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Road Trips 08: Southern Arizona from-to Gainesville, Texas (with RV)

Updated on November 16, 2013

Route Highlights with Picture Presentations.

Featured: Travel Route, Frontier Texas, Van Horn, Dragoon AZ, Desert 'scapes, Phoenix Area, Spring Baseball, CACTUS, Superstition Mountains (Apache Trail), Biosphere 2, Tucson Area, PIMA Airplane Museum, Sonora Desert Museum, Tombstone, Chiricahua Monument, Silver City NM, City Of Rocks, Carlsbad.

"FIND THE CACTUS" was Our Top Pririty ....and we did.

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This picture was taken at the Apache Junction KOA in Arizona.

Touring is a great way to see the country. Our Son gave us nit shirts with the slogan on them "Texas", "A state of mind". Now we all pretty well have an idea of what that means. If you think about it, most states could substitute their name in the same slogan. It is refreshing to get away from home, see the sights, pick your stops, and enjoy the culture along the way..

Why go out west?? The scenery is more varied and not covered over with trees (I do like "my" trees too). We have had our share of shopping, browsing, etc. and isn't it coincidental how very similar cities and towns are in these United States? Nature can have a lot of that too but, on the other hand check out the variations nature offers.

Motels seem better for short stays and long trips but they make us feel "in a room away from home". RV Parks gave us a better feeling of being "in" where we were. We loved our Casita Trailer but don't travel as much anymore. The trailer size made us very mobile and we wanted to see a lot of the country. It was much easier to keep our little dog, "Pete" with us too. Pets (especially friendly dogs) can be very good conversation "ice breakers".

Restaurants and Motels named, are the ones that we used. I researched most of them on TripAdvisor and many of our reviews are listed. Our favorite campground finder was the Good Sam Club. Their "Parks and Campgrounds Directory" was a very valuable guide finding the services and quality that we wanted.

Road Trip Web Sites that I like include How to Plan a US Road Trip and Take My Trip.

Other Planning Sites: TexasEscapes, DesertUSA, and The American Southwest.

History Buffs might want to check out the following on Wikipedia: Towns, Places, "Bald Knobbers", "Apache Wars", and "Judge Roy Bean"

Gainesville, TX to Phoenix, AZ

Here are the Selected pictures we took going to Phoenix in two different formats.

Video on YouTube: Animated Views for HDTV Streaming

Video onTripwow: Animated Slide Show and Locations

The drive from El Paso to Phoenix is rushed a bit. It was absolutely necessary (Haw! haw!) for us to get to Phoenix in time to catch a Texas Rangers, pre-season, baseball game . We will stop to "smell the roses" on the way back (or cactus blooms).

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Gainesville, Texas

The Ranch House Restaurant t is a good place to eat when in the area. The first picture was taken in the parking lot. Yep, that is me with my new license plate.

We will take Highway 51 south-west out of Gainesville through Weatherford to Interstate 20. It was a good highway and bypasses Fort Worth. It's a little tricky negotiating through Decatur but does not get congested until approaching the Weatherford area.

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Decatur, Texas

The Wise County Courthouse just "begs" for you to stop and take a picture of it. The folks must be admired for taking such good care of it.

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Weatherford, Texas

The Parker County Courthouse looks to be giving their neighbor a good run for the best preserved (and beautiful) building. No doubt, they are a source of much deserved civic pride.

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Abilene, Texas

The Abilene KOA pictures pretty well depict the "way" they have of making you feel at home. It is not a lavish facility but it is close to the freeway and a good base to "operate" from.

Frontier Texas was good for about three hours for us. If one wants to really get "deep" into it, you can spend a long day there. The most unusual exhibits to us were the 3D holograms. They really looked like ghost of the depicted person from the past telling their frontier experiences. The several different modes of conveying information kept my short attention span satisfied.

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Sweetwater, Texas

Maybe all of the water in the area is not necessarily sweet judging from the "Stink Creek Road" sign. We missed the annual Rattlesnake Roundup. Note: We plan to miss it on the next visit too.

Big Spring, Texas

We looked for the spring and managed to miss it somehow. Good luck in finding it if you visit. We then doubled back and ate at a good café on the east end of town.

Midland, Texas

The objective was to visit the Coommemorative Air Force but alas, they were closed on Mondays.

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Near Pecos, Texas

We did not drive into Pecos. The picture is of the Davis Mountains, to the south. When our children were young, we waded in the Pecos River. It was about "ankle deep" and nothing like the rivers in the East. Like most water sources in the south-west, it is pretty well "tapped out".

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The "Davis Mountains" picture was taken from I-20. It shows a FedEx truck on I-10, with the mountains in the background. We really liked our tour of the Big Bend area on a previous trip and highly recommend it. (our Big Bend Pictures).

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Van Horn, Texas

The Van Horn KOA is a good one. They do a good job of maximizing the "desert experience". We wanted to eat there but were only staying for one night,

Eating at Chuy's was a "must". After all, if it is good enough for John Madden, it is good enough for us. Cheuy's got really "spotty" reviews on TripAdvisor but we thought it was pretty good.

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Sierra Blanca, Texas

Why was the mountain named Sierra Blanca?? Here is a hint: It is not because of any snow down there. Check it out on WilkipediA.

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Fabens, Texas

We did not go into town but Fabens (being at the Mexico border) appears to have had a colorful history. (Picture: Interstate Rest Stop)

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El Paso, Texas

So much for touring the visitor's center. The biggest thing you can get into their down-town location is a low profile van. We were starting to get in a hurry to make it to Phoenix in time for a baseball game anyway.

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Welcome to New Mexico

New Mexico, Home

The visitors' center was very nice. By the end of this trip we will have spent time in the north, the south, and in the middle of New Mexico. We really enjoyed every bit of it.

Attention newbie visitors to New Mexico:

Diners may be asked if they want "red chili" or "green chili". Both will "light your fire". One waitress could not tell me which one was the hottest. Ha! Ha! Indeed, dining is a fun adventure there. The cultures of Native America, Mexico, and Caucasian Immigrants, tend to merge in the food offerings throughout the state.

State Highways can become very narrow and crooked. Do not expect them to measure up to "eastern" standards.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

We stayed at the KOA on the way back. (Highly Recommended)

Deming, New Mexico

I have to tell you this: The interstate highway in this part of the world is not very interesting. A good visitors' guide and a little planning will get you to the "good stuff".

Lordsburg, New Mexico

We found the Lordsburg KOA to be a little more of an "overnighter" than the advertisement suggest. The owners were very helpful though.

We chose the El Charro Restaurant for the very, local look it had and were not disappointed. The TripAdvisor reviews pretty much say it "all".

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Welcome to Arizona

Willcox, Arizona

Willcox is an interesting, tidy little town.

The Cochise Visitors Center and Museum is a "must stop" on your journey. It is operated by the Chamber of Commerce.

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Dragoon, Arizona

The community is dwarfed by its two main attractions:

"TheThing" is pretty well described by

TakeMyTrip. The main attraction in the museum is one of those "things" (pun intended) that inspires imagination and curiosity that I prefer to take at face value for the entertainment. The gift shop and the Diary Queen are both first rate. They are made to seem even better by their dusty, desert location.

Texas Canyon Pass can be seen from the front parking lot and is arguably, one of the most beautiful rock formations directly on the entire length of Interstate-10.

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Red Rock, Arizona

For several miles (west of Tucson) a volcanic cone looking mountain can be seen dominating the landscape. We later found it to be part of the very popular Picacho Peak State Park.

We will visit some of the Tucson area attractions on the way back.

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Casa Grande, Arizona

We stopped north of town at this rest stop and "just had" to get a few pictures of the desert in bloom. Between Tucson and Phoenix the flowering colors really contrasted against the brown desert.

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Phoenix, Arizona

This segment of the trip ends with this picture of me under the orange tree. Unfortunately the oranges did not show very well in the picture. We ate at this, the New China Super Buffet on the north side of town. I am not sure which of the similar restaurants it is but the food was fair and they had a large selection.

Phoenix to Tucson

Here are pictures we took exploring the area in two different formats.

Video on YouTube: Animated Views for HDTV Streaming

Video onTripwow: Animated Slide Show and Locations

Our pictures begin at Goodyear, Arizona on the west side of Phoenix. Farm country lies on the west side and it looks somewhat like West Texas. The first thing on our agenda was to see the Texas Rangers play baseball. East of Phoenix we "FIND THE CACTUS". The trip to the Superstition Mountains is a "Wow" but we did not find gold. Maybe you can. (No one offered to sell us a gold mine either.{;~)) This segment ends with a trip to "inner space", formally known as Biosphere 2 (Accessibility Limited).

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Goodyear, Arizona

We made Cotton Lane Resort our base camp for the east side of Phoenix and found it to clean and well kept. We had not stayed at a "seniors" park before and found the staff to be both nice and true to their mandate. A younger family came in and set up camp down from our pad. About the time we decided they were working for the park a golf cart from the office arrived. Soon they were packed and gone.

"The Canal" is an example of how water is controlled and put to maximum use in the South-West. The

Estrella Mountains commands your attention on the south side of the RV Park.

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Phoenix, Arizona

The Phoenix area looks like a good place to start looking for our big cactus and the valley is the home of the Major League Baseball, Cactus League.

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Surprise, Arizona (day trip 1)

The west side of town is comprised of several blocks of new houses and the ball stadium is near U.S. highway 60.

We joked that the real reason we took the trip was to see a Rangers, baseball game. They announced that there was an all time attendance record set that night and of course, we were the reason. Ha!

The pre-game entertainment was parasail jumpers landing in the ball park.

Buckeye, Arizona (day trip 2)

A short run to the west brings you to Buckeye with some nice cactus along main street. It was not a tourist town and picture taking would have been conspicuous. Indeed, we had found an original looking community. Southwest of Buckeye there does not appear to be much of anything.

The White Tank Mountains picture was taken near Interstate 10.

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Apache Junction, Arizona (Cactus, cactus)

We made the Apache Trail KOA our base camp for the east side of Phoenix and were very, very pleased that we did. The park had several nice species of cactus and the pictures are mostly of the biggest ones. The town had many cactus including larger ones in the fenced yards and had done a good job of protecting them.

Some half dozen innocuous but interesting small creatures came about the campground and kept me entertained. I was really taken in when Barb said "Look out here at this rabbit". The Rabbit Rock has prompted many a chuckle since that time.

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Goldfield, Arizona (day trip 3)

We begin our day trip of the Apache Trail south loop with a stop at the

Superstition Mountain Museum . There are several maps of the location of the "Lost Dutchman Gold Mine", all in different places. Ha! Perhaps the most interesting thing to me was the differing accounts of two Indian Tribes of the Biblical, Great Flood. Both included the Superstition Mountain.

The Goldfield Ghost Town might be a fun place to spend an afternoon. Their "back yard" (picture) looks pretty bleak, as is a lot of that part of the country. The imposing picture of Superstition Mountain was taken from their "front yard" vantage point.

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TAKE A RV ACROSS THE APACHE TRAIL.

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Tortilla Flat, Arizona (day trip 3)

The six permanent residents have a "good thing" and (as the pictures suggest) it is the last "watering hole" before going over the exciting dirt road ahead. Wouldn't you know that the camera batteries failed and our last pictures were taken near pavements end?

And now for the "fun" part: After you are absolutely sure that you are past the point of no return it is time to go down Fish Creek Hill (video). It is incredible that they did not meet the oncoming traffic that we did. Looking back up from the other side, we saw "fresh kill" about half way up the cliff face (The dust had not covered the shiny reflection of the vehicle).

Roosevelt, Arizona (day trip 3)

Theodore Roosevelt Lake was a welcome sight and a beautiful one. The thing that made it so welcome was the return to paved roads.

Globe, Arizon (day trip 3)

We did not go into globe but turned west on US 60 and returned to Apache Junction. I learned later that Globe has had a interesting history. Highway 60 was a scenic run with small, quant towns but cannot be truly appreciated after a tiring crawl across the awe inspiring Apache Trail.

Superior, Arizona (day trip 3)

This small town was the setting for shooting several (mostly western) movie films.

For more about the Apache Trail please visit MyScenicDrives.

