SW Road Trip, part 1: Texas

Back in late spring, Jason and I made plans to use some of our cruise credit (from the Planniversary cruise that was canceled in May 2020) to have a short holiday. Of course, with covid rising, we again had to cancel that. We still wanted to go on vacation, though, and began a second plan. This one involved going to Colorado, because the lady who intended to adopt Angus and Ghost lived there. Except then she pulled out of the adoption, and suddenly, we could go anywhere. Colorado was still one possibility, but instead, we put together a trip that would break up the driving a bit more and allow us to see a few more places. This collage detailed the general outline of our plans, and we scheduled days, hotels, park passes, etc. This post will detail the first third of the trip, the parts where we stayed in Texas.

Day 1 – 9/24
Technically, our vacation didn’t start until the 25th, but our first few stops were a bit rushed, so we decided to leave after J finished work on the 24th. San Saba, where we would stay our first night, is only about 2.5 hours north of us. I don’t drive well in the dark, so the plan was to get off right at 4pm so that we could arrive at our destination before dark. Things…didn’t go as planned.

(ready to go!)

First, we didn’t get off until 4:30. Then, we had three stops to make before leaving the city. Then, on our third stop, we realized a few things we forgot at home that were too expensive to acquire along the way, so we circled back and eventually started our trip maybe 5:30ish? Next, we tried to stop a few times for dinner, but in these small towns, either there would be an hour-long wait, or the restaurants (even fast food) would be closed. Eventually we found food at a gas station (ugh), and the last 45 mins or so was driving in the dark on back roads, which was terrifying. We reached the vrbo at about 8:15, only to realize that 1) we had no idea which unit we were supposed to be in (we were given a name for the unit, but they were labeled with numbers!), and 2) they’d never sent us the pin number to get in. It took nearly an hour of phone tag (pictured) to get ahold of someone, and eventually we did make it into the room.


I say room because our vrbo rental was tiny. Smaller than the smallest bedroom at our house, it basically fit a queen size bed with a couple feet of space on three sides around it, plus a tiny bathroom and closet. Maybe 100 sq ft. Maybe. We were definitely forewarned, so we were expecting small, but we weren’t exactly expecting “smaller than the smallest cruise room” small. But anyway, we only needed to sleep there, no big deal. It was late, and we had an early morning ahead of us, so we went to bed almost immediately.

Day 2 – 9/25
I slept very badly, due to both the anxiety of the drive up to San Saba, and worry about the next day’s plans. The plan was to pack up and check out, travel to Colorado Bend State Park (45 min drive), hike the Spicewood Springs Trail, then drive straight up to our hotel in Amarillo. The part that made me anxious was leaving all our belongings in the car in a parking lot at the park, including valuables! So while I tossed and turned, I decided on a different plan. We were already getting up early, and we’d leave our stuff at the vrbo while we went out to the park. We’d hike a shorter trail (Gorman Falls), and be back in time to check out at 11. Then we’d drive to Amarillo.

(sunrise drive to CBSP)

Ha. Ha. Ha. This didn’t work out well. When we entered CBSP, there was no one there, and a sign said to go to Headquarters to check in. I already had reservations, but you still have to check in. Headquarters was a 20-min drive away, and when we got there, they were also closed. We had to drive 20 mins back to get a self-pay form to show that we had a reservation, and we got onto the trail much later than expected. Then, of course, the trail itself – an out and back – had a huge dip-then-climb to the falls. Not only did that portion of the trail take a lot longer than expected to hike, but the second half of the trip was consistently uphill. I strained my body a lot dragging myself up the rock-climbing section, so I had to take a lot more breaks than normal. Jason ignored my advice to take water because the hike was only 2.8 miles, so of course we ran out. (I didn’t let him ignore my advice again after that.) I knew that there was no way we were going to get back to the vrbo in time to check out at 11.

(Windfarm on the trip to Amarillo)

Thankfully, because of the mishaps the night before, the owner extended our checkout to noon, and that gave us all the time we needed to make up for the extra issues. We grabbed food – again, gas station food, gross – and started the loooong drive to Amarillo (about 7 hours). It was a relatively uneventful drive, and we looked forward to getting a real dinner, hopefully at a local restaurant, after we checked into our hotel. Which is where we ran in to our second hotel issue of the trip.

