There's something very comforting about getting a new set of tires. In my mind, the worry of another blown tire is pushed way to the back of the "things to worry about" list. It's a reassuring (albeit pricey and temporary) feeling.
After navigating our way around the numerous potholes and tractor-trailers crammed into the tight parking lot, we got back on the road again [cue Willie Nelson music]. We headed straight to our next overnight campground in New Mexico.
Zia RVillas This will be our first visit to the Land Of Enchantment and thus will allow us to add another state to our travel map. This will be the 25th state in which we have camped.
We settled in for a two-hour drive through scenic New Mexico.
We quickly found out that scenic New Mexico, has some pretty unattractive scenery. We drove into one of the most productive (and active) oil fields in the nation: the Permian Basin. This area accounts for nearly 40 percent of all oil production in the United States! The basin stretches from western Texas to southeastern New Mexico and covers 86,000 square miles. And it is some of the bleakest, dusty, dirty, trash strewn, post-apocalyptic areas to which we have been. And it was disturbing.
It was like driving through the landscape of a Mad Max movie. We felt as if we needed a cleansing shower afterwards. I understand and accept the need for oil to power this country, but these drilling companies could at least send someone to pick up the litter that seems to be blowing everywhere!
When we finally arrived at Zia RVillas we were hot and tired. It had been a long, long day. Longer than usual. Fortunately, the park was clean and had full-hook ups. Not much shade, but it met our needs. It seemed that most of the occupants here were itinerant oil field workers, something I'm sure you'll find in every RV parks in this region. Not a big deal but experience has shown us that they tend to keep their RVs in less-than pristine condition and come and go at all hours (and drive loud pick-up trucks). We were only here for two nights so it never wasn't much of an issue. That evening we toasted to the end of our tire ordeal and thanked God that a near tragedy was averted and that circumstances thereafter unfolded to the best of our expectations. Whew!
Not much to see and do in this part of NM. The closest town is Hobbs and the only thing worth seeing there was the Western Heritage Museum. And fortunately, there was a Ram dealership in town so I took my truck in for an oil change.
Below is our travel map for this leg of the journey. Again, this took place in February of 2019. We drove approximately 362 miles over the three day period.
With our internal batteries recharged, we saddled-up and headed over to Brantley Lake State Park which will allow us to visit Carlsbad Caverns.
BRANTLEY LAKE STATE PARK:
This state park was right in the middle of Brantley Lake. Like most state parks, it is older with narrow roads, and it sits at the peak of this finger of land. This location produced some of the strongest WIND GUSTS we've experienced since starting our journey and it made sleeping difficult, at least for me. While I worried about the RV tipping over, Lorraine was sleeping like a baby! Grrrr...
On a positive note, there are some nice hikes in the area and the sunsets from the Brantley Dam are pretty spectacular.
If you'd like to view the earth's crust from its underside, this is the place. From here you can view it from 800 feet below ground level. And it looks like something ripped from the pages of Dante's Inferno.
A walk through Carlsbad Caverns is like a stroll through the earth's digestive track. Dripping water, wet surfaces, slimy formations. And, if you let your imagination run wild, it can become pretty darn creepy. Shadowy limestone formations begin to take the shape of mythological monsters with their distended arms in mid-reach and faces frozen in mid-scream. Ridged spikes grow from the ceilings and floors like the jagged teeth of a ravenous megalodon. And eyes are seemingly everywhere. You can feel them watching you from the darkness. You never feel alone down here, but not in that good way. It's more like being in a horror movie and accidentally running down the corridor with the "Death This Way" directional sign. This can turn into a cold, shadowy, whispering house of horrors.
And it was one of the coolest --not only because the temperature is a constant 56°-- places we have ever been to!! We loved it and still talk about it to this day.
The cavern was discovered by a sixteen year old cow-poke, named James White in 1898. He was out mending fences when he noticed a cloud of smoke rising in the distance. Alarmed at the sudden appearance of a wildfire, he galloped over to gauge its size. Only then did he realize it was a swarm of bats, in fact, millions of them, coming up through a hole in the ground. When he peered into the hole (hopefully after all the bats had left), he said "I found myself gazing into the biggest and blackest hole I had ever seen, out of which the bats seemed literally to boil". Thus began his life's mission to explore and map the cave.
