Day 3 - New Mexico
|Sunday, November 19, 2017: We were through the McDonald's drive thru ...
|... and south of Amarillo by 7:00 AM.
|With sunrise just minutes away, we arrived at the entrance to Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Tom scrambled to get us signed in and pay the entrance fee.
|We made it to the edge of the canyon with 30 seconds to spare before ...
|... the sun peeked over the horizon.
|We admired the canyon for five minutes in the cold, then drive to the visitor center nearby.
|It was closed so we just checked out the canyon one last time before heading out.
|We passed lots of interesting things. Here's a Texas Lutheran cemetery.
|We stopped to photograph this roadside memorial and ended up being mesmerized by the starlings who were resting there before we showed up.
|Here's a Taco Insert-word-here that we didn't get to on this trip: Taco Villa.
|We had the Roadside America app with us so we were able to look up this guy when we saw him on the side of the highway. He's Tex Randall, Big Texan.
|As part of our ongoing plan to visit the hometowns of every cattle type in the world, we drove through Hereford, Texas.
|We searched for some Hereford cattle to photograph but encountered this field of cotton first.
|Then we passed a meat packing plant ...
|... and wide fields of windmills that probably blink red in unison at night.
|We finally found a field of cattle to photograph. It turns out that Hereford cattle are from Herefordshire, England, not Texas. Oh, well. Here are some cows.
|Every small town had a train track and a grain silo next to it. This town had a train with Maersk on it!
|Shinkansen! Whatever these plastic-covered piles were, they sure looked like bullet trains to us.
|We passed quite a few of these large cattle lots.
|Somehow, we missed a New Mexico welcome or state line sign, so we had to commemorate our arrival with a blurry license plate photo instead.
|Once again, our Roadside America app came through for us with a tip to stop briefly in Portales, New Mexico, to visit the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds, home of ...
|... this amazing antique windmill collection. Bill and Alta Dalley built the collection then donated it to Roosevelt County. The fenced yard was filled with an amazing variety of windmills in various conditions and from all over the country. It was really enjoyable to see.
|Right outside the fence were car after car of peanuts.
|We passed Taco Box, and once again were disappointed that we didn't have time or stomach space to stop. We were starting to spot a theme in restaurant names for the trip.
|Yep, it's dry out here, says Smokey the Bear. Probably best not to toss a cigarette out of the window of your car.
|For real, folks, a genuine tumbleweed rolled right in front of us numerous times.
|For this long stretch of driving, we had the road nearly to ourselves. It was very soothing.
|We gained an hour as we moved west, so it was shortly after 10:00 AM when we pulled into Roswell.
|This town really embraces its UFO reputation, and nearly every hotel had some sort of UFO-themed decoration or statue outside. We later saw entire herds of these green wooden carvings at roadside statue shops, so apparently someone is buying them other than Roswell hotel owners.
|Even the credit union gets in on the act.
|Here's a mailbox decorated to look like R2-D2, which was created by the USPS in 2007 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.
|We stopped to visit the statue of Robert Goddard, titled "Visions of Space." Check out that colorful, sparkly walkway where Tom is standing.
|Here's the man himself, ...
|... and here's one of his original rockets and launch tower.
|Roswell has nicely decorated drainhole covers. You can see some of the sparkly bits in the walkway here.
|The local McDonald's has a nice UFO saucer design.
|Near the visitor center, in Pioneer Plaza, stands this statue of John Simpson Chisum, "Cattle King of the Pecos."
|Across the street is the government center.
|And right next door is the Roswell Visitor Center. We had a nice chat about Roswell and Robert Goddard with one of the locals who gave us a nice UFO sun cover for our car.
|The streetlights stick with the UFO theme.
|This part of town was very kitschy. We didn't slow down, much less stop.
|We were unable to resist the lure of this sign though.
|Mmmm, donuts and kolaches. With closing time coming up soon, they had limited selection, but there was more than enough for us to choose from.
|Yes, thanks, we DO deserve a donut! Debbie opted for a cinnamon twist and Tom got some ugly blueberry donuts. The kolaches contained tiny hot dogs and served as a mini-lunch for us.
|We did not get to sample New Mexico cheese. Clearly, we will have to return someday.
|Here's another cool ranch entrance sign, one of many we saw.
|Some of the deciduous trees still had leaves on them, and the scenery was really pretty through the Hondo Valley.
|In Ruidoso Downs, we passed this gorgeous set of galloping horse statues, ...
|... en route to another Walgreen's to pick up even more cough drops and tissues for Debbie's cold.
|This cell tower was very well camouflaged among the pines around it.
|We were quite impressed with the name of this resort: Inn of the Mountain Gods.
|We saw numerous deer crossing signs on our trip, and never quite understood why different stretches of roads had different depictions of deer. A year or two later we finally realized that some of these signs are for elk.
|Stretches of highway through this area were decorated with murals.
|We drove over a hill and got our first look at our next destination in the distance: White Sands. It would still be another 40 minutes before we got there.
|Here's a giant pistachio.
|We had originally planned to visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History, but that was before we had happened upon the Stafford Air and Space Museum and before we had realized that White Sands was on our route. So instead of visiting, we simply photographed a billboard.
