Published: March 19th 2009February 5th 2009
Old & New
The Alamo with a state building behind, in San Antonio, Texas
After leaving New Orleans, we continued west, to the big state of Texas.
We reached Texas past sunset, having driven on bridges over the Louisiana bayous for what seemed like hours. One of the first "cities" we came to was oddly not on our map. It took us a few moments to realise the cities we were seeing in the distance were not actually glistening gold cities but really cities of huge oil refineries, lit up in golden lights for all to see. What had clued us in were the plumes of smoke and the flames from gas burn-offs. It was quite a sight to see at night.
We planned to stop for our first Texas night at a Texas rest area, east of Houston, but we discovered it was closed. So we pushed forward, passing through the tangle of overpasses and underpasses that engulfed Houston, and as we found out later, surrounds most Texan cities. Seeing the Houston traffic at 9:30pm made us very happy we didn't try to tackle it during morning rush hour!
Our only real stop in Texas was the city of San Antonio. Here we explored the ruins of the Alamo and enjoyed
Somewhere on the road in Texas, we pulled over for the dramatic light.
the gardens surrounding the old fort. We also had our lunch along the River Walk, and it was here that we felt that San Antonians know how to relax. There was something about the calmness and friendliness of the city that made us want to relax by the water and take advantage of the mid-day happy hours. So we did.
Our only other stop in Texas, besides rest areas for the night, was Buck-ee's. If there's one thing Texans know how to build big besides their bridge tangles around their cities, it would have to be bill-boards. And Buck-ee's has pumped quite a bit of advertising dollars into these bill-boards...so of course by the time we came to the actual roadhouse, we had to pull off to see if they really did have the most varieties of jerky or the cleanest washrooms in the state. They also had an enormous selection of souvenirs, complete with the Buck-ee's logo, and a great collection of barbeques and firepits.
It was between San Antonio and El Paso that we figured we would have car troubles, but old Oleg didn't miss a beat and we made it into New Mexico soon after
City of Rocks
These are the rocks in which our campsite was situated
a picnic lunch before El Paso. While Oleg was fine, we weren't. We had picked up groceries in Fort Stockton, TX, as we were getting a bit tired of fast food and were craving something more wholesome. However, by the time we reached New Mexico, the food poisoning had hit...maybe it was unwashed produce or the ham on sale was no good. Maybe the water we filled our containers with wasn't quite potable. Whatever it was, Texas left us almost too sick and weak to explore the Land of Enchantment.
But nothing a bit of sunshine and bottled water and lots of rest can't fix. We decided to spend the night at City of Rocks State Park, which reminded me of the Devil's Marbles in Australia. The park was great, with the campsites nestled in among the rock formations, and lots of paths leading into the rocks inviting you to explore. A park ranger there told us about the petroglyphs, which I didn't manage to find very many of. It was a fantastic location for any geology nut or anyone with a great imagination. Every turn led to a different arrangements of the giant boulders.
Still feeling weak,
The yucca plants were a common sight in New Mexico. This one was at City of Rocks State Park
we decided a soak in some hot springs were in order. So we traveled up into the Gila National Forest towards Gila Hot Springs. We enjoyed the slow scenic drive, where the elevations climbed to over 7,000 feet. Armed with information from the visitor's centre at the Cliff Dwellings National Monument, we drove back down the hill to find the developed pools at the campground. The hot water straight from the ground must be mixed with river water, we found out, as it comes out at a temperature hot enough to scald your skin. We arrived at the campground to find three hippy-decorated hand-dug pools of varying temperatures. After trying the hotter pools, we decided red skin wasn't ideal and settled to soak in the coolest pool. Aahhhh. Later I called my mom for her birthday and we splurged on homemade ice cream from the general store in town.
We decided to camp at one of the free campgrounds in the National Forest, just down the road from the cliff dwellings. A little extra care was taken that night to make sure our fire was "dead out", as we had learned that Smokey Bear
was originally from New Mexico.
These are the cliffs where the Mongollans built their dwellings
Feeling much better after a good night's sleep, we spent the next morning exploring the cliff dwellings and looking for petroglyphs. All the volunteers working at the cliff dwellings were full of information to share and made the experience quite interesting. We had a picnic at one of the campgrounds, where we chatted with a couple from the Yukon and played with their puppy. We liked the area and debated staying, but it was the weekend and there was snow in the forecast. And the signs all over the National Forest warned "Attention: Snow Plows do not operate evenings and weekends". Not wanting to wait until Monday, we headed back towards Silver City, NM to escape the snow. The drive back was lovely, and we passed through historic Pinos Altos, which looked like it was out of an old western movie.
We drove west to the I25, seeing some spectacular landscape, and passing some strange town names, such as Truth or Consequences. We pulled into the Motel 76 that night in Alburquerque, which was next to the Motel 6 and the Super 8, and cheaper than both.
The next day, we headed towards Gallup, one of the historic
In the Cliffs
One of the various caves at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
towns. I had heard the area was beautiful, but the snow promised to make our stay miserable. On the way, we stopped at a fantastic visitor's centre, the NW New Mexico Visitor's Centre, near Grant, NM. Exit 85...it's worth the detour!
We pulled into Gallup, as the weather turned for the worse and tumbleweeds blew across the road. We did manage to get to Red Rock park during a short window of sunlight, enough to see the beautiful rock formations, but soon the dark clouds threatened us again. So we retreated back indoors. It was Sunday, and not much was open as far as shops or restaurants. But we did find a "deli and donut" that was open, the only non-fast food option close to our motel. When we walked in, it was straight out of a movie. There seemed to be some sort of family gathering in the deli. As soon as we stepped through the door, the room became hushed and everyone stopped talking and eating to stare at us. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, we ordered a sandwich and donuts, to go. Soon everyone resumed chatting and completely ignored us as we waited for our
I think this one is Castle Rock (or Pyramid Rock?) in Red Rock State Park in Gallup, NM
order. We did get some hearty good-bye's as we left, but man it was weird. But the sandwich and the donuts were really good!
After another complimentary continental motel breakfast...we continued west, hoping the snow would hold off...
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