Heading West


After repeated consultations with the Texan members of my family, I became convinced it was a better idea to head North, further into Texas before driving west instead of driving the most direct way into New Mexico so on Sunday we packed up JJ again and drove north, stopping around mid-afternoon in San Antonio.  I had been there several times due to my family there but Molly had not and we both felt that a trip through Texas was incomplete without visiting the Alamo.  We parked in a lot downtown and walked over to the complex and took the appropriate pictures and walked around a bit.  Then we decided to check out the river walk, although we didn’t stay long because of the heat.  I bought a sno-cone on the way back to the car but could only finish half of it because there was so much sugar.

Initially, we were planning on making it all the way to Lubbock but we got out of Corpus late so we booked a motel in Abilene instead.  We stopped for dinner in a town called Mason at the Willow Creek Café and were pleased with the food there.  The motel was clean but not super nice, and we took our time making plans on Monday morning.  We passed many wind turbines and ranches on the way to New Mexico.  We drove first to Roswell expecting a cute town with a lot of alien paraphernalia.  Instead we found a not so cute town with a lot of paraphernalia.   We had lunch at a place called El Toro Bravo, which had really decent Mexican food for a hole in the wall place.  Then we went to the International UFO museum for kicks.  It was much lower budget than I expected with printouts framed similarly to my high school photo projects.  It was interesting, however, to read about the Roswell story and to see some of the crazy dioramas they had set up.  I must admit, it was easy for me to believe that the US government was hiding something from the people of Roswell back then, although my first guess would not be “aliens”.

We took a few photos and came to the conclusion that there was really no reason for us to stay in Roswell and it was only about 5pm so we decided to keep driving towards Santa Fe, where we were hoping to spend some time Tuesday.  I found a campground called “Black Canyon” that was only about 7 miles outside Santa Fe.  We made it there just as it was getting dark to find that it was pleasantly cool so we threw on some sweatshirts before pitching the enormous tent in our slot.  We paid $10 at the self pay station, because I am always a fan of giving my money to the national park service, then went into town to find a grocery store.  We found a whole foods and bought stuff for tomato-mozzarella sandwiches and some yogurts for breakfast. 

On Tuesday I woke up feeling completely out of it.  Even though I loved Santa Fe I think it was my only truly cranky day on the trip so far.  We first stopped and drank some coffee at Burro Alley Café and then walked around to several cute shops, most of which were way to classy for our price range.  There was also a cathedral at the edge of the square and a market set up along one edge where many people were selling various jewelry and crafts.  I found Santa Fe completely charming, although I have mixed feelings about the “adobe” looking buildings.  Some of them are beautiful, but others look too much like fake sand castles.  I bought a turquoise and sterling ring from a women at the bazaar and we ate fajitas from a street vendor.  We fed a few more coins into the parking meter and walked into a shopping plaza that had beautiful Mexican embroidered stuff.  I bought a top of white linen with multi-color embroidery.  I felt kind of extravagant buying two souvenirs from the same place, but neither were expensive.  Then we loaded up the car to check out the cliff dwellings and Bandolier national monument.  By the time we drove the 40minutes out there the sky in that direction was navy blue and lightning was striking in the distance.  We decided that hiking out there in a thunderstorm was a bit to adventurous for us and headed back south instead.  We drove through some really rural country time and had to stop several times for roadwork before stopping for the night in Alamogordo near the White Sands National Monument.  We stopped for dinner and booked a motel.  It was kind of an ugly town with a beautiful view of the mountains. 

The next morning we headed to the White Sands to see the museum and take a short hike.  It was really interesting to learn how the enormous hills were formed from gypsum.  It is also one of the most interesting examples of adaptation in the US because it contains many of the same animals as the surrounding areas, but these have adapted to a much lighter color to camouflage in the white sand.  We decided on taking a nature walk that was expected to take about an hour because we didn’t know how we would fare in the heat.  It was a nice walk with several panels explaining different aspects of the habitat.  We then loaded up in JJ to drive out to Tucson to visit Tom.  He is a good friend of my mothers and came with her to visit me in Budapest.  He worked in DC but had moved to Tucson since his retirement and his place was really awesome with a gorgeous patio with a view of the surrounding mountains.  He called me during the drive to ask if we were okay with going to his neighbors for dinner, since apparently she owed him one, and I am really glad we agreed. 

We sat out on Tom’s patio drinking beers for a while, then went over to Cindy’s around 6:30.  She was an incredibly charming Scottish woman with another gorgeous home.  She was incredibly fun and we enjoyed sitting around with her and another friend Chris for the evening.  It was great to see that Tom had such good friends in Tucson.  Cindy served us black cherry martinis and a jalapeno-cheese dip, followed by veal marsala with snap peas, and chocolate lava cake.  The food was amazing and we drank some red wine to go with it and talked a lot about traveling and various other things.  According to Tom we got off easily because they skipped the usual post-dinner tequila tasting that night.  We had a really great time and were glad to have met Cindy and Chris.

Tom was slightly worried when we slept in so late on Thursday (he got up at 5:20, we slept until 9:30) but road tripping is more exhausting than I had expected.  We had some berries, granola, and yogurt for breakfast and then went for a swim in his pool.  It was really lovely and he had a floating lounge chair that was incredibly comfortable.  I was tempted to stay in the pool all day, but we had to get to San Diego so we left around noon.  The scenery driving into California was really interesting.  We saw one area with sand dunes like the Sahara, one with large mounds of rocks and a few with typical desert landscape.  We also got stopped by the border control a few times (because there were check points not because we were suspicious) which surprised us.  We had a hard time answering questions the first time because they asked us where we had come from and where we were going which are kind of loaded questions with us.

Currently we are hanging out in San Diego and heading to LA tomorrow.  We will spend most of Monday at Yosemite national park and head to Las Vegas on Tuesday and then the Grand Canyon.  I will try to post again when we hit Vegas, but we won’t have internet much before then.


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