Texas - The trip that made you want- Part 1
-I know that this is not a blog dedicated to travel, moreover, I know that my assiduity when publishing leaves a lot to be desired, but I would like to share with anyone who may be interested, our stay in what is known as " State of the Lone Star" in English "The Lone Star State"
-This year 2022, after having to cancel our travel plans twice, mainly because when we first planned, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, preventing us from traveling for two years, but in the end we were able to carry it out, we traveled to one of the southwestern states of the United States of America, specifically Texas, although we also spent a few days in another state, but everything in its own time. It is clear that Texas is not one of the quintessential tourist destinations within the North American country, but for us it was the chosen one, mainly because in Amarillo, one of its cities, our dearest friends Jim and Linda Powell live, whom in First of all I want to thank you for the hospitality we received from you, well above what we expected, or what we are used to.
-After 14 days driving along its roads, talking with its people and enjoying its food, I would like to share with you what has been, without a doubt, the longest trip we have made, my dearest Beatriz, our 8-year-old son Hermes. years and the one who writes this entry.
-Just below these lines there is a screenshot of Google Maps, where you can see the main itinerary that we made on our trip, there are trips that are not reflected but that helped to achieve those 2571Miles or what is the same 4073Km traveled during those wonderful 14 days.
This was the route, although some of the routes, such as the visit to downtown Houston, among others, are not reflected in this itinerary.
-But first of all a little information about the state in which we spend most of the time.
-With an area of 696,241 km² (268,581 square miles), it was the largest state in the United States of America until 1959, the year in which Alaska joined the country, taking away the largest state position, still Thus, it holds second place, it is approximately twice the size of Germany, and 191,000 km² more than Spain, despite its greater extension, the latest demographic counts reveal that Texas has a population of almost 30,000,000 inhabitants.
-Texas was founded around the year 1820, but it was not until 1845 when it was integrated into the Union (United States), although the first human settlements in the region date back to 10,000 BC.
Departure, Arrival and First Impressions.
It was the first Hermes plane trip, I think you can see the emotion on our faces.
I captured these images after transferring at Charlotte Douglas, just before landing in DFW.
-We landed at the Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) airport at 06:00 PM Central Time, as we had not checked in and had already cleared customs at Charlotte Douglas Airport. DFW is one of the busiest airports in the world, so passenger traffic was impressive. As we went out into the street we suddenly found ourselves at 40ºC, which would be the average temperature that would accompany us throughout the trip, after about 15 minutes by bus we arrived at the Car Rental Center, where we could see some of the icons of the state of the solitary star in the form of a statue/sculpture of a Cowboy lassoing two cattle, was the first sign that everything would be bigger than in our beloved Spain.
Hermes and Beatriz at the DFW Car Rental Center.
-An interesting fact about car rental, in case you ever travel to the United States, since there are tolls on many interurban highways in the USA, the employee who assists you will offer you a sticker/device that will allow you to go through the tolls without the need to stop or without receiving extra costs for not having them, whether it is a sticker or a device, this carries a daily cost, to which we must add the cost of tolls, we decided to take our TomTom Go 520, which we use to plan all our routes and avoid all the tolls, I have to say that it worked perfectly throughout the trip, except for in Houston, which due to the amount of roadworks that the poor thing got a bit confused.
-After picking up the car that would accompany us for the next 14 days, we headed to the hotel, since after more than 20 hours on foot we needed to rest a little, especially Hermes, although he endured like a true champion.
A Snapshot I took from the Hotel in Irving, as soon as I arrived, with our Moon as the protagonist.
Primer día--- Desde Irving hasta Amarillo
-After resting properly, we woke up at around 06:30 a.m. and enjoyed our first breakfast on North American land, something for which we were not prepared, I think it is one of the days that I have had the most breakfast in my entire life.
-Finally at 08:30 a.m. we already had our bags in the car and the route prepared to leave Irving.
-We set off eager to see and absorb every minute that lay ahead of us, the first thing that caught our attention was the structure of the reels, I know that we have already seen in many movies an image like the one that follows these lines, but seeing it live is very impressive.
Images captured at the Irving exit heading to Amarillo.
-Coming from a country that has the roundabout as a flag on all its roads, it was strange for me to find only 2 roundabouts along our trip, and both in Houston.
-This first trip was wonderful for us, we were amazed at everything we saw, from the large number of churches that were advertised on road signs, through the fields where there was machinery trying to find oil, and the trucks with their huge nose to the immense caravans that circulated hitched to vans like a truck trailer.
Without a doubt we are not used to this type of caravan in Spain, I don't know if they would enter our roads.
We saw hundreds of these oil extraction machines along our route through the highways of the state of Texas, another element that is very difficult to see in Spanish territory.
One of the many churches that we came across during the 14 days we spent on those roads.
-Finally after about 7 hours of travel and a couple of stops to stretch our legs we arrived in Amarillo, where we would see in person our dear friends Jim and Linda Powell and their adorable Emma, a moment longed for by all of us since we met thanks to our common hobby, Astrophotography, back in the year 201 That same afternoon we went to their house where we spent the whole afternoon chatting and enjoying their wonderful company, I think that is what the three of us miss the most being able to be with them more often , although without a doubt we will visit them again.