Imagine what he went through with only a small kerosene lamp, a coil of rope, a make-shift ladder --and no OSHA regulations-- to explore this inky darkness. He said he found crevices so bottomless that dropping a stone into it produces no return-sound. He cautiously had to inch his way along. At one point when he was miles into the cave, his lantern light went out. This is how the horrific experience is described in the book "Jim White's Story of Carlsbad Caverns":
"Suddenly, the oil in his lantern was exhausted. The flame curled and died. Reality descended swiftly, as if millions of tons of black wool drifted down to smother and choke. With the black loneliness paralyzing his bloodstream, Jim White tried to refill his lantern from the small emergency canteen of oil, brought for just such a moment. 'My fingers shook so much that I fumbled the filler-cap and spilled more oil in my lap than I did in my lamp. Then I dropped the filler-cap when I tried to screw it back on. The inky blackness and the almost ‘deafening’ total silence, save for an occasional drop, drop, drop of water, didn’t help me stop shaking, either. It’s hard to describe how completely dark, how perfectly still it is down in that cave. Seemed like a month went by before I got that lantern going again and looked around in the dim light to get my bearings'.”
With a few clicks of my keyboard, I found out that Carlsbad is the 14th longest cave system in the U.S. (Mammoth Cave is #1). And, if you're ever in this area, you need to add this to your itinerary!
Roswell The Story That Started It All:
Welcome to Roswell, New Mexico:
And here is their claim-to-fame:
Our story now moves from the subterranean to the extraterrestrial. If you're a fan of late-night talk radio, you're probably familiar with the incident in Roswell, New Mexico. But for the uninformed, it is the site of an alleged UFO crash back in 1947.
It began on a hot summer day, as a rancher was driving across his property. He came across a mysterious debris field. He described it as a "large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks." Having no phone on his property, he piled some of the material into the back of his pick-up and waited until his next visit into town to report it.
On the morning of July 8, the silvery material was dropped off at the local sheriff's office who contacted the local Army Air Force base, Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF). The matter was assigned to Major Jesse Marcel who confiscated the debris. Strangely enough, later that day, the base's information officer issued a press release stating that the military had recovered a mysterious "flying disc". The story was picked up by the AP wire and sent around the country. The Army later retracted that story and said the debris was from a weather balloon that strayed off-course and eventually crash landed. Yeah, right!
The event was largely forgotten until around 1978, when (now retired Lieutenant Colonel) Jesse Marcel revealed in an interview that the Roswell "weather balloon" was just a cover story.
"They wanted some comments from me, but I wasn't at liberty to do that. So, all I could do is keep my mouth shut. And General Ramey is the one who discussed – told the newspapers, I mean the newsman, what it was, and to forget about it. It is nothing more than a weather observation balloon. Of course, we both knew differently." -- J. Marcel
Marcel said he believed the Roswell debris was extraterrestrial.
Who's to say whether this story is true or not, but the town of Roswell wants you to believe it's so. The whole town has bought into the story hook-line-and-sinker.
Even the Post Office..
The local McDonald's:
And Dunkin' Donuts have gotten into the spirit:
If you go, make sure you stop by the UFO museum. It's the mothership of alien information.
After visiting the museum, I am convinced now more than ever, that there are a lot of people who want this story to be true (and they seem to have lots of free time on their hands). And they all are striving to be the one person that kicks over that stone and finds that last piece of the jigsaw puzzle that will prove once and for all that extraterrestrials are real.
There is one aspect of this UFO story that the museum fails to address: how is it that a space craft with such advanced technology that it is able to traverse millions, perhaps billions of space miles, avoiding asteroids, comets, meteorites and other space debris, manages to find the one planet out of millions that has life on it, yet is unable to navigate the landscape of New Mexico? I mean, I've put over 100,000 travel-miles on my truck since leaving Delaware without one accident. It's not that hard!
Any-who, we spent an enjoyable afternoon wandering this somewhat quirky little town and enjoyed talking with people that are fully convinced that aliens are real and they look at you with amazement that you don't agree! The experience was well worth the drive.
Two Other Unique Roswell Attractions:
There's a drainage ditch here with an interesting backstory. During WWII, captured German soldiers from Rommel's Afrikacorps were held in a POW camp south of town. The camp housed over 4800 prisoners. The inmates were given jobs around the community working as field hands or on construction projects. The soldiers that worked on building this drainage ditch, used smaller stones to create an Iron Cross (a German military decoration).
The citizens of the town were incensed and later covered it with concrete. Over the years the concrete has washed away exposing this reminder of the conflict. This section of the ditch has been placed on the National Registry.
Not far from the drainage ditch is a display case housing a section of the former Berlin Wall. This memorabilia was donated on behalf of the German air force.
The attached plaque reads: "THIS SECTION OF THE BERLIN WALL WAS A GIFT FROM THE LUFTWAFFE (THE GERMAN AIR FORCE) TO THE CITY OF ROSWELL FOR THE HOSPITALITY AND GOODWILL IT EXPERIENCED DURING MANEUVERS. (This was the western side --the Democratic side-- which has graffiti)"
And with that, we said good bye to Roswell and drove back to our own mothership.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more of our travels. America is a beautiful country and I hope this motivates some of you to go and visit as much of it as possible. Our next stop is at White Sands National Park. Another place that made us marvel at the many wonders of Mother Nature.
See you on down the road!