The date had been set. Dan’s last day of work would be Friday, May 31, 2019. This was the day the license expired on the million mile van, and this was the day Dan would say good-bye to all the nice folks at First Capitol Courier. However, it was not to be.
Early Friday afternoon, on the 31st, Dan called and said, “I have a question for you; …it’s just a question.” This is our standard modus operandus opening for what could be a “lively discussion”. Dan continues – they have a run to Amarillo, Texas, and it doesn’t have to be delivered until Monday morning. He discussed the options for taking it, not taking it, when to leave, if I would go, and what vehicle to take, deliver it or make a trip of it – so much to decide and fast. After a quick review on Tripadvisor to see what there is to do in Amarillo, I called him back quickly (as per his instructions) and said I would go. We would leave on Sunday, after his retirement dinner on Saturday night, and we would take the Prius. The van is done for us. His retirement date is delayed by three days and the location for it moved to the south by 750 miles. We will make a trip of it.
All goes well on Travel Day, Sunday – June 2 – as we make our way to Amarillo. We enjoy a delicious dinner at Jerry’s on Route 66 in Weatherford, Oklahoma. We make the delivery about 9 pm and then make our way to our hotel. Dan’s retirement has officially begun. At nearly 69 years of age and working so hard for so long, he is ready, and he deserves it.
Everybody who is retired loves Mondays, and for his first retired Monday, we visited the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. I called to schedule; the morning tour at 10 am had several people but did have room for 2 more, but hey, this was his first day of retirement, so getting up early and rushing to get there before 10 am was not on our agenda. So, the tour at 2 pm with Ranger Jordan Kollar ended up being a private tour for us.
The tour starts out by getting in a large white van. What? Seems like we just can’t get away from big, white vans! Jordan then drove us into a restricted area, parked at base camp where things began to take a dark turn. Just kidding. This is where the climb/hike to the quarries begins. Along the way, Jordan explained the flora and fauna. He talked about the land, its history, and how things came to be. While we didn’t plan nor realize it at the time, this personal and private introduction to the Amarillo area and its history would enrich our other visits later in the week at Palo Dura Canyon State Park and the Panhandle-Plains History museum. This interesting, beautiful, and windy expedition lasted a bit over 2 hours with Jordan answering all our questions and being ever so patient and kind when I needed to rest. The area looks like just some hills with rocks around, but after our tour with Jordan, I see so much more. Thank you, Jordan, for an insightful and memorable day.
The tours at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument are free. The site did not have their own picture stamp to purchase for our National Parks Passport Deluxe edition, but they did have a stamp tool with the name. So, we stamped a plain piece of paper, and I will glue it in our Passport book later. However, in my book, Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument deserves its own picture stamp; it is definitely stamp-worthy!
Day 2 finds us at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum which was a hoot for me. I enjoyed seeing the RVs from the 1930s and later. The museum also featured the infamous red RV (of the Gornike family) from the “RV” movie starring Robin Williams. There were also motorcycles, an old time phone booth and a Volkswagon bus. There was a 1946 teardrop camper; these campers were made using surplus aluminum after the war, so often times bullet holes had to be repaired. Even the props set out inside the RVs, which you could walk into, were interesting, some bringing back memories from childhood. Lastly, we saw a photograph of the U.S.S. Sigourney signed by 17 past presidents.
This is another free attraction and should not be missed by those with interest in RVs. While it was free, we didn’t get out of there with all the money we brought in. The store had one of those maps of the US which are put on the outside of an RV, and then state stickers are put on once the state is visited. This certainly wasn’t an impulse purchase as I had been planning to get one. In person, I could see the size and the bright colors, and I knew it was the map for us. We also saw a bike rack which could be put on an RV’s back ladder which seemed as if it might be easier to use than our Jack-It bike rack which makes us say “*&%)# – It!” when we are trying to jack our bikes up that high. So we bought that, too. All in all, we spent about one hundred dollars, so maybe Jack Sisemore is pretty smart offering the free museum.
Next on our free attraction list was the Cadillac Ranch which kind of worked out to be better than free.
I don’t know if it survived the rain later that night, so I really do appreciate you reading now!
