Wilcox, AZ to Sweetwater, TX 3/15 - 3/29/2018


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March 29th 2018
Published: March 30th 2018
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THE BASICS

From Wilcox, we went to Chiricahua National Monument and enjoyed hiking where Apaches had roamed. Next stop was Silver City, where gigantic mines are still operating, though not for silver. We endured a rather primitive drive to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The ride was worth it, though, because our hike took us into caves with actual rooms laid out, and it is always amazing to realize how some early folks managed.

In Las Cruces, we most enjoyed our visit to Dripping Springs State Park. Although the dryness had affected the "dripping," we still were able to have a pleasant hike.

On to Alamogordo, stopping at White Sands National Monument en route, to plan our return for an evening guided hike. Good thing we planned to return because the sands were currently closed for a couple of hours because of a missile test. There were lots of folks on the evening tour, many wanting to photograph the sunset. Next day, we drove up (several thousand feet) to Cloudcroft, a fun village where people could escape summer heat and major winter cold. We meandered through the venerable old hotel.

Next, we headed east through mountains, stopping for coffee at Ruidoso, a bigger tourist town with lots of hikers and browsers, and a dusting of snow on Sierra Blanca viewed along the main street. Then on to Roswell, where we sort of ignored the UFO museum, but found a wonderful art museum which included a whole room of tools and devices Robert Goddard used to devise rockets.

We continued, to Carlsbad, and visited the Carlsbad Caverns National Park the next day. We hiked down, down, down to the level where we could visit the "Big Room," which is an enormous cavern with all sort of amazing, magical formations to gawk at. When we visited the Caverns a few years ago, we took the elevator back up. Well.... The elevator had just gone out of order and we had to hike back up, up, up. It was very tiring, but we didn't consider complaining when we learned that people were stuck on the elevator for a couple of hours until a rescue was arranged. A stop for barbecue en route back to the RV and then flat on the bed until morning.

Then, Texas. We drove a lot farther daily than we usually do, but there's still many miles ahead.

THE FLUFF

We had been relieved to arrive in Wilcox because the wind had been so strong. But that was the lesser of our problems, because we were assigned a spot that was not many yards from Route 10, and vehicles rumbled by all night. I resorted to Susie's trick of setting the radio to static between stations, so that at least the sound was even, not unpredictable. In the morning, we moved much farther back in the park. We later learned that the wind had at some point closed Route 10 in both directions.

When we visited Chiricahua a few years ago, the whole drive up into the park was closed for repairs and we just strolled down below. This time, the drive was open and we got to take a few short hikes up top. It was fun to chat with folks and watch families exploring and adventuring. That evening, a campground worker with a very good voice gave a karaoke concert, which we quite enjoyed. People we'd met up at the park were also there; nice vibes.

Next day was uneventful, as we merely drove to Lordsburg, NM. The wind was forcing me to insist on cautious drives. But we then drove to Silver City, walked around downtown, and had a fine beef meal. The drive to Gila Cliff Dwellings was really interesting, despite only having to manage a little Corolla. I couldn't understand why signs told us time estimates that were at least double the number of miles. Then I did. One major section was quite narrow and didn't have center lines. It would have been fine if it were only one way. But it wasn't. Luckily, we were there rather early, so didn't encounter much oncoming traffic. As I said above, the caves were fascinating. It was not a short climb, and quite steep, from the river below, where the women had to haul up the water. Some of the caves were deep and had many rooms for big families. It was neat that the entrance overhang was located just so it would catch the sun for long stretches in the winter and much shorter periods in the summer.

We think Las Cruces is a neat town (it's another of many we've visited where people retire). In the morning, we took off to explore the Living Desert Museum north of town. It turned out to be really "north." Finally we reached the seven mile entry road, which soon became a dirt road. When we finally arrived at the parking lot, we were the only people there, and remained so. Oh, well, we ventured around the mile plus path past desert plants and detailed signs, and it was okay.

