Carlsbad Caverns

We had a wonderful adventure exploring Carlsbad Caverns. We decided we would take a ranger guided tour, to the King’s Palace, then explore the Big Room on our own along the self guided tour (after lunch).

Would I recommend taking your Troop here? It depends on the Troop. here are some things to consider:

  • The entrance to the caverns is on the top of a mountain in the Guadalupe Mountains. So my acrophobia was triggered on the road up and walking in the parking lot – you might have girls who are similarly nervous. 
  • It’s a cave. If you have girls who don’t deal well with dark, or confined areas, this might not be a good trip for them. Although, I will say that the Big Room actually did not have many places where that might be an issue. It’s called the Big Room for a reason. The King’s Palace tour, though, might trigger fear in these types of girls. There were several tight squeezes and once the Ranger turned out all of the lights to let us be in the natural cave. 
  • It’s BIG. Each tour was about 1.5 miles. Some of it steep(ish).
  • Make sure it’s something your girls are interested in. This goes without saying, right? 

We also watched the bat flight. This is when the HUGE colony of Brazilian Free Tailed bats emerges from their roosts in the caverns at dusk. It is an amazing sight to watch thousands upon thousands of bats fly over your heads. No pictures, though. They are not allowed. I highly recommend this if you come for a visit, with the following caveats:

  • It takes a long time for thousands and thousands and thousands of bats to emerge from the cave. We were watching for 45 minutes. 
  • You have to be silent and still as you can be so as not to startle the bats. 

Have YOU been to Carlsbad Caverns? Have you taken your Troop? What was your favorite part?


Next Adventure: New Mexico

Ahhhhh, it’s time for another road trip. This summer we went east to Alabama, but this week I am heading off west across Texas to spend some time in New Mexico with a friend. We decided that we would like to go exploring, no real set schedule, no reservations. Just a car packed with camping gear and a list of places we have to go see: White Sands, Carlsbad, the State Fair (which happens to coincide with our trip). 

I can’t wait to see all the sights, and do all the things. The driving part, I’m not looking forward to, just because I don’t really like driving in mountain areas. But I’m really looking forward to camping in this beautiful weather!

This summer’s adventures

2016 has been an exciting summer. Lots of road trips!  First I took my son up to Mother Neff State Park, near Waco, TX, to spend a week with his grandparents, who have been Park Hosts there this summer. We hit the trails to see the cave, which you can kinda see through the trees above.

Spending the night in a tent in June in Texas requires some planning. But it was better than trying to share the couch with 3 dogs. And my son. Who had a great visit with his grandparents, got to earn his Junior Ranger pin, learned a whole bunch, and got spoiled rotten. ūüôā

Then I had to make the 3 hour drive back up there to get him. It was nearly as bad as the drive to pick my daughter up though.

She got picked to be one of the two girls from our Council going to Space Camp through the Destinations Program. She had an absolute blast (hah, get it? Rocket humor. . .)

But my mom and I decided that we should take the boy on a road trip out to pick her up at the end of camp. That would be to Huntsville, AL. A 12 hour drive.

Awesome. Let’s stop in New Orleans along the way, though, mmmmmkay?

Okay. ūüôā

We visited a couple of really great places other than the US Space and Rocket Center while we were there.

The Huntsville Botanical Gardens are incredible, better than any I’ve found in the Houston area. While we were there, they had an amazing exhibit called “Houses, Huts, and Habitats”, and so they had wonderful homes of all kinds around the gardens – like this Hobbit Home.

We also visited¬†Harmony Park Safari (twice, because my daughter didn’t want to go until we showed her the photos and videos from our first visit). It was a lot of fun, feeding the animals from the car, even if they did get very insistent about it. ūüôā Feeding tortoises is even more awesome.

A lot of our recent adventure have been exploring our own city, looking for Pokemon. So, normally the response to “Let’s go to Brazos Bend State Park in the middle of July!” would have been a resounding, “Are you out of your mind, Mom? It’s like a billion degrees out there!!” But there were actually cheers when I said, “Let’s go hike around Brazos Bend to see what Pokemon we can find there!”

I am liking this app. ūüėČ

Our Arizona Adventure, Part 4: the Unexpected


On our way home, we got hit by something completely unexpected. Snow. Ice. Winter. In places where the temperatures in winter rarely dip below 50, we drove in a landscape of white. Now many of you will look at this and say, “Yeah? So what?” In Houston, we are used to getting a dusting of snow about once every 10 years. In Arizona, it is pretty much limited to the mountain areas and the northern part of the state. We were driving from Las Cruces, NM to Kerrville, TX the day the storm hit, and I became terrified. We were surrounded by drivers who had NO EXPERIENCE driving in these kinds of dangerous conditions. I was in a car with drivers who had NO EXPERIENCE driving in these kinds of dangerous conditions. I was not a pleasant passenger to say the least, and the dozens of semi trucks spun out along I-10 did not raise my confidence.
We stopped in Van Horn, TX to change drivers and eat lunch at Papa’s Pantry. This sign greeted us in the entryway of the restaurant. ¬†The place was packed with weary travelers, and the parking lot was filled with ice scrapings. ¬†The coffee was hot, the food all needed a little more salt, and the servers were clearly stretched to their limits, but overall it was a pleasant place to stop in an unpleasant situation. ¬†My son got a sandwich made with homemade bread, which was delicious, and I would highly recommend to anyone if they find they have to stop along that section of I-10.

