The perfect road trip for me would include an unexpected adventure, a spontaneous change of plans, and definitely a town/ destination/ route that was absolutely not on my radar when we first checked our navigation maps! Well that just happened this Christmas and I am currently in a state of obsession over all the prettiness that this brought along :D
I had a 3 day window to begin with - I'm applying to grad school and application deadlines are around the corner. I live in Austin which isn't the best located for road trips but we decided to take our new car for an intro to Texas ride.
Austin --> Carlsbad Caverns, NM --> White Sands, NM --> Austin via a scenic drive route I found here (http://www.texasoutside.com/texas-scenic-drives/index.html)
We expected to spend all of Christmas day driving but we forgot to account for the time difference, plus the roads were emptier than we would have imagined - it looked like we were passing abandoned towns from Walking Dead :p - so we gained more than an extra hour that day! And that meant learning new card games from the friends we were traveling with.
That also meant we got so lost playing game after game after game that the Domino's nearby that we were counting on shut shop (it was Christmas day). Have you ever played Judgment or 99? Ping me separately if you're interested :)
Anyway Carlsbad was the beginning of a chilly, 6 mile trek deep into the earth, no network and a lot of imagination, inspiration and wonderment, and nature's magical crafts! When we got out, we realized a snowstorm was approaching the area, that we'd been lucky to get in in time, and the monument was closing all tours for the next two days!
As fun as the thought of my first snow was, that also meant the next destination was closing up too. And we would either have to go back without covering it, or wait out an extra day for the weather to clear... We thought it wiser to do the latter because driving back home in bad weather wasn't such a great prospect either!
Just as we were leaving Carlsbad, it started to snow, all the way to El Paso (where we had booked an AirBnB cottage for the night). That drive included a U-turn on a whim to get hot chocolate in the snow from a local ranch-cafe, and another one to touch my first snow, and then some more because it had become so bad that roads were closing up and Google Maps was failing!
The cafe was "Open and Warm" as advertised.
When we finally reached our rental, which by the way, was on the foot of beautiful snow sprinkled mountains, it felt like I'd walked right into a Game of Thrones premier set... or even better how I had imagined the land of Narnia when I first heard the audio book for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!
Look at all that snow!
Our host was the most welcoming host I've ever come across (and I have been traveling with AirBnB since 2011). He lent us gloves and equipment to make a snowman, let us use his front yard like our own, made us potato-pecan-banana pancakes, and brewed us Chai Tea for warmth!
But more importantly, because we had a free extra day and everything was closed up, he hand drew a map for us, to get to a little village called Mesilla, the route to which went through pecan and chili orchards (that were of course snow clad that day), and ended in a little town square with a 75 year old Mexican restaurant that's on the list of US' Top 10 Mexican eateries! <3
Our hand-drawn map!
I don't have words for how happy the traveler in me was that afternoon! In between this and the next day was more beauty, more laughter, more card games, more newness, some more driving, and then we ended up at the White Sands Monument.
Now this could have been a desert of white sand dunes which would be nice but normal -- BUT I found something in their gift shop that yet again made my day! A passport book to the national parks in the US! So apparently, every national park has a little table that has a stamp set available. You can basically stamp your way through all of US' 401 National Parks and that's just brilliantly exciting for someone like me who has an Explore America map stuck in her drawing room already O:)
National Parks Passport Map!
Anyway, we'd run out of holidays and extensions, and I had applications to submit back home. In the end let me just leave you with some pictures and a Happy New Year :) and a BIG thank you for being part of my excitement!
Hoping you had an amazing, love-filled Christmas wherever you were.