... chasing Apollo across the Chihuahuan Desert to the City of Rocks and Silver City. Leg #8.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014

After two days driving the godforsaken, arid, cacti-filled Chihuahuan, Jim and I have decided we are not country at heart and we don't want to be cowboys. We camped three days in a town so small that even though they had an Enterprise business, they had no car to rent; they were too small to have bus or taxi service. There are no chain groceries, so we had to ask what the name of a grocery store was to buy food: Albertson's. We wanted to go to a movie, but there was only one in screen in town that showed one movie on the weekend: Saturday night at 7 p,m. That's what most of these little towns are like, but the people are super friendly. In the RV park, we share space with tired, bearded oil field workers, welders and tanker drivers who usually live somewhere else and have a trailer at this end of the trail. And the wind howls constantly whipping wind into every crease and orifice of your body. We keep our coach buttoned up and haven't used the awning, although there are no trees for shade, because the wind would whip the awning off. Even then, I am wiping down the coach every day and Jim has given up on bathing her, just trying to keep her windshields clean enough to see. We smell dust and breathe dust; our sinuses and skin are like dried onion skin.

We are here to see the Carlsbad Caverns, internationally known as the longest and deepest of all caverns, with some of the most beautiful formations. They are considered The Eighth Wonder of the World. I must admit they are breathtakingly beautiful and will put photos on my facebook page. But after the alien landscape we were traveling through above ground, and then the alien caverns, I really felt I was on the far side of the moon. I was so pushing my envelope of comfort with the differences in environment around us 24-7 that at the end of our tour of the wondrous King's Palace, Big Room, Queen's chamber, Papoose Room, I started feeling claustrophobic and was anxious to get up the 850 foot elevator shaft as quickly as possible. We were disappointed that the Star Gazing Party was not being held the weekend we were there, and the thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats that make the caverns their home had not yet returned for the summer. We had planned to go to both the dawn ranger lecture and viewing of the bats' return for the day, and to the dusk lecture and bats' exit. Disappointing, but maybe we'll see it somewhere else.

We stopped at a rest stop to walk the pups, which are miserable in the wind which is strong enough to pick Grits up off her feet and push Charlie sideways. Both their eyes are running from dust and have to be cleaned daily. At the rest stop was an old diesel tractor from a tractor trailer, paint peeling, nobody around, just a spooky engine. Was the driver sleeping, or had it been deserted? We didn't go near, just leashed and walked the dogs until this beat-up yellow truck with no back windshield or side windows in it... really banged up. There were two long-haired men in it with bandanas wrapped and tied around their heads and bandanas at their necks. On the side of the truck was lettered: AXE MAN. Maybe I've watched too many sci-fi or horror movies, but I said with a false bravado, “I'm a little creeped out here. Let's just let the dogs pee on their wee pads in the camper.” Jim didn't take two seconds to reply, “Okay, let's go!” We hurried the dogs back to the coach, locked the door, and hauled out, watching our rear views to see if AXE MAN was following us. It is scary when you are the only one on the road for scores of miles, there is no sign of life for hours, and still the wind howls like a ghost moaning after you and the dust is thicker than the fog back home; in fact the young border patrolman who stopped us at a checkpoint said sometimes these roads were closed when the wind was so hard there was 0 visibility and even the truckers couldn't hold their rigs on the pavement. We were just praying that over each rise in the road we would see water, a tree, an oasis, but no... and we couldn't believe us stopping for four days at the City of Rocks State Park outside of Deming, New Mexico for R and R!

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