|Here is a vineyard. Or as Tom started calling them on this trip, "grape factory."
|Here's a giant roadrunner. Assume that any oversized sculpture you see in this travelog was brought to you by the Roadside America app.
|Still twenty minutes away, but we were getting closer now.
|White Sands National Monument is surrounded by White Sands Missile Range, so every so often, this area is closed temporarily. We were fortunate to not be delayed by a closing.
|Yep. We were on the White Sands Missile Range. For real.
|It got even better when we arrived at the White Sands National Monument (now White Sands National Park).
|It was hard to imagine white sand - truly white sand, but here it was. It looked very much liked packed-down snow. A short distance into the grounds, the paved road ended, ...
|... and the sand road began.
|The road was plowed, with sand pushed off to the side, adding to the effect of snow.
|There are many places to park and get out to enjoy the sand dunes. We chose a fairly deserted spot toward the end of the drive, ...
|... and climbed the dune in our bare feet.
|After standing in awe for a few minutes, ...
|... we tried to capture the beauty of what we were seeing.
|Of course, it isn't possible, but here's one attempt.
|The sand doesn't absorb heat like typical beach sand does, so the sand was cool on our feet.
|It was also a little more stiff than beach sand, but we were still able to dig in our feet.
|Tom's king of the dunes!
|Here's an artsy closeup of the sand, ...
|... and a not-so-artsy closeup of us. We don't tend to wear bright colors, so it was just a happy accident that our clothing worked so well with the bright blue sky and bright white sand.
|With one last look at the beautiful dunes, we headed back to the van.
|Second lunch was served on paper plates as we drove: cheese, crackers, and sausage.
|On the other side of the highway, there was a backup of cars leading into this northbound immigration check.
|As we drove out of the valley, we passed various clusters of buildings that were a part of the missile range.
|We were headed to the pass up again in this photo.
|This sign points to the Nancy Site, whatever that is.
|Check out that telescope!
|As we neared the top of the hill, we could see back to a large campus of buildings which are part of the missile range.
|Across the highway was a little rest area with a great view of that campus and an adorable little missile as decoration.
|We reached the top of the hill and here is the view on the other side, which includes part of the town of Las Cruces.
|This water tank was decorated with NASA-themed items, due to the nearby location of NASA's White Sands Test Facility.
|The mountain ridge we had crossed over was just as scenic from this side.
|Here's another water tank/mural combo.
|New Mexico thanked us for visiting as we departed ...
|... and Texas thanked us for arriving.
|We took advantage of the restrooms at the Texas welcome center and got a photo of the six flags that have flown over Texas. Can you name them all?
|We passed a Top Golf as we approached El Paso. They are very distinctive and pretty impossible to miss.
|We spotted Mount Cristo Rey, which features a 29-foot-tall statue of Jesus.
|Here's the UTEP sign.
|The highway started to follow the line of the river that separates the US from Mexico, so that's Mexico in the distance. We'll see it again in a moment.
|We rounded the south end of the Franklin Mountains, ...
|... passing a sign for Copia Street, something that is really only relevant to Debbie.
|We arrived at Wyler Aerial Tramway shortly after 4:00 PM.
|We watched the shadow of the mountains move across the plain below.
|We had a 30-minute wait for our turn to board the tram, ...
|... as only 6 to 8 people could ride at a time.
|We watched the impossibly heavy counterweight rise and fall as the tram moved up the mountain.
|Finally, it was our turn.
|Up we went, passing the other tram on the way down.
|The mountain's shadow had moved further across the plain.
|There are radio and weather towers at Range Peak, ...
|... we were there too.
|Tom spotted this furry guy on the metal walkway when we arrived.
|The sun was close to setting when we made it around to the west side of the viewing platform.
|Looking to the south and southwest, we had a great vantage point to see Juarez, Mexico and the southern edge of the Franklin Mountains.
|Looking to the north, we could see the ridgeline of the mountain range.
|Looking to the northeast, we could see the eastern slope of the range.
|We walked around the platform, ...
|... stopped briefly in the gift shop, ...
|... then headed to the line waiting to go back down.
|Here's our tram, ...
|... here's the sunset behind the mountain, ...
|... and here's our view of a plain completely in shadow on our way down.
|We were back where we started shortly after 5:00 PM, ...
|... and were at our next destination, the aptly-named Scenic Drive. It hugs the southern edge of the Franklin Mountains ...
|... and leads to Murchison Park.
|As we walked to the edge, a couple was flying a drone overhead.
|Here's the view from the park looking due south with Mexico in the distance, ...
|... and the view looking to the west.
|We headed back to the car ...
|... and drove to the UTEP area for some quick dinner.
|We intended to eat at Raising Cane's, but it was inexplicably closed, according to a person in the only vehicle in the parking lot, despite every light in the building being on. So we headed down the street to Whataburger instead.
|Here's a pretty sculpture near UTEP, ...
|... and the UTEP sign again once we were back on the highway.
|New Mexico welcomed us back into the state as we drove back north the same way we had come earlier.
|Once in the state, we headed west, and our immigration check luck ran out as we had to stop at a checkpoint. Our destination for the evening was a Motel 6 in Lordsburg, New Mexico.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy