Caverns, UFO’s and White Sands

Neither Bill nor I had ever been through this part of Texas, after we left San Antonio.  Since we left Clearwater FL on January 27, we have been on new territory.  It’s been tiring, but also a lot of fun and we are seeing a lot of new sites.  I find myself saying more and more often, I can hardly believe this is my LIFE!

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This is something we have never seen before outside of in a movie

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I lost count of how many of these we saw. The teeny tiny little towns around them were far and few between, and looked very depressed.

We arrived at Brantley Lake State Park Campground before noon, and quickly determined that the spot I had reserved online was not large enough for us.  There wasn’t anyone at the Visitor Center when we went by, and no camp-host in sight.  I called ReserveAmerica, which is how you make reservations.   I asked about moving to another site.  Since it was arrival day, they could do nothing except cancel the current reservation, which would result in a financial hit.  So, we took it upon ourselves to find and park in a non-reservable “walk-in” site.  It was a nicer site than the one we were supposed to have, with a view of the lake out the back!

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We got set up fairly quickly and just sat awhile and enjoyed the quiet and peace and beauty around us.   Bill then decided to get a few errands done.  I sat outside with the laptop and finished up a blog post.  While just typing away, a flock of quail pecked their way through our site and the one next to us.  There had to be 50 birds!  I finally thought “I’ve got to take a pic!” And did!  They blend into the browns of the desert pretty well, so well that the pic I took just looks like a bunch of brown.  I also watched bunnies play together. I’m no bunny expert, but I’d say they were looking a little frisky!  So cute!  I also saw my first roadrunner!

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Bill was able to snap this great pic of a roadrunner! No – we didn’t hear “beep beep”, nor did we see Wile E Coyote!

Bill returned home a little while later.  Very soon after, a Class C pulls in and parks right across the narrow street from us.  Within like 5 – 10 mins – this guy comes over, with a chair, which he sets up and sits in, all the while talking away to me.  I had no idea who he was and why he had come over to sit.  Longer story short – while at a red light in town, he talked to Bill, asking him if he was at the State Park and how was it?   We ended up spending the evening sharing a campfire (well – a fire in the grill – since fires on the ground were not allowed) with Steve and Melanie.  They are a great couple, out trying their hand at full-timing for 2 years before selling their house and taking the full plunge.  We talked into the night about how we came to be full-timers, mostly led by their questions.   Bill and I both enjoyed the evening and will always wonder how their 2 years goes and what their decision will be.  They did take one of our cards, so we hope they will keep in touch!

The following day, after saying goodbye to Steve and Melanie (they were only there for one night on their way to a Habitat for Humanity build), we left early enough to get to Carlsbad Caverns by noon.  A few days prior I was checking the website and learned that the elevator was not working and in order to see the cavern, you had to walk down and then after taking the self-guided tour, walk back up.  It may not be obvious to everyone, but the cave is way below the surface and the switchback trail “Natural Entrance” is not easy to navigate, and considering my knees, was cause for concern. I ultimately decided to tape my knees, take some Advil and go for it!  I must report that it was so worth it!  The caverns are amazing and here are some pics!  I had a hard time keeping the pic count down, for every one posted here, I took a bunch more!

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The opening of Carlsbad Caverns
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our last glimpse of daylight after hiking down (Bill says about 20 – 25% of the way down) the switchback trail

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This is a ladder early explorers of the cave used to go down into a hole – not me!

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Near the end of the tour, we saw these guys. One guy was up on the trail so we asked him what was going on. Seems they are cleaning the area. Evidently one of the biggest problems in the cave is lint, off people who come through. So, this group (volunteers) spend 2 weekends a month the cave. They’ve been working in this particular area for 2 YEARS! It is slow and tedious work.

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first glimpse of daylight after being below ground for about almost 2 hours!

After we had completed the tour below the ground, we started back up.  Believe it or not, going up is easier on the knees than going down, my knees anyway.  We were out of breath and paused a few times heading up, but the knees did better than they did on the way down.  It took us about an hour to go down, an hour and 15 mins to do the self-guided tour loop and then about 50 mins to get back up.  After looking around the gift shop, we were homeward bound in time for dinner.

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this is a diagram of the cave that is in the Visitor Center.
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on the way home, we saw this girl and some of her friends, they crossed the road right in front of us.

I forgot to mention, in the morning before leaving for the caves, I found a message on RVillage from a couple, Deborah and Terry, who invited us over to their place for Happy Hour.  Turns out they were across the street.  I replied that we would love to, but didn’t know what time it would be since we were seeing Carlsbad Caverns that day.  They were fine with that.  We had a very nice evening exchanging stories with them, and invited them to our rig the following evening, Bill wanted to show Terry the solar set-up.

