Day 80 – Las Cruces to Carlsbad & Carlsbad Caverns

Wow! Eighty days of posts…who’d have thought it – certainly not me! Today was going to be another fairly long drive, with a few stops planned in between. We got going fairly early and was on the road by 9am. Our first stop was the White Sands National Monument, and we made good time to get there by 10am – going through a kind of immigration control and officials checking our passports before waving us on. The park was disappointing at first glance when we drove for a couple of miles into it, but it soon turned a lot more interesting when the dunes got bigger and bigger. It is a really interesting place, with missile testing taking place in the area so sometimes the park will be shut for that. The dunes are also amazing and we walked around quite a bit. Even though it was just after 10 it was already quite hot but the sand on the dunes was surprisingly cool and we walked around barefoot in the whitest sand I’ve ever seen. We stopped there for a bit over an hour and then set off again to our next stop, the Carlsbad Caverns.
The drive to Carlsbad was quite interesting and took us through Cloudcroft which has an elevation of 8,600 feet and looked quite alpine – and is a lot cooler than the plains! As we were driving there was some threatening clouds in the sky again but we never saw much rain. We had to drive through Carlsberg on the way to the Caverns and it also didn’t look like a very inviting town though it was quite big and carried on for miles and miles. This is prime roughneck country with oilfields all around, and the men here are proper men – working out on the oilfields all day and drinking hard in the evening (read a bit about it!). The Carlsbad Caverns were amazing – really, really impressive and something well worth going out of your way for. We did the self guided walking tour that involves a walk of about a mile around the big cavern, with amazing formations. It was very hard getting any sort of decent picture of the formations as they are not very well lit, but of course visiting something like this isn’t about getting pictures! It was also nice and chilly down in the cavern and I probably could have stayed there longer just for that!
When we got back to Carlsbad we checked into the Carlsbad Inn which I was worried about as well due to some bad reviews – the place was ok-ish though and the aircon worked! We headed straight out again to Danny’s Place which supposedly does the best BBQ in New Mexico, but I wasn’t that impressed and in fact the ribs I had in Scottsdale were far better than at Danny’s. Brian had pulled pork again which was ok, but all in all the meal wasn’t great and not worth any amount of hassle; fine to visit if you’re in the area, but otherwise give it a miss. From there we went to the local branch of Chili’s where I had a beer and then a margarita, and then things got messy.
As mentioned above, the locals work hard and party hard, and we got talking to a guy (Albert) from Oklahoma that’s been working in Carlsbad for a couple of years, as well as his female friend who was visiting. To make a long story short, we had quite a few drinks and I felt quite worse for wear the next day! It was a fun night though and we managed yet again to not get beaten up by the locals! And I know a lot more about the oilfields than I knew before – even though that is still not a lot! Carlsbad is another strange place; a huge chunk of the population is working in the oilfields and there’s a lot of motels and cheap hotels, as well as all the fast food chains, but somehow there doesn’t seem to be anything much to do or see. It is also a big town where everyone drives a big pickup with generators or pumps on the back – we even saw one with a BBQ on the back – though I suppose the guy might have just bought it!

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