Part Five: New Mexico
Enchiladas are different here. Also, aliens.
Hold on to your butts, this is a long one.
Okay so first of all, New Mexico, why are your enchiladas flat?
I mean, it's fine. It's totally fine! But they're not like that in Texas (we roll them here) and I was shocked.
Then again, perhaps Tex-Mex is different than New-Mex-Mex.
Enchiladas are not where my New Mexico story begins, though. As I mentioned in Part Four, I left the Guadalupe Mountains and headed for the Land of Enchantment. On the way over while crossing through the mountains of eastern New Mexico, I saw something for the first time.
A runaway truck ramp.
As the highway came over the mountain and began to descend the other side, along the shoulder was an "exit ramp" with a sign that said, "RUNAWAY TRUCKS ONLY". As I passed it, I looked beyond to see that the exit ramp ended abruptly with gravel and what appeared to be caution-decorated construction barricades.
What the heck? Are runaway semi trucks such a common issue that you need to have a contingency in place? Being a city-dweller from the flat coastal plane of Texas where we have no mountains for an 18-wheeler to lose all its shit on, I had to Google it later.
Yeah, it's totally a thing.
Also, for the record, it's not like Houston is immune to weird shit as it pertains to cargo and shipping. Example one. And two. And three? 'The fuck is with these spools? Those are three separate incidents!
Anyway, by the time I pulled into my apartment, I was tired, sunburnt, and ready for a shower.
And I mean, ready ready for a shower.
I got to Las Cruces in time for dinner. I checked myself into my apartment, a beautiful space with a mountain view. This is where I ordered enchiladas from a local place, to find that they were, in fact, flat. Not rolled, like we do in Texas.
I will survive.
The evening was uneventful; I enjoyed my "luxury apartment" (as it had been truthfully listed) and went to bed. The thoughtfully tucked soft linens felt so nice on my sunburn. You know, the sunburn I got climbing Guadalupe Peak. The sunburn I got despite applying SPF 100 once before climbing and again before descent. Ugggghhhhh.
(Swipe to get a good, PG-13 look at that sweet, sweet sunburn. As it turns out, looking down to watch where you step while totally shirtless will create a perfect sunburn line down your side!)
When I awoke, it was time to kiss Las Cruces goodbye. I searched for local coffee and found a hole-in-the-wall Jewish-owned coffee shop called Cafecito Divino. Want to know how I know it's Jewish-owned? My heathen ass asked for bacon on my breakfast burrito and the cashier had to explain to me why bacon doesn't appear on the menu. Mortified! I'm so sorry.
On the way to Cafecito Divino, I saw a ton of Pueblo Revival architecture. When you think of New Mexico, this is the architectural style you think of, and with good reason - it's everywhere. Las Cruces is one of the prettiest towns I've ever seen, filled with Pueblo Revival, especially in the Mesilla area on southwest side.
Freshly caffeinated, I headed east toward White Sands National Park.
Boy howdy lemme tell ya - it's some of the most gorgeous scenery you've ever seen. I was fortunate to be there on a blissfully clear blue day, which contrasted perfectly with the white sand below.
You enter on a paved road where there is white sand in every direction, freckled with bushes and trees. As you drive further into the park, the sand grows stronger and the bushes begin to fade. Before long it is only you, the black ribbon of pavement you drive upon, and a vast sea of white in all directions.
You'll first come to a clearing where people park and walk about for photos. Children who've rented sleds from the park rangers at the gift shop a few miles back jump out of minivans with an excited fervor to sled the hills of hot snow.
But patience is a virtue.
Continue driving past the first parking zone and those hills for sledding grow taller and steeper. The sand, somehow, grows whiter and more crisp. That black ribbon you'd been driving upon disappears, swapped out for hard-packed white gypsum.
There is a notice that tells visitors, "Federal laws and policies prohibit the taking of sand and any resource from within the national park," as in don't take any sand home with you, to the tune of a $5,000 fine or a six-month stint in jail. That's an important point to make: These parks (all natural national parks in the United States, in my opinion) do not belong to us. This is not our playground to take home a piece of. These parks belong to nature and Native Americans. We are merely visitors, and like I did at Guadalupe Peak the day before, I felt it only appropriate to thank White Sands for its beauty before driving away empty-handed, having only taken photographs.
