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STOP #272

We traveled the 100 distance today without incident and arrived at Palo Duro Canyon State Park outside of Amarillo, TX. This is where we were visiting nearly two years ago, to the day, when the pandemic hit and we got kicked out of this Texas State Park. We are hoping to have better luck this visit and actually get to see the rest of the park we missed last time.

While I was checking us in at the Ranger Station Tricia walked across the street where they keep a few head of Texas Longhorn Steer in a corral.

Of course when you are handing a out fresh clean water by the bucket full you'll attract other wildlife too, like these dozen or more Mule Deer who had no trouble hopping over the fence and keeping their distance from the steer.

At our previous site at Caprock Canyons State Park the campground was located up on the rim of the canyon. Here at Palo Duro State Park there are four campgrounds with electric/water hookups that are located some 800 feet down on the canyon floor.

Two years ago I remember how nervous this sign made me feel.

After coming around the corner I remember thinking, "Should we really be doing this?"

Especially after seeing all those bowling ball sized rocks in the gutter next to the road.
They had to come from somewhere!

Then I started thinking about how many other people had already made this same trip.
If it was truly unsafe, would they still continue to allow people into the park?

Two years ago we stayed in the Hackberry Camp Area, located near the beginning of the canyon. This year we chose to stay in the Mesquite Camp Area, located near the end of the canyon road some 3.5 miles deeper into the park.

Here we are all safely tucked into our corner Campsite #81 at Palo Duro State Park.

We even have AT&T cell service at this campground, two years ago there was none.

There is a county wide fire ban in place right now, so we won't be using the firepit.

One of the better rear views we've had in a while.

TUESDAY - Well here it is five days later and I've not much to report to you all.

It's just been kind of a lazy week. The weather has been less than ideal with wind advisories (30+ mph) most days which is not a good thing when you are surrounded by loose dirt. All the dust in the air makes it unpleasant to be anywhere outdoors. Tricia was able to make some more progress on her surprise project she's been working on. She should be finishing that up soon.

The rest of our time we spent waiting for a mobile RV repair guy to call us back with a scheduled time he would arrive. Long story short, he never did! Last month we made an appointment at a local RV dealership for tomorrow morning, just as a backup plan, I'm so glad we did.

Our issues are THE POD has a couple of roof leaks when it pours down rain hard enough. That's something we'll need to get taken care of sooner rather than later. Also one of the wheels it making a squeaking sound when backing into the campsites, I suspect either brakes or wheel bearings is the problem there. Plus our water heater doesn't work on electricity, but still continues to function on propane. Here I suspect the electric heating element has failed, something I intend to try and fix on our own, once I can order parts on Amazon next week.

Other than that we did get our laundry, grocery shopping and propane refill needs accomplished. We never said life on the road was all rainbows and unicorns!

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STOP #271

Last night THE POD was rockin' and rollin' all night long, but not for the reason you're probably thinking. The 55 MPH wind gusts lasted all the way into the early morning hours.

At 2:00AM it went from just gusty winds to winds and rain. It sounded like there was an entire high school class outside pelting THE POD with pebbles. Or course there wasn't, but the tempuratures were near freezing and it could have been sleet hitting the trailer windows.

We just got back to sleep and then at 4:00AM our weather station alarmed letting us know the outside temperatures had dropped to 30°F and it was time to turn off our electric space heaters and fire up the propane furnace to heat the holding tanks so they don't freeze over and crack our pipes.

By 8:30AM we were off the campsite and headed to town with THE POD, we didn't even unhook fron ROVER last night, to eat breakfast at McDonald's in Levelland. I guess we did spent a little bit of our money in town after all.

This must be a relatively new location because the interior was awesome. There was lots of seating, some even looked like desks with electric for those who take advantage of the free WiFi. Even the parking lot was large enough for us to park the truck and trailer at the rear row of spaces. We knew this in advance by checking on Google Map's satellite view. There was a BBQ joint across the street that doesn't open until 11:00AM so that parking lot was our backup plan if McDonald's lot didn't work out.

We have another planned stop before we reach our new campsite. Tricia now feels she has rounded out her Alaskan wardrobe with several new pairs of long pants and long sleeved shirts. Those of you that follow Tricia on Instagram already know where I'm going with this story.

