Southwest 2021:
Day 18 - Davis Mountains


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Southwest 2021: [Day 1 - Missouri] [Day 2 - Kansas] [Day 3 - Kansas] [Day 4 - Ft. Collins] [Day 5 - Perry] [Day 6 - Salt Lake City] [Day 7 - Salt Lake City] [Day 8 - Salt Lake City] [Day 9 - Goblin Valley] [Day 10 - Torrey] [Day 11 - Kodachrome Basin] [Day 12 - Coral Pink Sand Dunes] [Day 13 - Lees Ferry] [Day 14 - Grand Canyon] [Day 15 - Grand Canyon] [Day 16 - Lyman Lake] [Day 17 - Carlsbad] [Day 18 - Davis Mountains] [Day 19 - Marathon] [Day 20 - Arlington] [Day 21 - Hot Springs] [Day 22 - Bowling Green] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

Friday, March 5, 2021: We woke up at 5:30 AM after another very windy night. While Tom headed to the bathroom, Debbie heated up some pre-cooked bacon to go with oatmeal for breakfast. It turns out that our little RV microwave is really powerful, so we ended up with burnt bacon for breakfast. We spent the next couple of days storing air fresheners in the microwave to counteract the bacon smell.
We were driving away and saying goodbye to the alien sculptures before 6:30 AM.
Pretty pre-dawn scenery.
Forty minutes later, we were turning at White City ...
... onto the road that leads to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
It's a pretty, winding drive through the hills to reach the visitor center.
When we arrived, Tom got out to do some reconnaissance, learned that a few people were already waiting outside the visitor center, so we both went and joined the line.
It was a 30-minute wait outside. From here, we could see the Guadelupe Mountains in the distance.
We had timed tickets by 8:05 AM, and now had to wait in line inside for another half hour, because that was the earliest they would let visitors in to the caverns. Yeah, that makes sense. Gather up visitors for an entire half hour and have them stand inside while they wait. Argh.
Eventually, a ranger moved the line to another part of the visitor center.
The first person went down the elevator at 8:30 AM sharp. There was one couple in line next, ...
... then it was our turn. Each elevator run held one group of people traveling together, so you weren't stuck in a small space with strangers.
Then it was our turn, ...
...and we were out of the elevator, through a revolving door, ...
... and into the caverns.
We set out on the Big Room Route.
The couple ahead of us was busy taking 100 pictures of every single thing, so we slipped past them immediately. We took pictures too, but we learned long ago that you can't capture the enormity of a cave like this in pictures, so keep the pictures to a minimum.
We effectively had the caverns to ourselves, ...
... so we stopped to get pictures of us enjoying our great luck.
This formation is called Lion's Tail.
Oooh, pretty.
Ten minutes into our walk, we had the option to take the shortcut or to continue on the main loop. We had very limited time because of an afternoon timed ticket in Davis Mountains, so we already knew we'd be taking the shortcut. This is where we ran into the first guy in the caverns and parted ways as he took the full loop, then truly had the entire rest of the caverns to ourselves.
Pretty cave stuff.
More pretty cave stuff.
Close-up of pretty cave stuff, including more pretty cave stuff further back through that hole.
This huge structure is called Silent Bell.
This is called Rock of Ages. It looks like a cross between Jabba the Hutt and the ancestors in animated Mulan.
Here's the view looking straight down at a small water pool.
This little area is called Dolls Theater.
This one is called Chinese Theater.
Here's one last cave scene ...
... before heading to the elevators 20 minutes after we arrived.
Up we go!
We spent a minute in the visitor center admiring the 3D display of the caverns before heading out.
A half hour later, we were getting close to the Guadelupe Mountains, ...
... and the Texas border. Welcome to Texas! Drive friendly, the Texas way. That slogan makes us laugh every time.
Do you know what Texas has? Rest areas! Real rest areas with working toilets! We nearly wept with happiness but we didn't stop because we didn't need to.
We arrived in Guadelupe Mountains National Park, ...
... but couldn't stay because of our afternoon appointment. We did get a nice look at Guadelupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8751', ...
... and distinctive El Capitan.
From here, we headed south. Texas also had nice roadside picnic tables. The ones on the side of the road up ahead in this picture came with a great view in all directions.
We lost an hour when we entered the Central Time Zone, ...
... but we added a picture to our collection of auto trail signs at the same time.
A salt flat was visible in the distance behind this butte.
