Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

“I chose the road less traveled. And now I’m lost.” — Darynda Jones

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Carlsbad, New Mexico

Road Trip June 21 — July 6, 2002

If you’re in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the No. 1 place to visit is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. But since I had already done this, I decided to forgo the cave tour and instead visit the city’s Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. It was a good choice as I added three new bird species to my life list — and got an educational experience about the landscape, plants, and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Barn owl. — Wikimedia photo

It was late afternoon when I arrived, giving me only a couple of hours to walk the 1.3 loop trail around the park’s variety of desert habitats that included sandhills, marsh areas and arroyos. But it was a good time to see daytime birds getting ready to nest for the night, or nighttime birds coming awake for their night of activity.

The first stop was an aviary near the visitor center that featured native birds of prey including golden and bald eagles. While these were fun to see, it was the birds that flew free around the avian-friendly park that interested me more. One of these, a barn owl flew right in front of me as I rounded a curve in the trail, which I seemed to have all to myself. A little farther on, a couple of scaled quail scurried off when they saw me coming, but not before I had a satisfying look at them.

Because back then I was still new to birding, both of these species were lifers for my growing bird list. So were the common nighthawks skimming the water at Waterfowl Pond near the prairie dog homes. I easily identified the nighthawks, well after a quick look at my bird field guide, by the broad white stripes visible near their wing tips as they flew.

Bank swallow

Also circling around the ponds were quite a few cliff and bank swallows. I had seen quite a few of these birds during trips to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. On one outing there had been a huge flock of five species of swallows circling around and under a small bridge. I had spent hours learning how to tell them apart. The bank and swift swallows, I had decided were the easiest to identify.

The bank swallow has a gray, necklace-like stripe on its white breast, which I came to think of as a banker’s bow tie. The mature cliff swallow, meanwhile, has a prominent white spot on its bluish-black head that flashes when its flying toward you. 

Other birds I saw as I followed the winding trail through the desert landscape included a Harris hawk, burrowing owls, black-chinned hummingbirds and an Eastern kingbird. It was a delightful late afternoon that ended far too quickly.

According to my journal notes, I paid a $4 entrance fee to be admitted to the park. I certainly got my money’s worth, and I noted that the admission fee today is only $1 more. A bargain I would say.

Available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Seaman https://sarah-angleton.com/2019/04/11/a-classy-post-about-a-loyal-dog-with-an-unfortunate-name. A dog story and a travel story in one, and it made me smile.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She is also currently looking for a new canine companion. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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I got a good belly laugh when I saw a sign for eye exams on a Wal-Mart front in Roswell, New Mexico — and right above it a space. — Photo by Pat Bean

“When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

From Santa Fe, I took Interstate 25 south to Carlsbad, New Mexico, which took me through the strange city of Roswell. Home to about 50,000 residents, Roswell sits on the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains.

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Carlsbad Caverns at sunset. — Wikimedia photo

The city’s weirdness factor, meanwhile, is based on a reported UFO crash near the city in 1947.  The alternative story is that it was actually a weather balloon that crashed and not an alien ship. The taller tale, expanded by UFO fans, claims that aliens were recovered from the crash and that the incident became a military cover up, a story that spawned the television series “Roswell” and been exploited by movies, such as “Independence Day.”

Roswell entrepreneurs have also exploited the UFO story to attract tourists.  Alien-themed businesses and museums abound, even Wal-Mart got into the act, as you can see from the above photo. I couldn’t help but have a good belly laugh when I saw a sign advertising an eye exam with a spaceship painted on the wall above it.

But since I’m not really into the UFO conspiracy, after a stop to refuel and have lunch, I drove on to Carlsbad, my stopping place for the night.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher, an awesome bird that’s common in Texas but can’t be found in Utah. — Wikimedia photo

While I wasn’t taking the time to visit Carlsbad Caverns, for which the city is famous, I did want to get into to town in time to watch the Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the cave at dusk. Some believe millions of these bats once inhabited the cave, but the latest rough count of these flying mammals was slightly less than 800,000, which is still enough to make for a spectacular show.

The day’s drive also increased my birding life list. Added to the list were scissor-tailed flycatcher, Couch’s kingbird, red-shoulder hawk and common and great-tailed grackles. All these birds were not normally seen in Utah, where most of my birding had been done since I had started seeing and listing birds.