Duluth Trading Co. has just 64 retail locations nationwide, with 6 of those right here in Texas. As Tricia's luck would have it, one of those 6 locations is just 30 miles from Levelland in Lubbock, TX. It also just so happens to be on our route today, so we planned the stop for 10:00AM when they open. Why stop at Duluth you wonder? I tried a pair of their flannel lined jeans and I loved the fit so much I wanted the same jeans unlined. And ordering online means guessing how long they take to ship. Much easier to stop in since it was on the route!! -T

Now it's time to push through the 100+ miles we still need to travel to reach our new home. The winds had died down considerably to 25MPH, but still enough to push these massive wind turbines. We saw all across the horizon on our travels today. A full 20% of Texas' electricity comes from these turbines. They generate more wind energy in Texas than the next three highest states combined, partially due to the vast amount of space they have to install them over.

It was very interesting seeing all these wind turbines sometimes sharing the same field as several oil derricks (aka pumpjacks), which would seem the best of both worlds. That's not to say Texas doesn't take advantage of solar energy, they rank 8th in the nation for solar power.

A couple hours later we arrived at Caprock Canyons State Park for our six day visit. When checking in I was informed that the park was home to the Texas State Bison Herd and that they freely roam the entire park, including the campground. She also informed me they have the "right of way" on the roads in the park.

We drove halfway through the park to the campground and quickly got setup on our site.

We have a large site and are nestled back in a private corner.

Most sites come with a covered picnic table and fire pit.

We were barely finished setting up when we witnessed just what the Ranger explained to us upon check-in.

A small portion of the herd wandered into the campground.

I'm glad we didn't reserve Site #34, because it looks like it's currently occupied by the bison.

I'm not going to be the one to approach them and ask them to move along,
not even the little ones like this guy!

SATURDAY - Today we drove five miles deeper into the park along the Scenic Drive. There are several great tent camping opportunities deeper in the park, but trailers over 15 feet are not allowed. We took a few photos but with the harsh afternoon sun they didn't come out well. We'll plan to get up early tomorrow and repeat the drive and sneek in a short hike.

Tonight we attended a 1-hour long Ranger Talk at the park's amphitheater which centered on the topic of the Texas State Bison Herd which calls Caprock Canyons State Park home. The herd was originally only 36 head back in the late 1990s, now their numbers are around 250.

Once a year in the winter time the park corrals up the entire herd and puts them through physicals, vaccinations and DNA testing. The DNA testing tells them if they need to introduce some new "bull bison" from another herd to lend a little variety to the new offspring's parent pairs. This protects the herd from the consequences of inbreeding.

SUNDAY - We didn't get out into the park as early as we hoped, but the lighting late this morning was still better than yesterday's afternoon sunlight.

We also managed to get in that short 1/2-mile hike we mentioned yesterday, but it was a bit of a dissappointment. The park's brochure says there is a natural bridge under the trail that you can pass through to the other side.

Well I guess you could, if you were only 3-feet tall and possibly hoofed like a goat or something.

You'll see the pictures, I'll let you decided if you'd like to try and make it through!


These photos are far superior to yesterdays. The early morning sun really brings out the deep red color in the canyon walls.
That white layer in the wall is gypsum. It is mined all over Texas and used to make fertilizer, chalk and drywall.
Those gypsum layers can be found all over the park in the exposed canyon walls.
Red clay makes up the layers just below the harder top layer of caprock.
The canyon walls really light up and come alive this time of the morning.
Eagle Point stands above the horizon from this vantage point.
We begin our short hike down the Eagle Point Trail to the location of the natural bridge.
From this side it looks like you could actually pass through and under the trail.
Even up close it looks doable.
The problem is the other side leaves you 30-feet above the canyon floor and nothing but a pile of rocks to scramble down. No thank you!

After our morning hike and picture taking we were headed back to our campsite when we came upon a sizeable portion of the bison herd. They were enjoying a morning drink of water from one of the many troughs scattered throughout by the park.

This big guy came right up to ROVER's passenger door and gave Tricia the "Evil Eye".
I believe he may have been thinking "Move It Or Lose It" there buddy!

Tricia shot this video while standing up in the passenger seat
and hanging her upper torso out of ROVER's moonroof.