For everyone's information, the Apache people were settled in both the Guadalupe Mountains and White Sands. This is to say that my experience on this trip, so far as my national park gallivanting is concerned, was entirely on what was once Apache land. For more information on where you can donate to First Nations' relief funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit this page by the First Nations Development Institute.
Sidebar: Do you know from which Native American tribe your home was stolen? Text the city and state to (907) 312-5085 (for example, I live in Houston, so I texted "Houston, Texas"). Then, if you have the financial ability, donate to the tribe(s) from which the land was stolen, if they still exist today. Fellow Houstonians, you're sitting on Atakapa, Karankawa, and Sana tribal land.
Following White Sands, I had to go see what's up with Roswell. Alien Capital of the World? I had to see for myself.
When you get to Roswell, you don't see the alien decor all at once. They don't blast it in your face from the moment you cross the threshold, no, they're not quite that overzealous.
Oh, but then you hit Main Street.
I parked a block over and walked the thoroughfare from end to end. Okay, yes: Alien Central. There are endless shops and cafes decked to the brim with UFO imagery and little green alien people.
Even the businesses that aren't alien-tourism-centered were decked out in extraterrestrial details. I spotted a barbershop with a mural on their window depicting little alien people giving each other haircuts, and a bank with a mural showing a UFO beaming up cash from an ATM.
In the midst of all of that, however, was this little treasure I adored. Bordered by alien images on both sides by its neighbors was a small witchery with not a single alien to be seen in its storefront.
Keep doin' you, little witchery. Respect.
The most absurd part, I must say, was a little farther down Main Street from the main attractions. From the street, you see the familiar golden arches. Yes, a McDonald's. But y'all, we can't have nice things, so you know what McDonald's did? Oh, you know they capitalized on Roswell's UFO fame and made a UFO-shaped McDonald's on Roswell's Main Street.
I can't y'all. Whatever, it was cute I guess. No shade to Roswell at all. This town is the perfect amount of kitsch and I love it.
I have to go back when we're not in the midst of COVID so that I can actually shop around and see the museums, which, all joking aside, look absolutely fascinating.
Before sunset, I was off on the last leg of my journey for the day.
Thanks for stickin' with it - like I said at the top, this blog entry was a long one.
I hit the road going north to Santa Fe, where I would be spending the night. On a country road just outside of Santa Fe proper, I rented another apartment. A two-bedroom space on a hilltop in a building with two other units, one below me and one around the side of me. Upon arrival, I noticed that the A/C was out.
No bother, though. I opened the windows and settled into my bedroom as it began to rain softly outside. With all the fans running, the light rain provided me a terrific cool breeze all through the night. Not a sound to be heard outside but the chirps of the bugs.
Before going to bed, I ordered dinner. A cute local joint. On recommendation, I tried their enchiladas.
And wouldn't you know it? They, too, were served flat.
- NOTICE -
COVID-19 TRAVEL PRECAUTIONS I IMPLEMENTED
Though this blog is written with a carefree, fun, and exploratory nature, please know that I took every precaution behind the scenes.
I tested negative for COVID-19 prior to taking this trip.
I avoided other people at all times.
If person-to-person contact was unavoidable (such as my accommodations in Part Six of this series), I was wearing a mask. That being said, person-to-person contact was a very rare occurrence.
I only booked accommodations where I could have the whole place to myself with no spaces shared with other people (except for Part Six).
I only booked accommodations where I could check myself in. Again: No person-to-person contact (except for Part Six).
I took sanitizing wipes with me and gave every accommodation a good wipe-down.
Though I talk about food and coffee here, I also brought a lot of non-perishable food with me which I ate in the car while driving. Any and all food that I did purchase was done so over the phone and picked up to-go.
Photos posted to this blog and my Instagram featuring me without a mask were only possible outdoors, distanced from other people - and the mask only came off for the photo.
If you are choosing to travel during this time, please be aware of all of the precautionary work that you must put into your trip to ensure that you do not contract the virus and do not spread it to other people.
If you cannot guarantee that, do not travel.