10-12-08 White Sands National Monument

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White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

October 12, 2008– We had so much fun today!

We took a short ride over to the White Sands National Monument.  White Sands is where they do missile testing — this is still going on today, they actually close the highway/park a couple times a week to conduct tests — so I was expecting to learn about missiles and possibly even the first atomic bomb that was set off.  

 

 

Carl climbing up a sand dune

Carl climbing up a sand dune

I had missed the point that half of the White Sands area is designated as a national park, and as such, is set up for people to enjoy the sand dunes. Kids were sliding down the dunes on plastic saucers (I can’t believe I didn’t get any pictures of this!) — just like it was snow. They have four walking trails, which we explored one of them.  One trail is a boardwalk that is wheelchair accessible.

 

Clouds moving above the sand casting shadows.

Clouds moving above the sand casting shadows.

There is a prevailing southwesterly wind which moves the dunes 30 feet per year, and thus they have special picnic areas with guards to keep the sand out of the food and the grill burning. There are no campsites, but they do give permits for overnight stays for hikers.  

 

 

Parking lot - notice that they used plows to keep the roads clean!

Parking lot - notice that they used plows to keep the roads clean!

This was so great, I feel like I spent the day at the beach, which goes to show that perfect sand goes along way to defining the perfect beach day. I would definitely recommend this as a place to visit.

 

 

 

 

Like a day at the beach!

Like a day at the beach!

As we entered the White Sands valley, we had to stop for the Border Patrol.  This is the fourth time we have had to pass through Border Patrol, but the first time anyone actually talked to us and looked inside the car.  In other words, we felt like finally the Border Patrol was doing their job.  I’m not saying that I think the whole Border Patrol thing is the best way to spend our money BUT if we are going to spend the money, then please, look alert and like the job is actually being done.

Nature Trail at White Sands

Nature Trail at White Sands

 

 

 

 

Bush hanging onto life, despite the shifting sands

Bush hanging onto life, despite the shifting sands

Also of note, Carl and I left Nashua one month ago today! I have taken 1,730 pictures to date.

Comments (1) Oct 12 2008

10-11-08 Las Cruces, NM

Posted: under Las Cruces, New Mexico.
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Roadruner at rest area outside Las Cruces, new Mexico

"Roadrunner" at rest area outside Las Cruces, New Mexico

October 11, 2008 — It was a short drive yesterday.

We came into Las Cruces yesterday, just before noon.  We decided to first reserve a hotel room, it being Friday of a three-day weekend, we thought it prudent to get a room early. Normally, we just look for a hotel wherever we decide to spend the night and start with whichever looks newest.  In our experience they don’t charge more for new hotels, but you will get a better bed, shower and TV.  But Thursday night I decided to do due diligence and checked out Expedia and Orbitz to get a feel for room prices and availability. So I wrote down a few motels & addresses that met our budget and criteria.  Because we planned to stay in one place for the three days, I thought an outdoor pool would be nice.  

View of Las Cruces, note Organ Mountain range in distance

View of Las Cruces, note Organ Mountain range in distance

Anyway, I can’t say this plan really worked out, first, one of the Best Westerns at the top of my list didn’t exist (it is now a no-name motel) — in the end we just drove to different places where I asked about availability, price and if those two questions were successful, then I asked for a room key to check the room.

 

Old courthouse where Billy the Kid was sentenced

Old courthouse where Billy the Kid was sentenced- note the original doors

 

 

I don’t normally go through this much effort, but since we had time (and we weren’t tired from driving all day), I decided to experiment. Later I went back and reviewed what I had learned with Expedia and Orbitz — especially pics of the rooms.  I’m not sure if the effort to book a room ahead of time is worth it on a trip like this.  We are paying $20 less than the Orbitz price for the Comfort Inn room that we ended up taking — and Expedia didn’t list this hotel, although they listed other Comfort Inns. Pics are accurate but until you see a room you really don’t know what you are seeing in a picture. 

Oldest brick building in New Mexico

Oldest brick building in New Mexico

Since our room was not ready, we went into the historic old Mesilla town to walk around and have lunch. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.  Incorporated in 1848, Mesilla  was part of the “Wild West” offering cantinas, dancing and theater. It served as a stop on the Butterfield Stage Coach (prior to the Pony Express) and was even the capital fo the Confederate Territory of Arizona. This is where Billy the Kid was sentenced to hang, but he escaped, and was later gunned down by Sheriff Garrett. He was only 21 when he died. Carl and I are having fun putting the timeline together of the different notorious events.

Anyway, it is amazing that these buildings are still standing.  They say it is because Mesilla passed up on having the train stop in their town, so instead the train went north to Las Cruces. This means that for a long time, time passed on Mesilla. Still, we give credit to the residents who preserve the history of Mesilla.  

La Posta - now a Mexican restaurant - was the Butterfield Stage Coach building

La Posta - now a Mexican restaurant - was the Butterfield Stage Coach building

As far as our search for our future home, we are not all that enamoured with Las Cruces.  Its name is far more romantic sounding than the actual city. The view of the Organ Mountains in the distance is one of the better parts of the city — I’ve been told these change colors but since we’ve been here, it’s been overcast so we haven’t experienced this.  

 

Beautiful Building in Mesilla

Beautiful Building in Mesilla

Like all cities in the southwest, it is rapidly expanding. This is the first town the GPS system has steered us wrong, and more than once; there is a whole part of town not even in our database and there are many places, like the Starbucks that we searched for this morning, that must have moved.  

Outside of Mesilla, the big thing here is the University of New Mexico.  I was also told that people like to hang out at the Rio Grande but we haven’t found access to it.  Part of that is because it is cloudy and has rained off and on all day.

