Archive for the “Attractions” Category

Reviews of off-the-beaten-path, quirky towns and oddball attractions across North America

Thousands of remote, offbeat destinations line the back roads of America, all leaving imprints on your heart as you roll away to somewhere new. As full-time RVers we get the chance to revisit those magical places whenever we want, but life can get in the way and oftentimes the opportunity never seems to materialize.

The Road to Pie Town New Mexico

But when the cosmic road map finally aligns your present journey with an old favorite destination from the past, well that’s a sign you just can’t ignore.

Going Back to New Mexico’s Church of Pie

Recently while headed to Las Vegas, Nevada, we jumped at the chance to drive Highway 60 to get there. That two-lane route is a little out of the way to Sin City, but taking the slow lane would allow us to make a pilgrimage to The Pie-O-Neer cafe in Pie Town New Mexico.

Strawberry rhubarb pie masterpiece

This magical spot perched atop on the Continental Divide won us over way back in 2008 as we traveled with Jerry, and just like our sweet boy, it’s been in our hearts ever since.

Jerry in Cochiti, New Mexico

In Search of Mystic Pie

We waved goodbye to Waylon Jennings’ spirit and booked it out of Littlefield, Texas early one morning, high on caffeine and anticipation of our destination: the sweetest spot in New Mexico, about 3 hours southwest from Albuquerque.

Slice of Heaven in Pie Town, New Mexico

We needed to get there before the Pie-O-Neer Cafe closed at 4pm but were so excited we managed to arrive by 1pm. What a joy to see that the cafe was exactly as we remembered it! The moment we stepped onto the cozy front porch and opened the door, the heavenly scent of homemade pies wrapped its arms around us like an old friend.
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Anyone who thinks there’s nothing to see while driving across the Great State of Texas is a fool. If you look hard enough you can spend weeks visting oddball attractions in the Panhandle, like Jesus in a Box and Cadillac Ranch.

RV Pitstop at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo Texas

Should you decide to venture far beyond the interstate, then an overnight stay in Littlefield is mandatory. This small dusty Panhandle town is just west of Lubbock. There’s not a lot to this place, which is probably why its most famous hometown hellraiser, Waylon Jennings, would tell folks he was from Lubbock.

Footprints of a Legend at Littlefield Texas City Park

Unlike our first Panhandle Pitstops road trip, this time we knew to slow down and stop to check out the only museum in America dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Waymore’s Drive-Thru Package Liquor Store and Waylon Jennings Museum.

Waymore’s Drive-Thru Package Liquor Store

As fans of both Outlaw country music and adult beverages, we were happy to stop and pay homage to one of the greatest musicians of all-time (yes, that’s right, now shaddup).

Waymore’s Drive-Thru Liquor Store LIttlefield Texas

This little family-run establishment was founded by Waylon’s brother James. On any given day you’ll find him, some other relative or friend of the family running the store and ready give to you a personalized tour.

Waylon Jennings’ first guitar

The day we arrived, Waylon’s niece was our hostess. She happily shared non-stop stories about his life and relatives with a lovely Texas twang that was so fast we only grasped about half of what she was telling us, but she was adorable nonetheless.

Clean-cut teenage Waylon Jennings: Who knew?!

Much of the collection was gathered from family garages and attics, some from e-Bay and some from who knows where. Capitalizing on the Outlaw music connection, they’ve even gathered cool relics like this custom stage jacket made just for Johnny Cash:

Can you feel the presence of The Man in Black?

There’s a pair of Waylon’s trademark “Flying W” boots. It’s obvious, don’t you think? Nobody can ever fill this cowboy’s shoes.

Boots Too Big to Ever Fill

Rumor has it that Waylon didn’t have a lot to do with Littlefield because of some feudin’ that happened between him and this side of his family at some point, but if there is some bad blood there, we didn’t get a sense of that at all.

Waylon Jennings Mural at the Drive-Thru Liquor Store

The cheapskate in me looking for signs that we were going to get hit up for money for this lovely tour. But nope, they weren’t asking for cash or trying to exploit their connection at all; this was just genuine friendliness from salt-of-the-earth people who are proud to be associated with Waylon.

Of course we couldn’t leave without buying something, so we picked up some cheap beer and thanked our lovely host for an unforgettable time.

Some people think Waylon deserves a fancy-pants memorial with more pizazz. After all, you can’t escape the irony of having a liquor store museum dedicated to a genius who died far too early from substance abuse issues. But so what, I say; Waylon was as real as it gets, and so is this one-of-a-kind Outlaw establishment.

IF YOU GO: Be sure to stop and stay at the free Waylon Jennings City Park. It has free RV camp sites for small to medium rigs, complete with water, electric and a dump station, all for a donation. And oh, it even has sanctioned horse-shoe competition courts!

Waylon Jennings City Park, LIttlefield Texas

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The last time we made contact at the Very Large Array, our camera had just conked out after visiting the Trinity Test Site with our Atomic Dog Jerry.

This time around, with Wyatt leading us back from Texas to Vegas for the BlogPaws conference, we decided to take Highway 60 and hit up Pie Town again. I had actually forgotten about the VLA  until we were almost there.

I immediately remembered how cool it is! We didn’t get a guided tour like we did before, but stopping at the vista point was enogh to get a good dose of geek tourism. The pullout is large enough for a couple RVs, and there is ample warning. After all you can’t miss the dishes.

The place always reminds me of an old commercial featuring Ted Turner walking along the fenceline at his ranch. He mentions how his neighbor has been complaining, about his new set of dishes, as the camera pans to reveal a scene similar to this.

Ted likely had dish envy though. His were not nearly as large, nor would they likely reach as far! But there I go digressing again.

The Very Large Array is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  The 27 antennae—each one measuring 82′ in diameter—comprise an interferometer providing the resolution of a dish 22 miles across! Mounted on rails, the dishes can be positioned across the across the mesa, close together or miles apart.

Without getting into interference and Fourier transformation of mathematical data to make interstellar maps, suffice it to say, this place is just pretty damn cool.

Geek or not, if you’re a full-time RVer who prefers to travel the backroads of America, this is one of the more amazing roadside attractions you’re going to see. What makes it even more cool, is that it’s not just some attraction, it’s actually in use every day, looking at the far reaches of our galaxy, and beyond.

Besides, it’s just down the road from some of the best pie out there on the open road!

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A few weeks ago Jim and I crossed the Rio Grande for a one-day Mexican holiday in Boquillas del Carmen.

After twelve long, lonely years of being closed off from tourists in Big Bend National Park, this rustic Mexican community is celebrating the return of adventurous park tourists willing to walk or boat across and explore this old world village.

Boquillas is a former mining town that quickly became a popular destination for U.S. and international park visitors when Big Bend National Park opened in the 1940s. Made famous in the song Gringo Honeymoon by Texas singer songwriter Robert Earl Keen, for many decades thousands of park tourists made passport-less jaunts by boat, foot and mule in order to eat, drink and party in a village untouched by time.


“Tied our donkeys to an ironwood tree
By the street where children played
We walked in the first place we could see
Servin’ cold beer in the shade
We were drinkin’ like the end was not in sight
And we drank all afternoon
We asked the world to wait so we could celebrate
A gringo honeymoon.”

Sadly, post 9/11 border security regulations quickly put a stop to Boquillas’ informal river crossings. The move nearly decimated the town’s population, but over a decade later in April 2013, remaining villagers, Big Bend locals and park authorities were elated when U.S. border officials re-opened the crossing – albeit with a $3.7 million checkpoint station and official passport rules regulating visitor requirements.

Today’s visitors will find that while much has changed on the other side, Boquillas continues to hold a special charm. Newcomers are still greeted on the river by Victor, the town’s unofficial director of tourism who belts out popular Mexican songs for tips and welcomes everyone with a giant smile.

Packs of burros stand ready for visitors too wilted to make the 20 minute trek to town on foot but pickup trucks also offer transportation.

Walking through Boquillas is like a visit to an early 20th century Mexican village. Unpaved streets lead to little more than the two restaurants and bar, a few dozen hand-built adobe houses, two plain churches and a school.

This off-grid community is pleasantly different from all other border crossings in that visitors aren’t assaulted with the usual traffic, grime and crowds found elsewhere in Mexican borderlands.

Since there are no grocery stores, liquor outlets or pharmacies, you won’t have the opportunity to do much shopping or get dental work done, but your American dollars can go to better use by purchasing handmade crafts made by locals of every age.

When you’re ready for a break, head to the famous Park Bar that greets thirsty travelers with icy cold beer.

You can satiate your appetite right across the street at the decades old Falcon Restaurante and souvenir shop that serves up $3 plates of mini tacos and burritos, or you can walk across the street to a new competing eatery.

Touring Boquillas only takes a couple hours and you can make the most of it with guided trips led by residents anxious to practice their English and show off their community. Guides greet you when you arrive on shore and work strictly for tips. Although your participation is optional, doing so adds a personal touch to your adventure, provides for your safety and positively impacts Boquillas’ economy.

Boquillas is accessed by traveling to the east side of Big Bend National Park, near the Rio Grande Village campground. The crossing station is Wednesday through Sunday between 9 am and 6 pm and official passports are required. You can cross over on foot or by paying $5 for a round-trip row boat ride, and transportation into town for non-walkers costs anywhere from $5 to $8. For more information visit the Big Bend National Park website.

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On the first leg of our snowbird waltz across West Texas Highway 90, we made a pit stop at the Prada Store in Valentine.

After last year’s controversy about the Prada Store artwork versus the Playboy Hot Rod billboard and the legality of roadside advertising / art, we wanted to see if this landmark was still standing.

The good news: it’s still there. The bad news: it’s showings signs of age and it may not be here next time we come through.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT)’s order to remove the structure is still being considered. For now, we’re glad that government moves at a snail’s pace. Art still rules.

Later than night we made our usual pass through Marfa (a town that thinks a little too much of itself in my book) and directly on to the Marfa Lights Viewing Station, where we boondocked for the night, hoping to catch another glimpse of the glowing orbs.

When dusk fell and low clouds appeared, along with dozens of sky watchers, we had a feeling the lights wouldn’t show up, and they didn’t. One guy who’s been there seven times said he’s only seen them two times in seven, so we weren’t too surprised by their absence.

That’s OK though. The best part about this roaming lifestyle? There’s always next time.

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