The Overrated Stop

Years ago, I’d seen Cadillac Ranch on someone’s photography blog. It looked so cool.

Then, a few summers ago, some friends drove Route 88 and stopped there for photos. That year, their family card was a cute picture of the family with those famed, painted Cadillacs in the background.

So before we left, I raided my spray paint collection, imagining the fun we’d have leaving our mark.

Screeeeeech brakes. Enter reality.

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Thing 1: It was unusually cold.

Thing 2: And super windy.

Thing 3: It’s a cool art project on someone’s private land, but the public has kind of trashed it. There are huge dumpsters out front, really lending ambiance. Barber wire protects it, but it just looks trashy.

The kids didn’t even want to get out of the car. Even the promise of spray painting couldn’t entice them. Finally, we resorted to threats.

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Super fun family bonding moment, right there.

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Just picture me screaming: “Stand right there! Out of the wind! Now look at me! SMILE! Hey, Hey HEY!”

We half-heartedly sprayed our initials as best we could, fighting the wind, then high-tailed it back to the car.

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Palo Alto State Park

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Take the detour.

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Take it; it’s worth it.

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As I scoured the map (on my phone, while my husband drove; what, did you think I planned ahead or something?) I noticed a state park near Amarillo.

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Trip Advisor people said it was worthwhile, but it was 45 minutes out of the way. And we’d been driving all day.

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We debated back and forth, but in the end we decided to go for it.

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So. Worth. It.

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Since I didn’t have any expectations, this was a fun surprise!

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It reminded me of a smaller, more accessible Grand Canyon.

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Because it was late in the day, we knew we couldn’t stay long, so we drove into the park and picked a short hike.

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Certain cutie-pies got tired of hiking pretty fast (I think we did a two-miler), but she still had fun.

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The taller one enjoyed scrambling across the rocks with me to take dangerous-looking pictures.

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All too soon, dust was falling, so we had to head back to the car.

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And on the drive back, we realized it wasn’t dusk, it was a DUST STORM! The drive back was kind of intense for us non-West Texas natives. Tumble weeds kept whipping into the car. Visibility was next to nothing. The car was rocking back and forth in the wind.

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We made it back to Amarillo only to find there was a huge brush fire right behind our hotel. We couldn’t even drive straight to the hotel; instead we were rerouted by the fire engines to basically drive right by the fire, which was huge, and intense. The front desk clerk unreassuringly told us she’d let us know if we had to evacuate.

Then we all took baths, made dinner in our little Comfort Inn kitchen, let the kids watch some PBS kids, and crashed for the night.

Spoiler Alert: we didn’t die in the night.

New Orleans: I’m the One Who Takes Kids to Bourbon Street and a Bar

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We hit Bourbon street early. Because, let’s face it: that’s the only time I want to be there.

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We wrangled the street maps and took the trolley to the French Quarter.

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We walked down Bourbon, gathered our beads, and and made it to Jackson Square.

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It was too early in the day and too cold for much else, so we hopped on one of the touristy carriage rides (but not before someone had to go to the bathroom, OBVIOUSLY.)

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A mule named Charlie Brown took us around town.

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His handler, who assured us that if Charlie Brown could make change he’d be out of a job, was a self-described Whiskepalian. He worshiped at the church of Reverend Jack Daniels.

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Me? I was a fan of the brightly painted facades, the plantation shutters and the fancy ironwork balconies.

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There was lunch, there was gumbo, there was walking holding a sleeping almost-four-year-old.

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There was a jazz ensemble in Jackson Square, because of course.

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Then there were pralines, we found the po-boys, and a stroll through the French Market.

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And then, and I’m 100 percent not kidding, someone had to go to the bathroom.

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Fall in Hungarian Forest

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I spent a week this fall in the forests of Hungary.

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It was just me, the conference of about 60 from all over the world, and about 100 octogenarian Hungarians.

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Apparently the hotel has a reputation for relaxation and good buffet dinners.

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I enjoyed hiking in the forest as early as I could convince my jet-lagged bod to head out the door.

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I also spent an afternoon in nearby Sopron.

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It’s not a tourist town per se, so it felt like a view into the lives of real Hungarians.

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The ancient fire tower helped guard the city.

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Which today, is just a charming little town.

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Some day I hope I’m as cute as these two old ladies, with a best friend or sister to sit backwards on a bench with and chat about the day in the fall sunshine.

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But until then, there are many more paths to pursue.

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Devil’s Backbone

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As we drove past it, I inadvertently gasped. There it was, jutting out the hill and scraping the sky like a claw.

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It turns out the Devil’s Backbone was just next to our Airbnb. We didn’t have much time, but we made time to hike it.

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I was hoping to scale the rocks, but it turns out they’re too fragile. So we were limited to the trail that winds around beside this incredible rock formation.

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The only time we had was on a gray rainy morning, and since I’m the queen of not being prepared for weather, We started out the hike with trash bag rain gear. Because we’re classy.

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And that’s why these are all iphone photos: I wasn’t willing to haul my SLR out into the drizzle.

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It was a great, easy hike with the kids (though they whined plenty), and I could have gone much longer.

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But we had to rush back, since we were late for lunch at the Silver Grill.

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