Yesterday we bundled up LeuC, said our goodbyes to the wonderful Pancho Villa State Park and headed down the road once more. Our goal was Brantley Lake State Park, north of Carlsbad, New Mexico. I had made reservations there to stay 5 days. This would allow us time to explore the area, especially the famous Carlsbad Caverns.
To get there, we skimmed across the northern boundary of Mexico, being as close as just 2000 feet away. It is hard to get any closer and still be in the US! This area of New Mexico is so desolate and harsh. We did see a couple Border Patrol vehicles slowly inching by on the south side of the road, but did not see anything else besides miles and miles of desert, scrub brush and yucca plants.
After about 1.5 hours of driving, we entered El Paso, Texas. This is our 6th state we have visited since we started our RVing life last September. The last time we were in El Paso was way back in 1984 when Mary Margaret and I, along with our three little kids, were moving from Delaware to California. Back then, El Paso was a rough and tumble, dirty, hole-in-the-wall town. It has since modernized and it appeared to us that it has all of the typical conveniences of most medium size cities (population of about 650,000) in the US.
After filling up LeuC with diesel ($2.77/gal; Whoo Hoo!), we continued our trek down the road. We passed into golden brown, dried grasslands with the range being wide open and free of barb wire, no houses nor any sense of civilization being nearby. This was confirmed when we passed a sign that said the next service was 128 miles away!
Within a few hours we approached and then drove past the Guadalupe Mountains National Park with El Capitan, massive with its impressive cliffs, jutting high above us. The mountains are surrounded by the massive Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas. It’s known for its bright-white Salt Basin Dunes, wildlife-rich grasslands and fossilized reef mountains. It is part of the Permian fossil reef, now recognized as one of the most well-preserved fossil reefs in the world. We had originally planned to stop here on our way to Carlsbad Caverns but those plans were killed by the massive storm that swept passed us and forced us to hunkered down this last weekend. Actually, it was very fortuitous that we did hunker down since the shutdown of the US Government by Congress over the weekend had closed the National Park and we saw how its entrance road was barred closed as we drove by.
After 5.5 hours of driving, we pulled into Brantley Lake State Park. We decided to not stay in our reserved site, since the site was on a slope that would have prevented us from leveling LeuC. Because half of the sites can not be reserved and are on a “first-come, first served” basis, we picked one of those sites that provided 50-amp service, water, a flat pad to park LeuC on and it also had one of the best views of the reservoir that skirts around the park.
Today, we ventured into the town of Carlsbad. We needed to re-provision and we wanted to visit the Carlsbad Museum and Arts Center. After shopping, we entered the museum and were surprised by how wonderful the museum was. We were the only visitors and the docent was warm and friendly. The museum was one of the better local museums we have ever visited with massive glassed displays of arrowheads found locally (some dating back to 9,000 BC), intact ancient Indian pottery, an original 1800s Wells Fargo stagecoach, a whole room setup with miniature trains, including a working mine, an 1800s western town, cattle yard and ranch. It also had two rooms displaying original paintings by local artists and a large room dedicated to dinosaur bones and castings of huge T-Rex tracks found nearby. It also had two rooms filled with photos and stories of local men who had fought in past wars including the Spanish American War with pictures of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, the Pershing Punitive Expedition of 1916 which chased Pancho Villa throughout northern Mexico, WWI and WWII.
Tomorrow, we hope to drive over to the Carlsbad Cavern National Park. Since the government shutdown is now over and the National Parks System is once again open. Whoo Hoo!