Crossing America

Crossing Country v2023

Day By Day

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  • Day 8 ~ Tuesday ~ Independence Day ~ El Paso ~ Las Cruces ~ White Sands ~ Santa Fe
    Day 8. On the road again. But first a haircut. As I made my way to the hotel parking lot shirtless, Jules exited the building on her way back from her morning workout. What was I doing she asked. Giving myself a haircut of course. Well if I was going to do that, she would ‘help’ me so at least it would be decent. Jules mentioned something about a little redneck and I agreed that I never said I wasn’t a little redneck. She suggested that perhaps I’m a lot redneck. The Babbs met us at our hotel and from there we would be leaving for one of their favorite hikes in the area, a slot canyon. The hike is 45 minutes from El Paso and fortunately North in New Mexico which happened to be where we were nomadding next. We stopped for Nate to get gas and while there ducked into Rudy’s gas station to pick up a few breakfast burritos as a second breakfast. While living in Europe we got the hang of appreciating gas station food (see Ireland and Italy), but in the USA it’s still hit or miss. Not Rudy’s. As an Android user, the Apple pin that had been shared with me was useless as the location my Droid showed, came and went as we kept driving. Good think I stuck to Nate like glue on the drive North. Soon we pulled over at a location with no sign or trailhead to speak of. After dousing ourselves in sunscreen we crossed the road and approached a gate sidelined by barbed wire. The Babb family made a note the gap that previously existed next to the gate was no longer present so over the gate we climbed. Whether any of this was legal didn’t really concern me as I knew if this was a Babb hike, it was going to be a good hike. As we walked through an unshaded dry riverbed, the Babbs mentioned this was the first time they had seen water in the Rio Grande next to the road we had taken to this trail. However there was no water in the riverbed upon which we now walked. After maybe 1/4 of a mile we came to a rock formation that soon rose on either side of us creating a slot canyon. The slot canyon lasted perhaps 1/3 of a mile. Having never been to Antelope Canyon but only the Narrows at Zion, this was as good as it was going to get for enjoying a narrow canyon. Our tour guide Erin noted that you should use the ‘warm’ feature on your camera phone when capturing the blue sky and sand walls of the canyon to make the red pop on the walls and the blue in the sky. Once through the slot canyon we began our ascent to a mesa overlooking the area we had just traversed. Between adjusting to the altitude of the high desert, the 100 degree dry heat, and not being accustomed to hiking while living in Petersburg, Virginia, Acadia struggled to the rear. I volunteered to stay behind with her (not that I needed a break) and routinely had to play the part of drill sergeant. She and I made it to the top just in time for the group resting to take a group photo before we began our descent. The walk back was sad not only because it meant there would be no new ground covered on this hike, but we were closer to saying good by to the Babbs, possibly for 2 years as they are headed to Korea. Once those good byes were said, Jules and I decided to backtrack just a tad to White Sands National Park. In all the times we have traveled cross country and came close, never have we stopped here. The temptation was too much for me, especially it only being a 30 or so minute detour on our way to Santa Fe. After about an hour we arrived at the White Sands Visitor Center to witness park seeker after park seeker walking around with sleds (yes the Park store sells them and yes, they sell wax for your sled). After learning more about the park and it’s history we headed out on the 8 mile road that leads into white dunes themself. The road soon became encroached with white sand and the familiar Vermont winter hallmarks of rutted roads and snowplowed banks were ubiquitous. There were so many white hills I was unsure where to stop for some exploration. I decided to circle the entire lollipop road and after having surveyed the landscape settled on a ‘mountain range’ of white sand we would climb. Unfortunately we did not have enough time for hiking and quite frankly, it would be foolish to hike White Sands in midday in July. The white sand reflects the sun and it’s probably wise to reapply sunscreen every 15 minutes in this locale. I would love to hike White Sands but only starting at sunrise or in a cooler season. Now our children do not believe in sunglasses and failed to bring any of theirs on this trip. Because the sand was so blinding, we took turns climbing the sand dunes next to the snowplowed parking lot where we were stationed. Hunter and I especially enjoyed the solitude of our location. As I mentioned this was midday in summer at White Sands and there were very few people anywhere in the park. It was hard to turn away from that peaceful solitude but soon we did and began the nearly five hour drive to our hotel just outside Santa Fe. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in the Santa Fe area we were fairly tired from our morning hike, time spent outside at White Sands, and the long car ride. This prevented us from driving to the Santa Fe Independence Day fireworks. Being from New England, Independence Day and small town parades are something I miss. However I made a pact with Hunter that we would buy some fireworks and recreate an Independence Day celebration at a date to be named later. TOTAL DISTANCE DRIVEN: 2,615 TOTAL FAMILY SEEN: Dannah TOTAL FRIENDS SEEN: Lauren, Emily, Jill, Jud, Hazel, Kate, Mike, Nate, Erin, Beckett, Harper, Callan, Finley, Mr. & Mrs. Babb TOTAL ITEMS LEFT BEHIND: Comfy black dress, collared Hunter shirt, scot tee shirt PARKS VISITED: Washington State Park (AR), Franklin Mountain State Park (TX), Hot Springs National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe National Park, White Sands National Park
  • Day 6 ~ Sunday ~ Carlsbad Caverns
