– Denton, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico –

Whew. Christmas is a lot of work. It’s over now, and so is school. It’s finally time to have some fun. So, where are we going this winter? And are my parents along for the ride? As to where we are going, our ultimate destination is basically Horseshoe Bend, hence the trip name, but really what we are doing is meandering along the borders between New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, looking for the smaller parks in the National Park System to check out. We’ve got several in mind for the trip, though New Years’ Day will hamper some of our potential stops.

On the parental note, it is worth mentioning that my parents are both retiring in January, and they just don’t have time to go on vacation with us this winter break. They have to finish up their last few days of work so they can retire on schedule! And who can blame them? We’re taking them on our (spoiler alert!) Atlantic Canada Trip this summer, when they’ll have all of the time off they can stand.

Lounging together

Overall, I have to say that today ended up being a pretty quiet day. We were up and packing the car by 5am, then on the road by 6:30. We stopped for breakfast and giant unsweet teas at the Quiktrip on the way out of Denton. Their tea is divine, but the food is average at best. It was convenient, though, so we survived.

We did not do much stopping between Denton and Childress. There’s not much reason to stop, unless you have to go, if you know what I mean. Today, we decided to skip the tired old route to Amarillo, which meant we needed to stop in Childress as our route took us a little out of the way of the more civilized places to stop. We went into a Walmart and picked up some things for our lunch (single-serving guacamole cups, baby carrots, tomatoes, cheese, pickles, pretzels, and yogurt, if you were curious) and filled up our gas tank. Take note as that will be important later.

Christmas Decorations in Turkey

After Childress and on into Estelline, we turned off of 287, which goes on to Amarillo and instead took 86 through Turkey. We stopped there briefly for a cute picture of Ripley and some of their holiday decorations (as well as the photo above of the town mascot) before heading on. Most of the towns on this route are (or used to be) of a comparable size to those on the route to Amarillo, but they seem to be dying a bit quicker, since they aren’t really on the main road people take when heading this way. Some of them are a little depressing.

We stopped for a new tea and a bathroom break in Tulia, then got everyone’s lunch out of the back of the truck and had our food on the road. It’s not too bad to have spicy guacamole with those flat pretzel chips, if you were wondering. We were a little hesitant, but we didn’t want to buy tortilla chips and pita chips for our various dips, so we compromised. We should still have plenty of stuff left for a very similar lunch tomorrow, since we have leftovers of everything and didn’t even open the hummus today.

That’s a little close for comfort

So, it’s a long way from Tulia to our next gas stop in Vaughn. It’s even longer from Childress, where we last filled up. By the time we arrived at the gas station there (after Mark neglected to mention that we were running a little low, and since he didn’t say anything, I didn’t mention how far it was to the next town), we were down to “10 miles” left in our gas tank. I don’t actually believe that is entirely accurate, as I think they tend to exaggerate the direness of your situation to encourage you to fill up, but it was still way closer than I like to come to running out of gas.

In addition, the card readers at the gas station were broken, and the place was an absolute mad house on top of that. It only had four pumps, so we were in line for at least 10 minutes, and Mark had to leave his debit card at the desk in the gas station while we filled up. That is not my favorite thing to do. After that, we discovered incredibly long lines for the bathrooms inside, so we finally left the gas station without a bathroom break and in somewhat foul moods. It is also worth noting that there was another gas station a mile down the road that was less than half that busy, a cent cheaper per gallon, and had working card readers. That did not improve our moods. Remember that if you ever visit Vaughn. Check for another gas station. You can do better.

Zooming at Ouray Dog Park in Albuquerque

From Vaughn, we drove over to Encino and then zipped up to Clines Corners, which we pretty well always visit when we drive through the area. I’m sure you’ve seen me mention it before. It is a huge truck stop/gas station that is marked as a town on the map. From there, it is only a hop and a skip over to Albuquerque, and we were there just before 5 and sunset.

We popped Ripley out at Ouray Dog Park first thing, as she’d been cooped up all day and really needed a pit stop. She had fun running around, but if I had to redo the day, I would’ve picked a different park. The ground there is sand and covered in messy woodchips that hurt her feet and stained her fur. Albuquerque has so many dog parks that I know we could find something a little nicer given another shot.

Thaali Dinner at Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Restaurant

We had Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe for dinner after we’d checked into our hotel. It’s fine, but nothing special. They make a variant of Indian food (as well as some other more typical vegetarian dishes), but they aren’t great at it. I can only speak for the Indian food, of course, but it is less than authentic and has some vegetable combinations that would never naturally occur in Indian food, which can be off-putting if that isn’t what you were expecting.

Tomorrow we are up early for a run around Albuquerque and then off to Paige, Arizona for the night. I believe we are getting two small parks along the way, so that should be fun. The next day is our big day, where we’re planning to see the most. I’m really looking forward to our run. Christmas (and the awful, frigid wind chills!) have been putting a damper on my exercise routine.

– Trip Total : 625 miles

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