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Soul of the Desert


Fairyland – Inner Space Caverns

I love caves. They are very inspirational, not to mention beautiful. Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown, Texas is only a few short miles from where we live. We’ve never gone there because the signs near the area are so cheesy, we figured the caverns were small and nothing more than a tourist trap.

Well, the signs are misleading! Thanks to regular blog-reader, Max, we decided to go visit the caverns and my! what a great surprise. The cave is very much a living cave with fabulous formations. It’s been a nice, wet winter too, so there were some great water flows, making for just a magical place. The cave costs about 18 dollars per person to tour and takes about an hour. It’s well worth it if you’re in the area. Beautiful formations, knowledgeable guides and a lot of fun.

As always, click on the thumbnails to view a larger picture.

Posted: March 16, 2010
Filed in Texas

Palo Duro Vacation: Two Engineers and a Dad

I try to visit my parents on their desert cattle ranch in New Mexico whenever possible. Occasionally, I out-clever myself and we meet somewhere. One year, that place was Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas Panhandle.

palo duro

My husband and I arrived at the cabin first. It was a nice stone building tucked along the top of the chasm. Outside, beautiful red-rock Spanish skirts decorated the landscape. Inside, two bedrooms were separated by a three-foot hallway. Strangely, there were no doors on either end of the short hallway. A sink and toilet was on one side of the hallway. Directly across from it, another glass door covered a shower. Anyone getting out of the shower had to step directly into the open hallway. If you were using the toilet, anyone walking through the very short hallway could see what you were doing. Then again, if you’re in the bathroom, I guess they already know what you are doing.

My husband and I moved our things into the room with the microwave and refrigerator because it had a double bed. The other room had a daybed with a twin stowed underneath. My parents tend to fight over who is hogging the bed when they try to sleep in a double. I figured they’d be happy about the twin beds and mildly unhappy about the strange engineering concept that put all the electronics in our room…their room had a light, but not a single electric outlet.

Since I had expected mom and dad to arrive an hour earlier, I hiked about a mile to the public telephone booth near the ranger station and reached dad on his cell phone. What followed was a typical father/daughter communication with a bad connection thrown in. “Where are you?” I asked.

Dad replied, “Highway forty, almost there.”

Since highway forty doesn’t lead to the park, “almost there” didn’t make any sense. As long as dad knows where he is, he can be maddeningly inexact. “Almost where?” I asked.

“Almost to Amarillo,” he replied. “I guess we’re going to stop and get dinner.”

“I thought we were going to grill food here?” I said.

“What?” he crackled back.

“Weren’t we going to grill?”

“Well, I don’t know where we are going to stop,” he replied. “We might get something grilled.” More crackling while I hinted that they had the food.

“I guess we can bring you some food.”

“No, I said…” The connection crackled. “Hello? Hello?” It was gone. Died. Calling back would do no good. Parents never listen to their children anyway.

I hiked back to the cabin and reported the development to my husband. Mom and dad had agreed to bring a cooler with steaks and burgers. My husband and I only had buns, potato salad and silverware.

“So what should we do?” he asked. “Eat potato salad?”

The wind was picking up and we didn’t really want to drive to Amarillo in search of a meal. If we were delayed and my parents arrived before we returned, we had the only keys to the cabin.

We waited. Two hours later, we were starved.

Dad’s only comment upon arrival was an innocent, “I didn’t know you were waiting for us to bring the food.”

“I told you we had the food,” my mother asserted.

“But weren’t you hungry?” he asked her.

“It doesn’t matter,” I interjected. “We have the food now.” It was seven o’clock and the wind was blowing very hard, which made it difficult to get the charcoal hot enough to grill.

While my husband and I ate, dad told us about the Italian restaurant in Amarillo. “It didn’t look like much and they had plastic forks, but the food was darn good!”

Mom agreed. “I didn’t want to stop there at all. Italian food is so expensive. I was just going to get a salad, but they had spaghetti and breadsticks. I could have eaten a dozen of those breadsticks.”

“And the price was right!” dad added. “You should drive up to Amarillo before you head back home and try it.”

