TRAVEL TEXAS (Christmas Edition: The Panhandle)

This all started with instagram, as most of my stories do, these days.  Unique destination after beautiful location, after cool experience after another!  So I had plenty of screenshots on my phone to help me get ready for this year’s annual Bierstedt/Anderson Christmas Vacation!


The roadtrip began with a 4.5 hour drive to Monahans Sandhills State Park.  We arrived, checked in, rented our discs.  Then we hit the enormous sand dunes, in our short-sleeved tees, on a sunny and beautiful day.  The kids enjoyed lots of sledding down the hills.  But then most of our time was just lounging, enjoying this Texas-sized sandbox out in the middle of nowhere.  The cloudless sky was a bright blue.  The sun was hot.  The sand was wonderfully cool.  We took in the vastness of it all.  We enjoyed the stillness and peace.  All that was missing was the sound of waves.  And maybe an umbrella drink, for me.  😉  And then it was a 2.5 hour drive to our accommodations in Lubbock.


This was our Palo Duro day.  1.5 hour drive.  2.8 mile hike in.  2.8 mile hike out.  And a 1.5 hour drive back.  A full, exhausting, cold and windy day.  But glorious!  My whole goal was to enjoy the beautiful surroundings… and make it to The Lighthouse rock formation.  Done and done!  And it was all stunning!  The second largest canyon on our continent, I can see why it’s nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of Texas.”  The colors, details, depth, the grandness of it all is beautiful.  And after the short but difficult part of getting up to the topmost rocks, the views are incredible!  The sense of accomplishment is pretty heavy in the air also.  Checked that off the bucket list.  But definitely want to go back.


I had two more things to check off my list.  First, we made the quick trip to Prairie Dog Town, in Lubbock’s Mackenzie Park.  It’s the first protected prairie dog colony of its kind, and it allows you to get pretty up close and personal to the cute little critters.  We had a blast.  They loved the grapes and baby carrots that we brought them.  (they’re adorable when they eat)  And we loved the whole experience.  Then it was back up to the Amarillo area (a 2 hour drive), for Cadillac Ranch.  A popular art installment, it was pretty packed, even on this cold day.  So we grabbed our spray paint cans, and got to work, any time there was a free spot at a car.  But just like we were in a rush to start painting, so was everyone else.  Just as quickly as we’d graffiti a spot and take a pic, someone else would come along and paint right over.  Thankfully, I snagged the senior portrait that I had wanted.  Not the exact look I had in mind, since Ben was keeping warm with a cap and jacket.  But it’ll do.


We woke up to snow all over Lubbock.  And then we had blips of snow and rain during our almost 6 hour drive home.  Incredible experience!  Happy to get home safely… and crawl under the covers.


Where we stayed
I was trying to top 2015’s beach house in Galveston, 2016’s farmhouse in Waco, 2017’s guest house in Uvalde, and 2019’s tiny cabin in LaRue.  So I booked a renovated Santa Fe train caboose in Lubbock!!!  At Woodrow House Bed & Breakfast.  Right across from Texas Tech, in the middle of town.  Reasonably priced, so unique.  With homemade breakfast every morning, in their family’s kitchen.  In the caboose, there’s just enough room for a fold-out futon couch, a desk, kitchenette, and small breakfast table.  There were lockers, for all of our belongings.  A shower and tiny bathroom.  There was a queen bed in the bedroom, with a surprise starry night on the ceiling.  But our favorite part was the observation seating up top.  Any time we were back at the caboose, you could find Evan and I there.  For normal Texas weather, there’s also a pool and hot tub available.  Our hosts were wonderful, and we enjoyed the experience so much!  Plus, we woke up to snow on our last morning there!!!  I don’t know how they pulled off that magical moment.  But I sure appreciated the send-off!


So, would I recommend any of our trip?  Absolutely!  I would tell you to follow our itinerary exactly.  Except, driving to Amarillo twice wasn’t needed.  Just a little bit better planning, and one earlier morning rising, and we could have done Palo Duro and Cadillac Ranch in the same day.  Then we could have spent all of Tuesday in Lubbock, after the prairie dogs.  What would I say about our meals?  The provided breakfasts were delicious.  We packed everything we needed, for sandwiches at every lunch (saving some money).  And we chose a restaurant for every dinner (our splurges).   And what do I have in mind for next year’s Christmas vacation?  I have my eyes on some tipis in West Texas, along with some Big Bend hiking.  Or, there are incredible tree houses all over the state.  And I’m sure we could find outdoor activities at any of those too.  We’ll see!


Monahans Sandhills State Park- website
Palo Duro Canyon State Park- website
Prairie Dog Town- Lubbock’s website
Cadillac Ranch- Amarillo’s website
Woodrow House Bed & Breakfast- website


Past Christmas vacation blogs:
2015, Galveston- I guess I wasn’t blogging back then
2016, Waco- post 1 post 2
2017, Uvalde- post
2018, hill country- post
2019, LaRue- post


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