Monday, February 18, 2013

Western Texas to Alamogordo, New Mexico


After we got our new shades, we left McKinney, TX, and headed west.  Since we had a few extra days we took our time and spent one night in Abilene and the next two in Van Horn, TX.

Traveling west we drove through Denton, TX, and saw the two tallest buildings in the town.  They are part of the Texas Women's University.  I wonder if men are allowed to attend?

The Texas Motor Speedway in the distance outside Fort Worth.

Skirting around Fort Worth in the background.
The historic Grace Hotel in downtown Abilene.  Built in 1909 it was the major hotel between Forth Worth and El Paso.

They also had a movie theatre showing The Artist, winner of best picture in 2011.  Hmmmm, I guess it takes awhile to get movies to these western towns.

The entrance to the movie theatre was definitely retro.

We passed through Nolan County and all we could see was thousands of windmills.  Turns out it is the wind energy capital of North America.  If Nolan County was a country it would be the 5th largest producer of wind energy in the world.

The windmills were even close up to the interstate.
West Texas is very dry and desolate.

We stopped in Van Horn, TX, for two nights and it was a very empty town.  This is the county seat and there was little business but a lot of hotels.  We were told that Van Horn is the gateway to the Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe National Park, the McDonald Observatory, and other scenic attractions.  Believe me, all those sights are a long, long way from Van Horn but since this area is so desolate many visitors stay here. 

The Hotel El Capitan established in 1930.  

The hotel also has a restaurant and the Gopher Hole Bar.

The better part of downtown :(

Something for everyone.

A major restaurant in town that also advertised the "John Madden Haul of Fame".  Yep, that's what it says.....

While we were staying in Van Horn the winds picked up with gusts at 40-50 mph.

The sky turned dark with dirt blowing through the air and traveling RVers got off the interstate because of poor visibility.

The same view taken the next day after the storm passed.  We decided it was time to get out of town.
Leaving southwest Texas we saw a rest park that had tepees over the picnic tables to block the sun.

Our next stop was Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is right next to the White Sands National Monument.  What a place!  It is home to the largest gypsum field in the world in the Tularosa Basin of south-central New Mexico. It consists of 275 sq miles of dune fields with 115 sq miles within the park. The remainder is on military land not open to the public but the home of the White Sands Missile Range.
The dune field is very dramatic with the most active dunes moving up to 30 feet a year.

Rock is washed down by rainwater from the San Andres and Sacramento Mountains.  The whitish streaks in the rock is the gypsum. Rain and snow dissolve the gypsum and it gathers in the Tularosa Basin where it is trapped and eventually evaporates leaving selenite crystals behind. The constant winds continue to blow the crystal along until it is broken down into white gypsum sand.

White Sands is part of the Chihuahuan Desert characterized by strong winds, poorly developed soils, scorching summer days, and freezing winter nights. Still, more than 240 species of plants and animals thrive and all have virtually evolved ways to conserve water.  This is the most habitable area with the dunes barely visible in the distance.

Sand is usually too heavy for the wind to lift more than a few inches. As a result, the gypsum sand grains roll and bounce along the ground and pile up into a dune. Sand builds up on the windward crest of the dune until gravity pulls it down in a miniature avalanche. In this way, the dune moves a fraction of an inch at a time.


The soaptree yucca adapts by growing higher than the encroaching sand dune, sometimes as much as 30 feet tall.  Eventually, over time, the dune will shift and the sand will be displaced.  The yucca no longer having the support of the dune will collapse and die.
A collapsing yucca plant.

The cottonwood tree is very common in the Southwest and adapts by keeping its branches higher than the dune.  It has a strong root system and will tap down into an underground water supply to survive. The picture above shows only the upper branches of the tree.

The skunkbush sumac binds the sand with their roots into a compact bush.  When the sands shift a hardened pedestal remains which holds the plant in place.  From a distance it looks like a bad hair day.
We drove further into the park and the vegetation decreased.  The surface of the road consisted of packed sand.  Looked just like we were driving on snow. 
People come out here for picnics and they sled down the sides of the dunes. 

They also have hiking or you can ride in on horseback. 

But here's the thing.......the wind is constantly blowing so you can't see any trails or find any markers.  And within 30 minutes after you walk somewhere your footprints have disappeared.

The pups thought it was fun and had a blast.  They even slid down some of the dunes.

The Captain standing in front of a dune.

We walked up and over several sand dunes and then I got nervous.

You couldn't tell where you were going and it was hard to track back the way you had come.

A very easy place to get lost.  For hikers they recommend taking GPS, a cell phone, a compass, and lots of water.  If you get lost stay where you are and try to keep warm because the nights get very cold. 

I became confused trying to get back to the car and headed the wrong way but the Captain, better with directions, got us back safely. 
A very beautiful but scary place.

While in Alamogordo we stayed in the valley at the Boot Hill RV Resort.

A nice place.
Directly across the street were several businesses that sold pistachios and wine.  We stopped in.  Pistachios have become a major commercial crop in New Mexico because the trees love the hot summers and the cooler winters. The two stores we visited had thousands of trees planted around them along with acres and acres of vineyards.

The largest pistachio ever grown.

Plenty of samples inside.  Did you ever have a lemon-lime pistachio?  Not bad.  The wine was good, too.

The guy who grew the largest pistachio ever.

And his faithful companion, a 1928 International one-ton truck.

In the mountains above Alamogordo are two ski resort towns we heard about so we decided to take a drive there in our car.
Oh, I forgot to mention we woke up one morning to snow (in the valley) and the temperature in the low 20's.  

Did I mention the Captain was the one who planned our trip to the warm Southwest for the winter?
We headed up to the mountains and the snowy peaks.

The first ski resort was in Ruidoso and it was truly a resort.  Expensive shops, restaurants, etc. 

What surprised us was the number of casinos in the area and horse racing, too.

This particular casino was beautiful and nestled in the mountains. 

All the casinos are owned by the local Native American tribe.  There was also top-notch entertainment for the visitors.....Herman and the Hermits featuring Peter Noone and The Little River Band were in town. 

We left Ruidoso and drove over to Cloudcroft, the other ski resort, and found a totally different town. It was very old-fashioned with unique little shops.

There was also the Western Bar which was a hoot.  There were dollar bills pasted or tacked everywhere.

Parts of the bar had antique wood displays with very different lamps. 

Even a real jukebox that was playing the oldies from the 60's.  My kind of music!

And the best was the Moose Drool beer on tap.  Moose Drool is a Montana beer and one of our favorites.

But I had to share the most amusing part which was the ladies bathroom........being short on space they just put in two toilets and a sink.

The ride home was a beautiful view of the New Mexico mountains .....

and the setting sun.
Time to move on.  We decided to drive up to Silver City, NM, 6000 feet up in the mountains, to enjoy more new adventures.  Peace!
Outside of Las Cruces is an historic town called La Mesilla.  It had many quaint shops and a Mexican restaurant that everyone said is very good.
San Albino Catholic Church built in 1852.

This is the oldest documented brick building in New Mexico built in 1860.

The town square.

One of the eclectic shops in town.

The owner looked as old as the store.
The La Posta restaurant has been here for more than a century and a half.  It has sheltered such personalities as Billy the Kid, Kit Carson, and Pancho Villa.

Colorful entrance way.

The ceilings were original and very unique.

My wonder why my jeans are getting tight?

No comments:

Post a Comment