– Denton, Texas to El Paso, Texas –

The name of this trip is somewhat hopeful, I suppose. In years past, Mark and I have heard about super blooms of flowers in the desert this time of year, and tried on several occasions to plan spur of the moment trips to places like Death Valley to see wildflowers growing in the desert. It’s been a smaller dream of ours. It seems like every year, we have something else going on.

This year, we decided to just plan our spring break trip to coincide with roughly the time the flowers would be blooming. It’s actually a little late, as in some places they start as early as February, but with both of us in school, this is the best we can do. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard news of any super blooms this year, as it has been too dry for something like that to happen out west. Luckily, they have had rain in the past few weeks, so we are hopeful that the desert will have some flowers for us this year, even if there’s no super bloom to speak of. We should know for sure in the next few days. Thus, the hopefulness.

Tacoma, ready to go

In any event, with all of the US National Parks completed in the Continental US, we’ve been branching out into the lesser parks around the country, things like National Memorials and National Monuments. There are quite a few that we’ve driven past in the western US, so part of this trip will include hitting places like Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which is one of several places that we are hoping to spot wildflowers.

We started out with our run in Denton this morning, then we packed up the car and headed south through Ft. Worth and down to I-20. We didn’t make it out of the ouse until about 8:15, which is a little later than we had intended, but we were still running around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to be ready to leave today, around midnight last night, so I’m proud of us for managing to get up at 5am and get out of here, even if it was a little later than we’d intended.

The Brittany Squad at a gas station

For most of the morning, we just drove, stopping every once in a while for a bathroom break or some tea. Heading west like this is old hat for us, and for much of the drive, we are in very familiar territory. Our route today is one we’ve taken before, save for a portion of road between the turn off for Big Bend National Park and El Paso, part of which we’ve missed for one reason or another. Apparently there’s a state park full of sand dunes out that way. I found out while driving down the highway with huge sand dunes on either side of us. Who knew?

I suppose I should mention the Brittany Squad T-shirt in the photo above, since I’ve posted it. About two years ago, I got Mark a T-shirt for Christmas that looks exactly like this one, but his is dark blue. He absolutely loves for us to match, so for Christmas this year, he got me one as well. We were both wearing them today, though we didn’t get any good photos of our whole Brittany Squad, which disappointed me a little, I have to say. Sometime later on, we’re going to have to get out the tripod one day at home and get a family portrait in them. Ripley, of course, matches since we are basically wearing her face.

Tailgate lunch

On this trip, we’ve decided to mostly pack our lunches, so we’ve filled our cooler with things like boiled eggs and hummus and guacamole cups and sliced cheese. It worked out really well for us on our Christmas break trip, so we are trying again, especially since we will once again be in the middle of nowhere. My hope is that this will work well for our Atlantic Canada trip with my parents this summer, since we will very frequently have nowhere to stop to eat lunch along the way.

Today, we stopped at a picnic area just outside Loraine to unpack our lunch. I discovered when we stopped that we had forgotten plastic spoons for our yogurts, so we had to share the large-ish metal cooking spoon that was in our kitchen tub for camping. It’s a little hilarious to eat yogurt with a spoon that big. I suspect a grocery store trip is in our future. We have a little list of things to get. We were so busy this week that we didn’t have quite enough time to prepare. In fact, we don’t have yogurt for our lunch tomorrow, so we will definitely be stopping before then. At this point, I’m thinking tomorrow morning.

Quintessential West Texas

Do you know the drive to El Paso from Denton takes 9 hours? It’s an incredibly long drive, and it feels even worse eating lunch and knowing you aren’t even halfway there. Beyond that, western Texas is pretty empty. It’s just wind turbines and cotton fields for miles, until you get to the armpit of Texas (don’t lie, you know what I’m talking about) and you start to see little (and sometimes big!) mountains.

I guess at this point I should mention what we are reading, since our drive across Texas included quite a bit of that sort of thing. At the moment, we are working on The Dresden Files, which is a fantasy book series about a wizard detective. I’ve read quite a few of them, but this is Mark’s first one. We are currently reading the first in the series, Storm Front. They are decent books, but not perfect. For me, the author isn’t a great writer, but he tells a good story. The Iron Druid Chronicles are much better if you like modern fantasy, especially the first few. The Dresden Files did come first though, so I guess there’s something to be said for that.

Beach Mountains outside Allamoore

Just outside of Allamoore, we stopped to do a scenic overlook, because by then we were getting pretty sick of the car, and it was the first scenic overlook we had seen all day. It was a little walk to the top of the hill to look around at the mountains, and it wasn’t a bad view at all. I think the exercise was better than the view, and Ripley would definitely have agreed with me. These long car days without good scheduled stops can be exhausting. Tomorrow will be a lot more fun, since we have so many things to stop and see.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned, but it was around 84°F today, which is about 10 or 15° warmer than it is at home, and is quite a bit warmer than a lot of the rest of the country, I’m sure. I love it. I love being able to wear shorts on spring break. I know other people go skiing and pack warm clothes and drink cocoa, but by March, I am ready to bust out the sunscreen and the shorts. I’m definitely a warm weather sort of girl. I even gave Ripley a haircut earlier this week, knowing this trip would be mostly wonderfully warm.

Courthouse in Sierra Blanca

One of our minor scheduled stops for today was in Sierra Blanca, because Mark liked the way it looked on the map. He’s been talking about visiting it for a few weeks, but we didn’t find much to impress us when we finally got there. We did update our picture of the county courthouse there, since the previous version is a little shoddy, and we pumped some gas, but that’s about all we accomplished. It’s not a bad little place, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

From Sierra Blanca, it is still way too long to get to El Paso, but we did finally do it. On the outskirts of town, we stopped for some rice and mixed veggies from Panda Express for our dinner, then drove on to our only other scheduled stop for the day: Chamizal National Monument. It’s not much to look at. It is basically just a city park with an amphitheater for events, but for some reason it is a national monument, so we gave it a look. It was after dark when we finally got there, and the visitor center was closed, but considering how small and sort of pointless the place is, I think we got our fill of it. No stamp, since the visitor center closed at 5, but that’s something we can do another day. I don’t care enough to go back and try to get it before we leave town tomorrow morning.

Chamizal National Monument

Like I said, we have several things to stop for tomorrow, and tomorrow night is Tucson, which will be extra special, since the time is changing in the rest of the country while we are in Arizona. The time won’t change in Tuscon, but it will at home and in New Mexico. Spring forward and all that. I think that will leave us, in Tuscson, at about two hours ahead of Denton, but I won’t be 100% sure until my phone tells me what time it is Sunday morning. I would vote for Daylight Savings Time to end. Arizona has the right idea. What about you?

In any event, it should be a busy day. We have to get up early, and we won’t have time to run, but since we try to have a rest day once every weekend anyway, tomorrow will be our exercise break. I bet we are out of the hotel pretty early, but we will see. There’s a Krispy Kreme store literally right outside the front doors of our hotel, so I am not sure if we will have our free hotel breakfast like good boys and girls or go see what they have at the donut shop. It all depends on how responsible we are feeling tomorrow morning.

– Trip Total : 645 miles


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