Back toward town, we went to Dripping Springs Park, to the east of town, past very large homes. It was by then so hot that we had to find some shade to eat our sandwiches. We hiked a short way to a cave there, where one of the residents had been a hermit priest. When friends worried about him living alone there, he promised to light a fire outside the cave every Friday night. At last, one Friday he didn't. They found him, murdered.

We were looking forward to revisiting White Sands, so booked a couple of nights at Alamogordo, north of the park. When we were there a few years ago, there were very few other visitors. This time, the visitor center was crammed full, largely thanks to school vacation weeks. I felt bad for the people who drove all the way there, only to find that the road to the white sands was closed for a couple of hours because of a missile test. We were fine, because we planned to come back in the evening, anyway. When we did, there were plenty of people in the sands area. Kids were careening down the slopes on plastic dishes. Many were photographing; it wasn't a spectacular sunset, to their disappointment. Our tour included more information about how plants and animals adapt to challenging circumstances.

The trip up to Cloudcroft was quite pleasant (bless guard rails). There had been a railroad built up the mountain, and it crossed 58 wooden trestles en route! The loggers used it, and, later, tourists. A fancy hotel was built, but of wood, and it burned down almost immediately, not helped by the impossibility of getting water up to its perch. There is a nice, old-fashioned sort of hotel there now. In town there is an excellent museum with all sorts of buildings representative of the early settlers. I found a fine used book store, and could have spent hours there. It was fun that the next day, there was a TV feature about Cloudcroft, including my bookstore owner friend, who was also a docent at the museum.

The trip over the mountains via Cloudcroft would not have worked with our RV, so we took a route farther north. That road was no problem, I figured partly because it led to a big casino. Ruidoso is another neat mountain town, larger than Cloudcroft, near a ski area and lots of hiking (and the casino). And quarter horses. We arrived in Roswell and headed for the Art Museum. Aside from difficulty finding the entrance (construction in the area) we enjoyed the museum very much. Seeing Robert Goddard's rocket workshop, in the museum, was as much as we cared to learn about space. And UFO sightings.

John became unusually quiet, and when I asked what was wrong, he said that he was going to sorely miss the mountains out here.

En route to Carlsbad, we drove through Artesia. It was so named because water is accessible there via artesian wells. (For us easterners, lots that sell water always take me aback.) Artesia also has a huge oil refinery, and a fair amount of drilling and pumping. The combination of oil and water seems iffy.

We could get paranoid because both of the places which were major goals for revisiting were messed up in some way. White Sands was manageable. But having the elevator out of Carlsbad Caverns out of order was a problem. (It's an hour down, and it took us an hour and a half to climb up.) As we ascended, with many stops for a swig of water and catching a breath, dozens of people were descending. There was no promise that the elevator would run again that day, and we don't know how that all worked out. At least we were reassured that the people stuck in the elevator had been rescued (another elevator runs parallel, and it was able to provide escape. But if it were used for regular ups and downs and became disabled, there would be no escape, so it could not be regularly used.) What a mess! Those Caverns are certainly the most awesomely beautiful of the several we have visited, and it would be just about tragic if they became inaccessible for tourists. Fund elevator repairs!!!!!!

The wind was very brisk as we drove back to Carlsbad (city). One news source said it was 5 - 10 mph, but another admitted gusts to 40. Our RV park, rated #1 KOA in New Mexico, was 16 miles north of town; John got cranky about that! It was indeed a stretch for them to name it the Carlsbad KOA. Going for a coffee was a significant trip!

The first sign we saw in Texas was, in huge letters, "Support the NRA." We drove many miles of straight highway, bordered often by cotton fields. Frequently, we passed "RV parks" which were just plain parking lots, most likely used by temporary workers. There are bluebonnet flower carpets on some medians and along the road. One stretch had an immense windmill farm. Dotted in the fields were oil drills. After awhile, the drills started gaining my sympathy. If they weren't operating, they looked useless and lonely. However, if they were running, I wondered how boring it would be to just go up and down, day and night, no variety. They look like sideways woodpeckers. I think I'd better find some other kinds of things to think about as we traverse the long miles toward home...

Happy Easter, everyone!

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