Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Texas: Heat and Higher Regard

While initially we planned on driving around Texas to avoid driving through Texas, we set our destination to Amarillo, where there were ample services so we could find stores open on the 4th to replenish gas/groceries and a couple other amenities. (Side note: cheapest gas on the trip so far at $1.86/gallon at Toot 'n Totum in Amarillo.) Traveling through we certainly got our fill of billboards touting our fate unless we find and obey God. "If you die tonight...Heaven or Hell?" Hmmmmm. Well, twas hot enough in Texas that perhaps we'd already found hell.

We scanned the map and settled on a state park/campground about an hour away--looking to be as far out of range of fireworks as possible (which had gone great so far!). Palo Duro turned out to be a real gem--2nd largest canyon in the country! With many similar feature of the Grand Canyon, including scorching heat, lots of pokey plants and bitey critters. Paying the price for the grand display of beauty. We found our sweet spot to set up our nest--surrounded by red rock on all sides--yum! Excited to arrive at such a place, we settled in for the night, a warm one indeed: all windows open, no covers needed. And Kavi experienced his first firefly encounter! The only downside to our land claim was a little Casita trailer a few slots down from us with the air conditioner constantly humming, even though the folks were away in their vehicle more than they were at camp. Boo. Andres tripped off the power supply before bed at night and once the next day while they were away. Bandits!
We had advanced another hour in time in our drive east, which also meant it was lighter later. These two things made it tricky to get Kavi to bed at a decent time. In fact, he didn't end up finally surrendering to sleep until 11pm!! This was just after the BIG fireworks display that went on for 20 minutes or so, ending in a very grand finale--and all of it was quite close! Now, in checking in at the front gate, I specifically asked if fireworks were allowed as we were doing our best to avoid them, preferring the peace of nature. The ranger assured me they were certainly NOT allowed--not at any of the parks. Hmmmm, they certainly did feel close, but perhaps Amarillo is closer than we were realizing as the crow flies.

The next day, after breakfast, clean up and an attempted bike ride (Kavi fell apart before it could even start and it was decided instead to move towards nap time), I found the Park Ranger Host for our little campground (a retired fellow named Bullet) to see about staying another night--too beautiful here to leave so quickly! In talking with him, we discovered the fireworks were the last act of an outdoor musical called "Texas" happening at the amphitheatre in the park, about a mile from us--oh! Not only that, but the show (and the fireworks) happen EVERY night!! Except Mondays. With the exception of this week being as July 4th was on a Monday. Uh huh. What are the odds?? And how was this not mentioned at the front gate?? Funny stuff.
It was so hot, we sat around under the trees til nearly 4pm, then checked out the little stream nearby. Too many biting flies, so took bike ride/little walk. So gorgeous here!! We kept the adventure brief due to heat. Wanted to be sure not to overdo it considering Kavi was with us, and we had very little water with us. Also discovered earlier that day 2 folks were ambulanced out due to heat exhaustion/dehydration. Andres learned that the air temp just above the trail was around 150°--whoa!  The thermostat on the trail registered at 110° at just after 5pm!! Kavi is SUCH an adventurer--he wanted to keep hiking.
Back at camp, Kavi settled into his fave activity--playing with his little bag of trucks, while Andres & I tended to work until dinner. Still hot out, we decided to attend the nightly BBQ at the amphitheatre rather than cook. We rode our bikes the mile to the venue, where the night's crowd was already gathering for dinner and the show (the afore-mentioned firework finale show). We bought our tickets and collected our heaping plates of Texas fare--sausage, bbq brisket, pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and peach cobbler. Tea and lemonade to wash it all down. Was tastier than anticipated and we had a sweet mama/daughter duo join us at our table. They were there to see the show and the daughter filled us in that it was written in 1960 and was created for this park. Another layer to the story!! So the musical wasn't just a passing fancy that the park ranger who checked us in would have forgotten or been unfamiliar with. Andres and I both chuckled at this. After dinner, we rode back to our camp (me with a tender belly--such a heavy meal!!). After readying for bed and reading stories to Kavi, I'm pretty sure I fell asleep before he did and we all slept well that night--despite any fireworks.
Helping papa under the hood
The next morning was an anomaly. Andres & I were up early to ready ourselves for a bike ride before the heat of the day started up. And somehow lil Kavi just kept sleeping, despite our attempts to be noisy enough that he would wake! This little guy is always up before we're ready to be and on this one morning we wanted to get crackin', he just kept turning over and going back to sleep! Our little toddler teenager. Once we finally roused him, he was amenable to a quick departure and we rolled out just half an hour later than scheduled. We stopped by Bullet's place to let him know our morning plans, should anything go awry. Then off for adventure! We rode the Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail to the Lighthouse Trail--about 6 miles all told. Not so far and none of it too intense (though the GSL is considered a "challenging" mountain bike trail by the Park Service). That said, it was exciting for me as I am not a fan of mountain biking! In my adult life, I mountain biked in 1998. One time. That was enough for me to decide I much prefer road biking to all the jarring landings, sideways sliding wheels and white knuckles of mountain biking. This ride felt different. I felt fairly at ease from the start and at some point noticed how much I was enjoying the strategy of the ride--looking ahead to see which rocks to steer clear of, which I could cruise over,  how best to maneuver through the rutty, rugged terrain. Andres rode in front of me for the first few miles, with Kavi seated behind him. Even without Kavi in tow, he was riding a heavier bike. And he was managing the slick sand and rocky ups and downs quite well. When I saw him manage a downhill that made me nervous, I went for it. After all, my bike would handle much smoother so long as I kept my cool. After a bit, this built up my self trust and I eventually took the lead so I could go my own speed and not be stopped when they were unable to manage a difficult spot. Fun! I'm still not a fan of being so knocked about, but that was a great ride and an empowering experience to feel so much more confident about something (nearly 20 years older!) that I still have so little experience with. And to top it off, we saw this happen...

A few curves later, Andres also spotted a Great Horned Lizard (endangered) which we watched until the critter scattered. It was an invigorating, satisfying and beautiful ride--and was "only" 98° at the end of our ride. Upon returning to camp, we let Bullet know we were safely returned, we showered off and said our farewells to Palo Duro. Yet another beautiful home. 
Adios, Texas!

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