“What was it called?” I asked.

They looked at each other. “Oh let’s see.” Dad scratched his almost gray hair. “It was–do you remember?”

Mom frowned. Her hair isn’t as gray as dad’s and she perms it so she has those little old lady curls. “No.”

The breadsticks and plastic forks rang a bell in the back of my mind. “Fazolis?” I guessed.

“That’s it!” they both shouted.

“How did you know?” my mom sputtered. “I thought you said you hadn’t been to Amarillo before!”

“It’s a chain,” I said with a grin. “You guys need to get out more often.”

It was downright blustery outside so we went inside to tell stories about growing up on the ranch and all the creepy crawling bugs and rattlesnakes that are in the desert. My husband, from tame Wisconsin, was not overly inspired by our enthusiast tales of survival.

Before long, a discussion started on the cabin design.

“Even if the second room was an add-on they could have put in electricity. The electrician must have been lazy,” dad decided.

“I guess the guy putting in doors was lazy too,” my husband said.

We examined the door frames to see if doors had ever been attached. “Maybe we could take the door off the water-heater closet and latch it onto the hallway opening,” I suggested.

Dad stroked his gray day-old stubble thoughtfully. “If you had thumbtacks you could at least hang a blanket. But my tacks are in the truck. We brought the car.” He carefully searched the cabin, but didn’t find tacks. All the while he mumbled, “You get out of the shower, your naked butt will be hanging out for all the world to see.”

From the look on my husband’s face, I was pretty sure he was not excited about this possibility.

Though we all stared at the doorway long and hard, no solutions appeared. The opening loomed.


Road Trip

I recently took a road trip that involved driving long distances across Texas. Basically almost any road trip in Texas involves long distances because frankly, Texas is huge and it takes a full day’s driving for me to get *out* of Texas. I thought it interesting that traffic on I-10 wasn’t as busy as in past years. On the way out, traffic was a lot lighter than I expected. On the way back, traffic consisted mostly of semis and very few cars. I’m fairly certain that some of it has to be due to gas prices, which ranged from $3.43 to $3.95 for unleaded. Near El Paso and Van Horn, where truck traffic can be extremely heavy, there appeared to be less semis hogging the road too.

Finding a hotel in the fifty bucks a night range meant staying away from the larger chains in a couple of cases. Walking in and asking for a rate was cheaper than booking online or calling ahead (this was especially true of the large chains.)

It appears that having a membership card to a hotel chain means they will tack on 20 dollars so that your “free” room after x number of stays is…paid for by the 20 dollars more they charge above a non-member who walks in and says, “how much?” I always suspected as much, but we went ahead and tested it on the trip. Sometimes I wish I weren’t right about my suspicions.

At one hotel where I stayed, I was peacefully minding my own business when the front desk called. “Can you move your vehicle over one spot? The lady who just checked in next to you wants to back into the spot directly in front of her door.”

Hmm. I was in front of my own door. I peered outside around the curtains. Technically the spot I was in could be for either door. Technically if this lady wasn’t all that secure in her ability to back up her van without hitting me, I’d happily move it.

“Sure, I’ll move it.”

Since I had no confidence in the other driver’s ability to back up, I moved it over two spaces. Hey, I’m nothing if not cooperative. Especially if it saves me getting a dented car.

So what do you think? Are you watching what you spend on gas? Driving less? Thinking of staying closer to home this summer?

Posted: April 12, 2011
Filed in Texas

Walks of Life: Texas

I have a friend who lives in Houston. She posted a very interesting story to facebook the other day and has given me permission to share it with y’all:

Last night was a bad night. My dogs were randomly barking, which they never do, and I swore I heard a gun shot at 4 AM. Then when we left for swim practice, we saw a large amount of blood in the street. For those of us who have watched too many episodes of “Bones” recently, we tried to pretend none of this happened. I just got a note from a neighbor that a cow was loose in the neighborhood, got hit by a car, and had to be shot. Only in Texas …

Posted: February 8, 2014
Filed in Texas, Walks in Life