We left Big Bend for the central and eastern sections of New Mexico - a new state for us! We have seen some surprising creatures on the trip, a couple of which we could not get the camera out soon enough to photograph. There was a wild boar that crossed the road in front of us in Big Bend, but the neatest one so far was a big horn sheep (with the fully-developed horns) with two lambs as we left Alpine, both very similar to the picture below. They were right beside us on the edge of the road.
On the way to Alamogordo, we spotted a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) "kite balloon," also a bit unusual I would think. It is a Customs and Border Protection effort to monitor the illegal immigrant and drug traffic from as high as 15,000 feet. This one was about 3,000 feet high in the area between Big Bend and El Paso, with our camera zoomed in a lot.
Most of the small towns along the route are along the Rio Grande and several have the first letter of the town marked in the hills behind the town. There is lots to remember when you see so much but we think this one was for the town of Valentine, TX. There is usually about 1/2 mile of "green" along the river. Everthing else is rock and dirt.
We chose Boot Hill RV Resort as our home for 3 days. Everything there is "boot" oriented.
Pretty flowers "to Boot."
The White Sands National Monument is the BIG DEAL here. Here's the short version as I remember it. About 325 square miles of gypsum "sand" (the basic ingredient for sheetrock and plaster of Paris), none like it anywhere else in the world. The area is surrounded by 2 mountain ranges and everything that comes down from the hills stays there. The hills are full of gypsum, when it rains the gypsum washes down into the basin, when the rainwater evaporates the gypsum forms crystals, the wind breaks down the crystals, and the smaller pieces continue to beat each other up into very fine "sand," much like the process of sea shells turning into sand at the beach. This is also where the first nuclear weapon, Trinity, was tested by the United States in the White Sands Missile Range in 1945.
Things are a little quieter there now. The National Monument area has a visitors center and paved roads out into the sands which feed into sand roads for the public to experience the sands up close and personal. One favorite thing to do is to slide down the dunes.
Large areas are carved out of the dunes that can accommodate busloads of visitors at a time. Restrooms and dune-shaped picnic shelters are provided throughout the park. We never did find the ocean that we normally expect to go with all of this sand!
The sand is not hot at all on the surface, it gets very cool only an inch or so down, and it doesn't stick to you, white sand as far as you can see. Note the blue skies as well. We have had perfect weather this entire trip except for two days of rain in Mobile. Daytime temperatures have mostly been 60 to 80 and the nights 45 to 60.
And the dunes are fun even without the sleds.
Another reason we chose Alamogordo is because the #1 rated motorcycle ride in New Mexico is close by in the Lincoln National Forest. So, I took about a 145-mile ride while Rhonda ventured off on her own to the Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site. There are twenty thousand petroglyphs found in this area.
Rhonda had to hike about a mile to see them. It was advertised as an easy hike, but the info forgot to mention it was uphill through lots of rocks. The Park Ranger instructed her to be careful and watch for snakes. Instead of snakes, she found rabbits.
And a few samples of the petroglyphs. Some are obvious - a lizard.
The written guide to the petroglyphs said this one is a counting of corn or population. I don't get it.
Not so obvious?????? Well, maybe the snake.
I have found www.motorcycleroads.com to be a pretty reliable judge of the best rides in each state. They have chosen "The Road To Timberon" as #1 for New Mexico. It's not very long, about 60 miles and not very difficult, but the scenery is beautiful. This general area here is what everyone calls "high desert" around 4500 feet elevation, mostly rock and dirt, but the ride is in Lincoln National Forest, around 8650 feet, and is mostly a forest of pine and fir trees. Timberon was planned to be an oasis in the mountains and lots of money was invested toward that end. The last half of the highway road in particular may be the smoothest I have ever ridden - literally like riding on air it was so smooth. But the oasis never took off and at Timberon you run into a dead end dirt road and have to turn around and ride it again. Jerry, Jim, and Mike - have we ever done that before??? Ha! This is one of the few straightaways on the road. Not so many steep turns/switchbacks, but you hardly ever are not in a curve.
The view from 8650 feet. That's White Sands in the distance.
There's a really neat town in the middle of the route called Cloudcroft. The ride back down to Alamogordo is a non-stop 8-degree descent of about 4500 feet. Another White Sands view below about half-way down. Note the landscape returns to high desert.
And our final tourist attraction was a pistachio farm - really interesting. A few facts - about half of the world's pistachios are grown in Iran. About 90% of the pistachios in the USA are grown in California. 80% of the shells crack open on their own since the fruit grows faster than the shell. There are male and female trees. We are standing under a male tree below. They individually produce enough pollen for eighteen females and are spaced accordingly throughout the farm
And the female, a smaller tree, but bearing the seed (nut).
They had combinations of pistachio-anything you could imagine. Instead of just roasted and salted, there were chocolate covered, red chile, green chile, atomic, and on and on. We had lots of samples! They make their own pistachio cookies but their pistachio ice cream was courtesy of Blue Bell. We also had our own personal tour of the farm on the pistachio mobile.
And the largest pistachio statue ever.
I'll close with that. We are enjoying New Mexico, currently spending four days in Santa Fe. More on Santa Fe later, thanks for joining us.