December 14, 2019

Week 27: Crossing Panhandles

Downtown Oklahoma City.

(All photos by the author).

If you’re like us, you’ve made that long drive across the state of Texas many, many times. The state is larger than many countries, and in fact was a nation long before joining the U.S of A. Anyone in the U.S. Air Force is familiar with Texas, as basic training starts off many a military career.

But it was great to explore the environs of north Texas this past week. In fact, this was only the second time we’ve returned for semi-pleasure, after our very first NASATweetup experience at the Johnston Spaceflight Center in 2010. We say ‘semi-pleasure’ as, of course, we’re writing about the experience along the way.

It’s also somewhat curious to us that they refer to the squared off stovepipe of northern Texas as the ‘panhandle’. Oklahoma and Florida have panhandles that are immediately identifiable. Maryland has a kind of scraggly one, and Idaho has a panhandle if you lay it on its side.

But a panhandle it is, and going from Texas to Oklahoma is the only place in the United States where state panhandles cross.

And the heart of north Texas is Amarillo. One stop not to be missed in the city is the American Quarter Horse Museum, a tribute to the horse that built America. In modern times, you can also tour an equally fascinating museum tracing the evolution and construction of leisure America at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum. Both are one of a kind!

Ambling about the RV Museum.

Amarillo also has a small Air and Space Museum out by the airport featuring a fully restored DC-3 and forthcoming hardware from the Apollo era. And speaking of the airport, don’t miss the memorial to astronaut Rick Husband on the terminal’s second floor. Husband was from Amarillo, and perished during the ill-fated reentry of Columbia in 2003. The NASA trainer flown by Husband leading up to the mission can also be seen at the air and space museum on the tarmac.

A historic aircraft!

We also got a chance to check out Palo Duro Canyon state park just to the south. This rambling expanse offers a great network of camp grounds and dark sky access. And it was the first time that we’d ever been to Texas when there was snow on the ground!

The Rick Husband memorial at the Amarillo International Airport.

From Amarillo, we progressed eastward in our trek to Oklahoma City. Home of Oklahoma Thunder, we actually caught a great game in which the home town faves lost by only 2 points!

But such is the whim of the basketball gods.

Ring’d gas giants at the Science Museum of Oklahoma.

We did get the chance to check out two great science museums in town. First up was the Science Museum of Oklahoma. Featuring loads of hands on exhibits for kids, adults will also have fun exploring the exhibits covering space and physics as well. Our fave was the mirror maze and the hall of optical illusions.

In the belly of the beast at the Museum of Osteology.

But one of the most fascinating museums lay just south of town. The Museum of Osteology is one of a kind, and features hundreds of skulls and skeletons of every conceivable type from around the world, including whales, humans, birds and much more. Highlights include a complete collection of hominid skulls that does an outstanding job at tracing human evolution, and such curiosities as bejeweled Tibetan skulls, scrimshaw tusk work and deformed skeletons.

As I write this, we’re preparing to reenter Texas once again and explore Dallas-Fort Worth and environs.

More to come!


  1. [...] recently had a chance to explore “the OKC,” after our exploits in Amarillo en route to Memphis. Downtown Oklahoma City is crowned by the huge space age-looking greenhouse set [...]

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