Letting the kids loose in Odessa, Texas
Our first summer trip could not have come quickly enough. Wrapping up school and work deadlines had kept us busy for so long, we needed to hit pause and spend time with each other. For our first family getaway of the season, we decided to keep it close to home in West Texas.
Next Stop: Odessa
As we approached the outskirts of Odessa, we asked the kids if they wanted to do some sledding. The chorus from the back seat answered with a resounding “yes!” We pulled into Monahans Sandhills State Park, the biggest sandbox the boys had ever seen. We rented disks and surfed the dunes, a beach experience we could encounter only in Texas.
Then we piled back into the car and headed for the city, hungry from the morning workout. We found Doughboy’s online and agreed breakfast burritos would do the trick. Our kids have been raised right—they order chorizo like it’s second nature. The Chile Verde wrapped in my homemade tortilla came with a spicy, invigorating kick. Doughboy’s is also a Mexican bakery, so we got a box of assorted conchas and orejas to enjoy during the weekend.
Calories in, calories out. We headed next to a free attraction to let the boys burn off some energy. On the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus, we climbed on the rocks of the Stonehenge replica, a unique find here in Texas. Then we decided to cool off with some indoor fun. At Cinergy Entertainment, we played games in the arcade before picking a movie. When hunger kicked in again, we decided to save the bowling alley and escape room for another trip and headed out to hunt pizza.
We found Teak & Charlie’s Jersey Girl Pizza, a local joint with great reviews. The boys tried to talk us into a 30-inch pie, the “Big Awesome,” but we assured them two 14-inchers would do, and we could all get our favorite toppings. A Hoboken for the adults with spinach, feta and chicken. Pepperoni for the littles.
Before checking into the hotel, we showed the boys one of Odessa’s points of pride. We set up our own private tailgate party in the parking lot of Ratliff Stadium. It’s where Friday Night Lights was filmed, and where high school football is the biggest ticket in town. The parking lot was empty that evening, but the impact was not lost on us. In Texas, high school football stadiums can seat 20,000 and parking lots fit 5,000 vehicles. It was a memorable place to watch the West Texas sunset, and the sweets from Doughboy’s provided a perfect family nightcap.
Day Two: Hungry for More
We always seem to have bigger appetites when we are on vacation. We found a great local diner for breakfast. Mama’s Kitchen served up the pancakes, eggs, and biscuits and gravy we needed to fuel up for the day ahead. It was fun hanging out with each other away from home and mingling with the locals.
The big item for day two was Rimrock Raceway. Our kids just met the age and height requirements to race, as these full-throttle karts go up to 60 m.p.h. Size did not hold the boys back. They nearly lapped us when all was said and done. Fearless, those two.
Into each family outing we try to work in some education with the playtime. It’s nice that our boys have not hit the age when small screens are the center of their universe. We revved it down a bit at Ellen Noël Art Museum, back on campus. An exhibition of Western landscapes brought our surroundings to life in full color. Next door, The Presidential Archives and Leadership Library had such awesome artifacts it felt like we were in the national mall in D.C.
When we took a poll to decide what to eat on the way out of town, tacos won in a landslide. At La Margarita Mexican Restaurant, we filled up on the best street-style tacos. The meal quickly put the boys to sleep in the back seat, while I scrolled through my pictures of the weekend as the West Texas landscape scrolled by. The family selfie with an 8-foot jackrabbit sculpture, I figured, would be insurance the boys would always remember the fun we had in Odessa.