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Around 3 a.m. thunder rumbled in the distance. I sat up in the tent and woke up Alejandro.

“Thunder,” I said.

He tried to go back to sleep but I convinced him to help me put the protective fly over the tent and move it away from the tree we were under. But to secure the fly we had to put a lot of stakes in the brittle hard ground. It was impossible.

The thunderstorm was getting closer and it was starting to rain hard. At least we had some sort of protection, we thought and dove back inside the tent. We sat by the lantern light and wondered what to do.

Are tent poles the type of metal that attract lightning?
Do you count from the thunder to the flash or the flash to the thunder to figure out how far away the storm is?
Would one thunderstorm cause a flash flood and if so what should one do if they were camping at the bottom of a canyon?
Would the ever-increasing wind roll the tent and everything, including us, inside it?

Thoughts like these were interrupted when Alejandro kicked a wolf* in the face.  It had come inside the fly and the tent less than 10 inches from Alejandro. I didn’t see it up close, but I did see some sort of small pack animal running around in the shadows.

It was around that time that we made the executive decision to leave the canyon before things got worse.

We packed up our sleeping gear and tent in record time. My flip-flops got lost in the move (we found them later, inside the tent) so I was running around the scorpion infested ground with no shoes on.

It was raining hard, the thunder was echoing loudly throughout the canyon. Our neighbors had either already left or were sitting in their cars waiting out the storm. I was cursing my nice secluded campsite because we were a couple of miles from the entrance to the canyon and had three flash flood river roads to cross.

Luckily we left soon enough in the storm that we were able to get out of the canyon. We stopped in Amarillo to get breakfast at 5 or 6 in the morning. We shared The Waffle House with a few otherwise normal looking men in cowboy hats.

We then drove in a haze of wonder. Before noon we were in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We didn't really enjoy the lone star state.

*The wolf was probably a coyote since they actually live in the canyon, but don’t tell Alejandro that.

So far in our drive we had gone to a lot of states that we had never been to or thought about before. But today we were ending up in Texas and I had a lot of preconceived notions about Texas. Namely that things would be bigger, cowboy-ish and full of pride.

Before we could see the lone star state we had to drive through Oklahoma.

It was a rather uneventful. Cows, land, cows, etc.

By sheer luck we ended up eating lunch in Checotah, home to Carrie Underwood of American Idol fame. But for most of the drive I had “Oklahoma” the musical stuck in my head.  (Side note Hugh Jackman singing “The Surrey with The Fringe on Top,” who knew?)

That night we were camping in the Paulo Duro Canyon, a little south of Amarillo. A place that also hosts the largest outdoor musical in Texas, called TEXAS! I had wanted to go see it but we got there half an hour too late.

As if knowing my sadness, the man behind the counter let me pick out a campsite, told me I’d found a good spot and advised us to watch out for scorpions, pedestrians and deer.

We heard pack animals howling at the moon in the distance.

My first mistake was not realizing that I could take the map of the campground with us, the second was eating our dinner at the scenic overlook right before sunset. By the time we drove down into the canyon it was getting dark and although we could find campsites 1 through 33, the one I picked, 35, proved more difficult.

After pleading assistance from a family from Illinois we learned that the campsite was not closest to the entrance (as I had thought) but farthest from it. Nice, secluded, far from civilization, a good spot.

We set up the tent next to a tree and went to sleep hoping no scorpions weaseled their way into our tent.

While planning my cross-country road trip/camping trek from Savannah to Portland this summer I came across the perfect place to stay in north Texas: Palo Duro Canyon.

The campsite (and website) is rustic. They only allow propane fire for cooking and the bathrooms are a 10 minute walk away BUT on the night we stay there the park is showing something beyond great:

TEXAS! The musical.

 

This says it all.

 

Not only do you see more than 60 actors strutting their stuff on stage you may enjoy a steak dinner along with the show.  Tickets are a little expensive but a partial view seat is half price so maybe I’ll sit to the far left and eat some long horn and enjoy the spectacle.

This is a once in lifetime opportunity. How often do states create musical’s out of their history and perform it in the middle of a canyon? I’d say near zero. (About the same frequency as my visits to Texas.)

 

See those people sitting on the far left? THAT COULD BE ME.

So I hope my AAA Triptik isn’t lying because I plan to drive to that lone horseman directly from Arkansas.