Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Home Stretch

The relatively leisurely pace of our travel picked up considerably after Silver City.  Looking at the miles in front of us versus the days available to travel them, we knew we were not going to be able to stop and smell the roses along the way as we much prefer to do.  Those of you who have retired may have forgotten what it’s like to have to show up back at the salt mine after the last day of your vacation had expired.  You have forgotten?  Well, I don’t blame you; I intend to obliterate it from my memory, as well, when my time comes.

We stopped in Las Cruces only long enough for a forgettable hamburger and a tank of fuel, then on to Ruidoso for the night.  We liked the looks of Las Cruces and decided it was a place we’d like to spend a little more time—whenever that may be.  It goes on our “redo” list.

It was a long uphill climb from Las Cruces northeastward past the Organ Mountains to Ruidoso, where we arrived very late at the Circle B RV Park, located on the side of a hill and whose parking sites were much too close together for our liking.  As it was a weekend, the place was almost full, but the staff was nice enough in accommodating our late arrival.  The after-hours attendant was Jimmy, an ebullient and highly energetic older man from Texas, who was almost more helpful than necessary in getting us parked, sardine-like, between two other rigs only inches away.  Since time there was so short, we decided not to unhook Lucille from Homer and go foraging as we usually do.  We merely extended Homer’s front legs and the rear stabilizers and called it a day.  Sandy made some fajita nachos for dinner, and then we watched a little TV and retired early.  Thankfully, highway 70 through Ruidoso is a wide thoroughfare, unlike the hilly and curvy road from Show Low to Silver City.  It was a long enough climb in lower gears to reach here, but the excellent highway will prove to keep our speed up downhill from Ruidoso.

Our impression of Ruidoso, from the standpoint of just passing through, was that it was a nice enough place, nestled in the mountains in the cool air, but if you aren’t a horse racing enthusiast or a casino gambler, there’s not much to do there.  And, since we’re not either of those, we probably won’t put this on our “must redo” list.

Approaching Roswell and the Pecos valley (and the Texas state line beyond), we rediscovered the meaning of “flat.”  Again, we had time only for a lunch stop at Roswell, with a little extra time thrown in for Sandy to do a little shopping.  She wanted to get a few souvenirs with an alien theme (did we tell you we have a grandson?).  The alien obsession here, of course, is due to the “incident” that happened near here in 1947, wherein some folks discovered in the desert what they thought to be a crashed alien spacecraft, a discovery said by the government to be the remnants of a spent weather balloon.  The discoverers insisted, however, that the craft was not of earth origin, and various conspiracy stories spun wildly afterward that the craft and its deceased or dying occupants were spirited off by the authorities to a secret location and any existence of such denied to this day.  The conspiratorial climate around Roswell has endured since 1947 and is only exacerbated by the presence nearby of Area 51, a super-secret military facility used for research and development of futuristic weaponry and craft for use in air and space combat.  The Conspiracy is now a cottage industry, worth untold millions to the city’s economy over the years.

We ate lunch at the Cattle Baron restaurant, easily the nicest eatery in town and one of a regional chain of steakhouses.  They had a huge salad bar and an extensive menu, but we were totally unimpressed with the food.  The steaks were tough and flavorless, and I left most of mine on the plate.  For the fifty-dollar price tag, we thought it was a total ripoff, and we wouldn’t think of returning.

We rather liked the town, however, and we were surprised in that it was larger and more bustling a place than we expected.  We especially liked the alien themes in some of the more touristy places.  We would have liked to visit the alien museum, but we just didn’t have the time.   The city sponsors an “alien” convention during the first weekend in July each year.  This attracts scads of visitors who gather from all over the world to dress up like aliens and act silly.  These sound like my kind of people; I must join them some day!  We are putting Roswell on our “redo” list for sure.

From Roswell into west Texas, we entered the vast flat farmlands surrounding Plains, Brownfield and southeastward to Big Spring.  The highways are endlessly straight here and were almost totally devoid of traffic on this Saturday.  We set Lucille’s cruise control and didn’t touch it for hours on end.  This was a good place to listen to CDs and marvel at what a huge place Texas is.  In fact, if I were pressed to articulate one overall impression of this trip, it would be that I was reacquainted with the incredible vastness of the open spaces of the West.  It is so different from say, Dallas/Ft. Worth eastward, where a traveler encounters a city, town or village seemingly every few miles.  Out West, the harsh topography serves as an effective deterrent to development, and you can still see the pristine beauty of the land through unpolluted air, much as the Indians saw it before white men arrived.  It is a place so remote, so spectacular in its immensity and over-the-top topographical features, that I feel very small and insignificant, awestruck and reverent in beholding God’s creation. 

We bedded down for the final night in Big Spring, arriving late again, at the Whip-In RV Park a few miles east of town on I-20.  This was a small place, nicely kept with gravel roads and spaces (ours wasn’t very level), and very close to the noisy interstate.  Without a noisemaker like the air conditioner in our bedroom, it would have been very unpleasant, I’m afraid.  We were met, graciously, after hours by the manager, a gangly lady with weathered, leathery skin and no evidence of teeth, and who was probably quite a bit younger than suggested by her high-mileage visage.  Her speech was rather tragically hampered by the absence of her teeth, and I could only guess at much of what she was saying.  She was accompanied everywhere by a vanilla-colored Chihuahua and, once we were inside the office, a friendly gray cat hopped up on the counter in order to be more accessible for petting by the new visitor.  I obliged the cat’s gesture and asked the manager, as I usually do, about local restaurant recommendations.  She mentioned several names, the only discernible one of which was “Furr’s Cafeteria.”  I elected not to ask her to repeat what she had said, as it would have called attention to her manner of speech.  Armed with this sparse information and the somewhat alarming notion that Furr’s Cafeteria could be among a list of highly recommended restaurant venues, Sandy and I decided once again to raid Homer’s refrigerator, settling in with a ham sandwich for the short evening.  We left Lucille and Homer hooked up, ready to launch at the break of late morning the next day. 

I couldn’t easily get the woman with the Chihuahua out of my mind, wondering what sort of circumstances she had met in life and what choices she had made to arrive at this juncture in her less-than-winsome condition.  Was now a good time or bad time for her?  I’ll never know, of course, but it makes me thankful for God’s favor in giving me good parents, good upbringing, a good mate and the wisdom to have made more good choices than bad in my life.  So many people can’t lay claim to that, I think, and therein lays the cause of many of the problems we see today.


  1. Your route from Las Cruces through Ruidoso, Roswell & Brownfield are very familiar to us. Once again it has been a part of our travels to & from the American southwest these past few years. Have also stayed in Big Spring. Your description of the southwest is precisely why we prefer the west side of the country & not the east. When we get over the Apache pass heading west in the fall & can see the white sands of Alamogordo far ahead we feel we are truly back to our beloved winter stomping grounds. Wouldn't consider spending the winter anywhere east of New Mexico although we did like the Big Bend area of Texas back in 04.

  2. Well Shoot. Roswell is where i am right now before I leave for home on Thursday. I agree on your comments on the Cattle Baron. However, there are a couple of Mexicn food places (and Kwan Den!) that you would have liked better.
    Roswell is a big town with a small claim to fame. It's no coincidence that "you can't get there from here" (at least, not using commercial transportation).


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