– Denton, Texas to Fort Stockton, Texas –

Today was the first day of our New Year’s trip to Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. We were especially glad that the weather decided to cooperate, since towns in this area and north of here were experiencing a blizzard just two days ago. We saw some snow on our way down, but we didn’t run into any icy roads. In fact, our biggest problem was a blanket of fog that covered at least 100 miles of our journey.

We all woke up early this morning to exercise before we hit the road. I’ve been using my new running shoes for the last few days (one pair for Christmas and one for my birthday), which is really exciting for me. I know that sounds crazy, but new running shoes and socks totally make my day. With our day off to such an excellent start, what could go wrong? It wasn’t the Taco Cabana breakfast tacos. They made a wonderful breakfast salsa-delivery mechanism. Like I said before, it was definitely the fog that dampened our spirits.

To be fair, it wasn’t that bad. Since we were on two-lane roads most of the way, and the traffic was light, the thick fog didn’t pose much of a problem for our drive. The issue was that we couldn’t see anything. Mark had chosen a couple of roads we hadn’t driven before to get here, but we didn’t get to see any of the new sights. In fact, at one point we were driving through fields of those giant wind turbines and we only realized it because we saw one (just one) that was really close to the road.

Lighter fog from a gas station
Lighter fog from a gas station

The fog didn’t burn off until after noon, and even then we ran through some patches later on. The weather was dreary and we could only see maybe a quarter of a mile in any direction. We didn’t take many photos this morning, except for the ones I took of Ripley in her pink sweater and bright blue blanket. She looked like a little doll. There’s not a lot I can say in my defense. I know some people think dressing up dogs is crazy. All I can tell you is that she was cold and sweaters are an adorable way to keep her warm after I shave off all of her winter coat every 6 weeks. So cute.

We stopped for lunch in Big Spring, which we don’t have any photos of for some reason. I guess we aren’t in the swing of taking trip photos on this one as of yet. We had veggie clubs at McAlister’s Deli, in case you are keeping track. From Big Spring it’s only about 2 hours to Fort Stockton, so we didn’t have too far left to go.

I don't have a problem, I swear
Sweater and blanket for the spoiled princess

If you’re checking a map, you’ll see that Midland and Odessa fall between Big Spring and Fort Stockton, although both are off the highway, so we didn’t really visit either. We did stop at the Odessa Meteor Crater, which is about 3 miles off of I-20. Our visit was a spur-of-the-moment decision. We took the exit for it at the last possible second as we saw the sign for it on the side of the highway.

There’s a little museum attached, which we visited briefly to procure a pressed penny. The crater was formed some 63,500 years ago. According to Wikipedia, “over 1500 meteorites have been recovered from the surrounding area over the years, the largest of which weighed approximately 300 pounds.” It sounds impressive, especially when I tell you that it is 550 feet in diameter and, according to the brochure, it used to be 100 feet deep. Unfortunately, with the layers of sediment that have covered the original crater, it is now only about 15 feet at its deepest.

Oh boy...
Odessa Meteor Crater Museum

The Odessa Meteor Crater is a National Natural Landmark, as designated by the National Park Service. I had honestly never heard of that particular label before, but it turns out that I’ve been to a few others on the list in Texas, including Dinosaur Valley State Park. I don’t think we will go out of our way to visit these, but it’s nice to know they exist.

If someone asked me if they should stop to see the meteor crater, I would have to say no. If you need to stretch your legs and use a free bathroom, sure, it isn’t a bad place to get out of the car. But if you don’t need to stop, don’t bother. It is interesting in theory, but the reality ends up looking like someone got bored playing with their backhoe.

Oh boy...
Odessa Meteor Crater

From Odessa it was not long until we reached Fort Stockton and our La Quinta. It’s a motor inn, and it isn’t a bad little motel. The rooms have been updated within the last ten years, I would say, and everything is clean. As a bonus, it is right behind a giant Walmart, so if you need anything, you could walk there in nice weather. It is muddy now, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Once we had checked into our hotel, we took Ripley to look around the town. It is small, with fewer than 10,000 people, but it does have a reasonable number of stores and restaurants. As the name suggests, it also has an old fort that is somewhat interesting, but hardly impressive. Many of the old buildings are gone, and there’s not a lot to see. There is a museum, which Mark and I missed, so I can’t say for sure what that’s like. I’m sure it is lovely.

Welcome to Fort Stockton
Welcome to Fort Stockton

More interestingly, the town has a giant roadrunner mascot, which stands next to their welcome sign. Today, the roadrunner statue was dressed up like Santa Claus, so we definitely needed a picture of that. We also took some photos of the courthouse and the surrounding buildings. Many of the historic buildings in town have been preserved and serve new purposes. The old First National Bank here is now the police station, although we didn’t take a photo. It feels weird taking pictures of police buildings, almost like they are going to get mad at you. Maybe I am just a wuss.

Roadrunner Santa Claus
Roadrunner Santa Claus

After touring the town, we dropped Ripley back at the hotel and had dinner at K-Bob’s Steakhouse. I know that doesn’t exactly sound like a place that serves vegetarian food, but they had a lovely salad wagon (yes, a real wagon) that was all you can eat. So Mark and I had giant salads for dinner and chocolate pudding for dessert. What is it that makes all salad bars serve chocolate pudding?

Tomorrow we will drive down to Terlingua, “The Ghost Town.” We’ll be there for several nights while we visit the parks. Here’s to hoping the weather continues to cooperate!

 – Trip Total : 454 miles

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