Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Road Trip: New Mexico Loop

Another set of days off! Our plan, the seven of us, was to go to New Mexico via Southern Arizona and get some first class American culture. To say we had the foundation of a plan is a massive, massive lie and after renting the cars on the Thursday we set off down towards Phoenix on Friday at 6am with pretty much no idea of what we were going to do.

Phoenix is not over-rated, because no one rates it to start with so we sent sailing past there and stopped around Tucson to fill up on petrol. We could have visited Tucson but we had finally come to the conclusion of visiting Saguaro National Park further South so we carried on. We ended up visiting Saguaro (with the massive cactus) and then Chiricahua National Monument (with the massive rock pillars) in the day before ending up in small town America at Willcox. This was basically a ghost town and we were lucky to find a petrol station, both because you wouldn't expect to see one in such a place and we really needed petrol. Somehow we stumbled across a Texan BBQ restaurant that was actually a train and so the majority of our first evening was spent inside a train carriage in a dead beat town. Rather than stay in Willcox we headed east into New Mexico and decided to do some night driving so we could get to Las Cruces and be in a good place to start the next days travel.

After an awesome breakfast at Pancake Alley we headed to White Sands National Monument which is basically a collection of brilliant white sand dunes in a desert. It was shocking to see it there as it looked completely out of place but it was beautiful at the same time. Like kids we ran about on the dunes and rolled down them. This was a fairly brief visit and we were soon on our way to Roswell. We didn't necessarily want to visit Roswell but it was a good connecting location for our journey South. The drive to Roswell from White Sands only took about an hour and a half but it was probably the best driving experience of my life so far. We had to descend quite a distance and at one point it was just both of our cars on the longest, straightest stretch of road you have ever seen. Nothing in front, nothing behind for miles, and you lost the road in the horizon. We had identical cars and so it was only fair to have a mini race. I was comfortably doing 115 mph when Hayley came racing past closer to 130mph. Unfortunately this wasn't the first time a girl has beaten me at something but we got to speed all over the state to be honest as the roads are so empty and so inviting!

Roswell turned out to be pretty boring as we had been told it would be. We paid a quick visit to the UFO museum and headed South to Carlsbad. We wound up in a pretty little motel and went back to Carlsbad to get some beer and wine for a little house party in our rooms. The next morning we were up nice and early to visit the Carlsbad Caverns which are undescribale. Just a massive space beneath the earth with amazing rock formations, stalacmites and stalactites. My pictures don't really do it justice as it was obviously dark but it was probably the highlight of my trip. Also, the entrance to the caverns is at the top of a large hill and there were amazing panoramic views into Texas for miles around.

After Carlsbad we headed North and visited the smaller Las Vegas. This was pretty pointless as it was Sunday and everything was either closed our out of business. I definitely prefer the Nevada version. That evening we arrived in Santa Fe and ate at the highly recommended Cowgirl Hall of Fame Cafe. This was the best meal of the trip and I had some rib burger which was humongous! The next morning we spent a few hours looking around Santa Fe at which point it began to snow! Unbelievable. I visited the Georgia O'Keefe museum which was fun in places but I expected more. American Hayley was due to go out on project today and so we set off for Flagstaff at around 1pm, stopping in Gallup at the famous El Rancho hotel. Apparently Ronald Reagan stayed there! 1500 miles in just over 3 days and you get see all of the pictures here.

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