New Mexico

Tuesday morning (Oct. 24th, yes, I'm behind) I got up early, and set out for Roswell, NM. It was primarily a driving day. I passed through Lubbock, Texas. I guess it is a decent sized city, but it didn't seem that big. But they have a beltway and they are currently building an impressive skyway interchange. But I think they've got more infrastructure than they need, or else it is growing quickly.

I was also shocked by the amount of cotton being grown in Western Texas. Perhaps cotton doesn't need a lot of water, but I thought it would be too arid to be growing cotton. For hours I just saw cotton fields, and loose cotton being blown all over the road.

I stopped in Meadow, Texas to get some lunch. The town has a population of only 658, yet I counted 3 churches. One of the churches had hundreds of cars parked at it, which pretty much means the entire town was there. Seemed strange for such attendance around noontime on a Tuesday. I suppose a funeral could be the explanation, but I didn't see many people wearing black. I could only find one place in town to get lunch, and it was a trailer called TNT BBQ (forgot to take a picture). I had a delicious chopped BBQ brisket sandwich. There were three women sitting there eating lunch, and they kept looking at me. When I left they said goodbye, which made me think I should have been more forward and asked to join them; but who does that really?

I spent almost 24 hours in Roswell. Why? I don't know, it crept up on me. I arrived Tuesday afternoon, but since I had been up since 6:30 am central time and I crossed into mountain time, I felt like it was 7 at night instead of 3 pm. I got caught up on email, and worked on catching up on photos and blog. I was determined to eat somewhere unusual for dinner, but I can't say that was in the cards. Roswell is packed with fast food chains. I ended up eating at a Mexican place called Tia Juana's Grille & Cantina, which had decent food.

Wednesday morning I worked on editing more of my photos, and trying to figure out where I was going to go that day. I decided I'd take pictures of the sunset in White Sands National Monument. That gave me plenty of time. For the first time on this trip, I checked my tire pressure and oil level! How foolish is that? I didn't even check these things before I left three weeks earlier. Oil was fine, but my tires did need air. I asked the gas station cashier where she'd recommend for lunch. She recommended the same place as the hotel clerk, some mexican place I can't pronounce on the corner of 4th and Main. Well, I couldn't find that place, but there was a mexican place on 4th and Main called Martin's Capitol Cafe. Ugh. Skip this one. I can't imagine this is the place they were both talking about.

I still had time, so I figured I might as well check out the tourist traps in Roswell. I don't believe that UFO's visited Roswell, but figured I'd be in for some good entertainment at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. You are required to give a $2 donation (I've never understood the concept of a mandatory donation, isn't that the same as a fee). My expectations were low, and the cost was cheap, and I was STILL disappointed. Mostly the museum is simply clipped newspaper articles and plastic UFO and Alien props. I think part of the reason I spent so much time there, is I kept trying to justify my being there. It was a bit like playing "double up, catch up" in blackjack. Really, don't even bother going to Roswell.

From there I drove to White Sands. There has been flooding there, so only the first 4 miles of the road was open. I asked the park ranger for advice on getting good pictures of the sunset, and she suggested I drive to where the road was closed, then hike about a mile past the closure along the road, then hike a quarter of a mile west into the dunes. I did go in prepared with water, food, jacket, flashlight, GPS and a whistle, as well as all my photo gear. Once I got into the dunes, I wandered around looking for the best location. I took what I thought would be amazing pictures, although Thursday morning I discovered that I had left the camera set on ISO 1600 (from Alex's soccer game), which means all those lovely pictures have a high noise ratio. I can't possibly tell you how disappointed I am, but I was bound to learn that hard lesson sooner or later.

It started getting dark, and the park closed 1 hour after sunset. I thought I'd be smart and cut diagonally back to the car, rather than hike directly back to the road, after all, I have a GPS. Well, that sounds like a good plan, until you realize that all that flooding creates little ponds between the dunes, and you can't predict where you'll be able to cross. I started to panic a little, as it got darker and darker, and my little flashlight didn't allow me to see more than about 10-15 feet in front of me. I kept hitting dead ends (ponds). I did eventually make it back to the road, and in the distance I could hear the park ranger blaring a horn and saying through a megaphone "Please return to your car, the park is closing." A few minutes later, she found me walking to my car, and told me I was the last one in the park; but I wasn't late yet, I still had 20 minutes before the park closed. In the end, I was pulling out of the park just 5 minutes before closing. It was an adventure, and in retrospect exciting; I just wish my pictures were better!

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