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Carlsbad, NM

2019-03-22 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 10 – Traveling to Fredericksburg, TX

We left Carlsbad KOA in the dark, at about 5:30 am.  The road south into Carlsbad was very busy, with a continuous line of pickup trucks, people going to work in the oil fields.  We stopped in Carlsbad at the local Starbucks for our morning coffee (Vente Flat White, Decaf, Extra Shot, Breve…) and we continued south on Hwy 285 out of town.  This is where the drive got interesting.

Hwy 285 goes through thousands of acres of oil and gas fields.  It is barely paved – maybe semi-paved.  It is under construction all the way to Texas.  It was raining and the road is dirty, with loose sand, gravel, and asphalt being thrown up everywhere.  And there was a solid line of trucks in both directions: large trucks carrying gravel, sand, water, and fracking chemicals; medium size trucks, outfitted with welders, generators, pumps, cranes, and the like; and pickup trucks, carrying the happy merry workers to their jobs.

It was still dark.  Looking off to the horizon on all sides were fires, burning off the excess natural gas from the oil wells; it is not economically feasible to capture the gas because we have such a glut of natural gas in the country, and until recently the export of natural gas was prohibited.

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After about 100 miles of this most unusual landscape and traffic and dirt and rain we arrived at Pecos, TX.  The town is totally dead.  Apparently all these busy, well-paid workers don’t live here – they stay in trailers and motels during the week and go home (wherever that may be) on weekends.  It is always sad to see these dead towns (they are everywhere…) but it is the natural cycle…

There were a few interesting things to see in the dead town…

Public art:

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Historic buildings:

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Gunfighter’s grave:

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Abandoned train station:

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Main Street; we never found out why these cars were here – perhaps this is a carpool parking area…

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I went into the only active store on Main Street, a hardware store, and asked if there was a local diner we could go to for breakfast.  They recommended a delightful little place, located in an abandoned Sonic building.  It has only been open for about two months, and was a purely local place.  I mentioned that they were not on Yelp.  I don’t think they knew what Yelp was… The food was real and quite good.  However the parking lot was so empty that people just parked free-style…

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After our late breakfast we continued into Texas – due to the road construction there was no sign welcoming us…  This is Texas:

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The first thing to happen to us in Texas is that we took a rock to the Airstream, which blew a hole in the rock guard.  Maybe we need to put a protective cover over the rock guard.

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About 10 minutes later we took a rock to the truck windshield – another big ding.

We traveled east on the 10, and after a few hours we turned off the 10 and headed into Texas Hill Country…

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We arrived in Fredericksburg in mid afternoon and set up at Fredericksburg RV park – a very nice place… As you can see, the Airstream is filthy!

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We walked into town (about 3/4 mile) for an early dinner.  Along the way we passed this hotel, with these flags; we always enjoy the Texas State flag, bragging of Texas’ one star Yelp rating…

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The History of Fredericksburg, Texas, dates back to its founding in 1846.  It was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.  Fredericksburg is also notable as the home of “Texas German”, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English.  The emigration was in part the liberal, educated Germans fleeing the social, political and economic conditions that later resulted in the Revolution of 1848, and in part lots of working-class Germans.  

The town was laid out by surveyor Herman Wilke.  On April 23, 1846, the first wagon train of settlers left New Braunfels, encountering friendly Delaware Indians en route, and arrived at the Fredericksburg site on May 8, 1846.  The first colonists immediately set about to plant a garden and build a storehouse out of logs, and a stockade and a blockhouse.  The town continued to thrive for over 100 years as a center of this German farming community.

Fredericksburg in the 21st Century is in a state of flux. As each generation of descendants of the original settlers dies away, or moves to new horizons, the authenticity of the rural German farm culture of the Texas Hill Country communities also dies away.  It is gradually blending with the customs of newcomers and being replaced by tourist-oriented concepts of both German heritage and the Texas cowboy culture. 

Downtown Fredericksburg today is one giant restaurant, wine-tasting and tourist trinket store district.  It was great!  We had a lovely dinner and bottle of wine at Cultures…

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We returned to the Villa and turned in early – it had been a long day…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-21 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 9 – Carlsbad Caverns

Today we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and, in particular, the Carlsbad Caverns…

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico.   Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.  The primary attraction of the park are the Carlsbad Caverns.

