July 31, 2018

Sights to See: Coors Cowboy Club Ranch Rodeo and Polk Street Cattle Drive, Amarillo, Texas


The traditional Polk Street Cattle Drive and Parade begins annually at 10th and Polk streets, kicking things off for the June Coors Cowboy Club Ranch Rodeo.  More than 60 longhorns mosey along downtown Amarillo’s main thoroughfare, encouraged by cowboys and evoking the idea of an old-time cattle drive.  The steers don’t come near stampeding, though their horns do sometimes scratch parked cars that didn’t vacate in time.




Coors Cowboy Club Ranch Rodeo  1st weekend in June.  At Tri-State Fairgrounds.  $17, 7-12 $7.  This rodeo is different from some in that it features only cowpokes from local ranches.  They ride bucking broncos and herd groups of longhorn steers.  The kids competition involves riding sheep.  It’s BIG time Texas fun for everyone.  The local aspect was driven home for me when I sat up at the top of the arena next to a couple who seemed to know everyone.  It was non-stop chatter throughout, in a good way.  Informal stalls selling things like saddles and boots set up around the area walkway at the top, allowing you to do a little shopping for some cowboy goods.


















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videos ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

July 25, 2018

Sights to See: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Amarillo, Texas


Palo Duro Canyon State Park  11450 Park Road 5, 25 mi. SE of Amarillo, in Canyon, (806) 488-2227.  Daily 7am-10pm.  $5, under 13 free.  Camping:  (512) 389-8900.

overlook at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
overlook at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


Located just 30 minutes from town, this “Grand Canyon of Texas” is the second largest canyon (based on length) in the country.  The canyon is 120 miles long and 600 to 800 feet deep, and 10% of it is state park land.  The park features red sandstone soil, features a 300-foot-tall “hoodoo” rock formation that resembles a lighthouse, and is covered with mesquite and cottonwoods.  Visitors can explore the more than 16 miles of paved roadway and 30 miles of hiking trails by foot, horse, car, or mountain bike, and campsites are available.  Because it gets so hot here in summer--over 100 degrees--each trail has a thermometer at the trailhead along with warnings to carry plenty of water.  A small Visitor Center on the canyon rim contains educational exhibits, and The Trading Post on the canyon floor has a cafe with a good burger.

overlook at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
overlook at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


visitor center at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
visitor center at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


The Big Cave at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
The Big Cave at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


bark house at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
bark house at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


trail thermometer registers 110 at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
trail thermometer registers 110 at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


Texas--The Musical  (806) 655-2181.  Tu-Sun, early June-mid-August. $16.95 to $30.95.

entrance to Texas--The Musical at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
entrance to Texas--The Musical at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


This show has been running for 53 years!  Viewing a performance of the extravaganza in the canyon’s outdoor amphitheater as dusk falls and the canyon cools off is a lot of fun.  With young performers--they are mostly college kids--enthusiastically strutting and swinging colorful skirts, the storyline manages to cover a long past that includes the area’s early settlers, cowboys, and Native Americans.  It is over the top, with real horses and a fireworks show at the end.  An optional pre-show barbecue dinner is available.

before performance actors on horses at Texas--The Musical at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
before performance actors on horses at Texas--The Musical at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


open-air stage at Texas--The Musical at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas
open-air stage at Texas--The Musical at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon, Texas


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July 23, 2018

Things to Do: Nash Farm, Grapevine, Texas


Nash Farm  626 Ball St., (817) 410-3185.  Daily 9am-5pm.

exterior of farmhouse at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
exterior of farmhouse at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas


Thomas Jefferson Nash purchased 110 acres of farmland in Grapevine in 1859.  His family raised an assortment of livestock and crops here. Today, 5.2 acres of the original Nash Farm--including the farmhouse built by Thomas, the barn, and the family cemetery--remain.  The house retains much of its original structure, but was restored in 2008.  The Grapevine Heritage Foundation’s mission for Nash Farm is to preserve, protect, and visually reflect the significance of Grapevine’s farming and agricultural heritage so that future generations may appreciate and experience a way of life lived by settlers of the Grape Vine Prairie.  Nash Farm schedules many special events (think Ice Cream Social, Kite Making, or an 1860s Baseball Game) and interpretive programs, as well as educational tours.  Every event here is a living history experience, with workers dressed for the era.  And crafts are done with authentic era tools.  “You’ll never see plastic,” say tour guide Cody Jolliff.