Chili Peppers in Mesilla

Chili Peppers in Mesilla

If you sense we are running out of energy, you are right.  We still have more things to see in New Mexico but we might just opt to head back to Tucson on Monday and take one of those Extended Stay or furnished apartment places for a week to see if we really like Tucson as much as our first impression gave us.  If so, we may consider staying for a few months  through the winter months.  We’ll see.

Comments (0) Oct 12 2008

10-9-08 New Mexico Drive

Posted: under New Mexico, Silver City.
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Shakespeare Ghost Town

Shakespeare Ghost Town

October 9, 2008 — First thing that we tried to do today was to see the Shakespeare Ghost Town that is very close to this hotel.  We had decided that we wanted an easy day so we thought the ghost town and then what looked like a 90 minute drive up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

I don’t know why this is, but every time we say we want an “easy” day, we jinx it.  Since we’ve been on the road, I would call today our least successful day.  But on the other hand, who’s complaining?  The weather is perfect. The scenery is interesting no matter where we go!

Tirone Mine reclamation project outside Silver city

Tirone Mine reclamation project outside Silver city

So the Ghost Town was a bust.  It is private property and the owners will only give tours at 2 specific times of day — but none of this is mentioned on the sign post as you drive to the property.   While we were trying to figure out what to do, there were two men from England on rented Harley’s wondering the same.  I was hoping that the live person on the other side of the fence might decide four people was worth stopping his chores and giving us a tour, but not so.  So we snapped photos and left.

Highway 15

Highway 15 "slalom" ride

So then we headed north up 15 to Silver City and then onto to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

Just before coming into Silver City, we found another open copper mine pit, the Tirone Mine owned by the Phelps David Mining Company (they owned the mine we saw yesterday until sometime last year).  This one is being reclaimed, meaning they are trying to hide the tailings.  Major expensive project and will take years. But hey, I’m sure it is providing plenty of jobs for those in Silver City.

We didn’t spend anytime in Silver City because we still assumed that we would be back down quickly and we see it for lunch.

Highway 15

Highway 15

Well, never assume (as I’ve said in this blog before)!

Even though we only had to travel about 45 miles, the GPS reported that it was going to take us about 2 and half hours to arrive. What? We thought there was something screwy with the GPS.  But after it took us 18 minutes to travel 5 miles or so, Carl started questioning if we would arrive in time for a tour!  Whereas we have encountered many switchback roads on this trip, this one was the ultimate. It was more like slalom skiing, with edge of the road driving.  We certainly did not run into many other cars or trucks on this road. It is a National Park and there were camp grounds scattered throughout.  I think it would be a beautiful place to go tent camping.  I don’t think you could drive or tow anything else for camping, up there.

View from where we turned around to go back to Silver City

View from where we turned around to go back to Silver City

Seeing this Apache land and what we did with it — all the mining — it gives a little more clarity to the Apache wars.

When we got to the end of 15 and took the turn to go up to the Cliff Dwellings, we were dismayed to find that we still had another 15 miles to go at an estimated 45 minutes.  This was more than we had bargained for when we set the day’s agenda. Of course, if we had looked on the Internet first, we would have known that we didn’t want to to this. First, the parking lot is 2 miles from the cliff dwellings.  So, it is a good thing that we turned around!  But first we took one great photo.

So we headed back to Silver City for lunch — but we took the easier, but longer (in theory only) highway 35.  You know, though, every road is interesting and worth the drive.

Silver City, of course, was a disappointment.  So goes the day!  We could only find one (rather expensive) place to have lunch despite what appeared to be a rather bohemian historical section.  I think this is supposed to be an artist’s town — or at least a college town — but we must not have been in the mood to appreciate it.

New Mexico drive -- beautiful!

New Mexico drive -- beautiful!

So we left to come eat at the “other” restaurant in Lordsburg. It was also too expensive.

Tomorrow is Friday and if we want to get a room we are going to have to get up and out.  We can either go back to Tucson or go to Las Cruces.  Let you know what we decide….

Comments (0) Oct 09 2008

Alburqueque and Santa Fe, NM

Posted: under New Mexico, September 2008.
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New Mexico road side

New Mexico road side

September 16, 2008 –We spent last night in Santa Rosa, NM and left just after 9am.  We decided that we really needed to get the oil change and to keep an eye out in Albuquerque for either a Toyota dealer.  Boy, did we ever find one.  We ended up at the Karl Malone Toyota Superstore.  Quite an experience for something so mundane!  Anyway, we put the Mobil One synthetic oil in and now that I can speak in hindsight — it has improved our mileage quite a bit.  We are now averaging 50 MPG. Love our Prius.  

 

 

Hemp Store posters facing our lunch restaurant

Hemp Store posters facing our lunch restaurant

For lunch, we drove up to Santa Fe.  Carl had been there once about 16 years ago or longer.  I never had but loved the photos from Poornima’s vacation.  We had nachos and juice for lunch sitting across from a hemp store.  We didn’t really stay long enough to get to know the town but had a fairly good impression from it.  Carl was more disappointed than I was since he felt that it was much more commercial than he last remembered it.  My thoughts are the Portsmouth has changed in equal ways over the past 15 to 20 years.  It’s hard to keep a good artistic community from the yuppies!  Still, I’d consider exploring it more as a possible home — it did have several whole food stores and a Trader Joes. Plus the houses looked very interesting. And they were working on a new railroad track that looked like it might go down to Albuquerque eventually.  I think we will be back before all is said and done.

 

We drove back down 25 over to 40 and stayed in Grants, New Mexico.  We are no longer counting how many miles in a day.  We are here. We now EXPLORE!

Comments (1) Sep 16 2008