    Day 6. Sunday. Not a day of rest. We knew it was going to be a long slog across Texas. We were leaving the Dallas Fort Worth area and headed for El Paso, the border town with not only Juarez Mexico but also with New Mexico. We were going to cross a large portion of Texas and there would be a whole lot of nothing to see on the way. Compounding the impending boredom of the trip was leaving the relaxation and joy the entire family was experiencing with Jill and Jud and family. I wont go so far as to call them sirens but let’s just say I was being lulled during our time on the farm. We finally got on the road when our hosts were leaving for a special birthday meal for Mike–happy birthday Mike! The time was noon and even though we would gain an hour going from Central to Mountain time, there would be no chance to score a tour of Carlsbad Caverns (last tickets issued at 230pm), nor explore the visitor center (closes daily at 5pm). Carlsbad Caverns and the Guadalupe Mountains, both National Parks, were our two targeted stops on this all day drive (about 10 hours with stops) but as I mentioned we were not expecting anything at Carlsbad. Compounding the seeming uselessness of a visit to Carlsbad is the park is located at the end of a 10 mile road from the main highway necessitating 20 minutes of time. As there was still light when we arrived–about 630pm–we decided to do the nature hike trail that starts from the visitor center. After walking for a few minutes we gazed upon an amphitheater that was populated by 10-20 individuals. We made our way down to the seating area and learned this was the bat flight area where at dusk, up to 200 people listen to a ranger talk about the 200,000-400,000 bats that live in the Caverns from May to October and who on most nights leave the cave in search of food. Dusk would come in about 90 minutes so we settled into some prime viewing seats near the edge looking down into the caverns. Having been in the car for 7 hours or so the kids didn’t mind stretching out and waiting on the stone amphitheater seats for a while but then Jules took them on a short hike while Acadia and I remained behind to save the prime real estate. The ranger program began at 8pm and before 830 Acadia noticed the starlings, which had been coming and going on a regular basis by the dozens, went silent. Soon we saw a single bat flicker out of the caverns and make his way to the beyond. Apparently bats send scouts out to discern how the feeding grounds are for the evening. If there is a severe storm and they shouldn’t leave the cave. Maybe 10 minutes after that first scout appeared, we saw the first wave of bats exit the cavern, swarming in a vortex making their way higher and higher until they dissipated in every direction. More than once, Hunter, Acadia, and myself felt/saw a bat fly over the very tops of our heads or inches in front of all our faces as they came out of the caverns making their way into the night. It wasn’t ‘black out the sky’ swarm but it was still pretty cool. Adding to the effect was the nearly full moon which had started to rise and provided a perfect backdrop to see the bats rising from below in a very Halloween way. The night was so warm, distant thunderstorms provided beautiful lightning, and the bats would continue to flood out of the caverns for hours but as the saying goes, ‘miles to go before I sleep’ so we picked ourselves up and headed for the parking lot as some of the last folks to leave. Though it was late the kids had a hard time falling asleep and when we entered Guadalupe National Park Acadia remarked she has two National Parks named after here (Acadia and Guadalupe). Heading up the mountain in the dark I failed to see the welcome sign to the national park. The Floreski hallmark move is to always get a picture on/around the welcome sign to a national park. I mentioned I would keep an eye out for the welcome sign coming from the other direction as we exited but as we were driving about 75 mph on those country roads I was not certain that would be possible. Well for folks who know Eva when she gets determined, nothing stops her. She was looking for the back of the opposing welcome sign and sure enough from the 3rd row she called out, ‘there it is!’. Fortunately there were no other cards on the 4 lane highway at that point so I did a quick U-turn and stopped in front of the Guadalupe entrance sign with my headlights shining brightly. Acadia hesitated having heard in detail about rabies at the ranger program earlier in the night and uncertain what lurked just outside the cone of light emanating from our headlights. After some coaxing she went to the sign for a quick picture and then we were on our way. It would still be a couple more hours before we reached the hotel but reach it we did and were settled in our beds just before midnight. Excited to wake up early to see the Babbs! TOTAL DISTANCE DRIVEN: 2,149 TOTAL FAMILY SEEN: Dannah TOTAL FRIENDS SEEN: Lauren, Emily, Jill, Jud, Hazel, Kate, Mike TOTAL ITEMS LEFT BEHIND: Comfy black dress, collared Hunter shirt, scot tee shirt PARKS VISITED: Washington, Arkansas State Park, Hot Springs National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Parks, Guadalupe National Park

Day 0!

Day 0 because Jules said the trip shouldn’t start without us all together so rather than day 1, we will brand this as Day 0.

And technically, all five members of the family made the same journey on Day 0.  We just made it separated by 12 hours with Jules departing from our new home at 7am for one final night stay at Fort Gregg-Adams and the kids and I departing at 7pm for Fort Gregg-Adams.

The kids and I traversed I-64 where a severe storm had even laid a tree down across the traveling lane and we encountered hail during our journey.

However upon our arrival at Fort Gregg-Adams we found the worlds second largest Holiday Inn just as we had left it two years previously when we first arrived, parking lot overcrowded requiring a 20 minute walk to get from your car to your room!

That’s what you get when you build a 1000 room hotel with parking for 300!

The overflow Holiday Inn parking lot.

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