Somehow, Hotels.com (where we booked everything) LOST our reservation. We’d paid for it, and it hadn’t been refunded, but it wasn’t in the computer system. When J looked at his hotels.com account, it was there, but when he called their help line, his confirmation number didn’t work. It took an HOUR to eventually get us checked into a room, and they were only able to do it by canceling the lost-in-the-internet reservation and making us pay a second time. We’re supposed to get a refund, since we paid twice, but have yet to receive it. Ugh. By the time we finally checked in, we didn’t have time to find a local restaurant, and we went to a nearby Olive Garden for dinner. Still, that was better than gas station food!! Just wish I hadn’t been driving in the dark again. Oy. At least the hotel room was nice, clean, and large enough to walk around without tripping over each other!! (Sadly, the indoor pool was closed. But in better news, the caution tape and falling covers on the door to the pool (photo) was hilariously nightmarish.)

Day 3 – 9/26
The first two days of this vacation were very rushed, as we were trying to fit in a lot into small amounts of time. Starting Day 3, things got better. J and I got up early and traveled the half hour away to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. As I said in the hiking post that detailed this day, it was incredible to just watch a canyon appear out of nowhere. It was like entering an entirely new landscape. The park was absolutely gorgeous, and I was really upset at myself because I forgot to bring my nice camera with me and had to do with phone pics!! The phone takes great photos in good light, which was perfect for that day, but it’ll never show the great depths of field that my nice camera shows. Oh well. In any case, we enjoyed our hike immensely!

(it all looks so much flatter than it really was!)

After hiking, we stopped by the Trading Post to get souvenirs (a pin for my hiking bag, and a collectible spoon for Laurence). They had ice cream for sale, so I got some mint chocolate chip and Jason got himself a root beer float. We ate in the car (because so many people weren’t wearing masks!), and then headed back to the hotel. We arrived at the park just before 9am and there was no line to get in. We left around 11:30 and the line was miles long. So I guess that’s the secret: get there early!

We didn’t do much the rest of the day. Hung around the hotel room, caught up on a few things (social media, journaling, TV shows, napping, whatever). There was a Waffle House really close to the hotel, so we decided to go there for dinner. If you’ve never been to Waffle House, you won’t understand. It’s a horrible place. The food is cheap and not the greatest. It’s dirty and there are usually flies everywhere. The people inside are worse than People of Walmart. And it’s the absolute best. It’s just one of those things. The closest Waffle House to home is 70 miles for us, so we took advantage while we were practically next door to one!!

Favorite photos from these days of the trip:
Some of my favorites from the day are already pictured above (the “ready to go” car selfie, the ice cream photo, the nightmare pool door). Here are the rest:

Left to right: bunny doorstop at the first vrbo; pathway along the Kiowa trail; tiny purple flower covered in tons of ladybugs

Fun stuff along the way:

  • a large portion of the road leading into CBSP was an open livestock area, so there were cows and horses right next to (and sometimes in) the road
  • one road had a 55 mph speed limit, but it was so full of curves with speeds anywhere from 20 to 45 mph that Jason and I were laughing about how the speed limit on the road should have been labeled “it’s complicated” or “55 mph unless otherwise stated”
  • We ran into a one-lane road on the trip to Amarillo. It had stoplights (to keep people from crossing) that were meant to turn green in turns. But we could see the other side, and there was no one there, and our light had been red for ten mins, so eventually, we just went for it.
  • At one point, we ran into a corvette party. Literally 2-3 dozen corvettes of different ages, colors, and customizations ran along the highway in a single row, like a fast funeral procession. We have no idea what was happening and were very curious about whatever corvette party or convention was going on! This was out in the middle of nowhere.
  • Near Amarillo, we came across a business called Tire Tree. It had a big fake tree out front, with tires hung on the branches like Christmas ornaments. Ha!
  • a shop on the way to Palo Duro called the Rodfather RV Repairs (ha!)
  • In Waffle House, a man was earnestly telling his companions about how you can’t say a product is prosciutto unless it comes from a particular region in Italy. It was obvious he was talking about Parma ham and just confused. Jason and I locked eyes and it was so difficult not to burst out laughing.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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