As we were driving along this stretch of road, Tom suddenly asked Debbie to look up the location of Blue Origin's facilities in West Texas.
Why? Because he was pretty sure that we had just passed it.
Debbie confirmed it online so we turned around and went back for a look.
The blue paint on the security gates is what tipped him off.
We zoomed way in to get a glimpse of the buildings off in the distance.
Is that a blue feather logo on that building? We think so!
It was hard to drag Tom away, but we had to go. What a cool experience, especially since we had no idea that we would run across Blue Origin on our travels.
Lunch was sandwiches eaten off the awesome trays.
As we continued driving, Tom saw a silver Sequence on the road near Van Horn. We spotted columns of dust in the distance and wondered if they were dust devils or the result of a car driving on a dirt road.
Here's the grand Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn.
South of Van Horn, we saw a large dust devil forming, so we pulled over to watch it.
It turned into a lovely column of dirt and headed toward us, ...
... then crossed the road in front of us. So cool!
As we got near the Davis Mountains, we spotted an observatory in the distance. First, we went to Davis Mountains State Park to get our campsite for the evening, ...
... then we headed to ...
... the McDonald Observatory ...
... Visitor Center.
We had a 2:00 PM timed ticket to visit, and the sundial in front of the visitor center showed that we were exactly on time.
We checked in and immediately headed out back ...
... to the Rebecca Louise Gale Telescope Park.
Here's a big telescope building.
There's an outdoor meeting area for group presentations. Obviously, that's not happening during a pandemic. Instead, visitors are strictly limited via the timed ticket system.
Here's another big telescope building.
Larger telescopes are perched on Mount Locke behind the visitor center (Smith Telescope is in the center and Struve Telescope is on the right) , ...
... and still more on Mount Fowlkes.
Let's get a closer look at the Hobby-Eberley Telescope in the background, ...
... and the brand-new radio telescope that will be installed on Mount Fowlkes in 2022.
Next, we went into the museum to look around. This display played a video and contained a model of the Giant Magellan Telescope being constructed in Chile.
Many of the exhibits were hands-on so they were shut down due to the pandemic. It was nice to have the museum almost all to ourselves though.
Here's a model of the Grand Old Lady, the Struve Telescope, built in 1939.
These cool glass things are retroreflectors - a set of three perpendicular reflectors that form the internal corner of a cube. No matter where you look at it from, it will always reflect back at you, which is why our red camera is visible in the center of both.
This display discussed the mirrors left on the moon during the Apollo missions and how laser beams sent from McDonald Observatory bounce back from them. Science is cool.
We did a little shopping in the gift shop, buy a mood pencil and two pairs of Tom's favorite Solmate Socks.
It was 2:41 when we returned to the sundial out front.
These stones indicated the sizes of telescope mirrors. This one represents an 82" mirror, ...
... this one represents a 107" mirror, ...
... and this huge section of hexagons represents a 432" HET segmented mirror.
Here's Tom for scale.
We arrived at David Mountains State Park, ...
... and got a sign for the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail.
We had a fantastic campsite with a shelter, picnic table, ...
... full hookups, ...
... and a nearby bathroom. Perfect!
We enjoyed some chips, salsa, and Crystal Light cocktails along with the sun and breeze.
It was great to have all the windows open.
Tom did a little beard grooming outside, ...
... then we had a second cocktail outside.
It's hard to believe we spent the first two weeks of the trip in below-freezing temps. This was our reward.
After a refreshing shower each, we put the towels out to dry on the clothesline attached to the shelter, then had dinner of ramen with leftover beef brisket from the night before.
After a lovely sunset, our evening's entertainment was a Netflix DVD about booksellers. Popcorn was served.

Day 19 >


Southwest 2021: [Day 1 - Missouri] [Day 2 - Kansas] [Day 3 - Kansas] [Day 4 - Ft. Collins] [Day 5 - Perry] [Day 6 - Salt Lake City] [Day 7 - Salt Lake City] [Day 8 - Salt Lake City] [Day 9 - Goblin Valley] [Day 10 - Torrey] [Day 11 - Kodachrome Basin] [Day 12 - Coral Pink Sand Dunes] [Day 13 - Lees Ferry] [Day 14 - Grand Canyon] [Day 15 - Grand Canyon] [Day 16 - Lyman Lake] [Day 17 - Carlsbad] [Day 18 - Davis Mountains] [Day 19 - Marathon] [Day 20 - Arlington] [Day 21 - Hot Springs] [Day 22 - Bowling Green] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

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