We arrived at our hotel in Roswell just as the sun was setting on Sunday, February 19th. I was taken aback at the physical size of the town as we drove through for the first time. I did not envision such a large place. Roswell presents more as a small city than a typical southwestern town.
Our accommodations were on the main drag, not far from a place I was unaware of, the New Mexico Military Institute. NMMI has been there since opening in 1891, and is a public high school and junior college overseen by the State. From what we could see of the buildings and grounds, everything looked neat and well-kept, as you’d expect of a military academy.
After unloading into the hotel room, we checked with the manager about where would be good for dinner. She recommended the Pasta Cafe Italian Bistro, just down the street from the hotel. That’s where we went- Wife had chicken parmigiana while I tried their veal marsala. We split a rather large house salad. Both meals were good and the portions large. Maybe too large. The waitress seemed sad when we declined to take the leftovers with us, but that’s life on the road. Yet another successful dining choice!
It was bright and sunny the next morning. We started the day in Roswell as most tourists do- checking out everything that feeds off the famous (infamous?) 1947 incident where purportedly an alien spacecraft was recovered by the US Army, and then the entire incident denied and suppressed. I don’t know if any or it is true or not, but Roswell has perpetuated the story, to the city’s benefit. Wife and I started at the Visitor Center, and then went up the street to the International UFO Museum. The Museum was interesting enough for what it was, and we spent maybe a half hour viewing the exhibits. Then we left, and cruised around the town a bit. Here are some photos of alien-inspired promotions.
I wish we had allowed for more time in Roswell, as once there I learned of some other, non-alien points of interest worth checking out. In particular I would have enjoyed visiting the General Douglas L. McBride Military Museum on the NMMI campus. It’s on the list for our next visit.
The next stop we had planned in New Mexico was White Sands National Park, near Alamogordo. The ride across US380 took a little more than two hours, and it was a very scenic drive.
A good portion of the drive goes high into the mountains, crossing the reservation of the Mescalero Apaches. If you ever find yourself on this reservation, pay attention to the speed limits. Many reservations have raised the speed trap to a high art- the Mescalero Apaches are one of them. Not sure about you, but I’d rather support their economy at the stores or at one of the many casinos.
It wasn’t too long until we reached Tularosa after coming off the mountains. We stopped there for gas and then covered the short remaining distance to the National Park.
White Sands National Park is a huge area of white dunes, composed of gypsum sand. After checking in at the Visitor Center, we drove down the access road for a few miles.
When we came upon a picnic area off to the right, we decided to stop for lunch. It was pretty windy, and while not strong enough to blow the sand around, hanging onto our meals proved challenging.
After finishing sandwiches, we drove to the end of the park road, and then looped back until we came to the Backcountry Camping Loop Trailhead. I wanted to experience the dunes afoot, and figured this 2 mile trail would punch that ticket.
Walking the white dunes was not much different than walking regular sand dunes. Windswept surfaces tended towards firmness, while areas sheltered from the wind were much looser and more difficult to walk through.
The white sand spread across my entire field of vision, and I was glad to have remembered the polarized sunglasses. Even with the shades, depth perception was difficult. Several times I’d realize I was heading downhill before “seeing” it. The occasional depressions with their collections of scrub growth provided some reference points during the walk, but if the Park didn’t maintain the trail markers, I guarantee lost hikers would be a daily occurrence.
I spent probably 40 or 45 minutes traversing the loop trail. It wasn’t particularly difficult, though there was a lot of up & down going through the sand dunes. The winds were constant. I was thankful it was February as I can just imagine how blistering hot walking out there would be in the summertime!
When I returned to the Jeep Wife and I discussed where to go and what to do next. White Sands was the final “planned” stop. We figured on noodling our way across the rest of New Mexico and Arizona, then shooting up to Death Valley in California to complete the westward journey.
Our return east was even less planned. We had the idea of following along old US Route 66 as far as Oklahoma or Missouri and then making a beeline for home.
Now we were unsure. At this point we’d been on the road for 19 days, road-burn had set in and we were a bit tired. Did we want to spend another week to ten days continuing to head west, or do a u-turn right here in Alamogordo and begin the return east?
After not-a-long discussion we chose the latter and charted a course eastwards. The new plan was to pick up Route 66 in Texas and follow that until it was no longer entertaining, and then head for home. We headed for Amarillo, Texas directly.
Here ends the account of the journey to the west in 2023. It took us another six days to return home, as we did spend time checking out the Mother Road and a few other things along the way. I’m sure I’ll have something to say about those experiences in the weeks and months ahead.
We arrived home on February 25th, ending a fabulous 24-day road trip.
Thanks for stopping by!