We arrived at about 10:00 am and checked out the visitor center.  Then we headed to the “natural entrance” of the caverns… Along the way we saw these buildings; the stone buildings were built by park employees in the 1920s, and the stucco buildings were built by the CCC in 1940…

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Carlsbad Cavern includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point.  The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.  There are other rooms and chambers which require special ranger-guided tours.  We chose the self-guided tour, since we didn’t want to crawl through small tunnels…  Visitors to the Big  Room can hike down on their own via the “natural entrance” or take an elevator from the visitor center.  We, of course, walked in – about 1 1/2 miles long of winding, steep paths descending about 750′ underground.

The entrance today is quite impressive, but easy to use…

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But in the olden days things were different.  The original explorers who discovered the cave had to climb down rude home-made rope ladders.  The first visitors to the new National Park in 1923 were lowered in a mine bucket down 700 feet into the ground.  Finally, by the late 1920s, park employees had built wooden stairways.  You walked down to get in, you walked up to get out… Finally, in the 1930s, the stairs were replaced by paved ramps, and the first elevators were added…

At this “natural entrance” there is a small amphitheater.  Starting in April and continuing through the summer people come at sundown to sit and watch the thousands or millions of bats ascend up out of the bat cave via the natural entrance in search of airborne bugs and insects.  Apparently it is quite a sight, although, it being March and all, we didn’t see the bats.  We could smell the bat quano, though…

So we walked through the natural entrance, walked the 1 1/2 miles down to The Big Room, and around the Big Room, seeing the sights.  Photos don’t show the scale or the depth of these spaces, but they are very impressive.  We mostly saw “decorations”, what the parks people call the stalactites, the stalagmites, columns, draperies, straw tubes, and on and on…

Pictures don’t capture the size of the space, but this diagram shows one area – the Liberty Dome above and the “Bottomless Pit” below…

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The caverns are dramatically lit, and the “decorations” are stunning…

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After 3 1/2 hours underground we were quite done in.  So we opted to take the elevator back to the surface…

We drove back through the town of Carlsbad, fueled up the truck, and returned to the Villa.  We snacked and had Happy Hours and a light supper.  Tomorrow we leave early for our travel into Texas to Fredericksburg…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-20 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 8 – Las Cruces to Carlsbad, NM

We headed east today; the destination is Carlsbad, NM, in the far southwest corner of the State.  The mountains east of Las Cruces have one section with these amazing crags…

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Just over the mountain we stopped at White Sands Missile Range.  This is where all the testing of missiles and rockets has been done since WWII.  We started at the museum… They have lots of exhibits, like you would expect.  The history of the area was interesting, as was the story of how the US Government temporarily “borrowed” the land (3,200 square miles – almost three times the area of Rhode Island…) from the owners during WWII; after the war they didn’t give it back, buying it via eminent domain.  The owners were not pleased…

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This is a Red-Tailed Hawk (stuffed) on exhibit…

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This is a Red-Tailed Hawk (wood) in my living room, hand-carved by my father about 30 years ago…

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Across from the museum is a small building containing a restored V-2 missile…

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The Germans developed the V-2 as a terrorizing weapon during WWII and used it against England.  They spent more on these weapons than the US spent on the Manhattan Project.  After the war the US brought back all the V-2 rockets and various rocket parts to the US (mainly so the Russians couldn’t get them).   They sent it all here, filling 300 railroad cars.  The US also brought back all the German rocket scientists they could.  The V-2 formed the basis of the early days of space research, setting the stage for our manned and unmanned voyages into space.  This rocket in this building was used for research many times and has now been restored…

In the missile yard are MANY rockets of all sizes and shapes…

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Amazingly, rockets are a lot like trees – seen one, seen them all…

So we rolled out east again.  Soon we entered the Lincoln National Forest and ascended over 4,600 feet to a summit of 8,600 feet…  In this photo we are looking back west towards the white sands…

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Tunnels are always fun…

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Once we descended the mountain we were in a desolate plain that went on for miles and miles.  As is our custom, we stopped to stretch our legs and to keep our Apple watches happy…

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We checked into the KOA about 20 miles north of the city of Carlsbad.  The trees in the park are full of noisy birds…

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The park was basic but good.  They even prepared BBQ dinners on-site and delivered them to the Villa at the appointed hour.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

And, as is our custom, we present the some of the McAnoy children (and one neighbor…)

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