New Mexico Here We Come

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Up the next morning to the sound of the Union Pacific trains going by. We ride over two blocks to the Interstate Hwy. for gas. The station also happens to be the Greyhound bus station. There we have a discussion about how long it would take for me to get home to Lakeland, Florida from Van Horn Texas by Greyhound. Oh well, I am not giving up just yet. Gassed up we head north across the train tracks out into the desert again. Our goal is to finally get out of Texas after 3 and 1/2 weeks there. Hyw. 54 north climbs up again between two mountain ranges. Ocotillos cactus are blooming. I really like this cactus. It’s red blooms are the only color right now in the brown and tan desert. We pass the 165,000 acre ranch owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. He is planning a Space Port launching site there. Who would have thought this would be out in the middle of the desert. Up ahead we see El Capitan Mountain the signature peak in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. To our east the Mountains are topped with a wind mill farm. Again, there is no traffic. Maybe we pass two trucks in 75 miles. El Capitan is in front of us now. 8064 feet high, it is an ancient limestone reef from when this was a massive inland sea during the Permian Era ie. a very long time ago. A big sweeping highway goes to east around the mountain climbing higher and higher. We stop at the National Park center and look back out over Texas and the Chihuahuan Desert. WE are very close to the New Mexico border. We reflect on just how big Texas really is. I remember the road signs that admonish you to “Drive Clean Across Texas”. We did it and it was clean come to think of it. No time to waste we have a cave visit coming up.

Hwy 180 gives us our last views of Texas and the first ones of New Mexico. No change- still more desert. Our next destination comes into view, the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns. It is a tourist stop and James and I try to resist these locations but, all of our travel resources insist this is different. We take the winding entrance road up to the top of a mesa. We are finally here. There are two ways to go down 750 feet into the Caverns. One, is to walk a very windy trail and the other is to take a long elevator ride. Because we are in our motorcycle gear, we opt for the elevator. The guide tells us that it takes 1 and 1/2 hours to walk through the caverns. She isn’t kidding. It does. The elevator opens into a large space containing a gift show and restaurant. All of which must be serviced 750 down in the earth. We are asked to speak softly as voices carry very far in this place which is 14 football fields long. Giant stalactites and stalagmites are everywhere. You are forbidden to touch them. We wander through the caves following a low light foot path for over an hour, I have lost interest and just want out. Something claustrophobic going on I guess. Finally we arrive back at the elevator and take the ride back up. I don’t think I could be a coal miner. We leave the Caverns and head into town passing all the many businesses which are involved in the fracking oil well game.

We have an advance reservation at the Hampton Inn, I am not going to be wrong again. Without one we would be desperate to find a room. The fracking workers are everywhere. Its Chili’s for Saturday night dinner with the oil boys. All of us eat at the bar or the wait would be over an hour. We patronize the Walmart next door to restock our travel size toiletries. I find an Asian nail salon. Yeah! The next morning we head north out of Carlsbad.

We are traveling next to the Pecos River and farmers are using the water to grow pecans, hay and alfalfa. Wow, green fields again. Lots of fracking going on. Monster refinery near the town of Artesia. At the main intersection in Artesia we see so many tanker trucks and new pickups. Things are really booming here. On the corner of the gas station is a massive bronze statue of a cowboy and his steers, really out of place it needs a park not the corner of the gas station. However the GAS station is relative to how we got the money to buy the bronze.

The next stop along the road is Roswell, New Mexico. The Roswell alien museum is here and we must see it. It is hoakie but, good for a laugh. We get the sticker and put it on the bike. We also learn that the largest Mozzarella Cheese factory is here. We have lunch at the Subway and meet a local farm couple who give us some valuable insights into our planned route. Where we were planning to go was not the best ride he said. The most scenic road for us to take would be due west.

We headed west out of Roswell across an arid plain toward the mountains. Soon we were in rolling hills and some green trees. Gardens were planted along the creek that paralleled us on the left. A fork in the road leads us up the steep mountain side to the home of Billy the Kid. Born William H. Bonney in New York City, Billy the Kid took refuge in these mountains from law enforcement. Stories say he was a rebel against a group of powerful ranchers who were attempting to monopolize both cattle and merchant trade in this area. The legend grew from there. The little town of Lincoln looks like an old west town full of shops. Billy the Kid was killed in Fort Sumner some miles away. He was shot in the back in his girl friend’s bedroom by the sheriff.

On down the road is Capitan home of Smokey the Bear and we happened to hit this town while the Smokey the Bear festival is just ending. We fill up with gas and head south for Ruidoso for the evening. This is a mountainous ski area in the winter and lovely green and cool in the Spring. We plan to stay here for a few days and ride out to various sites. Our Inn is right off the Main Street. We are staying in a small studio with fireplace and kitchenette. This is a bird friendly place. They have atleast twenty bird feeders and bird baths. The pathways through the property are lite in the evening with colorful lights. The Inn manager has a fat cat which sits in the window and watches all the birds that come by all day. In the evening five mule deer come through eating the bird seed that falls on the ground. The town has many things to do and multiple restaurants. We have a favorite bakery for our breakfast each morning. The food was good and the service excellent. Dinner was within walking distance so we did not have to don our motorcycle gear again.

One of our rides was to Cloudcroft. This was also a recommendation of the couple at the Subway in Roswell. What an incredible ride through a forest and a high alpine meadow. We are in awe of the view of Almagorda in the valley below Cloudcroft. We can see the white sands haze which is blowing in from the White Sands National Monument just beyond the town. Away we go down through the switchbacks and steep declines dropping several thousand feet in just ten miles. A great ride although we are stopped briefly for road work. We take the Alamagorda by-pass to the White Sands Monument. This is an interesting area. Gypsum from the surrounding mountains has filled the desert from the snowmelt and the relentless winds. It is pure white and constantly on the move. I believe the parks dept. gave up on keeping the road clear. The cleared paved area only goes 1 and 1/2 miles into the monument. The dunes reach up to 30 feet high and are constantly moving so, you must be a fast growing plant to survive here without being overrun and snuffed out. The Yucca can make it but, we learned that once the dune moves past it often collapses unable to support itself on 30′ roots. Although the white sands are relative new comers to the area ( 1000 years or so),some of the lizards and small animals have adapted and have white color for their scales, fur, or feathers. The day we are there the wind is blowing about 25 miles per hour and looks like a white fog in the air. I thought about how much fun it must be to keep house here. You would never get ahead!

Returning, James decides he wants to back through Cloudcroft up the steep mountain climb, instead of the loop ride we had planned. No problem. It is a lot of fun. Back through the meadow, we notice a large bird grabbing at something on the ground. We believe the bird is a golden eagle because of its size. Back on Hwy.70 into Ruidoso, we detourn to take a look at the casino which is heavily advertised in this area. It is massive with a golf course, its own man made lake and Hotel called Inn of the Gods. We like our homy little place better.