Upon arriving at Jim and Linda's house, we find a familiar image, not because we have been there, but because we have seen it in many movies, those large residential neighborhoods with individual houses, a path to the door surrounded by grass.
Snapshot of that same afternoon shortly after arriving.
-Jim and I spent the whole afternoon chatting about the trip and sharing impressions of our respective countries, in the successive afternoons that we spent at his house I learned many things about the training of fighter pilots, about how to land on an aircraft carrier and what hard as it is to do, and I shuddered at some of the stories that Jim had lived through during his volunteer time with the Cincinnati Fire Department, an admirable man, at least to me. If we think about it carefully, it is incredible to think that there it is the most normal thing in the world to carry out several professional careers throughout a life, today both Jim and Linda are university professors.
Second Day--- Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon.
-The next morning we woke up with fully charged batteries, after resting in the hotel that our friends had booked for us, again we enjoyed a very powerful breakfast, we needed energy, the forecast was to spend the whole morning kicking.
A breakfast of champions, I repeated, the Bacon was very good.
-With a full stomach we headed to the outskirts of Amarillo, our first stop would be an interactive work of art known as "Cadillac Ranch" located on Interstate 40 towards New Mexico, here we found a few paint cans in Spray that are for the use and enjoyment of visitors, who can make their first steps decorating the vehicles that are buried in the ground.
A place where you will not spend much time but it is worth visiting, at least to sign and put the name of our city, that is, the one that he enjoyed the most was Hermes.
-We leave Cadillac Ranch and head to Canyon, a town that is very close to Cañón de Palo Duro, approximately 45 km south east of Amarillo.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park left the three of us with our mouths open, it is spectacular to be able to see it in person, but the day we went to visit it the temperature in the Canyon was around 41-43 degrees centigrade, come on, it was not enough to be able to make hiking trails, although it has a few to enjoy its landscapes. We traveled by car stopping to see the areas that most caught our attention, next to the first viewpoint is the visitor center, where you can find a small museum with the history of the place and many other things, as well as a store of souvenirs.
Here is a small sample of this magnificent place, the gallery contains panoramic images, click on the images to better appreciate the details in these images.
Third day--- Road to New Mexico, DSW and Santa fe
-The third day was a very special day, it was the day that we would drive to Rowe Mesa, in the state of New Mexico, where the Deep Sky West remote observatory is located, where the magnificent TEC180FL with which we obtain our astrophotographs is housed .
During this journey we changed the landscape and again we were overwhelmed by the immensity of everything, this is something that cannot be easily transmitted, you have to be there to perceive that sensation, even so below these lines there are a few images that we captured in our drive to Deep Sky West.
After passing Santa Rosa, we found our first two-way road, the landscape that surrounded us during this journey was spectacular, with countless tables on both sides of the road.
The first image belongs to the ascent to what is known as Rowe Mesa, the second is the view of the valley, looking towards Santa Fé, the last is the road that would take us to the observatories.
On the left Alpha, which is where the TEC180FL is housed, on the right Beta, the most recent observatory, part of the expansion that was carried out several years ago
-Those feelings that invaded me as soon as I arrived at the place where the observatories are located still come to my mind, something that I had been waiting for many years, specifically since 2015, when I began to acquire images from this beautiful place, I think Appreciate my emotion in the images that follow these lines.
For a passionate astrophotographer like me, this place is undoubtedly a fantasy come true.
Inside view of the Alpha observatory, for a server a simply incredible view, that is full of dust.
-Despite all my emotion and the desire to be able to spend the night under that dark sky, the weather did not accompany this situation, this is a common evil that all fans of Astronomy and Astrophotography suffer, so after something more After two hours in the place we had to pick up and leave the place since an electrical storm began to discharge over our heads, below I leave a panorama that I captured once we had moved a few kilometers away.
Image of Rowe Mesa, to the right of the road, just below that curtain of water is Deep Sky West.
-With much regret on my part, we descended and drove 67km to the city of Santa Fé, where we would stay in a beautiful hotel "La Hacienda" located in the center of Santa Fé, this hotel is built and decorated to reflect the indigenous culture of the place, without a doubt it was comforting to arrive at a place like this, and more after the disappointment we had with the weather in DSW.
-That night after dinner and after Hermes fell asleep, we went down to have a couple of craft beers at the hotel bar, and to our surprise we realized that at the altitude we were at, alcohol affected us much more, so much so that with two beers Bea and I reached a state of intoxication that we did not expect.
It is worth staying here, it also has a Spa and Pool for guests.
Fourth day--- Visiting downtown Santa Fe.
-It was already August 5th, the days went by at full speed, after getting up and having breakfast in the hotel restaurant, in a room that had an Indian Tipi, we left the hotel to visit the center of Santa Fe, since until afternoon we would not return to Deep Sky West to continue the work that we could not finish the previous afternoon.
