Author’s Note: I’ve made a list of 100+ events, places and experiences that happily unite people. I’m taking a tour to see and experience as many of them as possible, plus meet Society members and friends. Of course, I’ll be sharing these #HappinessUnites moments with you. Our HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo starts the adventure. Find out more of the why’s of the #HappinessUnites Tour in my blog: 3 Reasons I’m Hittin’ the Road.
HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo First Stop: Outdoor Theater, Canyons & Amazing Amarillo
After you’ve made a list of more than 100 things you’re trying to do, it feels a little overwhelming to decide where to start. For me, the only logical thing to do was start with the A’s: So, Amarillo here I come. Actually, I’m kidding—that was a coincidence. However, my list included the rare but fun experience of outdoor theater, because anyone going shares a common happy experience. Now, the question was where to go.
One of the annual community events close to where I grew up in Abilene, Texas is the Albany Fandangle, an outdoor musical. During the two-weekend Fandangle season, my mom would always mention we also needed to go to the musical in Palo Dura Canyon too.
We never did go but it’s always held a spot on my bucket list ever since, and is therefore the perfect place for my #HappinessUnites Tour outdoor theater event. Once I figured out where I was going, I called my friend Kari, who loves musicals even more than me, to see if she wanted to join. She said yes so we picked a date and scheduled our trip – since it was summer, we decided to leave our boots at home.
#HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo: Here We Come
We left on our HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo adventure, Sunday, July 16, and I started the trip as a bad travel companion. I missed my flight, scheduled to leave a few minutes before Kari’s—because I headed to the gate listed on my phone boarding pass.
Lesson learned: They don’t update the gate on your phone boarding pass. And I confess, I didn’t arrive two hours early—I arrived about an hour early, and the security line moved a little faster than a turtle. However, the gate agent was super nice when I showed her my phone with the wrong gate – I’m guessing this wasn’t the first time this had happened. She knew there was no way I could get from B6 to B46 in the couple of minutes before the plane door would close, so she immediately put me on the next flight.
On top of already being late because of the missed flight, the one I was rebooked on arrived late and had a tiny maintenance issue once we finally boarded. However, the extra time on the tarmac gave me a chance to visit with my seatmate, Benjamin from Menasha, WI, who was vacationing in Amarillo. One of his best friends lives there, and he’d never been to this part of Texas.
He was a good sport and took a picture with me after I explained about my HappinessUnites Amarillo tour. He thought it sounded like fun and suggested that I also visit France. His parents are from there, although he was born in the United States. Or, as he said, “I’m a first generation American.” He said he went to France for the holidays quite often and was going this year. Unfortunately he didn’t invite me to join his family holiday, but while that trip to the Eiffel Tower will have to wait, I told him I’d let him know when my #HappinessUnites tour was going to Wisconsin.
While I was making a new friend on the plane, Kari was being a happy trooper and met a couple new friends at the airport over a glass of wine. One had already boarded her plane when I arrived, so we didn’t get to take a pic with her.
Kari’s new friends recommended a local favorite for lunch so we headed to Jorge’s Tacos Garcia as soon as we got our rental car. The food was yummy and the atmosphere was fun. When we were leaving, some of the staff took a picture with us. We were also thrilled when we got to give our first pledge and tattoo to Eliaha.
HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo
Jorge’s Tacos Garcia
Kari & Eliaha
July 16, 2017
#HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo: Heading Out To Palo Dura Canyon
Then we drove to Canyon, Texas, which was closer than we thought. Except for the occasional heavy rain shower, it was an uneventful drive. The Texas Panhandle is, for the most part, as flat as they say. It’s kinda like looking at an ocean of dry, long prickly grass with the occasional green shrub. It’s the land that you picture cattle roaming around and is pretty in its own way, but nothing you’d write home about so to speak.
We checked into the hotel, and I needed a quick, modified yoga legs-up-the-wall pose on my bed to recharge before driving to Palo Dura Canyon. We had tickets for the dinner and musical, but also wanted to take the backstage tour.
As we were driving, you could literally see where the fault line changed from the flat lands to the majestic canyon—there was actually a road between flat land and the beginnings of a canyon. I wish I’d been on a tour where someone would have explained the geological changes to me. Once we got into Palo Dura Canyon State Park, we stopped at one of the scenic viewing spots to take it all in and take a few pics like the other tourists. It felt like we were in an entirely different place than the Texas Panhandle.
The canyon has a majestic energy similar to the magnified energy that surrounds the Grand Canyon or Sedona. Maybe I’d call it canyon energy lite. But there was enough energy that, if I lived closer, it would be a place I would visit to recharge my inner batteries.
#HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo: At The Ampitheater
We drove around the canyon for a few minutes, but decided we didn’t want to be rushed, so we went to the Amphitheater. As we walked in, a silver fox cowboy, Charlie, greeted us. He took our picture and told us he’d moved to Canyon from Tulsa because of a woman – love – probably the most potent type of happiness. It can literally inspire us to move.
We tried to get Charlie to say the pledge with us, but he’s a cowboy at heart, so that seemed a bit too silly for him. Maybe if a grandchild had asked he’d have acquiesced, but alas, there were no Charlie, Jr’s in sight.
Sydney, our spunky tour guide, took us on the backstage tour where we learned some of the production secrets that we’re sworn not to share. However, she was particularly happy that night, because it was her last day after being a tour guide for two years. Sydney’s an artist, and wanted to spend more time doing art and found a day job with air conditioning. She happily took the pledge with us.
HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo
Palo Dura Canyon Show
Kari & Sydney
July 16, 2017
#HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo: Outdoor Theater Event
After the tour, we ate, then listened to some of the performers on the Prairie Dog Stage entertaining the crowds. We also meet one of the actors, Benny Tahmahkera, a descendent of Chief Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Quahadi Comanche people and a character in the musical.
The production began with a flurry of announcements including birthday and anniversary celebrations, plus current and former military personnel recognition. We started the night recognizing all of the happy in the audience. It was confirmed that the attendee from the greatest distance was from another country, which has been the case every performance since they were checking.
Then the musical began at dusk, with an Indian sitting on his horse at the top of the canyon looking down on the stage. The deep blue sky and twinkling stars were amplified by the stage lighting to create an almost magical ambiance.
The singers and dancers, mostly college students from around the country, were wonderful. The actors, mostly from the local area, were also talented. A silver-haired gold prospector in the production, Tucker Yelldell, played by Dennis McMenamy, reminded me of a mischievous Christmas elf – I almost asked him after the show if he played one at Christmas. I also learned if you went to St. Louis in the late 1880’s, it was considering going east. This made me wonder what someone would call going to New York City – really, really East?
If you’re in the area, it’s a musical worth checking out for the outdoor ambiance—even if you’re not a fan of musicals. Since you weren’t allowed to take pictures during the performance, I don’t have any selfies to share. Those pics are in my memory bank.
HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo: Heading Back To Dallas
We left Amarillo the next morning, but not without asking one more person to take the #HappinessUnites pledge at the airport. Destiny, who commented how much she liked my Happiness Pledge T-shirt and worked at one of the airport restaurants, happily agreed. Her boss even put our post card on the restaurant’s Wall of Fame bulletin board.
HappinessUnites Tour Amarillo
Pamela & Destiny
July 17, 2017
On my flight home I met Josh, who was going to Jupiter, Florida to see his aunt for his vacation. His initial response when I told him about my tour was, “Yeah, everything feels so divided,” then he happily posed for a pic with me while we talked about where people are united. Of course, this included those energy filled canyons that Josh said he should go to more often.
Lessons learned on my first #HappinessUnites trip:
- Don’t trust the gate info on your phone boarding pass.
- It’s impossible to not be happy when you’re surrounded by the majestic energy of nature, singing and dancing.
- Everyone we told about the #HappinessUnites Tour and who took the pledge smiled a little bigger – even the gray fox cowboy Charlie because #HappinessUnites.