Greetings, earthlings! We have been in New Mexico for the last three weeks, and it’s out of this world! Okay, enough with the alien stuff, but I do understand why it’s “The Land of Enchantment”. Vastly different landscapes, very unique and unlike anywhere we have ever been, some of it really does have an otherworldly feel.
When we arrived in Roswell, our RV park was decorated in aliens. It even had a gift shop with items like “Alien Poop”, funny alien themed tee-shirts, etc… It was a great appetizer of cheesiness to get excited about the rest of the town . We got in around lunch, so we slipped over to Backdraft BBQ. I have to tell you, we sampled all sorts of Texas BBQ on this trip. This New Mexico restaurant was absolutely my favorite! I will crown my runner up MacDaddy’s in Port Aransas, TX. Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill in Charleston, WV is still a top contender out of all my travels. That is a crown jewel from our hometown. I sure do miss their mac n cheese!
We then headed to the historic downtown area to visit the International UFO and Research center. Everything in town is alien/UFO themed, even their restaurants. The museum had artifacts and a timeline of all the events surrounding the 1947 UFO crash. It’s worth noting, this actually didn’t happen in Roswell. It happened in the mountains about 75 miles away. I am not sure how that became so associated with Roswell other than most of the people involved and the authorities came out of Roswell.
They detailed many different accounts from witnesses, and I have to say it’s convincing enough that it’s hard to believe NOTHING happened. After reading the accounts and seeing what evidence they had I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t a weather balloon. The story is that among crash debris were the bodies of two deceased aliens. Witnesses claim the third one survived but was injured sitting on a rock. The debris contained strong material resembling tin foil. It wasn’t something you could rip with your hands or something anyone could identify. They say there was no control panel, no engine, and many believe they were seeking some of the unique crystals found in the mountains.
My personal belief is that the government liked the flying saucer rumor better than disclosing national secrets of what they were working on. The first atomic bomb was detonated in Los Alamos about two hours away. They were testing German rockets in White Sands, and in Roswell the first atomic bomb squadron was operating. Some believe that it wasn’t our government sent there by the Soviets as the Cold War was just ramping up.
I am not saying that there aren’t aliens. I am just saying I personally don’t think they crashed in Roswell. There is too much coincidence with all the scientific exploration being done by the military in the area. Whatever it was, the military was on the site of the crash being told to shoot anyone who tries to come near. Maybe we will learn in our lifetime what happened, maybe not. But, in all seriousness aside, it’s a fun place to go and let your imagination run wild.
It was the coldest it has been since we started traveling and we had some snow. That part was killing our vibe bit because we really enjoy taking nature walks most days. We did manage to get out and look around at Bottomless Lakes State Park, and took a look at the Devil’s inkwell. The swimming area looked stellar so if you are ever there during the warm months, it’s worth the trip. We also visited Bitter Lake National Nature Preserve, which was our favorite hike of the two. It’s a wetland area with a lot of animal tracks, we saw evidence of bobcats, badgers (lots of badgers), deer, javelina, etc. It was also beautiful there between the lake, the wetlands and all the vegetation.
I was excited to move on to Ruidoso! In my last post I mentioned it was supposed to be a bit like Jackson Hole. I was going off some recommendations/commentary of the locals. We didn’t know where we wanted to go after Roswell and were kind of taking informal polls . I will say I would NEVER compare it to Jackson Hole, not by a long shot. However, it had plenty of it’s own charm and beautiful snow-crested mountains. Elk, a herd of wild horses, and coues deer (very small whitetail) visit in the village quite a bit. They all just roam around and you can see them eating out of planters of the businesses like they own the place.
We got in on a Sunday and decided to visit the main area of the village. We looked around in some of their art galleries and shops. Took in some recommendations and pleasant conversations with some of the shop workers. I also badly needed my hair cut later in the week and was able to get some additional great info from the hairdresser. Ruidoso is beautiful, but it’s also the gateway to a lot of small colorful mountain towns of which I wish we had a little more time to explore.
For example, this is the general area that popularized Smokey the bear. On the nearby mountain of Capitan, there was a forest fire in which they rescued a badly burned bear cub from a tree. They eventually took him to live in the National Zoo in Washington, DC. When he died they buried him at Capitan and there is a museum dedicated to Smokey the Bear memorabilia.
We had a lot to choose from, but we chose to drive over to the historical town of Lincoln where Billy the Kid was a key player in the Lincoln County War. Billy came to Lincoln with his mother and step-father and began working on a Ranch owned by John Tunstall and his partner, a lawyer named Alexander McSween. They dared to try and compete with Murphy & Dolan Mercantile and Banking. Murphy & Dolan had powerful connections with government officials in Sante Fe and were a powerful force to be reckoned with.
This began a war between the groups that caused a great deal of bloodshed in this tiny little town. As things escalated, Tunstall hired Billy and a group of other men they called “The Regulators” to watch over their property and protect their investments. This is the story that is told on the 1988 film, Young Guns. Dolan & Murphy obtained a court order to seize some of Tunstall’s horses to repay an unpaid debt. When he refused to give them up, Sheriff William Brady shot him.
