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Author Topic: CoreySamson's Great Fall Break Trip: A Recap  (Read 598 times)

CoreySamson

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CoreySamson's Great Fall Break Trip: A Recap
« on: October 15, 2023, 01:00:17 AM »

I just returned from the longest, best roadtrip that I have ever been on. For fall break this year, me and 3 of my friends packed up and headed to west Texas and east New Mexico. While not a prolific trip in terms of clinching routes, the trip did provide me with a lot of firsts: my first time in a foreign nation, my first time in a new state, and my first time in a national park(s); as well as numerous other events. And yes, I was of course the designated driver for the trip. Here are the highlights!

Day 1: Tulsa - Marathon
   We spent the first day traveling to Marathon, which would be our “intro” to the area. We started on I-44 in Tulsa and drove it all the way down to its western terminus in Wichita Falls. From there we drove US 277 to Stamford and used a combination of FM roads and Texas state highways to reach I-20 in Sweetwater. I found the US 180/FM 57 interchange to be of particular interest, and the constant 75 mph speed limit was most certainly welcome. We then took that west to Odessa and exited I-20 on FM 1053 towards Fort Stockton. After a trip to the Walmart in Fort Stockton to get food, we then took US 385 to Marathon, where we pitched our tent at an RV park for the night. This day netted 20 counties, which I believe is the most I’ve ever gotten in one day.

Day 2: Marathon - Big Bend (via Mexico)
   The main highlights of the trip were the National Parks. As a result, the roads took a back seat to the parks. This day we drove to Big Bend from Marathon on US 385. The first hike of the trip was to Santa Elena Canyon, right at the US-Mexico border, which was phenomenal. The Rio Grande was only a couple feet wide and one foot deep in the area, so we crossed over into Mexico to take a selfie. After that, the rest of the day we spent setting up camp in the Chisos Mountains and exploring the area, nearly getting lost in the process.

Day 3: Big Bend
   This day was punctuated by 2 hikes: a bushwhacking offtrail hike up the side of Casa Grande in the AM and a hike up Emory Peak (the tallest peak in Big Bend) in the PM. After managing to not get poked by the triple trifecta of cactus, aloe, and yucca on the first hike, we went up to Emory Peak to watch the sunset and see some of the most incredible views at the park, which we had to ourselves. Nothing road-related happened on this day.

Day 4: Big Bend to Marfa
   This was a rest day after the strenuous hikes of the day before. We left Big Bend via TX 118 and ate lunch in Alpine off of US 67/90. After spending an hour at the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, we took US 67/90 to Marfa. That evening we saw the Marfa Lights. I remain a skeptic, but there was one light that did seem unnatural. The only county clinched on this day was Presidio.

Day 5: Marfa to Guadalupe Mountains NP
   One of the most fun days on the trip. We left Marfa on US 90 and took it to its terminus in Van Horn (side note, I would not recommend anyone stopping in Van Horn right now due to the construction. The detours around town were hackneyed and cut off parts of town from each other). From there, we took (and clinched) TX 54 to Guadalupe Mountains NP. TxDOT is replacing some low water crossings on the road with bridges, which we passed through the construction zones of. After we entered our 2nd national park, we climbed Guadalupe Peak in the PM, once again seeing the sunset (like we did on Emory Peak) and having the peak of the mountain to ourselves for over an hour. This day had a lot of firsts and records: I hit my record top speed of 88 mph while passing on US 90, I got my first route clinch of the trip in TX 54, and I got my first state high point in Mount Guadalupe.

Day 6: Guadalupe Mountains to Roswell (via White Sands)
   At 6 AM, we were rudely awakened by the wind coming off Mount Guadalupe breaking one of the poles of our tent, so we hastily retreated to the car and made our way to New Mexico. This was my first time in NM, and it lived up to my sucky expectations. Bad signposting, strange fonts, and weird setups were only some of the oddities I encountered. We took US 62/180 from Guadalupe to US 285 in Carlsbad. We were going to go to Carlsbad Caverns this day, but they were booked, so we went over to White Sands NP instead, taking US 285, US 82, and US 70 to get there. We sledded the dunes at the park, which was fun. Afterwards, we went over to Roswell for the night, using US 70 to get through the Lincoln National Forest.

Day 7: Roswell to Amarillo (via Carlsbad Caverns)
   We retraced our steps by going back to Carlsbad to visit our final national park, Carlsbad Caverns, using US routes 285, 62, and 180, clinching NM 7 in the process. After a pleasant stop there, we drove a painful drive from Carlsbad to Amarillo via US 70 and US 60. Why New Mexico refuses to sign 75 mph unless it is an abandoned 4-lane expressway or freeway when Texas slaps it everywhere is beyond me. Once we crossed the TX/NM border on US 60, we encountered a nasty cloud of cattle fecal dust (near the town of Bovina, of all places!), which was not fun. We then used I-27 to get to our Airbnb in Amarillo.

Day 8: Amarillo to Tulsa
   This day was a straightforward drive back to Tulsa. We started the day off at Cadillac Ranch (and added a few pieces of artwork to it) and then took I-40 to I-35 to I-44 back to Tulsa. We originally wanted to see the solar eclipse on this day, but figured that getting stuck in traffic afterwards wouldn’t really be worth the positives. We encountered a hilarious ODOT goof in a construction zone on I-40 west of OKC where there were two speed limit signs, one on the left side of the road and the other on the right. One said the limit was 60, and the other said it was 55. That was the only place where we encountered major traffic on the trip.


In conclusion, I’d say I didn’t do too badly for this trip. Overall, I grabbed two new route clinches, 42 new counties, one new state explored, one new high point conquered, and a new country visited.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: CoreySamson's Great Fall Break Trip: A Recap
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2023, 10:24:58 AM »

Ironically I was in the same general area.  The only National Park that I didn’t hit that was on your list was Big Bend.  My wife wanted to center a trip originating out of Austin to grab that park for herself (I have visited already) next year.  Carlsbad Caverns recently went to a time ticket reservation system to book something in advance.  I showed up almost an hour early thinking my wife would want to shop the gift shop first and the ranger just let us in the cave instead.
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