As much as we have been enjoying our time in southern New Mexico, and will continue to do so, I don’t think we could ever live here. It is windy here more often than not. As a matter of fact, the wind can be extreme. The mountain ranges are separated by miles and miles of flat desert, no trees to speak of, and nothing to stop the wind. You’ve seen sand storms on TV. We’ve been undergoing a sandstorm for at least twelve hours now, with winds between 20 and 30 mph and gusts up to 45 mph. To make things more interesting, we are camping on the edge of a pond and about two miles on the other side of the pond is White Sands National Monument. The “sand” at the monument is actually powdery fine gypsum, and that is now completely covering the area and covering surfaces in the motorhome from the door opening and closing. Louise drove up to the town of Alamogordo today and said that visibility is less than a mile, the mountains that we have been looking at daily are invisible, and the Air Force has apparently grounded their flights. We are tired of listening to wind, and cleaning sand off the counters. This picture shows rising clouds from White Sands yesterday. Today, the sand has obliterated the view.
That said, we’ve really been enjoying this area! 🤪 There is SO much to see, the landscape is incredible and the people are so friendly! We visited a park called Valley of the Fires, which is the location of the youngest volcanic eruption in New Mexico, some 5,000 years ago. It’s not a volcano, but the site of fissures in the earth which opened up and allowed lava to seep out. It’s amazing to see black as far as you can see, and to read how the plants and animals have evolved to live in such an environment.
We visited White Sands National Monument, which looks like miles and miles of snow. They actually plow the sand from the road and caution people to only hike on the marked trails, following the signs and not moving from one sign unless you can see the next one, because it’s very easy to lose your way when all you see is white dunes. The blowing sand covers your tracks pretty quickly. Last August, a couple from France died while hiking the five-mile Alkalai Flat Trail in the middle of a 100-degree day with only two bottles of water. It’s not a place you want to fool around in. We climbed the dunes and walked a little, but didn’t go too far from the car. As with Valley of the Fires, plants and animals have evolved ways to survive here. Animals have lighter fur, scorpions are almost invisible, etc.
One of the best stories of the trip was our visit to Cloudcroft, NM. The town sits at the top of the Sacramento Mountains and features hiking trails and a train trestle built in the 1800’s for the “cloud-climbing railroad.” The trestle, built entirely of wood, stands 6-stories tall and curves it’s way through the Mexican Canyon.
We planned to see the trestle, but decided at the last minute to enjoy some lunch up in Cloudcroft, as well. It’s one of those great stories: Bob looked online for places to eat, and found a barbecue place that was rated 5-stars. Of course, we wanted some 5-star barbecue! We drove to the place and could not find a parking spot at 11:38 in the morning! We drove to the center of town, parked and thought of eating elsewhere, but that idea of 5-star barbecue … we really wanted some of that! So, we left the car and walked over to Mad Jack’s Mountaintop BBQ.
Right from the start, we knew it was a wise decision. Picture a long counter. You place your order, are given a tray and slide on down. The first stop is the meat, where two men were chopping and slicing brisket with a smile and fun conversation. They learned that we were first-timers at Mad Jack’s, and were impressed that Bob had ordered a half-pound of pulled pork when the average serving is 1/3 of a point. Bob won some points for that. The staff made things fun with good-hearted ribbing (pun intended!) as we slide down the counter for our sides, drinks and payment. We found a table and proceeded to enjoy what truly IS some 5-star Texas barbecue! Oh, my word, was that food good … and filling!
As we sat there enjoying our meal, the man who had been slicing brisket walked around talking to people, including us. We discovered this was the owner, James Jackson. We told him that we were driving cross-country in the motorhome, he said that’s his dream, one thing led to the other and we ended up sitting and talking with James for an hour while employee “Hambone” kept calling out to him how much brisket was left. How James ended up in the barbecue business is the story that is really worth reading, and I won’t repeat what the Austin American-Statesman already put on paper … I encourage you to click on the link and read the article! http://specials.mystatesman.com/mad-jack-barbecue/
We have been camping free for the last few days. Bob has been anxious to “BLM camp” on federal property overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. This property that we are on is, as I said, adjacent to White Sands on one side and Holloman Air Force Base on the other. We get the bonus fun of watching fighter jets take off and drone planes fly overhead day and night. Louise has always been fascinated by aeronautics, so she’s been loving this and trying to get pictures of the various planes. It can be a challenge trying to photograph a jet that reaches 165 mph for takeoff in two second!
Tomorrow, we head to Las Cruces, where we will spend two weeks working with the Habitat for Humanity Care-a-Vanners, volunteers with RV’s who congregate at Habitat building sites around the country to build houses, something that Bob has been very interested in doing ever since he learned of the program a couple of years ago.
The wind is still howling!