That’s our theme for the past couple of days. We headed toward Oliver Lee SP with me at the wheel, which is an infrequent event. I’ve only driven while towing the Fireball a couple of times, but I do want to become more at ease with this, so I appointed myself the driver for this leg of the journey. On the map, it looked easy – about 160 miles with only about four or five turns. No big deal. I didn’t realize that we had to drive through a mountain pass – nearly 8700 feet. Snow. The ascent wasn’t so bad, but I’m not sure which of us had the whitest knuckles on the descent. The really bad part was when we saw a sign that said “Tunnel – ½ mile ahead”.
Not sure why, but I freak out in tunnels. Can’t ride a bicycle through them without sheer panic. The orange lights inside long expressway underpasses make me ill. Heading into Yosemite last year, we had to drive through a very long tunnel. I put my head down, and closed my eyes. John let me know when we were through. Mercifully, this was a short tunnel, and we escaped unscathed, although we did stop so I could compose myself on the far side. Crazy.
Oliver Lee SP is gorgeous – I would recommend it to anyone. Campsites are large and the view is expansive. The bathroom is clean, not prison-like at all. We went for a hike, and spent time meeting our Airstream neighbor, a single guy, full-timing in his gorgeous new 19’ Airstream Bambi. To top it off, he works for Adventure Cycling, leading bike tours. Can it get any better?
The next morning we headed out – first stop White Sands National Monument. The white sands are actually gypsum dunes, and they are gleaming, stunningly white. The wind was whistling at about 25mph, causing the air itself to have a weird white sheen. It is spectacularly beautiful. We weren’t able to visit the Trinity Site, Ground Zero for the world’s first nuclear explosion in 1945. That area is open only one day a year, and unfortunately, this wasn’t the day. But, as folks who have seen lots of sand dunes, we were amazed at the beauty of White Sands. Go. Get out of your car and walk around. It’s like nothing you’ll ever see.
We pushed westward thru Las Cruces, stopping for food and groceries at Pro’s Ranch Market, a fantastic Mexican grocery story. We feasted on gorditas and tacos at their deli area, and loaded up with homemade tortillas, sausage, bread, and other goodies to get us through the next few days. This store is such a treat – lots of foods that I don’t cook and am unfamiliar with – every kind of tripe and menudo one could want. But sopas, fresh salsas….we bought a huge bag of roasted peppers to enjoy on sandwiches and with eggs and tortillas. Such a treat – we love finding places like this on the road.
Our camping reservations were for City of Rocks SP. Like camping on Mars! We’re perched among giant boulders of ash from an ancient volcano. These look like lava, but aren’t. The volcano erupted for a period of as long as two years, and when the super-heated ash finally came to rest in this area, it compacted into these enormous lumps, which have been ground away by the wind over the years. It’s beautiful. We’re in a rustic site – not too far from a pit toilet, but no electric or water. It’s perfectly quiet up here – no one around but us. Can’t imagine a more beautiful site for the Fireball. We spent a couple of hours, wandering around the Park among the boulders.The campsites here are tucked close into clusters of the rocks, creating private little coves for camping. It was spectacular. $10/night. The setting sun lit everything up to an incredible pink/orange glow. Ahhh.
Sad to leave here tomorrow. We’d like to hang out another day or two and explore. We’ve already decided that next year we’re not going to make reservations, except for the weeks right around spring break. We’re moving faster than we want to, and leaving too many intriguing spots unexplored. But, we didn’t really know…..and we’re learning about this whole ‘being on the road thing’