We ended the afternoon by walking and playing Scrabble at the Medical Center Park located right next to Amarillo Botanical Garden. This park featured a fantastic splash pad and playground (for free) which was being enjoyed to the max by dozens of children. If I had little kids and I was in Amarillo, this would definitely be a stop. The playground even featured some kind of zip line ride for the little ones.
On our next day, Wednesday, June 5th, we visited Palo Duro State Park Canyon where we paid the entry fee of $8 per person for the day. The drive to the state park, as well as all around Amarillo is so flat, but once at the park, a canyon is revealed, and it is beautiful. Palo Duro canyon is touted as the second largest canyon in the United States. There is camping, hiking, mountain biking, and even a musical show on certain evenings in the canyon.
I really wanted to hike to the “lighthouse”, the park’s icon; however, it was a 4 hour hike round trip, and I felt it would be too much for me. We stopped at the Visitor Center where a volunteer recommended the Rojo Grande Trail which met up with the Sunflower Trail. This hike took us about an hour and a half, and it was very beautiful. It was an excellent recommendation for us. We also saw the flora we had learned about with Jordan: basket flowers, prickly cactus, and more.
After our hike, we enjoyed lunch at small snack shop. Behind the eatery, was a picnic table where we settled in for a couple games of Scrabble. Sometimes, we will play Scrabble in a particular place, well, because we like Scrabble, but also because it allows us to enjoy that area more. It’s a nice way to just be there and soak up the scenery.
Ever intent on our game, all of the sudden we had some unexpected visitors right upon us. But after a moment, they went on their way. However, they soon returned, and then left again. They returned again. And then left again. After a few Scrabble turns, we realized that whenever we jingled our letter bag, the clicking of the tiles alerted our friends. Their heads jolted up, they gobbled quite a bit back and forth, and then they came over to us. Either they wanted a meal, or perhaps, could it be… they wanted to play Scrabble? I am sure we could have beaten those turkeys!
Our last full day in Amarillo was Thursday, June 6th. This day we went to the Panhandle-Plains History museum located on the campus of Texas A&M. We paid about $18; we had a $2 off coupon, and one of us qualified for the senior rate – to which the coupon was also applied. Here, we saw exhibits about the Antelope Creek people. These were the people who mined the quarries, we visited on Monday, for the flint and then used it to make tools needed for survival. The museum also features a reconstructed Pioneer Village and many really interesting displays. We saw an asbestos rock; I did not know that asbestos was a rock. We enjoyed the museum for a good two and a half hours. At this point, even though we had not seen the upstairs, but we were ready to go. If we return to Amarillo, I would visit here again to take in more.
We headed back to Medi Park for a short walk, but it began raining. So, we popped in a local library to enjoy some Scrabble before heading back to our hotel. We’ve visited local libraries before when traveling; it’s another free activity I recommend.
On Friday, we headed to Joplin where we played in a Scrabble tournament on Saturday and Sunday. This was a small tournament, only ten players, and Dan and I were ranked 9th and 10th. We arrived home on Sunday evening in time to watch the Blues lose, just like we did in our tournament. However, we all know, losses and tough competition can make a player stronger, and we all know how it ultimately turned out for the Blues, so watch out future competitors.
As we traveled to Amarillo, Dan and I discussed the possibility of him doing out of town runs occasionally for First Capitol. If they agreed, and it worked out, we could make trips out of these assignments – just like we did this time. We probably would have never just picked Amarillo out of the blue to visit, but his work led us there, and we saw and did so much – with most of it being paid for. We spent just a bit over his pay thanks to Jack Sisemore and a couple nice dinners. This strategy is similar to my hero Clark Howard’s advice which is to find the travel bargains and then decide why you want to go there. With this strategy, he says, one can see the whole world at a fraction of the cost of picking a destination first. So, we will see what happens. Will they give him runs? Will he want them?
Whatever happens with First Capitol, we will be traveling, and most of the time, it will be in our beloved Micro Lite. While technically, Dan’s retirement began on June 2 in Amarillo, it was June 1, back home, where we celebrated with his beloved family. Let the adventures continue!
|Happy Retirement, Dan!|