Subterranean, but not Homesick, and no Blues

Trip Start Jul 03, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2009

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hello travel fans. This morning, we headed out of Fort Stockton and didn't look back. What a sad town: with the exception of our metal bird friend, everything in this town—Walmart included—have a palpable sense of wear. However, whereas other down-on-their luck cities have some semblance of better days in the past, this town seems to have been in a state of disrepair from day one.

As we leave town, the sky opens up (isn’t this the desert??). our drive takes us through flat, empty scrubland as far as the eye can see, punctuated by only by the occasional cow, car, and oil derrick. The air has a tinny smell to it, and the storm clouds are dark and massive. The vista is so large that we can see whole rainstorms off in the distance, and we drive faster to try to beat the darkest clouds. We pass through empty—literally abandoned—towns with collapsed buildings and signs for motels that don’t exist.

As we cross the border to New Mexico, the weather clears and the landscape seems to change in the blink of an eye. The desert here is drier and plants are sparser, yet it’s more beautiful. We pass over some small hills. There’s still no one around us, but that’s okay. The sky is brighter, and our destination is approaching: Carlsbad Carverns. 

It’s with a bit of trepidation that we approach the carverns – this is MB’s first national park, and one of many on our trip. So if she’s not happy here, we may have made a big mistake. However, the Caves don’t disappoint. We spent nearly half a day 800 feet below the ground exploring just a fraction of the 180 miles underground. The Forest Service has lit the caves beautifully (they employed a Broadway set designer to do so…what would the world do without New Yorkers). We’ll let the attached pics do most of the talking, except for two things not captured visually. The first is the guided tour we took through the "Kings Palace"--generally made miserable by a combination of our older-than-time tour guide and four of the loudest, largest children I’ve seen (walking birth control)—but saved by the truly awesome moment when the guide doused all lights in the cave and we experienced real darkness. I hope they have backups for the lights. The second was the odd experience of buying food at a cafeteria 700 feet below the ground. Weird!  Overall, a great stop.

The same can’t be said of Roswell, NM. What a disappointment! We thought we’d not only see a ton of UFO-obsessed weirdos, but also some great alien-themed buildings. The best we got was a UFO-shaped McDonalds. Oh, and a building that—at 5 stories—was the largest since Austin.

More empty, flat, dry country greeted us on US-285 as we sped north at 85 MPH to Santa Fe. Yellow grass, the occasional bush, and even more occasionally, a car. Monotonous, yes, but also beautiful.  (PS, Santa Fe is amazing, but more on that tomorrow!)
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