Tag Archives: new mexico

On the Road Again!

We left Apache Junction, Arizona on Saturday after a winter season in the warm desert sun.  We are now on our way west to Atlanta to visit family and spend some quality time with our granddaughter.

We will miss the vistas of Arizona, but it is time to move on.  Usually after a few months in one place, we get a bit antsy and need to change things up a bit.  While my job in Apache Junction was enjoyable for the most part, we met a whole lot of wonderful people and the resort was very nice, it was time for the job to end.

So here we are on the road again heading for our new adventure!

The demands of so many web-based jobs made it difficult for me to find the time to update The Traveling Sitcom.  I will do my best in the near future to remedy that.  In fact, I’m planning a post on the top 10 things to do in Apache Junction.  Look for it soon!

In the meantime, we are traveling east, taking back roads and checking out some of the sights.

We made our way through Springerville, AZ, at 7500 feet above sea level in the high plains.  This area is fascinating to me because we are above tree line and the wind is a constant.  And there is nothing for miles and miles!

Ralph and Faith supervising the sandwich making during one of our breaks…

This is Socorro, NM. This is the Large Array of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Here they listen to outer space. It was placed here due to the fact that there are no nearby towns and the area is surrounded by mountains to keep sounds at bay.

The movie “Contact” was filmed here.

Really, you never know what you are going to come across when you take the back roads!

These are the high deserts just south of Albuquerque. For those of you that might have watched “Breaking Bad”, parts of the show were filmed here.

So..leaving NM and heading into Texas.

New Mexico: So sorry to see you leave! Hope you come again soon! We will have a hot beverage and a plate of nachos waiting on you. Take care and be careful on your travels. We will miss you!

Texas: Yeah, hi.

And there were turbines! Miles and miles of turbines! Texas produces the most wind power of any other state. Farmers allow wind farms on their lands to create a second stream of income.

If you look closely in the photo, you can see cows meandering around the turbines.

traveling in amarillo texas

A stop in Amarillo at Cadillac Ranch.  You will see it just off I40 west of Amarillo.  It is a public art installation and sculpture created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm. It consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line.

Writing graffiti on or spray-painting the vehicles is now encouraged, and the vehicles, which have long since lost their original colors, are wildly decorated.

And of course a stop at the Big Texan. Known for it’s 72 oz. steak that is absolutely free if you can eat it and a bunch of sides within an hour.

Believe it or not. This is not the 72 oz steak! We had enough left over for several meals.

Totally bigger than my head.

We have now made it to Oklahoma City where we will spend a few nights and visit our oldest daughter.  She loves to show us around, so stay tuned to some great sights in the Oklahoma City area!

Oh, and our current RV site even comes with our own personal tornado shelter.  We feel pretty darn secure.  That’s for sure.  LOL!

 

suzy signature

Bat Central: Carlsbad Caverns

We left Tucson in mid March and headed back to our hometown in Georgia for the birth of our granddaughter.  On the way, we tried to take the time to visit some great places.  Our last stop in New Mexico was Carlsbad Caverns.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in southeastern New Mexico. The primary attraction of the park is the show cave, Carlsbad Cavern, oh, and the bats.

Personally, I’m not a fan of caves.  I have claustrophobia and the thought of being hundreds of feet below ground makes my teeth hurt.

But Dave wanted to see this particular cavern because he had heard so much about it.  And we certainly couldn’t just drive right by without taking a look.

The entrance includes a large visitor center building that contains a cafeteria, interesting museum, gift shop, and two elevators that can take you down to the caverns below. 

traveling-sitcom-subscribe2

It is at this point that you have to make the big decision.  Do you want to hike down into the cavern on your own, or take the easy way out and grab the elevator?

We chose to hike down.  After all, how difficult could it be?  The ranger said that it would take several hours to hike the four mile path down into the caverns.  We would end up being 75 stories below ground.

At the entrance to the cave is a huge amphitheater, created for crowds to watch the evening show of up to 300,000 Mexican Free-tail bats as they emerge from the cave in a huge cloud of blackness.

Yes, seriously.  There were bats.

The path zig-zags down into the darkness below.  Ready for our new adventure, we started the hike.  Carlsbad Cavern is the fifth largest cavern in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.  And as long as the bats minded their own businesses, we would be perfectly happy to take in the views!

traveling-sitcom-subscribe2

As we descended into the cave, it was amazing to look up at the pathway that we had already traveled.  The descent is steep, and honestly if you have bad knees, I wouldn’t recommend it.

It is a steady downward descent for 75 stories.  Craziness.

