tied and near us. We had already heard tales from fellow campers about dogs being taken by coyotes. Angela had bought us a nice piece of polished stone from the park with Thank You on and a box of Armadillo Poo which was actually chocolate toffee so we all sat there munching toffee and coyote spotting before turning in.

 

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