May 5-9 - Carlsbad Caverns & White Sands NM
We've had marvelous success picking RV parks - based largely on a website that posts user reviews of places. If you're into RVs, you need to visit http://www.rvparkreviews.com before you book a park. Since we started this trip, everyplace we've stayed has been chosen as the result of good reviews. The internet is a wonderful resource.
We had two things on our agenda for southern New Mexico - we wanted to see Carlsbad Caverns, and we wanted to visit the White Sands. We decided to stay in Carlsbad even though it's about 150 miles from the White Sands, because it's also on the most direct route from Albuquerque to San Antonio and Houston. At 7mpg, straight lines are good things.
Fri 5/5 - We pulled out of the RV park right after breakfast and headed toward Carlsbad. Our route took us east of Albuquerque before turning south at Cline's Corners toward Roswell and Carlsbad. It was warm and dry and windy, but not a strenuous drive. We had lunch at a decidedly unparanormal Applebees in Roswell. No aliens spotted, but the street lights were neat. Actually, there's just a block or two of the main drag that caters to the UFO craze - the rest of the town looks very normal. But then that's the way they'd hide themselves, isn't it? On to Carlsbad, and into a very friendly RV park on the south end of town.
Sat 5/6 - Drove the 20 miles to Carlsbad Caverns, where we took advantage of our Golden Age Pass to get free admission and discounts on any paid tours. We opted for a guided tour in the morning, and then a self-guided tour after lunch. Judy took over 200 pictures while we were in the underworld, most of them actually in focus. It's not easy taking pictures in the cave - flash wipes out any of their lighting effects, while natural light levels are very low, although very attractive. We got some keepers, though. Lunch was at the cavern restaurant, 750 feet below the surface. A bonus were all the flowering desert plants we saw - Judy took lots of pictures of stuff you never see along the road in Oregon. Looks like we picked the perfect time to visit the desert.
Sun 5/7 - The White Sands National Monument is just outside Alamogordo, about 150 miles from Carlsbad. The drive is about 100 miles of boring (we saw one fox and one rattlesnake crossing the road) with sagebrush and oil wells everywhere. Then, all of a sudden, we realize we've been climbing all the while and we're at 9,000 feet in the Sacramento Mountains, where there's a ski resort (not open) and some spectacular scenery. Down the mountain and thru Alamogordo to the White Sands National Monument - it's everything you'd expect - a desert where the sand dunes are almost pure white. And very bright. But there were also some unique and very pretty flora (we saw no fauna). After another Applebees lunch (you can't go wrong at Applebees), we visited the New Mexico Museum of Space History. The White Sands Missile Range was/is one of the major research and test facilities for the US space program, and the museum celebrates that history. We found we'd not allowed enough time to see it all. We saw about half of it before sprinting to the Imax theater for an exceptional film on the lunar landings. Then back over the mountain and back home. Long drive for a day trip, but worth it.
Mon 5/8 - In 20 years, nobody but Steve Walker has ever cut Al's hair. And Judy's been relying on next door neighbor Nada Rose to keep hers looking good. But, that would have been a whale of a commute, so we both spent the morning at Wal-Mart getting coiffed. We both have much less hair now, which is cooler. And Judy looks a lot better than Al. But then she always has. Around suppertime, we drove back to the Caverns to watch the bat flight. There are about 80,000 Mexican Freetail Bats at the caverns right now, and they make a mass exodus just before sunset to spend the night feeding. No photography is allowed in the bat flight area - flash cameras will really freak them out - but take our words for it - it's just amazing to watch that cloud of flying rodents swirling out of the cave. We can only imaging what it's like in August and September when there are a half-million bats in residence. After dark, we did some cleanup on the RV and generally got ready to pull out in the morning. It's cooler working outside after dark.
Tue 5/9 - The relative humidity was 9% this morning as we hooked up and drove back into Carlsbad for an RV oil change. Then, we headed south toward Texas. We'll take two days to go the 450 or so miles to San Antonio, and we plan to spend the en-route night in one of Texas' interstate rest areas, where they let you park (free) for up to 24 hours. We'll see how that works out.
Al's Highlight - The Caverns, of course. Words and pictures just can't do them justice. And I found it fascinating to see how the plant life changes. The Carlsbad area has a lot more naturally occurring cactus just about everywhere. And Judy was particularly delighted that so many of the cacti were in bloom. But the low humidity was a challenge to our sinuses.
Judy's Highlight - The caves are simply spectacular! There were several more tours we could have taken, ranging from easy hikes to rigorous spelunking expeditions that involve crawling and climbing into wet, yucky places. Age and available time did not allow it all, however, and you'd never be able to wade through all the pictures if we'd done them all! Many who took the same tour had been there before, and I'd love to go back some time.
Click here to see a slideshow of some of our pictures from this leg of the trip.
Click here if you want to see a slideshow of all 150 surviving pictures taken in Carlsbad Caverns.
Stay tuned . . .