Billy vowed to avenge his death and eventually the Regulators ambushed and shot Sheriff Brady in the street of Lincoln. By three months later, the Regulators had grown to about 60 men and there was a big standoff shooting war. Eventually President Rutherford Hayes had to declare martial law and sent in some troops to try and squash the violence on what was dubbed “The most dangerous street in America”.
Eventually, there was a bounty put on Billy’s capture and he was sentenced to hang. Most of the people involved in the war had been pardoned and he had a meeting prior with Governor Wallace where he was promised clemency. They corresponded while he was in custody and eventually Wallace told him there would be no pardon. He would be the only one sentenced out of all the participants of the war. According to legend, he was told by the judge he would hang until he was “dead, dead, dead”. Billy told him he could go to “hell, hell, hell”.
So, Billy found his opportunity to escape while Deputy Olligner took the other five inmates to the restaurant in the hotel across the street. He was left alone in the courthouse with Deputy Bell. He convinced Bell to take him to the outhouse. As Bell led him back up the steps, Billy quickly went around a corner and then attacked Bell. He then stole his gun and shot him. Then he stole a shotgun from Sherriff Pat Garret’s office and killed Olinger when he came to see about the shots. He then went out on the balcony and told the people in the street he would not harm anyone else as long as they let him leave with no trouble. They saddled a horse for him and gave him some tools to get out of his shackles and he rode out of town. He was later hunted down by Garret and killed.
The town has worked very hard on preservation. We started at the visitor center to visit their museum and to understand the story. Then you can walk down the street and go into many of the buildings that existed back then. The grand finale is going into the courthouse and following the footsteps of Billy the Kid that day, seeing which door they went out of to go to the outhouse, the bullet hole in the wall where he had been shooting at Deputy Bell, and so on. It’s a very interesting tour through history, it was well worth the hour drive to get there.
Had we more time, I would have liked to have traveled over to White Oak (another town that Billy spent time in) which is a little ghost town that grew during the gold rush but died because there was no gold there. There is a saloon there called “No Scum Allowed Saloon”. The name comes from one of the “Young Guns” movies where White Oaks was depicted as the home “of 756 Respectable People NO SCUM ALLOWED.” The proprietor is known to tell patrons a lot of history of the town, which now is home to only 7 people.
On our final day, we traveled over to Alamogordo and visited a Pistachio Farm. It has the worlds largest Pistachio in it’s parking lot, and they do tours every hour on the hour. I am certain during warmer seasons the tour might be a tad more interesting because there would be pistachios on the trees, but we enjoyed the short informational ride.
Pistachio trees grow more easily in the Mediterranean. Here in America, there is a bacteria in the soil that does not allow them to grow. So they actually graft the pistachio tree to an oak or a mesquite tree. There are male and female trees. Out of the hundreds of females they only need about 20 males to pollinate from. The males are taller because they don’t have the strain of growing the nuts. The second picture from the right is a rosebush they use to judge their soil for their grapevines. When they start to see the rosebush suffer they know they need to do something before it effects their grapes.
The store sells all sorts of flavors of Pistachios that you can sample and purchase. They also make wine from their grapes there. We stopped and sampled one our tour guide recommended that was like a Moscato infused with Pistachio Oil. It tastes sweet and then finishes nutty. Most of their wines were sweet because the grapes are so small and have high sugar content. They had an atomic pistachio brittle which started sweet and then was very spicy. Genius!
After that we headed over to White Sands National Park. It honestly looks like a snowy wonderland. They sell sleds in the visitor center and also provide education on how the gypsum crystals (what we make drywall from) in the mountains are broken down from the monsoons and winds. Over the course of 10,000 years it formed a basin of dunes for about 275 miles.
We enjoyed all the laughing and squealing as people were sledding and building sand castles. It was a joyful place. I did my own squealing and laughing sledding down the steep dunes. We stayed until sunset so that we could see the changes in color across the dunes and the surrounding mountains. It was beautiful.
I also want to share a fun fact I learned from my son-in-law, Travis. Did you know, they imported Gemstock from Kalahari and released them at White Sands Missile range back in the 60’s? Now, they have about 5000 there (MORE THAN THEY HAVE NOW IN KALAHARI!!!) and they are apparently a nuisance. They sell permits to hunt them there. On the National Park side, they spent over 1 million dollars to try and fence them out of the park. After it was completed they realized they left about 200 within the fence. They are scrambling to do something because apparently they reproduce well and they will be back up in their numbers in the park in no time. That’s crazy to me! If you don’t know what a Gemstock is here is a pic I snagged from the internet:
Yesterday, we drove from Ruidoso to Albuquerque and I have to say that was a stunningly beautiful drive through the desert. I was delighted to find we drove right through Valley of Fires Recreational Area. I had wanted to make time to see that but couldn’t find time in our schedule. A volcano erupted in the valley 5,000 years ago and creates an almost other-worldly environment. Black lava everywhere with desert vegetation growing out of it. So fascinating!
Now that we are in Albuquerque, our only mission is to get ready to go home to visit our friends and family. We have a lot to do between winterizing the camper, packing, and getting the RV into storage. This will be my last blog post until after March 12th when we return so that we can put intentional focus on time with our loved ones.
See you after our hiatus!