-Since the Hotel is very well located, it was a matter of minutes to find the center of Santa Fe.
A somewhat distorted panorama of the hotel's main entrance, but at least it can be seen in daylight.
The most striking thing for us was the architecture of the city, but strolling through those streets full of shops where you can buy from Spanish antiques, to beautiful modern sculptures, or jewelry.
After passing through a few art shops we arrive at the Cathedral of San Francisco de Asís, smaller than the ones we have around here, but equally very beautiful, the cathedral is guarded by a statue of San Francisco de Asis and another statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first North American Indian to be proclaimed a Saint.
-After enjoying downtown Santa Fe, we returned to the hotel and went out to eat with our dear friends Jim and Linda who had spent the whole morning working on their classes, during lunch Jim and I were talking about how we were going to proceed to adjust the plungers of the MEII Mount that we had to adjust to remove a small slack that both the right ascension and declination axis presented, which was surely caused by an accidental shock of one of the other users of the observatory.
Before going to eat we saw storms forming that could ruin our afternoon in Deep Sky West.
Some pictures of the dishes we enjoyed that day, I remember everything was very good, it was the first time we enjoyed the typical Tex-Mex food of the area, except for Hermes who ordered a Hamburger with his beloved French Fries.
Finally the storms gave us a truce and we were able to leave everything more or less prepared, although the plungers were not quite well adjusted, luckily we still had another afternoon to work on it.
Coming down that afternoon from Deep Sky West, we found a beautiful sunset that fascinated us on the way to the hotel and as the final touch to a magnificent day we found a concert by a local artist "Peter Feather Redheart", a Lakota Indian who He gave away almost two hours of typical music from his town, we liked it so much that when we finished we bought him 2 CD's which of course he signed for us.
Fifth Day---Goodbye New Mexico, DSW and Santa Fe
-Since we stayed up a bit the day before, our fifth day of vacation, specifically on August 6, we decided to rest in the morning, until lunchtime, since it was time to leave the hotel and return to DSW to finish the equipment maintenance work and pick up everything.
After eating one of the best hamburgers I've ever tasted and Bea a delicious pizza, all of the restaurant "Paneras" finished with the maintenance work. It was quite hard to know that I would not see this place again, at least for a few years, but it was certainly something that I will not easily forget.
A video of the latest tests we ran to see that everything was working fine and none of the cables were getting snagged.
Much to our regret it was time to leave New Mexico behind, here are some images of our trip back, much of the trip was at night, but during our passage along U.S Hwy 84E my dear Beatriz captured some images of the landscape, that we hope to see again very soon, since in our mind is to return to visit this magnificent state.
Well into the night, we arrived at our Hotel in Amarillo, Hermes fell asleep and Beatriz and I went down to have a beer, we have looked for it here but it seems that it is difficult to find, one of the best beers I have ever had, and that that came in a can.
Sixth Day--- The Desert Amarillo Financial Center
After a hearty breakfast, we set off to enjoy our last day in Amarillo, it was Sunday and on Monday we planned to start our trip to the south of the state.
-On Sunday August 07 we decided to visit the center of Amarillo, which was about 11 km from where we stayed, the extension of the cities is something that we are not used to here, León for example is a more or less large city , but full of blocks of flats, something that we barely saw in Amarillo, you can see that there they do not have space problems and the buildings are made with less consideration to save land.
Despite being full of large buildings and wide streets, we found the financial center of Amarillo literally deserted, we only met two people and I have enough fingers to count the cars we saw, although if we think about it it is normal since it was Sunday, I don't want to imagine how hot it would be on a Monday morning.
After visiting the center of Amarillo we went to eat at a restaurant originally from the state of Texas, the WHATABURGER, it might seem from the images that it is very similar to Mc Donals, but here the hamburgers were bigger and they had delicious milkshakes to accompany the food, without a doubt this is a restaurant franchise that we would love to find in Spain.
-After eating we went to the house of our dear friends Jim and Linda to spend with them the last afternoon that we would be in Amarillo, that afternoon I remember that Jim and I were talking about telescopes and aircraft carriers, and Beatriz Hermes and Linda dedicated themselves to play a few games of Virus, a card game as addictive as it is entertaining, we had dinner with them and finally we said goodbye, since the next day in the morning we would leave for San Antonio, the next stop on our trip.
Here are some pictures of the SBIG Advance Filter Well that will be installed at TEC sooner or later and you can see me holding one of Jim's telescopes.
Here are the last images that Beatriz captured during that wonderful afternoon with our friends, you can see Jim's firefighter and pilot helmets, as well as his badges and decorations, Jim and Linda, who were already very special to us, now have a permanent and even bigger corner in our hearts, just like her adorable Havanese Emma, with whom we laughed a lot, because despite not having one of her knees quite right, she loved to play chase.
-And so far this long entry with the experiences during the middle of our trip to Texas, soon the second part with everything we saw in the following 7 days.
I hope you like it and until the next entry..