Our route to Durango took us through a lot of Texas. Our goal was to arrive in Durango May 3rd, get settled in our site at the KOA, then ride the first train of the season from Durango to Silverton.
One interesting story from the trip came from our visit to Rusk Texas sight of a would-be capital of Texas, New Birmingham. There is no sign of the once large town named after Birmingham Alabama. It was a large iron producing town and very wealthy for its time. Unfortunately a fire destroyed the largest factory just when Texas prohibited foreign ownership of property and the Great Depression of 1893 made capital all but impossible to find domestically. So very quickly the town disappeared.
An RV highlight of the route was our stay at the Welcome Center in Amarillo Texas. Texas allows any RV to stay 24 hours at any rest area but Amarillo is the best. First the staff is very friendly and the volume of information is incredible. The restrooms are spotless, security is provided all night, parking is level and uncrowded and separate from the tractor trailers idling all night. There is even a tornado shelter which is important in the Great Plains!
From Amarillo we traveled to Raton New Mexico. Raton is well known to railfans for its proximity to Raton Pass an early route of the Atchison Topeka and Sante Fe Railroad. This route followed the old pioneer Sante Fe Trail so folks have been passing this way for a long time. In Raton we were finally in the mountains. Not many trains pass through here anymore but Amtrak’s Southwest Chief does stop every day. While there we visited the Elks Lodge to test our new membership. Everyone was very friendly and we learned a lot about the current state of affairs in Raton. The Elks building is classic early 20th century. We also visited an excellent western store where we learned of the collection of Cowboy hats of those who’ve passed. Of the hundreds of hats displayed only 6 families have allowed their stories to be shared. Randy bought a hat and Dianne put together a great cowgirl outfit at a consignment store. More on this in the next post.
Now we head into Colorado. We set our sites on Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park. From our hosts at the Alamosa KOA we learned of another natural attraction, Zapata Falls. After a short drive we took our Saturn up a sometimes rough gravel road to a trailhead leading to the falls. At first we were un-impressed, then we hiked up the stream, around the bend and Wow! a tumbling stream of multiple cascades pouring over and under ice left from the winter. Then came the Great Sand Dunes. The largest dunes in the United States in the middle of Colorado. Its an amazing natural phenomenon but the wind was blowing so hard we got sandblasted just approaching the dunes and the river that makes it all happen.