As we left Oklahoma City we were pretty irritable. I had 11 bug bites on my skin from something in my clothes on the drive, the kids thoughts of being in the car knowing that we had 2 days left to drive was not their favorite idea at that moment. They had to share a bed which resulted in meltdowns and annoyance... lesson learned by mom! We had planned on going to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial - they both staged a mutiny. I wanted to yell, cry, drive home ... none of which I did. Instead I took a small breather, called my husband and changed the plans which made him happy because he was bummed to be missing the Memorial.
As we began driving, I realized that we hadn't seen anything in Oklahoma City outside of the freeway so I stopped at one little (super touristy) place to see some buffalo and take a few pictures then headed west. I called my mom, informed her of our time changes and that we were headed to Albuquerque NM. I've driven through Albuquerque before, my husband just did a few weeks ago on his cross country drive, and I wasn't overly thrilled about this. I was still frustrated over the morning attitudes and decided that something needed to change, this trip needed a small shake up ... after all I am mom and in control. I texted one of my best friends and virtual road trip buddy for some help and we hatched a plan.
On a road trip, especially one with kids, it's important to stop and see things... stretch your legs and break up the drive. We found Cadillac Ranch in Texas and decided to stop there as well as the state visitor center just outside of Amarillo. This is when my plan really kicked into action. I didn't tell the kids that there were any changes, I just drove. I was getting more excited as we drove.
I am a total NASA space geek. I wanted to be an astronaut SO badly when I was younger. I followed every space mission and begged to go to FL to see a shuttle take off but it never happened. I would LOVE the space program to come back so I could see this someday. I have seen 1 shuttle land at Edwards AFB , when I was younger but honestly I don't remember it. I wanted to go to White Sands NM to see where the Columbia had an emergency landing in March of 1982 (and where they based the movie Space Camp) so we made a sharp left just outside of Albuquerque and headed on a 300+ mile trek to White Sands. Other than the fact we were totally unsure of where we were going, we knew it was about 4 hours away. Again, we had no hotel but on top of that we had to locate the nearest city. As a military spouse I started calling the local military bases to get a room, unfortunately neither had a room available that night. I started to question this idea but was now about 200 miles in a pretty committed - I even almost headed to Roswell to do alien stuff instead... Luckily, thanks to the wonderful gentleman at White Sands Missile Range, we found that the nearest city is Alamogordo NM. Again, jumped on BringFido and started looking at rooms. We found the Magnuson Hotel was the only pet friendly one in the city with availability so we made a reservation and headed that way. I will admit it was a nice hotel BUT one of the worst nights sleep we got the entire trip. Between horrible hotel room neighbors and an LED light that stayed on ALL night just outside the window (with blinds/drapes that didn't close properly) I was miserable. The breakfast was good, C enjoyed the pool and the city was sweet so I guess all in all it was fine BUT it was the first negative trip advisor review Ive ever left.
We loaded up and headed to White Sands National Park for a morning of fun. Honestly, I knew that the shuttle landed at the nearby missile range but who can resist seeing WHITE SAND! The short drive was very deceiving as it's pretty brown and yucky along the way. The park is pet friendly so our little dog got to experience it all with us!
Their visitor center staff is very knowledgable and friendly. The kids were so excited but honestly I don't think any of us truly knew what to expect. As we drove into the park ($5 per car for ALL DAY even if you exit) we started to see some white sand covered in native plants... not that impressed until we stopped at the first lookout point and trail... it was MAGNIFICENT.
After a few hours of driving around and hiking around in awe we were set to leave and head to our final destination... thats when we saw it. SAND SLEDDING. We drove through the rest of the park, went to the visitor center/gift shop and bought sleds. I would say, buy them before at the local Walmart or bring them from home. They are $18.99 for a new sled, which they will buy back for $5, or $10 for a used sled which they never really have according to several people we met. It was worth the $40 (we also bought sled wax). We went sand sledding, walked around, took a ton of pictures and spent about 2 hours longer than planned because we had so much fun.
Then we headed towards our final destination in Arizona. As we drove down the highway I saw a sign... White Sands Missile Range MUSEUM! Yes, a museum that should give me all I needed to satisfy my NASA geek because the shuttle landed on post. As a military family I have an ID to get me on post so I thought I would give it a shot and it worked! While the 2 MP's at the gate had NO CLUE what I was talking about, reminding me that they were born in 1988 and 1990 respectively, they were very helpful in pointing me to the right direction. I geeked out at the museum, walked through their outdoor rockets and such before getting gas and heading out. Grateful that my kids indulged me this much, neither of them could have cared less about this monumental moment in my adult life. haha.
As we headed north through NM and into Arizona my kids got super excited... we were in Pinal County, AZ where they film LIVEPD. They each began begging me to get pulled over in hopes of meeting their favorite Pinal County Sheriffs Officer McElwain. It took me more than an hour to convince my 9 & 14 year old that I was not going to do something illegal to get pulled over in hopes of meeting one officer so I did what any good mom would... I tweeted him, he responded and they were happy. He was a great sport about and I was grateful that satisfied them because I couldn't have gone another 4 hours listening to that.
After driving through some of my favorite spots in Arizona, places we camped as kids and where we would be camping the following week we finally made it to my moms house at almost 9 Friday night. The dog did amazing on the trip. She was actually so tired from running through sand dunes that she slept about 9 hours, I had to wake her up to go potty every time we stopped for gas.
Getting to my moms was not the end of our road trip fun... thats for sure!