From the streetlamps that look like alien heads to the UFO museum to the alien coffee shops to the souvenir shops filled with cheesy stuff more potent than lunar cheese... it's a tourist town. But we loved it. The UFO museum, with all its grey pegboard high-school kitsch, was interesting. Lots of authentic material, lots of artist impression, and lots of stuff that was just... stuff. It was no million dollar organization, but it only cost us four bucks total to get in. Plus, I got a great shot glass to add to my collection! Can't beat that!
After that, we hit the road and without preamble we saw a sign for the Billy the Kid Casino.
Again, being who we are, we stopped off for a little bit. It's a casino, race track, and buffet all in one. How can you go wrong? It was definitely a hangout for locals, and it definitely was not prime gambling season. There were roughly 20 cars in the parking lot. The racetrack was closed, but we didn't care. We went in, and inside of 10 minutes I had made $20. Inside of 15 minutes, Deb had won $600. All on quarter machines. So, we stayed a while longer, won a little, lost a little more, but still came out ahead.
On the road again, and we stopped at the White Sands Monument.
There's also a White Sands Missile Range, but we didn't go there. The white sands were awesome! Miles of white sand dunes, desert plants and flowers, and the sky... we had been running with a light drizzle on and off, but that light drizzle was going to turn into a big ol' thunderstorm. We had seen some great sky, though. Blue on one side, dark and foreboding on the other, with lighting and everything.
The sky made for some great images, though.
One cool thing about the park is that you can just park your car and head out along a sand dune. Sure, your car will fill up with white sand, but that's ok. Another cool thing about the park is that it only costs $3 per adult, and the ticket they give you is good for six days! You can't beat that. We barely scratched the surface of what you could see there, and we were there for about an hour and a half.
After the White Sands, we headed for Las Cruces. Las Cruces marked the first time in our entire journey that we had to seek out a hotel for the night. We finally found one "named" hotel (as opposed to "Earl's Sleep 'n' Git") and stayed there. It wasn't great, so I'm glad they knocked $20 off the price.
Back on the road, heading for Arizona, we stopped off at a touristy place that had been advertised for a couple hundred miles. We saw the self-titled "mystery of the desert"... The Thing! Now, there's no way in hell either of us are going to miss a billboard that says "Have You Seen The Thing?"
It's like I wrote it, for god's sake. So, we each paid $1 and headed off to see "the Thing"! Very folksy, touristy setup. Lots of interesting stuff along the way to see "the Thing". Antiques and other oddities of the past 400 years. Then, we finally saw it... I don't know if I'll get in trouble for saying what "the Thing" is, but I'm going to live dangerously and do so. "The Thing" is a mummy, presumably female, holding a mummified infant. It looked real to me, and since I know that mummification was practiced by a few tribes in Mexico, I figure it's real and that's good enough for me.
We finally got to Arizona!
We drove on to visit our friend who is about 30 miles from the Mexican border. (Our apartment wasn't scheduled to be ready until the next day, and she basically ordered us to stay with her that night. After 10 days of hotels, it was a no-brainer.) On the way, we also saw a few of the reasons why there are signs scattered along the highway warning of sudden dust storms.
Her house was gorgeous. Both the front and back views were of mountains. Mountains so close you felt as if you could reach out and touch them. And quiet! It was so, so quiet. The best part, the absolute best part... I could see the stars!!! No glow from the city, no streetlights anywhere. Just the dark of night, and the stars that make it fantastic. If you live in or near a city that has light pollution of any intensity, you are robbing yourself of one of life's great pleasures by not being able to go outside at night, look up, and being stunned. It's breathtaking.
After that, we finally headed off to our apartment. But I'll save that for another post.