Friday August 17
We stayed at a campsite which was on the edge of an old lava flow, supposedly the last lava flow in the US. This seems incorrect to me because of the Mount St. Helen's eruption in the early eighties in Washington State. At any rate we were amongst the solidified lava.
The closest town was Carrizozo, NM. We drove on towards Albuquerque, NM. for lunch. I picked out the lunch spot from the travel guide. Our entire meal including the salad dressing came in Styrofoam. The lunch was lousy and I regretted my choice. A park, which was along the way from our air conditioned van to the restaurant, had vendors set up selling the most wonderful jewellery. The vendors where local Native artists but it was too hot to make any choices on such costly items. We came across a rest area that had its building raised up on stilts.
A sign as you were about to enter warned of rattlesnakes, a sign not often seen. At the next rest area before Santa Fe, NM we discovered from the attendants that we had hit the big Indian Market weekend which would start tomorrow. The panic was on to find suitable accommodation because the Market supposedly attracts eighty thousand visitors a year and has about twelve hundred artists in eight hundred booths. People book their hotels a year in advance. Two spots were not suitable or were booked so we phoned the next spot as it was south, east of town. We found our place at Rancheros in Santa Fe, NM. We found out that museums were free on Fridays after five o'clock so off we went to the museum honouring the artist Georgia O'Keeffe, to the Museum of Natural History and to The Museum of Fine Arts, plus a few little independent art galleries. Wow...Ken said he was arted out, just a little too much art in a few hours, especially what he felt was art without a message. Looking for a restaurant was our next activity. One particular building had many people lingering outside with plates of food and glasses of wine. In we went to see what was going on. It was a gallery opening, one of many that evening, so we got in the food line-up. Very good meal, just what we needed. We toured the stores and galleries that remained opened and drove back to our campsite.
Thursday August 16
We woke up to a weird diesel smell and popping sounds in the distance. When we stopped by the ranger station they told us it was pump jacks starting up to pump the oil out of the ground in the nearby fields.
That morning we drove to the Carlsbad Caverns through hilly, rocky, cactus laden, windy road. There in the middle of what seemed like no wheresville was a National Park housing the largest caves in North America. We took the spelunking for dummies path which used the elevator to descend the seven hundred and fifty feet into the cave. The cool, temperate, cavernous rooms were awe inspiring with stalactites and stalagmites, etc.
These caves are supposedly the most beautiful in the world. Once out of the caves we returned to the oven, which is the temperature of New Mexico in the summer.
We ate at the second best Chinese Restaurant in Carlsbad, soon to regret our luck at missing the best Chinese Restaurant. We continued on, through to Roswell, NM. Did not see any UFOs, unless you count all the plastic or painted models of them that the town promoted. The town was like a small town in Saskatchewan, Kindersley, for example.
We drove through Capitan, NM. In case you have never heard of it, the town was very near the mountain gap where Smoky the Bear was found as a cub in 1950. He was found clinging to the trunk of a burnt tree trying to escape the forest fire which had taken his family. Smokey the Bear was, of course, the National Forestry Services spokes bear during the fifties and sixties for forest fire prevention awareness. Capitan houses his final remains and capitalizes on his identity.
Wednesday August 15
We drove through the north west section of Texas. Mostly we didn't see any cattle grazing, nor oil drilling rigs. We could have been driving north of Saskatoon, SK or parts of Alberta as it looked so similar. The towns and people looked similar, too. The guys, however, really do wear those big cowboy hats and everyone speaks with a Texas drawl. Oh, I forgot, there is cactus and small yucca trees growing in the fields which is different from Canada. We found suitable sleeping accommodations at Brantley Lake State Park, just north of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
This Park had the largest collection of big bugs I had ever seen, especially outside the woman's restroom. One tough looking red bug of note was dragging around a tarantula carcass, a meal I was told by the rangers. Nice to be back in the states. The positive points of this campsite were the desert cotton tails and the black-eared jack rabbits. After it got really dark, we laid back and looked up at the stars through Pepe's skylight. The sky was bright with stars. The crickets were chirping, camping seemed wonderful.