Mastering the Game
We cruised by the 4,000 mark on our rental Jeep’s odometer today. When we add in the 379 miles we drove before picking up our little rented friend, we have now seen 4,500 plus miles of the United States in three weeks. In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that thus far, despite 4,500 plus miles of practice, Mariah has yet to master the subtleties of “the license plate game”. She has confessed that she is uncertain of the precise number of different states’ license plates we have seen since she may have inadvertently added Maryland 284 times to her list. It remains a work in progress. Yesterday we visited Abilene, Texas and slept in Hobbs, New Mexico. Today we visited the National Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico before bedding down in Alamagordo, New Mexico. It has been an interesting two days since our route took us from Texas to New Mexico, then back into Texas (and an impromptu inspection by US border guards) and then back again into New Mexico. In Texas, we regularly drove on secondary roads bisecting endless flat expanses void of development without seeing another car or much else except for the occasional cluster of cows, horses or other livestock separated from the road by a hint of fence. During these long stretches, the roads were reasonably well maintained, and each and every bridge was preceded by a bright, government-issued, official yellow sign warning motorists that the bridge ahead might ice in cold weather. The signs seemed to me to be embarrassed to be standing where they had been placed. I sensed that they knew that they looked ridiculous standing sentry when it is so very, very hot outside. The highlight of Abilene was a visit to the surprising National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. It is a lovely museum with free admission, filled with articulate, gregarious staff and more square footage than they they can fill devoted to the art found within the pages of children’s books. Gorgeous large black and white photographs of the many famous children’s book author/illustrators who have visited and exhibited their work added to the museum’s impact. It stands in stark contrast to the majority of the town’s streets which were lined with pawn shops, off-price furniture, liquor stores, empty and boarded up storefronts and all the signs of a town on the skids. Today’s big event was a visit and a ranger-led tour of the remote Carlsbad Caverns. We descended to the lowest portion of the cavern which is open-to-the-public, 830 feet below the desert surface. Mariah took some fabulous photographs of the formations within the cave as our group followed our enthusiastic and informative leader. (The Dudley Do-Right hats that National Park Service rangers wear are reason enough to follow them anywhere). Look in Mariah’s next post to see some of her favorite images from the cave. We ended the day at a very old and old-fashioned, classic dive drive-in. Sarah found this place for us while researching diners, dives and drive-ins before we departed. It was cheap and great and reminded Mariah of the places time forgot in the animated movie “Cars” – as shiny name brand fast food places lined the highway on either side – the Hi-D-Ho Drive In just keeps on serving the locals and pays no attention to the competition. Tomorrow we drive to Taos.