You'll see about 20-seconds into the video I start following with ROVER,
that is until we hit a "Bison (Traffic) Jam".

We didn't expect this experience until we arrived in Yellowstone!

I guess when you've got an itch, you just have to scratch it however you can!

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STOP #270

Tricia awoke early today, way before sunrise, to do a morning walk. It's still one day before the full moon, but it's so dark out here that she was able to have a little fun photographing her moon shadow. Yeah, it's a real thing, not just something Cat Stevens made up!

Later, at a more reasonable hour, I woke up and began getting THE POD ready for travel. We have planned for a little longer than normal travel day and would like to get an 8:30AM start. The target we're shooting for is a small city park about 150 miles away.

All over west Texas there small cities who offer free RV overnight parking with water and electric hookups. They also sometimes provide for garbage collection and waste water dumping. They do all this in an effort to get people to stop to their towns and possibly spend a little money at their grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and such. I know they won't benefit from us stopping tonight because we don't need any of those things they offer, except maybe the electrical hookup to run our heaters tonight.

As far as travel days go, today wasn't a good day to be on the road. Winds of 30-35MPH and gusts up to 50MPH where present all along our route across eastern New Mexico and western Texas. We passed through only a few small towns as most of this area is agricultural land.

This time of the year there are very few crops being grown so most of the land is just dirt right now. With the high winds most of that dirt, and several hundred 3-foot round tumbleweeds, were being blown across our 150+ mile long path.

We made it to the first of two possible locations to spend tonight and weren't thrilled with what we saw. There were 14 campsites and 7 of them were already filled at 1:00PM with Texas plated RVs. There was only one on truck in the park, so everyone else was off site, probably working somewhere local, which means they are living in the park.

We pulled into one of the empty sites and ate lunch in THE POD. It was easy for us to agree that we should move on to Option #2 about 30 miles down the road in the next small town. When we arrived here we were so happy with our previous decision to roll the dice and move on.

Our campsite for tonight even has this huge Welcome Sign to greet us upon our arrival.

All tucked into our private campsite. There was only one other camper here when we arrived.

Look at the wind pushing this large evergreen tree around.
It should help buffer THE POD tonight so we can get some sleep.

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STOP #269

"Land of Enchantment"
is our 37th visited state


New Mexico has an "official" state question: “Red or green?”
This refers to which variety of chile sauce you’d like on your food.
If you answer “Christmas” you’ll get both.

We may have only traveled 30 miles today, but we did enter a "new to us" state, the state of New Mexico. While we'll only be here three short days we'll be back for another short visit next month, before we visit the state extensively next year.

This visit has but one purpose, to explore the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It will be our 55th visit underground and we are just as excited about this one as the first.

Not only are we visiting New Mexico for the first time we're getting a taste of what it's like to camp in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground. BLM campgrounds are almost always FREE and they take no reservations. You just show up and pick a spot to camp. They always have a "stay limit" and in this campground it's only 5 nights, usually it's 14 nights. That's OK with us, we're only here for 3.

So for the "Grand Price of $0" we have a pit toilet facility including toilet tissue and our very own garbage container. We also have a sturdy metal shade canopy with a picnic table, a ground grill and a fire pit. What we don't have is water, electric, sewer or a dump station. There is however a free city dump station in the town of Carlsbad, NM at the water treatment plant.

Not bad for FREE!

Someone even left us a half bag of good charcoal in the grill!

MONDAY - We finished setting up the trailer, ate lunch and then decided to go check out the Visitor Center at the National Park. It would give me the chance to take care of a couple of housekeeping chores like purchase my Carlsbad Cavern sticker for my National Parks Passport Book and of course get the passport cancelation stamp.

The 7-mile drive from the park entrance sign to the Visitor Center was stunning, winding it's way up through several canyons and overlooks. After checking out the Exhibit Hall we watched a short movie about the park's history and creation. Then we traveled the 9.5 mile gravel road that goes even deeper into the park called the Walnut Canyon Desert Drive. It is along this drive that most of the park's hiking trailheads can be found.

No hiking for us today due to the 30+ MPH winds we're experiencing. So we returned to the campsite to enjoy dinner and watch the sunset.