This pretty much cemented a feeling I had already had of absolute loathing for West Texas.  On our last road trip west, we stopped in Fort Stockton, which is where EVERYONE stops halfway across West Texas, because there are barely any other sizable towns in West Texas.  My mother and I immediately took a dislike to Fort Stockton, which gives the impression of nothing more than a way station for guys coming and going from the oil fields.  Bars, buffets, and overpriced hotels.  We avoided it like the plague this time Рwhich makes for a very long drive across the wasteland that it West Texas.  No towns, no roads, no cell towers, just mountains that Arizonans laugh at, oil derricks, and wind farms.

It’s depressing as hell for this child of the piney woods.

Our Arizona Adventure, Part 3: the Adventure

IMG_4032  One of the castles at Castles and Coasters.  We spent an hour and a half playing putt putt, and then walked around to let the kids ride rides.  Avoided the amusement park food like the plague.


View of the Superstition Mountains from the parking lot at Lost Dutchman State Park. ¬†This was where we went for a wonderful hike with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his girlfriend. ¬†Having my aunt and uncle along was like having our own park rangers hiking with us explaining what all the different plants, animals, and land features were. ¬†My husband went trail running while the rest of us took a more leisurely pace for 2.75 miles around the base of the mountain range. ¬†Since we’re from 0 feet above sea level here in Houston, I wasn’t sure how well I would take to massive amounts of elevation gain, but the 200 feet we gained over the course of the hike was perfect. ¬†My husband’s trail got him much higher, and his quads are still killing him for it.IMG_4112After hiking, we took a nice touristy stop at a nearby ghost town. ¬†We did the mine tour, the Mystery Shack tour, and the train ride, as well as tasting prickly pear fudge – which is delicious, btw. ¬†I highly recommend getting 1/4 pound and splitting it 6 ways, like we did. ūüôā

No pics, but we also went to an indoor amusement park type place, called Amazing Jakes.  The kids got to run around doing laser tag, bumper cars, mini coasters, and things like that.  Then the four of us played a round of bowling with a new friend.

We were staying at the Arizona Golf Resort. ¬†I can’t vouch for the place as a “resort”, it was nice enough but the amenities are clearly geared towards the golfers. ¬†However, it was lovely watching the jackrabbits scatter as my daughter and I walked along the the edge of the golf course. ¬†And since it is such a big property, between walking from the room to the main building and all of the walking around at activities, I got 10,000 steps in pretty easily without stepping foot on one of the treadmills in their fitness room – the ones that I was pretty sure wouldn’t be able to take my weight for more than 5 minutes.

Our Arizona Adventure, Part 1: the Bad

IMG_4101 My next big adventure (as I mentioned) was another cross-half-the-country road trip to Arizona.  Only this time, we were going to be going in winter instead of summer, and we were aiming for Phoenix instead of Yuma.  Oh, and instead of just me, my mom, and my kids, we were adding both our husbands to the mix.  In a minivan.  But that is just the beginning of the list of not nice aspects to this trip.

The occasion was not a happy one this time, unfortunately. ¬†The clan on my mother’s side was gathering for a memorial for my grandmother who had passed away this time last year. ¬†It took so long for us to get together because we have become quite far flung these days. ¬†And actually, we are not the family members which traveled the furthest – my cousin who is doing graduate work in Germany gets that badge – but I think we are definitely the ones who drove the furthest (about 2700 miles total, including driving around Mesa/Phoenix for 5 days). ¬†But we had to coordinate schedules for people coming from Germany, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Washington State, ranging through 4 generations.

And my father’s idea of a good time involves eating. ¬†Good eating. ¬†Greasy eating. ¬†Both of my parents are from Arizona, umpteenth generation desert rat, and they were both raised on good Sonoran style Mexican food. ¬†Then they moved here to Texas, and my father has been disappointed ever since. ¬†To put this in context, Taco Bell is a very good representative of Tex-Mex – not too spicy, meats tend to be ground and saut√©ed rather than stewed and shredded, heavy reliance on flour tortillas, limited assortment of vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, jalape√Īos), and a very tomatoey flavor to all the sauces and salsas. ¬†My father would add that it has no flavor. ¬†I’m not sure I would agree with that, but I will say Sonoran style takes way more time, Tex Mex is much faster to cook.

IMG_4127 All that being said, we went to Arizona, not California. ¬†If you are trying to watch your calories, Baja (Southern California) style Mexican food is MUCH better, filled with fresh vegetables, corn tortillas, seafood, and light methods of cooking. ¬†And on top of that, my father had intended on having our dinners dictated by restaurants given the Triple D Seal of Approval. ¬†Luckily for my husband (who is in training for his next marathon) and I, Guy Fieri did the unthinkable and never visited a Mexican restaurant while in Arizona. ¬†I will agree with my dad on this one – that’s like going to Texas and avoiding the BBQ, brisket, or Chicken Fried Steak, the foods that, in a way, define Texas cuisine.

Oh, and did I mention the fry bread? ¬†And the Navajo tacos made by topping that beautiful fry bread with authentic chorizo, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese? ¬†Made by¬†Tohono O’odham natives? ¬†So. Good. ¬†So. ¬†Many. Calories.

IMG_4035This was about to be a test of my (extremely weak) willpower, whether I could avoid eating back all of the 75 pounds I have lost so far.

More good news: My son brought home a cold from somewhere, and my father got one at about the same time Рwe are pretty sure they were different colds, though.  But it meant that just in time for our 11 hour drive to El Paso (stop one), four out of the six of us were dripping and sniffling and coughing and miserable.

So just how did I end up smiling?  Next up, the planning.