Travel Tales #1: Houston to New Mexico Road Trip – Distressed to Joyful; Bailey's Way
This year for my birthday, I asked my partner if he would take me on my very first road trip! Obviously, he couldn’t say no (besides, he loves to travel just as much as I do). Together, we decided that visiting White Sands National Park in New Mexico was going to be the biggest highlight of our trip. Once we figured out that destination, we began to plan our trip around it. In this article, you’ll discover where we went, where we wish we would’ve stopped and tips to help make your next road trip as successful as possible!
Mapping Out Our Trip:
First, we checked how long the drive would be from Houston, TX to Alamogordo, NM (where White Sands NP is located). Once we figured out that it would take us XX hours to drive there, we decided that we’d stay the night in a city in between the two in order to break up all the driving. Now that we know that we will arrive in New Mexico the day after we leave Houston, we can start looking for places to stay!
We started by checking out Airbnbs in the surrounding area of Alamogordo, NM. We found this adorable, inexpensive one owned by the sweetest retired couple called “Pleasant View” (click here to check it out on the Airbnb website). Besides it being cozy and inexpensive, it had an incredible mountain view that I’ve never been able to wake up to before this trip. We booked our stay for 3 nights (December 24th, 2021 through December 27th, 2021) so that we would have two full days to complete all of our must-do’s in the area before moving onto the next destination.
After booking the NM Airbnb, we began looking at the driving route and figured out what town along the way we’d like to crash in overnight. We landed upon Fort Stockton, TX as it was about 7 hours from Houston, leaving about 5 hours left for the next day. This is a small town that had little to offer, and we decided to be cheap and get a room at Motel 6 to help cut down costs.
Now that the most important part of our trip had been booked, I mentioned to Monish that I’ve wanted to go see Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX ever since I was a kid. Weird, I know, but for some reason I’ve been fascinated with the idea of getting to spray paint cars stuck in the ground for as long as I can remember. I did some research and learned that it was kind of in the middle of High Rolls, NM and Dallas, TX so I begged Monish, my boyfriend, to let us stop there overnight as part of our trip. Because we were planning this as my birthday trip, he obliged. We booked a cute little couple-sized Airbnb for the night of December 27th.
Next, we decided that we wanted to stop at my Aunt Debbie’s house just outside of Dallas, TX as our last leg of the trip before heading back to Houston. We are thankful that not only do I have family in Dallas that we were able to stay with as part of this trip, but also that we were able to spend time with them as we haven’t been able to visit in over 8 months. This turned out to be a win/win situation! If you have family or friends in Dallas, I highly recommend that you use your time traveling through the area to catch up with them.
***We wish we would’ve left Houston early enough on the 23rd to be able to stop for lunch in San Antonio, TX on the River Walk. Although we weren’t able to make this happen, we recommend that YOU plan ahead enough to do so!
Where to Stop Along the Way:
San Antonio, TX
If you choose to leave early enough to stop for lunch in San Antonio (which I highly recommend!), be sure to stop by The River Walk! There are many incredible restaurants to choose from – click here to check out this awesome list.
El Paso, TX
First of all, you’ve got to eat some Mexican food while you’re here! My partner and I are vegetarian and thankfully we were able to find a vegetarian-friendly restaurant open on Christmas Eve – Mamacitas Cafe and Cantina. There are many other amazing restaurants (vegan options, too!) so I suggest that you do a little research before arriving to figure out which one is best for you.
Scenic Drive – You can’t miss out on this! We made the drive up Scenic Drive and stopped at two different places that overlooked both El Paso and the neighboring city of Juarez, Mexico. It was absolutely breathtaking and so cool to be able to see two cities that belong to two different countries from above. I hear that seeing it at nighttime is even more spectacular – but regardless, you’ve got to go! It’s totally free unless you feel like paying $0.25 to use the giant binoculars to see Juarez more close-up.
This is a cute little town near the border of New Mexico and Texas, about an hour and a half from Amarillo, TX. It’s found along Historic Route 66 and is known for all of the murals painted all around town. This place looks as if it is stuck in time because of all of the old motels from the 50s & 60s that closed down but are still sitting in-tact. We stopped at a cute little souvenir shop called Teepee Curios then spent some time checking out the murals before continuing on our way to Amarillo!
Must-Do’s at Each Destination:
Fort Stockton, TX
My answer for you is literally nothing. It’s such a small town that you should expect to not have anything to do and to just spend the evening resting. We made sure to choose a motel that had fire Wi-Fi so that we could binge-watch more of Ted Lasso before dozing off for the evening.
Ski Cloudcroft – This is a very small ski resort located just beyond the mountainous village of Cloudcroft, NM. I had never been skiing before so I honestly had no idea what to expect out of a ski resort, but if you have already ventured into skiing elsewhere, I recommend keeping your expectations low. The area did not get enough snowfall by the time Christmas Day had hit, but thankfully the resort had artificial snow created and spread all along the Bunny Slope to allow for us to get to ski.
We took a group lesson that cost $90 for a 2-hour lesson which included our rentals AND we were able to continue skiing on our own for the rest of the day. That was a great price, if you ask me! The instructor was so nice and patient and this lesson was beginner friendly for sure!
There is a small restaurant up the stairs above the rental shop but expect limited options. As vegetarians, we brought protein shakes along with us and had some French fries, fried mushrooms and fried okra as our lunch. For non-vegetarians, you can enjoy chicken tenders, burgers and other fried foods of the sort.
Trestle Recreation Area – So we didn’t make it to the recreation area, BUT there are two different stops up the mountain in between High Rolls and Cloudcroft where you can stop to see The Trestle. I’d never ever heard of a trestle before happening to pass by this one, although Monish said that the largest one ever built is located in San Diego, CA, where he went to grad school. Click here to learn more about what the heck trestles are.
Lincoln National Forrest – Depending on what time of year you are here (or how much you don’t mind the cold), take a hike through Lincoln National Forrest! The views have got to be incredible as just driving through the mountainous region is breathtaking on its own.
White Sands National Park – THIS was our whole reason for planning this trip! And my, was it worth the drive! This is like nothing you’ve ever seen before as it is just miles and miles of white sand dunes in the middle of New Mexico. It felt like we were in another country. Below are a few quick tips:
Wear “crappy she’s and clothes” – You can expect your shoes to fill up with sand, so be sure to wear hiking boots or something you don’t wear often enough for it to matter.
Bring plenty of water and high-energy snacks – There are signs everywhere that warn you of not having places to purchase water once you enter the park and please pay attention to them! It is such a workout walking around in the sand and even in the winter, having plenty of water on-hand is necessary.
Rent a sled if you don’t own one – Sledding down the dunes was so much fun!! Our Airbnb had two that they allowed us to borrow for free, otherwise expect to pay about $20 to borrow each sled at the Visitor Center. My thoughts = the sleds made this experience top-notch! I mean, where else would you be able to slide down 15+ feet of sand?!
Pistachioland – Check out The World’s Largest Pistachio and get yourself some delicious ice cream while you’re there! This is store and landmark is located on the outskirts of a pistachio farm and they do guided tours if you are interested in checking that out. They allow you to taste the different flavors of pistachios before purchasing, which we thought was really cool. Be sure to try the Spicy Ranch flavor! Also, I’m a huge postcard collector/sender and this store had the best ones in the area.
Giant Alamogordo Landmark – We actually found this place first and the cashier directed us to check out their main store, Pistachioland. This cute little shop has a massive “Alamogordo” sign out front that was fun to take a picture with.
New Mexico Museum of Space History – We did not check this place out because, hello, Houston has NASA, but I’m sure it would be worth the visit for any space-lovers out there.
White Sands Missile Range Museum – History-buffs, this place is for you! Although we didn’t have enough time to check it out, do yourself a solid and go for it! I was actually very curious about it and would’ve loved to check it out had we planned enough time to do so.
Cadillac Ranch!!! This is literally the whole reason why I asked to stay the night in Amarillo for one night on our way to Dallas. Grab some spray paint from one of the near Walmart Super-centers and head over before the sun goes down. Be sure to wear “crappy clothes” and expect it to be super windy! The wind causes the spray paint to fly elsewhere so save your nice clothes for another day.
Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum – This is a free museum that shows the history of RVs. Unfortunately, it was closed when we were there but they plan to reopen in April 2022. If you’re heading this way sometime after then, be sure to swing by!
Amarillo Botanical Gardens – If you’re a nature-lover, you’ve got to check this place out! We didn’t have enough time to “stop and smell the roses“, but we sure hope that you will plan to!
We literally just chilled at my aunt’s house to recuperate after all of the driving we’d been doing, but click here if you’d like a list of fun things to do while visiting Dallas.
Where to Eat:
El Paso, TX
Mamacitas Cafe and Cantina – Located inside a hotel in downtown, this restaurant served us vegetarians well as they had both vegetarian and vegan Mexican dish options for us to enjoy. 10/10 recommend!!
El Paso’s Bakery – Stop by if you’re in the mood for something sweet or to have some super-authentic tres leches cake.
Off The Wall – Disclaimer: This restaurant does NOT have vegan options as Yelp will try to recommend to you. They spell chicken as “chik’n” all throughout their menu which is typically how you spell vegan chicken… But they DO have the best damn fried Mac & cheese that myself and my partner have ever had! And I love me some Mac & cheese and eat it way more often than I probably should so you can definitely trust that opinion.
It’s a Punjabi Affair – We eat a LOT of Indian food as my partner is from India, but never have we found an Indian restaurant rated 5 stars on Yelp with well over 400 reviews! If that’s not enough to convince you to try it out, he and I both agreed that it was one of the best Indian restaurants we’e been to. We also appreciated how they don’t have a mountain of menu items as it makes it much easier to make a decision with fewer choices.
Napoli’s Italian Restaurant – This was some delicious Italian food at a local restaurant! We prefer to stick to locally-owned restaurants when traveling as you can eat at just about any chain restaurant back home in Houston.
What to Pack:
Obviously you’re going to need ski clothing if you plan to make it to Ski Cloudcroft, but depending on what time of the year you head this way, the recommended clothing may change. Be sure to check the weather and local websites before beginning to pack. We purchased our ski goggles, gloves and snow pants all from Amazon that were all pretty inexpensive yet good quality! Since there are two of us, we purchased a 2-pack of ski goggles as it was cheaper to do so, but here’s a single pack of a similar goggles found on Amazon.
For White Sands National Park, be sure to bring some “trash shoes“ that cover your entire foot which you don’t mind being filled with sand. I still have sand in my hiking boots that I mistakenly took on this trip. ? If you don’t have any shoes you can ruin, I recommend heading to Walmart and purchasing something cheap like this to wear. High-tops are handy as they cover your ankle and help prevent some sand from getting into your shoes. Also, Amazon has these $30 hiking boots for men and these $35 hiking boots for women if you’d rather purchase something you can use again yet don’t mind tearing up.
Additionally, if you’d rather bring your own sled to White Sands National Park instead of paying to rent one, check out this sled on Amazon – it’s exactly like the ones we used while we were there! Here’s another option on Amazon that might work too.
For a free printable list of travel essentials, click here to sign up and receive the Essential Travel Packing List directly in your inbox! I print a new one for every trip to ensure that I don’t miss any of the important things when getting ready for a trip.
Thanks for stopping by!
If you want to check out more photos and some videos from this trip, be sure to follow @whatisheybailsdoing on Instagram! I share my travel adventures regularly so you’re in for a treat. ?
Need more ideas for where to travel to next? Check out these articles to get some more inspiration. Happy travels, friends!