Tuesday, April 2, 2024

New Mexico and our arrival in Waco.

Quite a lot to relate this time as the last couple weeks have been quite busy so grab a beverage and sit back!

After arriving at our camping location just outside Alamogordo, we spent a day at the White Sands National Park. This is the largest white (gypsum) sand dune field in the world. A very special set of circumstances came together to make this area possible. Rather than me trying to retell how this area came to be, here are a couple of links that describe it much better than I could.

Geology of the region:



Park History:


We actually spent parts of 3 days at the park. The first day, Chris and I explored it on our own. We wandered through some of the dunes and explored a short boardwalk.

The second day we were joined by friends George and Connie who we know from the Escapees Boomers as well as the Grand Design Rallies we have attended. This time we took a longer hike in the dunes (I chose to go barefoot! It felt really nice.), walked the boardwalk a second time and browsed the gift shop.

Chris and I went back one more time a few days later for a guided walk over the dunes.

All in all, it was a very interesting and relaxing week. I would recommend it if you are ever passing this way.

Raptor Lake near Holloman Air Force Base

Raptor Lake when it was quiet

One thing we did experience while we were here is a very strong dust storm! My weather station recorded wind gusts around 80 Kph and steady winds around 60. Of course the wind was out of the west so it picked up a lot of the gypsum dust from the dunes. It was also fairly warm so we needed to keep a few windows open for ventilation and of course collected a fair bit of the dust in the trailer! Fortunately it was also almost directly behind us so it didn’t rock the trailer too much but there were a few good blasts that we sure felt.

That is all dust in the background!

One of our day trips was up to McGinn’s PistachioLand with George and Connie again. They claim title to the world’s largest Pistachio. This area has quite a few Pistachio farms.


Chris and I also spent an afternoon at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. https://www.nmspacemuseum.org

They have a nice 4 story museum covering the early history of spaceflight up to recent times with an emphasis on local participation. They even have a section focusing on Science Fiction with exhibits on Star Trek, Star Wars and some of the more significant classic SF movies.

I would have had more photos, but my phone died shortly after we arrived so only got a few of the outside displays.

Piece of a V2 rocket

Tracking antenna

Missile of some sort

Business end of an F1 that powered the Saturn V moon rocket

The complex also houses a planetarium and iMax theatre. The day we were there we really only had time for two of the 3 and chose the planetarium over the iMax. That was a mistake unfortunately. I found the planetarium show pretty mundane and the technology they used wasn’t all that good. Personally I found the planetarium show at the Vancouver planetarium 30 years ago far superior.

Another day trip we took was up to Carrizozo and the Valley of Fires Recreation Area. Some claim that this is the most recent lava flow in the continental USA occurring 2 to 5000 years ago. They have a nice little campground here but only a couple of sites that would work for us. There is a nice hiking trail through the lava field that takes about an hour or so. Lots of interpretive signs so you learn about what you are seeing. All in all and nice afternoon trip and worthwhile.


White Sands is also host to the Army’s White Sands Missile Range. This range has had a long history including hosting the first atomic bomb test at the Trinity site north of the National Park, testing captured German V2 rockets at the end of the Second World War and testing various components of the US Manned Space Program. They still close the highway between Las Cruces and Alamogordo as well as the National Park periodically while they test rockets which overfly the highway and the park.


One other military aspect of this area is the proximity to Holloman Air Force Base. There were many flyovers of various fighters (mostly F16's and F35's) and other aircraft. One I hadn't seen before is the
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper
drone. I guess they do their training out of Holloman.

After spending a week in the Alamogordo area it was time to move on. There are 4 major routes between Alamogordo and our next stop which was on the other side of the last of the mountains, in the neighbourhood of Artesia, NM. The shortest, via Cloudcroft was also the highest pass, almost 8700 ft and quite a steep climb! The others, while not as high, were a fair bit longer. We were watching the weather and winds and when it came time to go, elected the Cloudcroft route. Sure enough it was an almost continuous 6-8% grade for almost 16 miles to the pass, but we just took it easy and kept an eye on the engine gauges as we climbed. Turned out to be a non issue. The truck and trailer climbed over the pass like a champ.

That evening we pulled into the Escapees Co-op park at Lakeland where we were staying for a week.

We chose this park for a couple of reasons but the main one is that it is about half way between Roswell, NM and the Carlsbad Caverns.

Roswell of course is famous as the site of the supposed UFO crash and coverup in 1947. A good portion of the downtown section of town is set up with many tourist attractions. The main one being the Roswell International UFO Museum and Research Centre. https://www.roswellufomuseum.com/about-us

We spent an hour or so going through the museum which was interesting and covered a number of subjects beside just the UFO side. They also have a full research library with almost every book ever published on UFO’s as well as most of the declassified case reports of UFO sightings and reports from the Air Forces Project Blue Book.

Still a couple of aliens around that they haven't captured yet!

The other attraction in the area is the famous Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad National Park. https://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm

This is one of the most extensive cave networks in the USA. Carlsbad Cavern itself is still being explored and new branches are being found. Also in Carlsbad National Park is Lechuguilla Cave which is not open to the public.

Carlsbad has been open to the pubic since the beginning of the last century and has an extensive network of paved paths through a large part of the cave system. There are several different ways one can tour the caves. Unfortunately when we booked our time slot, all the ranger led tours were sold out so we elected to go on our own. Also, rather than taking the easy way and the elevator down, we elected to take the natural entrance trail which is a steep 1.25 mile hike down around 750’ to the main cave section called Big Room. Again, if you are interested in the details, I will let you read the information from the link above. I do have lots of pictures so I will add the best ones here. As always, you can just click on any picture to open a full size version.

After leaving New Mexico, we had a few days to kill before we could arrive at our rally location in Waco. We found a nice little campground about a half hour outside Waco called Winkler Park. It is on Belton Lake which, being a controlled lake, the level can fluctuate a lot. I guess it has been dry here because the lake here wasn’t much more than a swamp with a river running through it. Despite that, it was still a worthwhile stop. It was quiet, clean and fairly inexpensive, although it was a bit tight getting in. It is an Army Corp Of Engineers park built many years ago when trailers were fewer and a lot smaller.

On the afternoon of the first day we were there we suddenly heard a loud roar off in the distance. It sounded like thunder but continued for a couple of minutes. It happened later in the evening after dark and on the northern horizon I could see an orange glow. Turns out that SpaceX has a rocket test facility about 10 miles north near McGregor, TX. From what I have read, every new rocket engine they produce is tested at this facility before being certified for flight. With all the flights they have been doing, that is a lot of testing.

This morning, Monday, we packed up and headed for our rally site in downtown Waco. We got here about 11 AM and are now set up. This week about 200 other rigs or around 400 people will show up and the fun and games will commence culminating in the Total Solar Eclipse happening a week from today. Fingers crossed for some decent weather!


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