Las Cruces to Roswell: Alien Territory

Las CrucesIt was tough leaving Franklin Mountains. It is always bittersweet leaving a place which we have enjoyed. We headed north towards Las Cruces on Interstate 10 and then banked northeast onto Highway 70.

Highway 70 gave us a good ride. We passed the area around Bataan MarchFort Bliss and the White Sands Missile Range. We were puzzled to see hundreds of people out walking the desert. It was quite hot and we were both curious what they were up to and happy we weren’t out hiking in the hot sun. We found out later on the news that it was 75th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March. They were out marching for charity over 26 miles of hot sand. They even had a survivor of the march on hand although he didn’t march.

We next skirted the blazing white sands of the White Sands National Monument. This is the world’s largest gypsum sand dune. I think it was enough for me to see the glistening sands from the cool window of our truck cab.

pistachio nutOur road continued to a range of low mountains which marked Almagordo. The brown hills rose high above the sandy Tularosa Basin marked with scrub and mesquite. The road turned northward and we passed shops and stands selling pistachios. One shop featured the world’s largest pistachio nut sculpture. It would have been nice to stop, but for some reason these guys don’t think about 48’ trucks and trailers when they plan their parking lots. I don’t know why because the roads are full of rv’s. You just don’t want to get caught in a parking lot with no space to turn around or pull through.

The next major attraction on our drive was a charming looking town called Tularosa, the City of Roses. The main street featured some historic old buildings many of which now sported shops and cafes. If I worked or lived near Almagordo, this might be where I would choose to live. It had a good feeling to it. We were now thinking seriously about lunch and looking for a place to pull into.

Just outside town, a Subway sandwich shop sat next to a large empty parking lot. We pulled over and went in to order. We were finishing up our sandwiches when a big Fifth Wheel pulled in right next to us. We all commented on how thoughtful the Subway was to leave us a nice big parking space.

Past Tularosa the road began to climb. The country became hilly and soon trees appeared. The thermostat on the truck descended to a more comfortable range. We entered the Mescalero Apache reservation. My first reservation! It was a relief to see green hills after so much tan and brown. Modest homes lined the roads along with the reservation headquarters. We had been seeing billboards advertising the Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino since before we hit El Paso and now we found out that it belonged to this reservation and tribe.

Next Highway 70 lead us through Ruidoso and Ruiddoso Downs. These twin towns were full of hotels, rv resorts and more casinos. Ruidoso Downs featured a race track and the Billy the Kid Casino. During the summer season quarter horse and thoroughbred races attracted gamblers and tourists. There were also signs advertising Ski Apache, also owned by the Mescalero Apaches, and the town did have a look which was half western desert town and half ski resort—an interesting, but pleasing combination.

Highway 70 now turned eastward turned eastward following the Rio Hondo which wound through a lovely valley. We passed the towns of Hondo and Tinnie. Ranches spread across the valley with horses and cattle. The air was fresh with the scent of the pines on the hillsides. It was a very enjoyable drive.

The road descended out of the valley to high desert plains and the temperature climbed. We pulled off the road at a rest stop. Signage announced that we were in the Atlas Missile Range. It directed us to look for silos and one sat just a short way from the road.

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The dry and dusty road continued across flat desert plains. Our drive continued through the town and county seat of Roswell. Billboards sporting aliens sprouted from the desert. In Roswell we motored past the UFO Museum.  We were in alien territory, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why any alien would choose this barren, arid and hot place to visit.

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