upstairs bedroom in farmhouse at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
upstairs bedroom in farmhouse at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas


By all means sign up for the package that includes a farm-to-fork farmhand breakfast of biscuits with homemade butter and jams, salt pork (fried ham), hard-boiled eggs fresh from the farm’s henhouse, pickled vegetables, trappers fruit, and a variety of beverages (each guest gets to take home their logo Nash Farm coffee cup as a souvenir).  I had to good fortune to experience this delicious breakfast in the dining room and kitchen that were built separate from the house to keep down the heat from the wood-burning stove, and part of the deal was assisting with the morning farm chores, including feeding and collecting eggs from the heritage breed chickens, turkeys, and Gulf Coast Sheep as well as picking ripe little peaches right from the tree.  This early morning exercise helped me and my compatriots work up a good appetite.

Gulf Coast Sheep at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
Gulf Coast Sheep at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas





eggs ready for collecting from nest at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
eggs ready for collecting from nest at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas






ripe peaches in a basket at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
ripe peaches in a basket at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas


breakfast table at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
breakfast table at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas


pouring coffee at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
pouring coffee at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas


breakfast plate at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
breakfast plate at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas


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images and videos ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 20, 2018

Things to Do: 10 fun things to do downtown on Main Street, Grapevine, Texas


10 fun things to do downtown on Main Street in Grapevine, Texas
plus an extraordinary place to stay nearby

If you have a 4-plus-hour stopover at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, consider shuttling in to stroll Main Street in Grapevine’s Historic Downtown.  Or extend your stay for 24 hours and spend the night at an extraordinary mega resort.  All of these places except the resort are within easy walking distance of each other.

Main Street in Grapevine, Texas
Main Street in Grapevine, Texas


1.  eat a deep-fried stuffed avocado.  Well known and long-loved Esparza’s Restaurante Mexicano occupies a renovated late 1800s house and is famous for its margaritas and Tex Mex dishes.

stuffed avocado at Esparza's Restaurante Mexicano in Grapevine, Texas
stuffed avocado at Esparza's Restaurante Mexicano in Grapevine, Texas


2.  have a down-home experience at an old-time farm.  A visit to Nash Farm takes you back to 1859.  You’ll see heritage breed farm animals and docents dressed in era clothing.  More.

picking peaches at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas
picking peaches at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas


3.  visit a complex of historical museums.  The Settlement to City Museums operate within old town buildings here that include a replica ice house, a house museum, a schoolhouse, and a cotton ginner’s museum.  Each holds specific collections.

Settlement to City Museums in Grapevine, Texas
Settlement to City Museums in Grapevine, Texas


4.  witness an Old West shoot-out between Glockenspiel characters in a clock tower.  The 127-foot-high Clock Tower atop the Grapevine Visitors Information Center is home to two 9-foot tall characters--would-be train robbers Nat Barrett and Willy Majors.  They emerge for a 5-minute scheduled show most days, but unfortunately, when I visited, they were no-shows.

exterior of Grapevine Visitors Information Center in Grapevine, Texas
exterior of Grapevine Visitors Information Center in Grapevine, Texas


5.  taste quality dark chocolate in a shop operated by an M.D.  Operating within a cool little shop, Dr. Sue dispenses “chocolate you’ll feel good about eating.”  Dr. Sue’s Chocolates aims to promote a healthier lifestyle and uses no artificial ingredients or “GMO anything.”  Everything is also gluten free.  I adore the cherry-pecan chocolates.

cherry-pecan chocolates at Dr. Sue's Chocolates in Grapevine, Texas
cherry-pecan chocolates at Dr. Sue's Chocolates in Grapevine, Texas


6.  take a ride on a vintage railroad.  Climb aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad for a ride in old-time 1920s rail cars along the historic Cotton Belt Route to the Fort Worth Stockyards.  The engine is sometimes Puffy, an 1896 steam locomotive, and sometimes Vinny, a 1953 GP-7 diesel locomotive.

