As we drove from New Mexico in to Texas we went through Hereford which was listed as the Beef Cattle Capital of the World and boy did it smell like it. When you imagine Texas Beef Cattle you imagine them roaming the wide open spaces but instead they were all jammed in to pens full of their own droppings. It could seriously make you want to stop eating Beef! We carried on to Palo Duro Canyon SP but unfortunately they indicated they had no campsites available. They suggested the Zip Line Campground right outside the gate so we ended up staying there two nights. The Zip Line business had a fire two weeks prior and all their buildings burnt down but the campground was still operational. We went in to the SP and saw the visitor centre and then drove down in to the canyon. There were tons of empty campsites so we were frustrated with their crazy booking system again. However the Zip Line business was on the Canyon edge so we did have a good view and it was close enough to the SP entrance booth that we could get slow internet access. The Canyon was spectacular with the red cliffs and blue sky contrast. It is made up of three main areas with the flat plains, the cliffs and rugged slopes, and the flood plain and river valley. In the Visitor Centre they had an interesting exhibit about the CCC and how they built the Coronado Lodge (now the Visitor Centre) and the road down in to the canyon. We finished off the day with a nice sunset.
The next day we decided to do a long hike so we started on the Rock Garden Trail and then connected with the Rylander Fortress Cliff Trail, at least that’s what we thought we were doing! The Rock Garden trail was listed as a 4 km one way difficult trail with an elevation gain of 628’. They had great trail markers all along so you knew how far you had travelled. The views along the way were spectacular. Once we reached the rim of the canyon we followed the trail map and turned left to supposedly follow the rim trail but it had no trail markers. The map showed we would hit Spur trails that would take us to overlooks. However we found that we were following the edge of the cliff all the way. The trail seemed very well worn although a little scary in spots with the steep drop offs and the heavily eroded edge. However with such great views we carried on and stopped along the edge for lunch. It was only when we reached the Fractures in the Rock lookout that we realized we hadn’t followed the rim trail at all. The rim trail was a grassy not well defined roadway that was nowhere close to the rim. We followed it back and found how the map was misleading and they had not blocked off the left turn we had taken. It seems many other people had gone the way we did and in the end that was good based on the beautiful views we got. We would have seen next to nothing along the actual rim trail and the spurs were not well defined either. We did about 6 KMS total for the edge and the rim trail and then returned back the 4 KMS to the bottom of the canyon for a total of 14 KMS.
After we had finished the trail we drove around the canyon loop to see the Big Cave and then Sharon went to see the windmill and the Dugout so see how the Cowboys lived (while I drank a beer) before returning to our campsite.
The next day we began our Route 66 journey starting at the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas. Route 66 is a 2400 mile road way from Chicago Illinois to Santa Monica California and it was built in 1926 and goes through 8 states with 3 time zones. It is nick-named “Main Street America” and also “The Mother Road”. It is famous for its motels, cabins, diners, neon lights and tourist attractions and it gave the car based traveller somewhere to venture. We’ll only cover part of the Route on our journey but you’ll soon see that there are lots of ways to “Get your Kicks on Route 66”! The Cadillac Ranch is a set of 10 vintage Cadillac cars (1948 to 1964) that were placed in a farmer’s field in 1974 as a sculpture and people are supposed to bring their cans of spray paint and decorate the cars. We were completely blown away by how many tourists stopped and walked out in the field to decorate the cars. We saw more tourists here than almost anywhere we had been on the trip so far! Sharon was singing Cadillac Ranch as we walked out to the “ranch”. (Bruce Springsteen Cadillac Ranch)
Our next Route 66 stop in Texas was McLean where we had lunch at the Chuckwagon restaurant and I had the best burger I’ve ever had in my life! It was called “The Firecracker” and was topped with a huge pile of fried jalapenos, boy was it spicy! Sharon had the Mushroom Swiss Burger with homemade potato chips. One of their pop sizes was 64 oz., who could drink that much! Definitely worth the stop. When we went to pay for our lunch the waitress said “We’re doing something called “Pay it Forward” and someone has paid for your lunch today. You are welcome to leave or you can choose to pay for someone else’s lunch.” What a great thing to do! We chose to pay for the lunch of another couple in the restaurant. Before leaving town we also saw the vintage Phillips 66 station built in 1929 which was the very first one in Texas.
Next up is the Oklahoma section of Route 66.