Apache Junction, Arizona: (end, day trip 3)

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Florence, Arizona

The drive south on Highway 79 goes through the "handsome" town of Florence on your way to Tucson. It is mostly supported by prisons which we were not inclined to tour.{;~(( Many, many desert scenes (with cactus) can be seen between Florence and Oracle Junction, where we stopped to capture a few good pictures.

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Oracle, Arizona

Oracle is the home of Biosphere 2. It was another beautiful spring day in the Arizona desert and I chose to take The Tour.

There are volumes written (and posted) about the failed "living experiment". This keeps me wondering about NASA's grandiose dreams of survival in outer space.

"The Bladder" pictures are of the mechanism that equalizes the pressure between inside and outside without any exchange of air between the two.

Mount Lemmon can be seen in the background of a few pictures.

ACCESSIBILITY: Biosphere 2 is a walking tour that winds its way mostly down the hill via stairs and narrow passageways. It is a steep climb back to the top after the tour.

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This beautiful wisterior vine was at the living quarters and exit of Biosphere 2.

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Oro Valley, Arizona

As you drive south on Highway 77 from Biosphere 2 the countryside looks more civilized and less dry because of increased moisture from the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains.

Tucson to Willcox, AZ

Here are pictures we took exploring the area in two different formats.

Video on YouTube: Animated Views for HDTV Streaming

Video onTripwow: Animated Slide Show and Locations

On this segment of the trip we will visit the "tamed" Old West, in the form of the PIMA Air and Space Museum, We will visit the "semi tamed" Old West, in the form of the Sonora Desert Museum, and we will visit the "untamed" old west, in the form of the infamous Tombstone, Arizona and the Chiricahua Apache National Monument.

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Tucson, Arizona

The picture of Tucson required a short, rough walk from the parking lot on Sentinel Peak.

The history of Tucson is pretty rich, including some Wyatt Earp Family "comings and goings".

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Our research was confirmed as being good when we stayed at the Prince of Tucson. It's location, adjacent to the Santa Cruz River flood plain, is a real plus for quiet walks. It is immediately next to the city and near Interstate 10.

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Big boys, really big toys (retired toys) can be approached and touched at the PIMA Air & Space Museum . The former Air Force One airplanes definitely make a lasting impression.

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Gates Pass, Arizona (Day Trip)

The trip up to Gates Pass is a short 7 miles from I-10 & West Speedway, and the desert view is a very rich reward for the run.

An afternoon at the Sonora Desert Museum (picture) is very much in order and you may be entertained with self paced discoveries for children of all ages. We were mesmerized by the fantastic gems and mineral displays in the "How the Earth was formed" section.

It looks like Old Tucson Studios would be another good day trip.

The park road out, going south to highway 86 is worth the extra miles driven.

After leaving the park it will be time for a "hunger stop". We found a small strip mall at Tucson Estates and enjoyed a good lunch (and visit) at the café/ice cream parlor. There are a few other places to eat near the exit to the park.

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Benson, Arizona

The Benson KOA was showing the effects of its dry, desert environment. The fish pond is a nice little oasis. They had a semi-tame road runner which was typical for southern Arizona camp grounds (I never managed to get a picture of one?).

Benson is a quiet, small town with most of the "action" being at the grocery stores and restaurants.

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Tombstone, Arizona (day trip 2)

Parking is recommended at the tram lot, at the edge of Tombstone. There is little to no free parking in the town itself. The town is like a theme park for adults, and a very successful one at that. Most of the old west vices are there (pretend, I think), and the mood was already festive in the middle of the afternoon. Bummer; The OK Corral is surrounded by a high wall. They are still "killing" each other in there, at least that is what the gunshots? sound like.

Willcox, Arizona

We stayed at the Grand Vista RV Park. The folks were nice, the facility was nice, and it perfectly suited our needs.

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Cochise, Arizona (day trip 3)

From Interstate 10, US 191 passes the Willcox Playa to the Cochise Cemetery (It feels haunted to me). Folks, Cochise "ain't" there, he is buried up in the mountains. I am almost sure the Willcox Playa contained water; at least it looked that way. The highway continues south by the Cochise Stronghold sign. Any "boy" old enough to have seen the TV series "Cochise" must be compelled to go to the mountain. Then the pavement ends. This has to be the worst gravel road I was ever on. It should shake the fillings right out of your teeth. I was not that compelled to go up there.