Grapevine Vintage Railroad ticket office in Grapevine, Texas
Grapevine Vintage Railroad ticket office in Grapevine, Texas


7.  view a gigantic miniature railroad layout.  Back at the stellar Grapevine Visitors Information Center you can enjoy a massive 1,000-square-foot interactive model train layout and a kid’s train yard-themed play area.




lobby of Grapevine Visitors Information Center in Grapevine, Texas
lobby of Grapevine Visitors Information Center in Grapevine, Texas


8.  go wine tasting.  Though it is a surprise to many people to discover there are no vineyards in Grapevine, there are seven winery tasting rooms located along Main Street.  My favorite was Messina Hof Winery Grapevine, which is located in the replica 1920s Wallis Hotel.  I especially liked the GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mavedre) and the Italian Sagrantino--both are dry, delish, and drinkable.

wine tasting at Messina Hof Winery Grapevine in Grapevine, Texas
wine tasting at Messina Hof Winery Grapevine in Grapevine, Texas


9.  make your own blown-glass ornament.  The state-of-the-art facility that is the Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery is the perfect place to try glass-blowing or to just see how it’s done.

working on ornament at Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery in Grapevine, Texas
working on ornament at Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery in Grapevine, Texas


10.  get in the Christmas spirit.  Visit the official Christmas Capitol of Texas in December.  That’s when more than 1,400 events are scheduled over 40+ days.

          And while you’re here, spend the night in the mega Gaylord Texan Resort.  With 1,814 rooms spread though 9 floors, this extravaganza has 4.5 acres of lush indoor gardens and a seasonal water park with indoor and outdoor pools.  Christmas here is a sight to behold--you’ll see more than 2 million twinkling lights, 15,000 ornaments, and a 54-foot-tall Christmas tree--even snow tubing and a carved ICE! exhibit held inside a 9-degree ice tent!



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images and video ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

July 16, 2018

Good Eats: Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo, Texas


Big Texan Steak Ranch  7701 E I-40, (806) 372-6000.  Daily 7am-10:30pm.

steaks just off the grill at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
steaks just off the grill at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

Back in 1962, Big Texan Steak Ranch owner R.J. “Bob” Lee challenged a dining room full of cowboys to eat as many one-pound steaks as they could within one hour.  One cowboy ate 72 ounces of steak, a baked potato, a shrimp cocktail, a dinner roll, and a salad.  Lee proclaimed that thereafter anyone who could eat that same dinner in one hour would receive the meal for free.  It is now referred to as the 72-ounce Steak Challenge.  So far, almost 100,000 people have won the challenge--that averages out to two people per day.  Bobbie says a “128-pound housewife ate it all in 20 minutes.  She would have eaten my hand, too, if I hadn’t moved it!”  The day I dined here one guy almost did it and another very young fellow from Ohio most definitely did not.

the 72-ounce Steak Challenge at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
the 72-ounce Steak Challenge at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

Happy diners who squeeze into the humongous dining room (it holds around 300 people) can watch this show unfold on a small stage in front of them while wandering cowboys serenade.  But mostly they will be enjoying eating their own well-priced, delicious steak.  I devoured most of my spectacularly tasty 16-ounce bone-in Duke’s Cut ribeye ($23) and sent the rest home for a dining companion’s dog.  Rocky Mountain oysters (aka bull balls) that reputedly taste like chicken hearts are another popular menu item.  Kids meals are served in a cowboy hat they can take home.  And I grew very fond of the “laughing margarita,” which did indeed get me laughing.  My sister suggests, “Sit upstairs near the edge.  It’s really, really fun.”  But I found a prime spot by the kitchen and got to watch the grilling action as well.  Bobbie and Danny, sons of the owner, didn’t want to take over the business, but here they are.  They now also make their own beer and have also opened the Starlight Ranch down the road.  And they want you to come on down--they’ll even send a free limo with Texas longhorns attached to the hood to pick you up and return you to your hotel or campground.

exterior sign at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
exterior sign at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas


limo with longhorns attached at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
limo with longhorns attached at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas


dining room at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
dining room at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas


laughing margaritas at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
laughing margaritas at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas


salad at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
salad at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas


16-ounce bone-in Duke’s Cut ribeye at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
16-ounce bone-in Duke’s Cut ribeye at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas


carrot cake at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
carrot cake at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas


owners Bobbie and Danny at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
owners Bobbie and Danny at Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas

The Big Texan Steak Ranch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 13, 2018

Sights to See: World’s Tallest Thermometer, Baker, California


World’s Tallest Thermometer  72157 Baker Blvd., I-15 exit 246, (760) 733-4747.  Free.  Most people driving I-15 are, like I was, either on the way to or from Las Vegas.  In my case it was to attend a flash mob wedding there officiated by Elvis.



The town of Baker makes a great rest stop.  It is home to The World’s Tallest Thermometer, which stands 134 feet tall and weighs 76,812 pounds.  That calculates to one foot in height for every degree in fahrenheit that was recorded on July 10, 1913 in nearby Death Valley.  That day is officially the World’s Hottest Day.  The highest temperature this thermometer has ever recorded was 127 degrees in August 1995, which was 4 years after it was built here.  The Mojave Desert town of Baker is usually baking hot, but on the mid-winter day I drove by the thermometer was only lit up to 50 degrees.  The thermometer is easy to see from your car when passing by, but you’ll see it even better and be able to savor the experience if you take the loop off of Highway I-15 into town.

World’s Tallest Thermometer in Baker, California
World’s Tallest Thermometer in Baker, California


Stop in the parking lot of the Del Taco as I did for photos.  As might be expected, a gift shop is located at the thermometer’s base which is also a great spot for a straight-up photo.  While you’re here, note that Del Taco is a popular spot for a fast food break, and the Alien Fresh Jerky shop just across the street purveys its famous beef jerky.

exterior of Del Taco in Baker, California
exterior of Del Taco in Baker, California


exterior of Alien Fresh Jerkey in Baker, California
exterior of Alien Fresh Jerkey in Baker, California


Things to do in Las Vegas. 

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images and video ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

July 11, 2018

Sights to See: La Tovara Nature Reserve; San Blas, Mexico


La Tovara Nature Reserve is for the birds

birdwatching boat ride at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
birdwatching boat ride at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico

An important resting areas for migratory birds, all of San Blas is a spectacular natural bird sanctuary.  It is considered the best place in Mexico for bird watching.  But to enjoy some guaranteed bird sightings, it is a good idea to visit this reserve.  Visitors ride through the La Tovara and Camalota lagoons in small motor boats.  Guides are excellent and helpful in pointing out the native birds, as well as the occasional crocodile, swamp turtle, and other creatures.  Our guide led our eyes through the camouflage to find such wonders as a Boat-Billed Heron hidden in a tree and a teenage crocodile sprawled atop a look-alike log.

birdwatching boat ride at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
birdwatching boat ride at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico





Boat Billed Heron spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
Boat Billed Heron spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


bird at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
bird at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


Ringed Kingfisher spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
Ringed Kingfisher spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


"Cabeza de Baca" movie set at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
"Cabeza de Baca" movie set at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


bird spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
bird spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


yellow bird spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
yellow bird spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


bird spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
bird spotted at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


Cormorant at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
Cormorant at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


roosting birds at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
roosting birds at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


At one end of the estuary, a freshwater spring changes the terrain and introduces new kinds of flora and fauna.

row of tall palms at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
row of tall palms at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


freshwater swimming springs at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
freshwater swimming springs at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


After the boat tour, we visited the Kiekari Crocodile Farm rescue center, which holds many crocodiles that are being bred to replenish the area’s population.  The effort appears to be working, because several pairs were busy mating during our visit.  Rare leopards are also here, but unfortunately are unable to be released.

big crocodile at the Kiekari Crocodile Farm rescue center at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
big crocodile at the Kiekari Crocodile Farm rescue center at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico


leopard at the Kiekari Crocodile Farm rescue center at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico
leopard at the Kiekari Crocodile Farm rescue center at La Tovara Nature Reserve in San Blas, Mexico



More ideas for travel adventures in California and the U.S. and around the world.

images and video ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers