Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sometimes you feel like a nut

Lining the rim of White Sands desert are a series of pistachio farms and road stands. Early on in the voyage, Mr. Hall memorized the refrain, "No, you don't want any" and repeated it every time the billboards appeared, embellished with every praise that could be accorded the humble nut, much to Mrs. H.'s consternation. The sight of a giant looming pistachio was almost too much for Mrs. Hall to pass by, but Mr. Hall assured her the last thing they wanted to do before they flew out was to spend the day vacuuming nut shells out of the crevices of a rental car.
Though the temperatures were starting to rise early in the morning, the Halls were up and about, eager to beat the crowds at the New Mexico Space Museum. And a fascinating museum it was, too; loaded with artifacts displayed engagingly close, the museum employs a neat floor plan that starts not on the first, but on the fourth floor. Visitors move down a series of ramps that hug the outer glass walls, allowing guests to view the stunning landscapes overlooking the white sands, as well as the compelling historical relics. After taking in all the history, from Sputnik to moon rocks to spaceship simulators, it was time to move on. Next on the way was the White Sands National Monument and Park. By this time, the mercury was past the 100 mark and the Halls opted to just drive through the park and marvel at the white sand dunes, but there were plenty of hearty souls anxious to enjoy the grounds despite the heat. Children bearing plastic snow sleds ("Where did they buy those down here?" asked Mrs. H.) were in queue, waiting for the park to open so they could sled down the dunes. Incredulously, there were picnic tables, with metal overhangs, meant to provide the barest minimum of shade in the blistering heat, with little hibachi stoves along side- presumably for any in the crowd who might feel that walking and playing on baking sand produced a desire to make a fire to fuss over, cooking a hot meal. There were also strong advisories regarding desert creatures, such as snakes and dangerous insects. All in all, a true garden spot.
Heading further south, the Halls pressed on; they passed the White Sands Missile Range and attempted to visit, but the public were not allowed in that day. They had met one of the employees at the visitor center who had given them her name and number, offering them an opportunity to call and witness the next launching of a missile, a few days from then, but unfortunately, it would have kept them beyond their schedule, so disappointedly they had to decline.
Crossing the desert they saw numerous dust funnels form and reforming, "Dust Devils", pulling pink sand up off the ground and into a transparent pink funnel moving over the landscape. Off in the distance, storms could be seen marching across the mountains for miles and miles. In Mescalero, they climbed through mountain passes, all part of the Apache Reservation and whizzed past an Apache festival and get together; a temporary city of tents and campers high in the hills. Mrs. Hall spotted what she thought was a dark wild turkey that turned out to be a vulture. South of Las Cruces, they pulled into a little town called Mesilla, a charming old Mexican village, full of Spanish Mission buildings, shops and restaurants. A perfect place to stop for dinner and some authentic margaritas, they agreed. Fascinated by the cactus everywhere, Mrs. Hall was prone to squeaking "ouch!" every time Mr. H. turned his back- it became a subject of some concern over the course of the trip, for with every new variety they encountered, she seemed to incur another puncture. ("The last one leapt out at me!" was her excuse.) Right off the center plaza stood a beautiful courtyard and the 150 year old Spanish mansion restaurant named the Double Eagle. After securing their drinks in the long carved wood bar, they were seated in the breezy atrium for some flautas and cerviche.
Walking off their repast and listening to the live music in the plaza was heavenly, but it was time to press on to their waiting hotel in Willcox. On the way down, the weather closed in and one of the many storms crossing the desert crossed over the road, beating down furiously, pelting and buffeting the drivers on the highway. The winds picked up and tumbleweeds flew across the road in the 35- 40 mph gusts. When they finally pulled into their hotel, the desk clerk looked up and said, "Welcome, Mr. Hall." Mr. H. was a little taken aback- he is used to being recognized elsewhere, but this was certainly more far-flung then he expected. "Oh, that was easy," she said. "You were the only reservation for today- we don't get many folks around here this time of the year; you know, with the monsoon season being upon us." Mr. Hall put his head down and signed the register, pointedly avoiding the looks from Mrs. Hall.
Next episode: from the bottom of the copper mines to the top of Boot Hill; stay tuned!

No comments:

Tell your friends!