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Chiricahua National Monument (day trip 3)

The trip loops around Highway 181 to The National Monument.

This unique mountain island/oasis alone is worth the run. It is another one of those places that you simply must see to fully appreciate.

Willcox, Arizona (end day trip)

The day trip ends by taking Highway 186 back into town. The countryside becomes more varied and the dwellings more numerous before you begin to near the community. The quaint structures compliment their surroundings and the countryside compliments the structures.

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Willcox, AZ to Silver City, NM

Here are pictures we took exploring the area in two different formats.

Video on YouTube: Animated Views for HDTV

Video onTripwow: Animated Slide Show + Locations

We will check out the historic mountain mining town of Silver City. New Mexico. We decided after looking around, that it was in the "off season" and that made it great for taking pictures. (The "Snow Birds" would be coming up out of the desert to escape the summer heat later). While we are there we will visit historic Pinos Altos and view the voluminous Santa Rita Copper Mine.

Our American Flag flies on top of a scenic hill and gives us a nice vantage point above Silver City, New Mexico.

Lordsburg, New Mexico

From Lordsburg, Highway 90 crosses the valley to the north-east and rises ever higher into mountains. As you enter the edge of Silver City an overlook is easily accessible.

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Sliver City, New Mexico

The Court House commands your attention from the historic downtown area and draws you to it. The pictures show an example of the pristine care of this area. "Mining money" has allowed this to be a showcase for southern New Mexico and hopefully tourist (like us) will help after the mine closes. The town east of Big Ditch City Park is very typical of mid America.

The Silver City KOA is on the side of a sloping hill with wide driving lanes. This helps make the park look nice and makes it easier for the "big guys" to negotiate to their parking spaces.

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Pinos Altos, New Mexico (day trip 1)

Taking Highway 15 north out of Silver city we wind eight miles through the hills and over the Continental Divide to the "Ghost Town" of Pinos Altos. We arrived in the middle of the day and the streets were deserted. If there is any "action" it must be at night. It surely is a well maintained ghost town. The Ghost(;-) at The Buckhorn Saloon said they were not open yet. We ventured into the general store and about five men were lounging there along with the store clerk. They seemed perfectly normal to us and we had a nice visit. In the corner is the Post Office that appeares to be essentially the same as it was one hundred years ago.

The picture with the really dark building is attributed to Judge Roy Bean before he became "The Law west of the Pecos".

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Santa Clara, New Mexico (day trip 2)

For this day trip we take US Highway 180 east across the scenic hills through Santa Clara (formerly named "Central"). We turn on Highway 152 for a few miles to the top of the ridge.

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Santa Rita, New Mexico (day trip 2)

Santa Rita (the town, and its demise) has an interesting history and its memory endures in the form of the "Santa Rita Copper Mine". This mine is one BIG, Big hole in the ground and is clearly viewable from the road side observation area. Note: Wilkipedia list the mine as "El Chino Mine".

Silver City, NM to Sweetwater, TX

Here are pictures we took exploring the route in two different formats.

Video on YouTube: Animated Views for HDTV Streaming

Video onTripwow: Animated Pictures and Locations

On the last leg of our trip we turn south to see the curious, City of Rocks. We connect with Interstate 10 and spend the first night at the picturesque Las Cruces KOA. We cross the Texas border and turn east across the Franklin Mountains. Our objective for this route is to see Guadalupe Peak and visit Carlsbad Caverns. We then head east across the rolling hills back into Texas.

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Faywood, New Mexico

We are leaving Silver City, east on US Highway 180 and following it to the south about 30 miles. Our turn is on to state Highway 61 East. The modern day ghost town of Faywood can be seen from the road. We continue a few more miles to the City of Rocks State Park . This is another of those "must see" places when in the area.

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Las Cruces, New Mexico

We rejoin Interstate 10 to the south, with our overnight destination being Las Cruces. The Las Cruces KOA is aesthetically pleasing and it gives us a commanding view of the valley.

The air was clear and the smog (from Juarez and El Paso) appears to spread northward over the far, eastern side of Las Cruces.

