Monday, September 5, 2016

Road Trip. Part 2 - Capulin Volcano, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado

If you haven't already, check out Part 1.

I left Raton, NM shortly before 8 am and headed east on Highway 87. 40 miles down the road, as I approached the town of Capulin, NM, I saw signs for the Capulin Volcano. I've never been to a volcano before, so I turned off 87 toward the volcano, glad I had the time to wander off my route.

Without a National Parks Pass (which I plan on acquiring soon), it cost $7 to access the volcano.  Not far past this sign, there was a welcome center staffed by a park ranger where you could buy a pass or a souvenir and use the restroom.

This is a view of the volcano from the parking lot of the visitors' center.

At the parking lot at the rim of the volcano, looking toward the plains. 

The best view of the plains from the rim of the volcano.

A panorama of the rim of the volcano.

Coming from Colorado, where Denver is 5280 feet above sea level and there are more than 50 peaks that reach 14k feet, standing where the highest land mass for miles around was only 7877 feet above sea level amused me.

Standing at the rim of the volcano and looking in.

The inside of the volcano.

Panorama of the interior of the volcano. There is a paved path leading from here to the bottom inside of the volcano. It is smooth but very steep! And I of course forgot to use my inhaler for exercise-induced asthma beforehand, so I was gasping for breath and wheezing after climbing back out.


Volcanic rock inside the bottom of the volcano.

At the bottom of the volcano on the inside, looking up.

Panorama of the rim, standing on the bottom of the inside.

Not a time lapse. It was crazy windy and the clouds were actually moving that fast!

Squinting because I left my sunglasses in the car.

On the road again. Before I reached the border between New Mexico and Texas, I stopped at a rest area and was surprised to see a corral. I'd never seen a rest area with a corral before, though I guess it makes sense that horses need to stretch their legs as much as people on long journeys.

Just make sure your horse doesn't get bitten by a snake while you're using the restroom!

View of the rest area and my car from the front of the corral.

Dalhart Texas, home of roadside grain elevators and A TON of road construction.

Parked on Highway 87 in Dalhart due to the construction, I looked over and spotted a child's bowling ball in the gutter. It looked so...forlorn. 

Much of the road under construction was flooded. All the residents seemed to own trucks and drove through the flooding to access the businesses on the other side without a care in the world. I had to wait for a restaurant I could access without driving through a flood zone and wound up at an oddly fancy McDonald's.

I wasn't very hungry; I just needed a fresh drink and a break from driving, so I wasn't lucky enough to have food delivered to my table in wire baskets like you would find at a SmashBurger or similar fast casual restaurant. The place was packed with everything from weary travelers like myself to locals in their Sunday best, including a woman who looked like she might be a Mennonite who randomly asked me if I thought she could convince the employee wiping down the doors to come home with her and do her windows.  

"Collectables." Also in Dalhart.

After my break in Dalhart, I turned north on Highway 385 and headed toward Boise City, OK.

Google Maps made it appear that I would be driving through the Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands, but mostly I saw a lot of crops. Perhaps there were some grasslands amongst and behind the farms, I don't know, but it was never obvious that I was driving through a grassland, which I found disappointing. I guess I was hoping for a turnoff where I could see Pronghorns and Bison wandering through native grasses without any fences or crops in the way.

Can anybody tell me what this pretty crop is? I saw none of it in New Mexico or Texas, then it was all over the place in Oklahoma and popped up occasionally in Kansas. I don't recall seeing it in Colorado. The top was a really pretty reddish orange color that I don't recall seeing before.

Oklahoma had a couple of these roadside tables. There would be a sign with a 1 mile warning so that you could slow down, then there would be a covered picnic table on the side of the road. No restrooms, though, not even a Porta Potty, so hopefully you don't have to go right after you eat. Those trees offered very little cover from the side of the road!

The view across the highway from the picnic table.

In Boise City, OK, I got gas, then turned onto Highway 56 for my detour into Kansas. This is a good place to mention that Sprint decided I was roaming for most of my trip and refused me any data access unless I accessed WiFi at a restaurant or something. Having forgotten to finalize my route when I was resting at the fancy McDonald's in Dalhart, TX, I was only allowed a brief glimpse at Google maps to figure out my route. 

I should have downloaded my route, because I didn't memorize the Kansas detour properly and wound up doing a big, pointless circle.  

This is literally the only picture I took of Kansas. At this point I was getting tired of driving without having any interesting places to stop. After growing up near the mountains, the plains got boring after a while (my apologies to anybody who lives on the plains and loves it!).

After my Kansas loop, I wound up on (I think) county road 51 - which became a dirt road at the border with Colorado! That was an unpleasant surprise, but it would have been a very long backtrack through Kansas to find a different route, so I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles and hoped for the best.

 Luckily the road was fairly well maintained, but I was still terrified that I would hit a rut that was worse than it looked and wind up in the ditch with no cell service. My car handled the dirt road OK, but it isn't all wheel drive and really wasn't designed for that kind of rough driving.

Approximately thirty miles and nearly an hour later, I finally re-emerged onto blacktop and cheered.

I hadn't memorized a route through Colorado, so until I found a place to stop, all I knew was to head north or west and I would eventually hit either I-70 or I-25, even if that wasn't the fastest route.

Twice in Colorado there were situations where the two-lane road was down to one lane and had a light at either end. Much more efficient than using a flagger.

By the time I reached Lamar, I desperately needed a break. I found a Burger King (anything but yet another McDonald's!) and was finally able to check Google maps and discover that I was already on the fastest route home - but I was still more than 3 hours away. Ugh. I was so over this road trip at this point, but there was nothing to do but keep going.

After stopping at a gas station that was out of the octane I needed, then getting paranoid that my fuel gauge was lying and I must have less than the quarter tank it insisted I had and worrying I would run out of gas, I eventually hit I-70 in time to see this beautiful sunset.

I finally reached home at 8 pm, exhausted and glad to be out of the driver's seat.

In the end, I would not recommend this particular route unless you are dying to add NM, TX, OK, and KS to your list of states. Even then I'd say break up the trip into two days, if you can. 


  1. The volcano looks like an interesting place to visit!

  2. The volcano looks like an interesting place to visit!