7-8 July 2011
Las Cruces, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument is an out of this world experience! That's where we went on Thursday. We had an ambitious agenda for the day. We'd head over the mountains, see the White Sands Missile Range and Missile Park, run on up to White Sands National Monument, and continue on up to Alamagordo to see the town and the Space Museum.
Well, the White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park turned out to be quite an interesting place. We spent much more time there than we anticipated. That's okay. It was a fun tour, quite informative, and even evoked some old memories as we saw the manuals that used to be distributed on how to make a bomb shelter for protection against atomic bomb fallout, civil defense "barrels" of supplies that used to be placed in public bomb shelters in anticipation of "THE Day"! I also saw radio equipment reminiscent of those I used to dream about from military surplus. There was also a great deal about the history of the area that became White Sands Proving Grounds and then White Sands Missile Range. Sitting outside the museum is a missile "park" with dozens of missiles sitting there to be viewed and to get a grasp of the U.S. efforts in building guided missiles. There was an original V-2 rocket brought over from Germany after WW II (they had to keep it it in a special building to protect it from the elements since it is now old and fragile; it is still an impressive rocket). The highlight of the park is the Redstone missile that was so instrumental in the early space program, but there are lots of interesting smaller missiles. I'd show you pictures, but we were given to understand that if we did take pictures, we'd be treated as spies and taken out in the desert and summarily shot (or some other similar horror). We did get to take a few (legally) by shooting "towards the mountains" only. I'll have to get them from Mary's camera and put them up.
That's one of our divisions of labor. I write the story, she takes the pictorial documentation. Unfortunately, that also means that we don't always get the two together for publishing this blog, thus the paucity of photographic material.
After the missile stop, we drove on to the White Sands National Monument. What an amazing place! In the words of their website:
Like No Place Else on Earth
Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Here, dunes have engulfed 275 square miles of desert creating the world's largest gypsum dunefield.
White. White extending for miles. White white. On a 100 degree day in the desert. Somehow or another we escaped serious sunburn (due to serious use of sun block). We consumed LOTS of water too.
The gypsum "sand" is amazingly fine. It reflected the heat and wasn't unbearably hot even though it was a blazing hot day. We saw lizards and skinks but NO rattlesnakes (fortunately).
We stayed long enough at White Sands that we didn't get to go on to Alamogordo. That's was unfortunate, but means we still have something to see when we come back to NM.
Friday was a slower day. I took the coach in for one more warranty item. Unfortunately the part didn't get in so it came home unfixed. It's not a big deal. The co-pilot's chair swivel mechanism lock is broken but since it's in lock position it's safe. We just can't use the recliner feature until it gets fixed. While we were waiting to hear about the coach, we went to the Las Cruces Railroad Museum. Small but fun. Then we went to Dripping Springs.
Dripping Springs is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site. It used to be a resort and a tuberculosis sanatorium. What it was for us was a delightful hike up to the mountains. Here in this part of NM, the mountains just kind of jump up out of the desert. You drive through the desert with a gradual rise and all of a sudden the rocks just sprout from the ground, rise to the heights and then drop back down again. That means that there are some steep mountain faces. In this case, the resort and sanatorium facilities were built right up against the point where the rocks spring from the desert.
The scenery here is so different from what we are used to that it is all awe inspiring.
Today (Saturday) we'll move on to the Albuquerque area.