The college football season is in full swing in the Big 12. Having had season tickets at OU since 1973, our loyalty doesn’t waver. Today I’m looking back at this season’s first game on September 1 in El Paso, Texas.
Traveling to El Paso seems like it wouldn’t be that big a deal – after all it’s in Texas right next door. But actually, it takes more than 12 hours to drive there. It is in “far West Texas,” and that is an apt description – just a couple of miles west to New Mexico or follow the bridge over the Rio Grande and you’re in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico!
To break up the long drive, we spent the night in Clovis, New Mexico, coming and going. It is a community of 30,000-35,000 people, and offers several motels (we stayed at a nice Hampton Inn) and restaurants for weary travelers. It has a rather large rail yard, having been established in 1906 when the Santa Fe Railroad was being constructed.
Crossing the Franklin Mountains [/caption]The route from Clovis to El Paso takes you through Alamogordo and past the White Sands Missile Range. This area gained more notoriety during the 1950s-60s for its part in the United States’ space program.
Entering El Paso from the north on Highway 85, Fort Bliss can be seen on the northeast side. It is noted as one of the largest military complexes of the U.S. Army. On the west side of Highway 85 is the Franklin Mountains. Because El Paso has a hot desert climate, the mountains often surprise unsuspecting tourists. Woodrow Bean Transmountain Road crosses from Highway 85 to Interstate 10.
Yards in El Paso are typically “desert landscape” and have little grass, much rock. Oleanders, ocotillo, and cacti make up the most common plants. We drove by the home that had been our daughter and son-in-law’s when our first grandson was born in the late 1990′s and observed that the landscaping had changed very little. The oleanders they had planted still line the backyard.
One of the notable sites in El Paso is the historic Camino Real Hotel in the middle of downtown, near Union Depot, where Amtrak can be boarded. We opted to stay at the Marriott Hotel by El Paso International Airport, however.
There are a number of interesting museums and sites to attract visitors, but of course, we were focused on the University of El Paso campus and particularly, Sun Bowl Stadium. The stadium is interesting in the way it is built into the mountains. Regardless of where you park, you have a trek uphill to get inside the stadium!
As the moon rose over the stadium and the lights of El Paso twinkled like Christmas decorations, the Sooners topped the UTEP Miners 24-7. Because the game didn’t begin until 9:30 PM CT, we enjoyed the accommodations at the Marriott on Sunday morning and delayed our return trip until later Sunday.
As we “followed the bread crumbs” back to Clovis and on to Oklahoma, we vowed that we would enjoy lots of trips following our beloved Sooners in the future – flying to our destinations!
Before Hurricane Isaac was a twinkle in the weatherman’s eye, our family headed to Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida for some get-together get-away time. Florida is not necessarily the ideal place to be in the hottest part of the summer, but with a swimming pool and ocean waves to wash the sand and sweat away, we didn’t suffer too much.
This was an extended-family group totaling sixteen, so some activities were planned in accordance with the numbers. While dinners together were noisy and probably a challenge for wait staff, they were definitely fun.
We stayed at the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Beach. This hotel has buildings on each side of Seabreeze Boulevard, connected by a 2nd floor walkway. With our rooms on the beach side we were able to catch the sea breeze and observe the beach volleyball courts.
The hotel offered the Beach Bar & Grill, the Wreck Bar, and Dos Caminos restaurant, and we took advantage of each of those, along with eating at nearby restaurants. The Wreck Bar was interesting because of the beautiful aquariums set in two walls and the windows which gave an underwater view of one of the swimming pools. One evening we walked a couple of blocks to the Oasis Café, which had porch swings for seating. We had one ‘dress up’ dinner at the 15th Street Fisheries; and another evening we took the water taxi to Pirate Republic, where the seafood was exceptional. Our favorite place for breakfast was a block from the hotel, the Bahia Cabana. Seating was outside at picnic tables, and watching boats come in and out of the marina kept the kids entertained.
Ft. Lauderdale has many interesting sights, but we most enjoyed taking a water taxi tour along the intercoastal waterway. While still at home, I had purchased a Groupon for a tour of the waterway; but we discovered that we didn’t need to do that. The regular water taxi route comes with a running commentary about the homes and yachts and businesses, along with some of the history of the area. I would recommend checking the water taxi schedules and picking a day when you enough time to take the full route. Huge mansions line the waterway and a few have served as movie locations, businesses, etc. There are also some stops that have commercial areas with shopping and restaurants.
I know that our group of sixteen didn’t begin to see all the marvelous sights that Ft. Lauderdale has to offer, but the combination of those we saw plus the beach and ocean made it a vacation that had something for everyone, from 7 to 70!