Note: Last week, I was incommunicado down in Texas so this post is catching up on two weeks worth of travel.
I’m definitely in love with New Mexico. My week at Oliver Lee State Park, halfway up the western foothills of the Sacramento Mountains sealed the deal. I could see for miles, stare out my windows at rocky mountains, and even see the White Sands National Monument off in the distance.
I was supposed to leave on Friday and head down to Texas, but the morning weather check wasn’t having it: 30 mph winds and gusts up to 50 mph right in the area I was going to be driving, so I was waiting at the door when the visitor center opened at 9AM to snag an electric site for one more night at Oliver Lee.
Saturday morning dawned cool and slightly overcast but nary a hint of wind, so I packed up and headed out. Made it out of New Mexico and then through El Paso in one piece. This intersection of two freeways was simply breath-taking even by LA standards and since we were all going really slowly due to construction, I snapped a quick photo. All I could think of was my friend Susan from BC experiencing her first flyover crossing in Portland, Oregon last year – Susan, you might have died of shock driving this one!
Stopped for gas in Fort Hanford and disappointed now that I didn’t take any photos. It was a classic West Texas freeway town: one gas station, a beat-up motel, and an old guy selling cowboy boots out of his van in the parking lot.
The transit was about 4.5 hours, the last 3 being mind-numbingly boring on I-10. I drove this same route back in 1980, when I was moving from San Jose to New York, and it was as long and boring and full of big trucks as I remembered it to be. No one was happier than me when I could finally take the exit to my destination.
Then it was 15 miles on a two-lane road, passing ranches and broken down houses and a lovely little white chapel. The campground showed up, I turned in, cruised the loop to pick a spot and was one happy camper to be done with the drive.
Sunday was driving for a completely different reason: a solar viewing and tour at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. 45 minutes one-way but totally worth it! You might see more of the Observatory pics in a later post…
Monday (a week and a half ago) I was back in the car driving down to Big Bend National Park. That was one amazing place, and I really enjoyed it, but ran into a heat wave (two days over 90F) and I didn’t have hookups, so I did less hiking than planned and cut my visit short by a few days. It was definitely a cool place and I’ll feature it in at least two blog posts over the next few weeks. Here’s a teaser of a photo, that’s my campground in the middle, and somewhere in there is my little blue Alto.
I retreated last Sunday into the arms of a Holiday Inn Express, with free wifi, loads of air conditioning and hot water showers, and even a decent washer and dryer. Ah, civilization! It also marked the first time in six months I had slept in a bed other than my Alto and seven months since a hotel stay, so kind of a cool milestone there, considering I used to travel 25-40% of the time for business.
Monday the 27th dawned bright and clear and windy. I drove straight north from Alpine, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico, on a two-lane road that was 95% pickups, bigger pickups, trucks, bigger trucks, and oversized load trucks. Who know that this one road runs through the heart of pipeline country? I also learned that the farther to the right you stay in your lane, the less the wind pushes you around when a truck passes. I got a lot of practice in staying to the far right of my lane. And I was very relieved to get to my campsite and unhitch!
Now I’m settled in for four nights at Brantley Lake State Park, where a high wind/red flag (fire danger) warning was in effect for two days. Howling winds, dust storms, welcome back to New Mexico! I did see a jackrabbit though!
Today is Carlsbad Caverns day, and I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to go there for decades, and today is finally the day. See you all next week!