Heaven and Earth in New Mexico
Trip Start May 01, 2003
15Trip End Sep 01, 2003
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
May 12 Tucson, AZ
We decided to stay for two nights in Tucson, which was probably one night too many. While we had heard about the wonders of Tucson, perhaps it was the combination of apparent urban sprawl and our first exposure to 100-degree temperatures which sapped our enthusiasm. We took the girls to the Flandreau Science Center and Planetarium, a childrens' science museum at the University of Arizona. This seemed like a good idea, but the lack of campus parking started it off on the wrong foot (it has been a while since either of us parked on a college campus). We brought the girls in and were nearly trampled by the bus loads of school kids coming for field trips. We watched the behavior of these kids with horror, knowing our toddlers would someday soon evolve into this species. We thought taking the girls to a planetarium show might be better than the hands-on stuff, so we went to the counter to buy tickets. "Your little ones will be frightened and are not allowed" said the college girls behind the counter
May 13 Tucson-Saguaro NP-Tombstone-Benson, AZ
Today begins a very interesting stretch of sights and lodging for us. We had little driving to do today, as the old mining town of Tombstone is but 90 minutes from Tucson. We first drove a quick eight-mile loop through the eastern section of Saguaro National Park, just outside of Tucson. Here grow forests of centuries-old cacti, up to 80 feet high. These plants do not even sprout branches until they are 75 years old. You get a sense of their majesty in an environment which does not support anything growing much higher than your knee. From there dropped to within 20 miles of the Mexican border on AZ-80, visiting Tombstone. As we approached, we realized that the peaks looming on the horizon were well into Mexico
May 14 Benson-Kartchner Caverns-La Mesilla, NM
Our primary objective today was to see Kartchner Caverns, a "living cave" just outside of Benson. It is "living" in that water is still dripping in the caverns, forming new structures and feeding the living organisms there. Little did we know "reservations are required." SO we went standby. We were there at 9AM and they squeezed us in on the 12 noon tour. So we killed three hours in and around Benson, AZ. This is a VERY difficult task, especially if you have ever been to Benson. Finally, the tour started. First, no strollers or child carriers (Chris carries our 35-pound sack of potatoes named Jocelyn for 1 hour). Second, "if your child touches anything in the cave, you will be escorted out immediately" (did I mention Isabelle was with us?). Oh, and as we walked into the visitor center, Jocelyn asked "are there bears in this cave?" to which I said "absolutely not". What is the first thing we see in the visitor center? A diorama of a 15 foot long "cave sloth" (looks just like a bear to me). My credibility is shot and now I am telling the girls to follow us into a hole in the ground. We go through three airlocks with vault-like doors which preserve the integrity of the atmosphere inside the cave at 98% humidity. Down a nicely lit corridor and guess what? The girls love it! They are saints! Maybe the bejesus was scared out of them and they thought a cave sloth was behind every turn...this cave was magnificent...curtains of translucent calcium, 20 foot "soda straws" which looked exactly as named, and 60 foot tall, 10 foot thick columns of stone (which Kirsten said resembled Chinese ivory carvings), sculpted one drop at a time over 195,000 years. It took our breath away, the lighting was magnificent and a soundtrack of "adiamus" by Enya made the whole thing an emotional experience
May 15 La Mesilla-White Sands NP-Carlsbad, NM
La Mesilla's claim to fame is that the Gadsden Purchase was signed there (Anyone? Anyone?). For those of you who did not know, the Gadsden Purchase gave the southernmost 30 miles of New Mexico and Arizona to the United States in 1859, allowing a southern railway route to be established. We stayed at the Happy Trails B&B (Kirsten's out-of-the-way find of the trip so far). Happy Trails is sandwiched between Pecan orchards and alfalfa fields and our guest house was a converted stable with bright-colored cheerful Mexican murals and a long-horn steer skull mounted over the bed. La Mesilla is on the outskirts of Las Cruces, and is quite poor. However, the people were happy and friendly, the food was excellent, and the quaint plaza and turquoise-silled adobe homes held much charm. We left La Mesilla behind and made one of the most interesting transits of our tour so far. We are two weeks out of Mill Valley, have traveled over 2,000 miles as of May 15. We have another 250 miles ahead of us today. It was pleasant as we headed up AZ-70 towards Alamogordo, although we were stopped for 30 minutes on the highway just short of White Sands for a MISSLE TEST
May 16 Carlsbad, NM (Carlsbad Caverns)-Fredricksburg, TX
Well, the caverns were beyond our wildest expectations. While not as pristine as the Kartchner experience, the sheer scale of the cavern takes your breath away. 30 miles of caves explored and still going. The National Park Service has made this a very accessible cavern, a 750 foot elevator down to the "Great Room". Great Room is an understatement. Think of the largest cathedral you have been in, then multiply by 15 or 20. The loop around the perimeter of the Great Room was 1.5 MILES. We have included some canned pics of the caverns, as the lighting was so low our camera struggled and words just cannot do this justice...the most incredible thing for us was, we were the first ones in the cavern by 15 minutes, and we had the entire Great Room to ourselves. The silence was deafening as we stood alone in this room. We reluctantly left as we had 480 miles across West Texas that day, arriving in Fredricksburg around 7 PM. Kirsten went back to roots here, as this town in the Texas Hill Country has significant German history. We resided in a wonderful turn of the century residence, had a traditional German dinner to the sounds of live oompah music and strolled the quaint Main Street as the sun set. More on Fredricksburg in our Texas segment.