The next morning we followed “the plan” and went to see if we could find any aliens in Roswell.  We found the U. F. O. Museum and Research Center to be well worth the $5 per person admission fee.  While some of the art and displays were a bit hokey, there was tons of good information, in the form of copies of newspaper articles, legal depositions, etc. which all combined to make a very good case for a government cover-up of “something”.  I say it that way because it is clear something happened in Roswell NM, back in 1947, and it is also clear the government didn’t want anyone to know what it was.  I am not fully convinced it was aliens, but I must admit I am closer to believing it now than I was before I went to the museum.

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this is stuff supposedly off a UFO
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showing the difference between a human mandible and an alien (maybe Martian?) mandible

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there were walls and walls of this stuff
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some of it was easier to read and more interesting than other stuff –
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This is a recreation of an alien autopsy. There is a deposition from a nurse that was there and saw the whole thing.
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This is part of the research area – 
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this isn’t even half of it
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Can’t buy every t-shirt you see – but I almost got this one!
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taking only a quick look, this looks like any other town, but when you look more closely, you see the alien influence EVERYWHERE!
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this is probably the only non-alien related thing we saw – John Simpson Chisum – “Cattle King of the Pecos” – he lived in Roswell from 1824 – 1884  WAY before aliens came to Roswell

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We decided to get some lunch after our time at the museum, it was Valentines Day after all!  The first place we were going to go to was closed on Sunday’s – wow – that was unexpected!  So we went across the street to Peppers, which also had good TripAdvisor reviews.  We had yummy Mexican food, enchiladas, fajitas, etc – it was all good!

Deborah and Terry came over that evening and after a hour or so we said our goodnights.  We were both leaving out in the morning and wanted to get a good nights rest.

Our time at Brantley Lake was short, but we loved the cave and aliens, and meeting new people!

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last sunset at Brantley Lake State Park

On our way out the next morning, I was double checking the GPS route, following it on the map.  It looked like we could save some miles using Rt 82 from Alesia to Alamogordo, instead of going all the way  either south to US 10 El Paso or north to Roswell and across on Rt 380/70.  Rt 82 was a state road and so we figured it would be ok.  And, for the most part it was – no low clearance issues, although I did get a bit nervous when seeing a sign for “Tunnel Ahead”.  I am now assuming the reason the GPS, set to RV mode, knowing our height and length, didn’t initially send us on Rt 82 is b/c of the long, fairly steep grades, both going up and then back down.  The views were amazing! None of the pics are really worth posting, they all had a bunch of glare from the very bright sun!  Bill says the truck did real well handling the whole trip!

 

We had heard good things about White Sands National Monument from RV-Dreams friends, Michele and Peg.  They had recently spent a day there and from the pics I saw posted on FB, they had a blast!  Bill and I decided to stop and check it out, especially since it was right on the way.  We knew we were stopping for the night at a rest area, so we were not in a rush to get there!  What a great little gem and perfect place for a lunch break.

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our first peak at the white sand

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you can rent sleds (yes, the same ones used for snow!) to sled down the dunes.  These kids were having a blast!
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Even though my eyes are all squinty from the sun, I love how Bill got the rig in the middle like this!
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the sand seemed to stretch on forever!
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this explains why the sand doesn’t get hot, in spite of the high temps and almost constant sun – its basically a totally different kind of sand than you find on a beach – that sand gets VERY hot!

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it was easier to get a pic of the scenery once the sun was down below the mountains – and yes – that is snow up there!

We got back on the road, planning to stop shortly after passing Deming NM.   After passing through Las Cruces, we had to stop at a border patrol check point.  They made some small talk with us, asking what the rig weighed, and then told us to have a good night.  Then I started to feel uneasy about staying the night at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, what if there were illegals looking for a ride?  What if they knocked on our door in the middle of the night?  So, to combat that, I looked into the town of Deming to see if there was a Walmart.  There was one, a 24 hour SuperWalmart, our fav kind, right off the interstate.   When we got there, there were already several 18 wheelers parked, and it was well lit, so I felt comfortable.  Bill parked us right next to an 18 wheeler and we got Callie inside.  We were on our way in to talk to the manager, when a truck with lights on top pulled up next to us, asking if that was our trailer.  After we confirmed it was, we were informed that we could go in and talk to the manager if we wanted to, but he was in charge out there.   He wanted us to move to the other side of the parking lot, in the “RV section over there”.  He said he keeps RV’s separate from the big trucks so it’s quieter for us. OK – I go get Callie and zip her up into my jacket (didn’t want to put her back in the crate – she was in there all day – poor kitty!) and we were led to the RV section. We were also told they don’t mind us opening our slides and they patrol all night so we feel safe!  WOW!  This is a Walmart!   I got Callie back inside and we went in to buy a few things, as we always do at a Walmart.

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our escort who led us to our “site” at Walmart

I was originally going to tell you a little bit about our next stop, but this is getting long now so you will have to be patient!  It will be worth it, trust me!