After getting the urologist’s OK that my post surgery report was fine, we took off on Thursday to begin our 2010 summer adventure. Our first stop was at Canyon, TX out in the Panhandle High Plains part of the state. Home to West TX A&M University and the excellent Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, the town of Canyon is the gateway to the 2nd largest park in the state, Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Explored during the 15th century Spanish conquistadors and named Palo Duro because of the abundant hard woods found there, the 120 mile long canyon is the second largest in the USA. Although Fred and I had ridden through the park a few years ago while on a Harley trip, we’d never had time to visit the museum nor attend the nighttime outdoor play called “Texas” which is in its 45th year and is performed at the Palo Duro Canyon natural amphitheater, so those were our two goals for the first couple of days on our summer adventure. We set up camp at the Palo Duro RV Park, located just outside of town and not far from the canyon. The park was not fancy but was clean and the sites were level and long; the location was wonderful for our purposes, and the Internet worked great, which is unusual at inexpensive parks. I would recommend the park to RVers who want to visit the area.
We enjoyed a tasty lunch at a very busy, very large local diner in Canyon before spending several hours investigating the museum in town. It surprised us in its size, use of technology, and number of exhibits. One docent we spoke to in the art wing explained that the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum is the largest history museum in the state. There certainly was a lot for us to see! There were exhibits for each of the following areas: paleontology, geology, petroleum, history of the people who have inhabited the Plains region, agriculture, textiles, furniture, automobiles, and firearms. The history of the region was explained through interactive exhibits as well as with dioramas and extensive artifacts. Also included in the museum were an entire recreated Pioneer town, several 19th century log cabins that had been moved to the museum grounds, a windmill exhibit, and several rooms of western artwork – paintings, sculpture, and Indian artifacts. One of Fred’s favorite finds was Chief Quanah Parker’s headdress. Quanah, the last of the Comanche chiefs, unsuccessfully fought the US military during the Red River War of 1874. After this period of fighting the Comanche were sentenced to life on the reservation in Oklahoma. We have both camped at Fort Parker, where Quanah’s Anglo mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured by the Comanche at age nine, and Fred has been to the cemetery in Ft. Sill, OK where Quanah, his mother, and sister are all buried. My favorite finds included the 1903 Model A Ford, the shovel toothed mastodon skull and the phytosaur skull.
The evening was spent out at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, but not before Fred found a local meat processing plant that sold to the public. Since this area has lots of ranching and feedlots, he figured any meat we bought would be delicious. We purchased a couple rib eyes that Fred is very excited about! He said the marbling was awesome and that the steaks will be super tasty. We drove only through the first part of the canyon – there have been a lot of thunderstorms in the area recently, so many of the low water crossings have so much water flowing through them right now that many campers are stuck in the back part of the canyon and will not be able to get out for a couple of days! The amphitheater is only two miles into the park, though, so we had no difficulties. We loved the show, which is in its 45th year and is billed as a musical romantic drama of Panhandle history. A lone rider with a Texas flag rides across the rim of the canyon at the beginning of the program, and then the singing and dancing begins! Fred doesn’t usually enjoy musicals, but he likes historical dramas that have music and dancing, since he also enjoyed the Cherokee Trail of Tears show we watched a couple of years ago over in North Carolina. All the actors were very good as were the singers and dancers. I especially appreciated the rotating and moveable set designs, the lighting, and all the sound effects. All made the performance excellent. At the end, there were fireworks too! What a great way to end the night in Palo Duro Canyon. Another interesting event today - to show how it is a very small world, we were in the outdoor lobby area of the amphitheater, and we bumped into a friend I used to work with at McCoy Elementary School in our LEAP gifted program! Linda and her husband Kurt were headed for a wedding out in Colorado and stopped to see the show! We head on to New Mexico tomorrow.