After a peaceful night of sleep, Cody and I woke up refreshed and ready to hit the road once again. Before breakfast could happen, I first had to make sure the Ford Courier didn’t roll away during the night since it didn’t have a working parking brake. This was a constant fear of mine throughout the trip, I imagined the truck rolling off a mountain never to be seen again. Thankfully, the truck was still in the hotel parking lot, safe and sound.
(Click on the following day to read more of my “Cruising to Colorado” series. Blog post: Day One)
Breakfast consisted of waffles in the shape of Texas–you can only imagine how big they were. We packed our bags, said “Adios!” and went on our merry way.
Next stop—Cadillac Ranch.
Cadillac Ranch is an iconic pit stop off the side of the Interstate on Route 66 in Amarillo. Free and open to the public, the stop is a popular destination. With 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground, front first, the tail end of the vehicles sticks out of the ground. Visitors are encouraged to bring a can of spray paint, or pick up one of the many leftover cans, and leave your mark on your choice of “Caddie.”
As we pulled up, we could see the cars in the distance eagerly awaiting for us to come and enjoy their eccentricity. Even though it was the beginning of July, the air was cool that morning. Cody and I along with a lone biker were the only visitors at the time.
There is something special about exploring a neat attraction like this without the hustle and bustle of a crowd. We perused through the row of Cadillacs, taking in all of the pieces of art spray painted onto them. We made conversation with the only other visitor there–a biker who had been riding his motorcycle cross-country. That’s another great thing about vacations; when you travel away from your hometown you become more open to meeting new people (even if it’s only for five minutes) and seeing a snippet of where they come from and who they are.
Back on the road again, we left the vastness of Texas and entered into New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment.” With no big stops in mind we pushed on through New Mexico, only stopping to get a picture by the state sign and to eat our delicious turkey and cheese sandwiches on the back of the tailgate again.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Late afternoon, we made it to Blanca, Colorado, closer than ever to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The road to the park is long and straight with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on one side and valley on the other.
From a distance, the Great Sand Dunes don’t look so “great,” but the closer you get the more the dunes grow. What looked like small sand mounds a few miles away, suddenly evolve into the phenomenal wonder they are known for. Entering the park and preserve cost a fee of $15; they charge by the vehicle and number of occupants.
It’s humbling to be surrounded by massive sand dunes in one direction and beautiful, green mountains in another. I’ve found that traveling makes you realize how small you are and how big and beautiful the world is. There is so much to see and do!
When we first got to the Great Sand Dunes and passed through the toll booth, we made a stop at the visitor’s center and gift shop to learn more about how the sand dunes were created. I have an ongoing collection of magnets from places Cody and I have traveled to, so I of course bought a magnet to document our time there.
After visiting the center, we drove down the road and parked in the parking lot that is located by the entrance to the dunes. Walking through a little opening in the trees, we saw the full view of the dunes and how amazing they truly are.
It was almost like being at the beach; people had towels and umbrellas set up near Medano Creek. To reach the dunes, we had to walk through Medano Creek while the cool water splashed onto our legs.
As we trudged through the warm sand, I felt like we had been transported to a desert. People who were on the very top of the dunes looked like ants from where Cody and I were standing. The atmosphere at the Great Sand Dunes was so welcoming; families were spending time near the creek, adventurers were making their way to the top in hopes of sliding down in their sled at full-speed and others were just taking in the overall beauty of the place.
If you have fur babies, they are welcome at the Great Sand Dunes! We saw a couple with their big dog having a blast on the dunes.
A trip to the Great Sand Dunes wouldn’t be complete without camping at Zapata Falls. The road up to this campsite isn’t for the weary. A patient driver or a 4-wheel drive vehicle makes the ride go a lot smoother.
The Zapata Falls Campground doesn’t take reservations so on busy weekends it is best to go early and stake out the best spot. Luckily, since we arrived on a Sunday afternoon plenty of spots were open. We picked an isolated spot near the restrooms with an absolutely breathtaking view.
Since we had entered Colorado it had gotten colder as we rose in elevation and only got chillier as we climbed up even further to get to the Zapata Falls campsite. The campground is 9,000 feet in elevation and is at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The $11 fee to camp at this particularly campsite is cheap especially for the views you get to enjoy. Along with the views, an abundance of chipmunks roam around the campground, running around the trees and rocks.
We set up camp in the back of the truck and snacked on trail mix before dinner. We couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Through the entire trip and all of the places we ended up visiting, this campsite stuck with us as one of our favorites.
We ended the night with the best camp dessert known to anyone–s’mores. I had my share of one three s’mores before we headed into the cozy camper shell and got a good night’s rest. The next day we had plans to hike to Zapata Falls, quite a feat for two people who weren’t experts at hiking.