This passageway continues into narrower tunnels where the first extensive collections of stalagmites and stalactites are found, including named features such as Devils Spring, Queen’s Chamber, Kings Palace and the Boneyard.

Note that I am now carrying my jacket.  It is surprisingly humid in the caves.  I believe it was around 90%.  And warm.

The surroundings become steadily more scenic, with small side-caves filled with intricate rock forms.

traveling-sitcom-subscribe2

We stopped often to take photos and small breaks from the walk down. Unlike many caverns that I have visited, Carlsbad was not brightly lit with different colors.  They maintained the natural look with low lighting.

The lighting was just enough to enjoy the amazing scenery.  Once reaching the bottom of the shaft, you enter the huge Big Room.  It is here that you can further explore, visit an underground gift shop, and then make the next big decision.

Do you want to climb all the way back out or take the elevator up?

We chose the elevator.  You can feel free to call me a wimp.  LOL!  As for the caverns themselves, I highly recommend a visit!  Amazing rock formations, lots of history, and tons of bats!  You can’t go wrong there!

traveling-sitcom-subscribe2

suzy signature

A visit to White Sands National Monument

Well, lets backtrack a bit.  I want to tell you a bit about the sites that we were able to visit on our way from Tucson to Atlanta.  We took about three weeks to cross the country, which gave us time to do a few tourist things.  Our first major stop was the little town of Alamogordo, NM and White Sands National Monument.

Crossing into New Mexico from Arizona, we were not sure what to expect.  Arizona had been a big surprise.  Where we had expected nothing but desert, we found mountains, forests and amazing things to see and do.  New Mexico just might surprise us too!

White Sands National Monument is a unique experience.  There’s really no other place like it on the planet.  It’s the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, with miles and miles of stunning white landscape.

Surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides, the basin of white sand dunes is roughly 275 square miles.

traveling-sitcom-subscribe2

Driving into the park, you follow a road that increasing becomes packed sand.  With the constant movement of the dunes, this roadway needs to be plowed daily and driving along it, reminds me of a freshly plowed snow covered road.

Gypsum rarely occurs as sand because it is water-soluble. Normally, rain would dissolve the gypsum and carry it to the sea. Because this particular basin has no outlet to the sea, it traps dissolved gypsum from the surrounding mountains.  As the water sinks into the ground, it leaves crystals of gypsum.

It is hard in photos to give perspective of the size of this place.  In the photo above, Dave and I are standing on a dune looking down at our car below.

An interesting note:  White Sands National Monument is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, a military testing area for the U.S. Army.  Most of the dune field lies within that missile range. The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated at the Trinity test site in the missile range, just 65 miles north of White Sands National Monument in 1945.

traveling-sitcom-subscribe2

Because the park lies completely within the White Sands Missile Range, both the park and U.S. Route 70 between Las Cruces, New Mexico and Alamogordo are subject to closure for safety reasons when tests are conducted on the missile range.

Miles and miles of white sand.  But unlike actual quartz based sand crystals, gypsum does not get hot under the summer sun.  In fact, the dunes are great for downhill sledding along with hiking.  Just be sure that you follow the signs and bring plenty of water.

The desert can be a beautiful, yet deadly place.

High in the clouds: Cloudcroft, NM

Now lets take a look at where all that gypsum comes from!  Just a short drive in the other direction from Alamogordo, high up in the mountain range is the town of Cloudcroft.  Located at 8,600 feet above sea level, Cloudcroft is one the highest towns in the US.

Following the winding road to the top takes about 30 minutes, with lots of places to pull over and enjoy the vistas.  In the photo above, you can see White Sands National Monument in the distance.  The rock that Dave has his foot on is gypsum.  Here is where White Sands begins.

Back in the early 1900’s, Cloudcroft was a major tourist destination.  Due to the altitude, it was the perfect place to get away from the desert heat.  A rail line was created to bring those tourist up from Alamogordo.

Climbing from the valley into the mountains required numerous trestles, switchbacks and grades as steep as 6.4 percent.

With the arrival of US Route 82 to Cloudcroft around 1945, traffic on the railroad line diminished. Southern Pacific discontinued passenger service in 1938, and freight service in 1947; abandonment of the line came soon after in 1948.

The only evidence of the railroad line today is the remains of the trestle over Mexican Canyon, as seen above.

Our visit to New Mexico had just begun.  Our next stop along the way east would be Carlsbad Caverns.  We heard they had bats.  Can’t miss that!

Stay tuned!

traveling-sitcom-subscribe2

suzy signature