TUESDAY - Today is the day we get to visit Carlsbad Caverns.

But before we share a few of the over 600 photos Tricia took while inside the cave today, I'm going to give you a few tidbits of wisdom I gleaned during our visit. For lack of anything better I'm calling it:



(1) First and foremost you need to "MAKE A RESERVATION" for your tour time on Recreation.gov, this will cost you $1 per person, but be aware it is not your ticket into the cave. This reservation can be made as early as 30 days before your tour or as late as two days before your tour. The sooner you can decide on a date the better, because they have a limited number of entries (about 300 per hour) and there are only six times to choose from. I suggest you book the 8:30AM tour time to make it easier to secure a parking spot. It also means you minimize the risk of arriving to a very crowded cave from people left over from the tour times before you.

Arrive at the Visitor Center 30-minutes before your tour time. You'll need to get in line to purchase your actual cave entrance tickets. If you have a Lifetime Senior Pass bring it in with you, it will admit up to four people for FREE. Even though it may be free you will still have to go through this process of waiting in line to get your tickets.

When you purchase your ticket the day of your tour you'll be asked, "hike in" or "elevator in"? CHOOSE TO HIKE IN!, unless you are physically unable to walk 2.5 miles at a slow pace, with many opportunities to sit and rest. If you elect to take the elevator in you'll miss a large portion of the total cave experience.

(2) After you secure your ticket you'll want to go directly behind the Ticket Counter to the Bookstore. Here you can rent an Audio Tour device for $5 each that narrates 50 Points of Interest during the tour. Since this is a Self-Guided Tour I highly suggest these devices or you'll be missing a lot of information about what it is in front of you and the history of the cave. An additional tip is if you have a set of "wired" headphones that work in a cell phone jack, bring them. This way you can wear the headphones, can cue up the narration at each stop, return the device to your back pocket and free up both hands to take all your photos. It sure beats holding the device up to one of your ears while the 1-2 minute narration plays at the 50 different stops. Stops #1-20 are on the "hike in" section of the tour.

(3) OK! You've got your tickets and rented your Audio Tour devices, it's time to go outside and get in line to enter the cave at your designated time. Here is where a bit of strategy goes a long way. Once you've gotten past the Check-In Ranger and listened to their saftey guidelines, you'll want to make your way to the back of the pack. That's right, let everyone get in front of you. There will be a few people who will take advantage of the last opportunity to use the Port-A-Potties before entering the cave, usually those with young children, but don't worry about them. Eventually they will catch up to you. You will see or hear them coming, just find the next available rest stop and let them pass. There are a lot of rest stops on the way down the 750 feet from the cave entrance due to the fact that everyone used to have to hike back out of the cave. That all changed when they installed the elevators, now everyone must exit the cave using the elevators. Using this strategy the only people you'll be sharing this portion of the cave with will be anyone who arrived late for their starting time, there will always be a few of them, and the people who used the restroom at the cave entrance. Remember, there won't be anyone else admitted to the cave for another hour until the next tour time!

Take your time, your not on a guided tour, so there is no pressure to keep up with the pack. Stop and take many photos, believe me you'll want to. Enjoy this portion of the cave! When you get to the bottom you'll arrive at The Lunch Room and the Elevator Exits and Entrances. This lunch room serves snacks and drinks, but is only open Friday through Sunday. There are also restooms available at this location. From this point on everything changes!

(4) Congratulations! You are halfway done with the tour and the best half is yet to come. You are in what's known as "The Big Room", and it is. The trail through here is one big loop bringing you back to the elevators and lunch room. There is one shortcut about half way through the loop if you're not feeling up to the extra half mile that makes up the rear of the loop. Don't take the short cut unless you physically have to.

Tricia and I took 1-1/2 hours to get to this point. That means all the people we let pass us are now infront of us on the loop, along with all the people that had 9:30AM reservations and opted for the elevator ride down. That means we could have about 300 people in front of us and most of them are the slow walking senior citizens or families with small children. But with Tricia stopping to take so many pictures we were part of the slow walking group also. There are not nearly as many places to sit and rest along this portion of the route, but half way through at the very back of the outer loop is a large seating area where they have Ranger discussions and will answer questions. Take advantage of this rest stop and again let everyone get ahead of you when the discussion takes a break.