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Anthony, New Mexico/Texas (twin cities)

At Anthony we enter Texas and continue south to turn on Loop 375. By taking the loop we bypass El Paso and cross the Franklin Mountains. We then turn east on US 180/62, bound for our next objectives; Guadalupe Peak and Carlsbad Caverns.

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Butterfield, Texas

As we leave the east El Paso and approach "nowhere" you come upon this not-flying saucer. It is perfectly shaped but unconvincing. The eerie thing about it is; that we stop for about 20 minutes and nothing stirs, not even a roadrunner. Bummer: It turns out to be the "Hueco Mountain Estates Dome Office". The estates appear to be another failed subdivision.

Continuing east, the Hueco Mountains appear on the south side of the highway.

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Cornudas, Texas

Somewhere in the Cornudas area, we see this building with a large, round "peg" on top, like "beam me up Scotty". Like the few others I have seen it is well away from the highway. Oops, there goes my imagination again.

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Salt Flat, Texas

This a genuine civilized spot on the lonesome highway and the area points us to a dark chapter of our history, the San Elizario Salt War. We have crossed the gentle hills and Guadalupe Peak now dominates the landscape above the salt flats.

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Pine Springs, Texas

As we near the entrance to Guadalupe Mountains National Park , the highway winds up some pretty steep elevations and awesome scenery. The desert area we are leaving enhances their appearance.

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Carlsbad, New Mexico

As you enter the south end of town, the city continues to widen from a few buildings along the highway to a progressive, bustling community still in the process of growing in an area with all of the room that it needs.

Going into town we had lunch at the local Pizza Hut. Outstanding service seems to be the "norm" for this location.

The Carlsbad RV Park is in the south end of town with easy access spaces. The location makes it both handy to the city and a easy day trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

What can I say about Carlsbad Caverns that you have not already heard, read, or seen. I will simply call to mind that it is BIG, and some of the formations are HUGE.

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Hobbs, New Mexico

US Highways 62/180 continues north-east out of Carlsbad across a dry landscape dotted with short scrub brush. The signs on the side roads and company trucks hint at the mineral wealth below the barren area. Hobbs is a welcome sight. It seems to be a nice, working town and a fairly busy place. Hobbs RV Park is a good, handy overnight spot to stay.

We cross into Texas and immediately the traffic speeds up to the "see who can get there first" mode.

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Lamesa, Texas

We stay with US Highway 180 East and are now on the Llano Estacado (mesa) at the southern end of the Great Plains. We note the more mundane meaning of "Crop Circles" created by water systems rotating around a center pivot point. After leaving Lamesa we make a stop for a few more pictures. The plowed fields resemble a brown ocean with houses instead of ships in the far distance. We continue east and drop off into rolling hills with cattle ranches taking the place of the farms.

Snyder, Texas

Coming into Snyder the terrain has become less hilly. We take US Highway 84 south-east. We have left Oil and Gas wells behind and encounter several miles of large, white wind turbines. These folks seem to have their energy "bases" covered.

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Sweetwater, Texas

We turn East on Interstate 20 and go back up Highway 51 to Gainesville, Texas and "Home Sweet Home".

(The picture is of one of our earliest blooming bluebonnets.)

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    • sonnygone profile image
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      Sonny Goodman 5 years ago from Sherman, Texas

      My apologies to you who commented on the Branson 09 trip. It seemed appropriate to give the Branson trip it's own Lens.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow, that's an awesome travel log! Looks like it was a trip full of memories you won't forget...thanks to the help of this log! For anyone wanting to visit Branson, I'd also suggest grabbing some Branson coupons from sites such as the following to help save money on restaurants, entertainment, etc: http://www.insidebransonmissouri.com/

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      You picked some great areas to travel - missed me by just a few miles! I'd like to see a lens for each of these trips, YouTube videos included. Fun!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      This is turning out to be a great lens! I'm personally a big fan of the southwest. Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon -- all of that fascinates me, and you can't beat the scenery. Well done!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes ther is not much in South-West Texas but there is ALL YOU COULD EVER WANT OF IT. {;~))

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great page! No wonder you didn't get many pics in West Texas - there is not much there! I wish we had stopped at taken some pictures of the windmills though.