Having taken care of business finding an alien connection to my daughter’s teen extraterrestrial heritage, I was clear to simply explore southern New Mexico, a place I had only passed through previously. About an hour south of Roswell, NM and 146 flat miles northeast of El Paso, TX is Carlsbad Caverns.
I put the Caverns on the same level as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Rainbow Bridge and Niagara Falls where you see plenty of pictures, but when you actually view these wonders up close with the panorama that your eyes absorb, they just blow you away.
Nobody can take a picture of these places that communicates their majesty, size and the immense power of their forming. Though there is an elevator, I hiked down 750 feet to the bottom of the Caverns and back up, sometimes ducking or squeezing through small rock passageways and down shafts from one massive (some might say cavernous) rock room to another. Certain features are highlighted with lights and the reflected light barely lets fully dilated pupils see the path that winds through the quiet near-dark at a year round 56 degrees and 90% humidity. I could have spent another two hours exploring down there.
300 – 400,000 bats make the Caverns their home during the summer and they exit to eat half their weight in insects every night. An amphitheater has been built around the cavern entrance to allow people to witness the bats leaving as long as they stay quiet with no camera clicks and flashes. Unfortunately, I had a large rain and hail storm to ride around and I could not stay to see this event.
Sunset storm approaches the Classic Motel ($38. /night) in Alamogordo, NM. The gas station across the street was the source of the 40 ounce Miller High Life beer that kept me company for my storm watch evening. You’ve got to love a company that puts 40 ounces of beer into one bottle.
I learned the next morning when I stopped to visit, that the White Sands National Monument is not where the first atomic explosion took place; it is actually a monument that is about, and this will surprise you, white sand. Some geologic abnormalities create these huge dunes of white gypsum sand at the bottom of a dry lake bed and the dunes wander around as much as 30 feet per year. After watching the 15 minute park video and seeing lots of slowly moving white sand dunes and no explosions, I concluded that I was in the wrong place.
Fortunately the White Sands Missile Range is just 30 miles down the road and this is where at 5:29 and 45 seconds AM on July 16, 1945, the Trinity Project, the first test of an atomic bomb peaked with the phenomenal explosion we have all seen in old movie clips that remind me of my golf game and my temper. Since then, WSMR has been where the propulsion, explosion and electronics systems of virtually every large weapon the US has ever produced has been tested. It was cool standing next to Cold War ICBM missiles, a Patriot Missile Battery and a shoulder launcher next to a Stinger antiaircraft missile.
From there I traveled to Las Cruces and then up to Hatch, the chili capital of New Mexico. Since a large roadside stand-purchased bag of green chilies was not going to sit well on the Road Glide or in my stomach, I just gassed up instead of out and rode toward Silver City in the western New Mexico mountains.
Just before I stopped to take the above pic, I took a tight turn at low speed in a tree covered area and realized part way into the turn that there was an enormous black bull standing in the shade at the edge of the pavement facing the road. Knowing I would be leaned way over in the tight turn with that monstrous bull less than 10 feet from me, I was concerned he would go belligerent and just charge over the bike and me.
It was too late to stop and I pushed hard on that painful left wrist to lean the bike way over and hold a tight turn line while glancing at his massive head and horns. That head just rotated slowly as he observed my progress through the turn while he stood stock still. I don’t know what kept him still; perhaps it was professional courtesy for my Taurus self. I sure as hell did not stop and try to approach this bull for a picture and my sparkling photography aptitude predicted dim results for photographing a black bull standing in the shade anyway.
Out of New Mexico and back into the mountains of east-central Arizona, I rode down one of my favorite roads, the Coronado Scenic Trail. Although the northern part of this road is raggedly recovering from huge forest fires a few years back, parts of this road are still beautiful
The southern end of this road travels right through the Morenci Copper Mine, one of the largest open pit mines in the world. The little trucks you see in the picture are probably bigger than your house.
After another day and half of hot desert riding, I rolled back into my driveway with the Road Glide covered in a layer of dead bugs as I lamented the fact that the farm country of California’s Imperial Valley is not closer to those mega bug destroying bats of Carlsbad Caverns. I had ridden 3000 miles, much of it through beautiful country I had never seen before, had encountered Al Unser and I had solved the personal mystery of my daughter’s teen extraterrestrial heritage. This was my third ride in 7 weeks which put a total of 7,000 miles on the Road Glide on some of the prettiest roads in the west; a damn productive Spring.