(5) Now that your tour is over, another bit of wisdom for you is if all of this has worked up your appetite the restaurant at the back of the Gift Shop (top side) has excellent food in a cafeteria style setting. They have a varied menu but my suggestion is to try their Pulled Pork Sandwich with Pricky Pear BBQ Sauce. They make the sauce right there in the restaurant's kitchen. It's a very unique flavor and I'm going to try to find something similiar in the local supermarkets before leaving New Mexico.

(6) My last bit of advice, now that you've eaten and rested, is to grab a Driving Tour Brochure from the information counter and drive the 9.5 mile gravel road that takes you even further into the park. This is where you'll find most of the hiking trailheads, but we weren't up for any more walking today. Still the drive is beautiful and the brochure will explain what it is all around you that you'll be seeing.


Your adventure begins just around the corner.
This is the auditorium at the cave entrance where they host the summertime Bat Flight Programs.
You begin making your way, back and forth, then repeat, down into the cave entrance.
These little number signs alert you to which session to cue up on your Audio Guide device. Keep an eye out for them, they're easy to miss.
Still going down?
Finally inside and looking back up at the morning sunlight.
Still going down while looking back up.
The last of the natural sunlight you'll see on this tour.
Now we're beginnig to see some of those familiar formations.
But the trail keeps leading down.
Sorry but the cave is very dimly lit, which makes for an exceptionally great cave experience, but lousy light for photography.
Just stunning, but the best is yet to come.
An hour and a half later we're at the bottom of the cave and find the promised restrooms. There is also a snack bar, but it's only open on the busier weekends.
The balance of these photos were taken while exploring "The Big Room".
I'm going to stop with the captions for awhile and let you enjoy the slideshow.
This formation is called "The Lion's Tail". I can see why.
This is not part of today's tour! This was left behind by the original explorers.
The formation known as "The Chandelier".
Finally! The elevators that will whisk you up 750 feet and into the Gift Shop in under 60 seconds. Hold on tight, to your money that is!

While we didn't see any of the nearly 400,000 Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats that park is also famous for (only here from mid-April to October), we did witness a flock of several hundred Cave Swallows exiting and returning through the cave entrance. We'll have to return someday while the bats are here!

A final word on Carlsbad Cavern National Park. Not only is the park one of the 51 National Parks in the Lower 48 states in the U.S., it is one of only 19 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites. UNESCO sites are described as places of great importance to cultural or natural heritage.

Not surprisingly 10 of our 19 World Heritage Sites are National Parks, further proof that our National Parks are of great importance to preserve and protect.

WEDNESDAY - Seeing as how this is our last day in New Mexico, at least for a little while, we have a few chores to take care of.

First thing this morning I called our mail forwarding company to make sure of license tag renewal stickers had arrived. If everything goes according to plan we'll be in Alaska when our current tags expire so I renewed early so we didn't have to worry about getting mail in Alaska.

Next I was able to locate a Geocache nearby on the way into town, so I was able to check that off our New Mexico Bucket List.

Also I found a restaurant that offered a Green Chili Cheeseburger on the menu. It's just your everyday cheeseburger except instead of mustard and ketchup, it's topped with a green chili sauce. It was different and tasty, but I'm not sure if I liked it better than what I'm used to. That was checked off the Must Taste Bucket List for New Mexico.

Finally we went into the town of Carlsbad to check out the free dump station we intend to use tommorow. It had an easy approach and exit, as I expected to find from using Google Maps, but I like to be sure when towing the trailer I don't find myself on a dead end street with no way to turn around.

Also while in town we went to the Murphy Gas Station at the Walmart to top off ROVER's tank with $3.99 gasoline. We have a three hour drive to get to the next stop tomorrow. While at the gas station we were treated to a rare sighting, a 1947 Curtiss Wright Clipper. This trailer looks like an Airstream because Wally Byam, the Airstream Founder, designed it. The two men worked together for a while but shortly after World War II ended the two men went their separate ways.

It even has a chrome plated propane tank on the front.

It's so shiny you can see Tricia's reflection on the side.

Look at all those windows and an awning (probably not factory equipment).

Good advice there!

Look at the size of that front door. I wonder how often those jalousie windows broke when slamming the door?

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