Other birds seen on this day’s journey included house sparrow, rock pigeon, raven, red-winged blackbird, western meadowlark, turkey vulture, Lewis woodpecker, Swainson’s hawk, crow, mourning dove, northern mockingbird and cliff swallow.

Bean Pat: Oregon’s Painted Hills https://roadsbeltravelled.com/2018/09/08/born-to-wander-these-painted-hills/ I, too, traveled this road alone – as an old broad during my RV-ing days. Good times.

Available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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     “Sometimes you have got to look at things really positively – without putting your head in the sand, you have got to manage the negatives and keep putting a positive slant on it. Keep trying to find answers.” – Brian McDermot

I just got a glimpse of these white sand dunes as I passed by them just outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico. -- Wikimedia photo

I just got a glimpse of these white sand dunes as I passed by them just outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico. — Wikimedia photo

White Sands: Beauty and Missiles  

            When you think of White Sands in New Mexico, what’s the first thought that pops up in your brain? Monument or Missiles?

White Sands National Monument, whose dunes of glistening gypsum sands I passed on the final leg of my trip home after three weeks in Texas, is a place of both. I didn’t stop this day, but have taken the time to explore the 275 square miles of glistening white sand on past road trips.

But I did stop long enough in Texas Canyon, 50 miles east of Tucson, to snap a few pictures of the area's rocky landscape. == Photo by Pat Bean

But I did stop long enough in Texas Canyon, 50 miles east of Tucson, to snap a few pictures of the area’s rocky landscape. == Photo by Pat Bean

The National Park Service claims that this is the world’s largest gypsum dune field, and that its rising  from the heart of the desert in the Tularosa Basin is like no place else on earth. The Park Service also notes that occasionally the monument is closed to the public because of testing events at the nearby White Sands Missile Range, which Wikipedia claims is the largest military installation in the United States.

The seemingly oxymoron of beauty and missiles crossed my mind, sending me back in time to when my youngest daughter served on a destroyer tender during the Gulf War. Her ship was the USS Acadia, named after Acadia National Park in Maine.

Whose bright idea was it to name military ships after National Parks, I wondered at the time?

Such thoughts occupied my mine again during the next hundred miles or so driven beneath low-hanging clouds. I hit the rain at Texas Canyon in Arizona, with its own unique landscape of giant granite boulders. Although eager to get home, which was just 50 miles away, Pepper and I took a brief, damp break at the canyon rest stop.

By the time we did reach home, the drizzling rain that accompanied our last leg of the journey had turned into a downpour. I took it as a sign that Mother Nature was welcoming us back to Tucson.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Blood-Red Pencil: Breaking up is good to do http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/ I like this writing advice, probably because I still have a journalistic habit of short paragraphs. Some editors like it, and some don’t. It just goes to show that writing is never like math. Two and two are never four when it comes to words. What one editor thinks is wrong, another editor loves.  So sometimes you have to choose between pleasing yourself, and pleasing the editor who wants to publish your writing. At various times in my life I’ve done both.

“You can’t sit around thinking. You have to sit around writing.” – David Long



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 “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

Ernest Hemingway — Wikipedia photo

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

“I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe, has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.”

“Man is not made for defeat … The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without.”

– Ernest Hemingway on booze, writing, war and life.

Thoughts of Hemingway Along the way


The turn-by-turn guide to Route 66 http://www.historic66.com/description/ I was following got me thinking about Hemingway.

Old postcard advertising the Villa de Cubero

 It mentioned the rumor that the author might have written parts of “The Old Man and the Sea” while staying at the Villa de Cubero in Cubero.

I’ve seen Hemingway’s homes in Key West, Florida and Sun Valley, Idaho, where I actually met one of his granddaughters, and have stood before a memorial in his honor that sits beside the Big Wood River, so of course I was interested in this New Mexico connection.

Actually, I usually visit any place along the way that involves known writers. As a writer myself, I’m fascinated picturing aspects of my wordsmith colleagues.

A 1999 photo of about the only thing still doing business in Cubero. — Flicker photo


Cubero is not quite a ghost town, I noted as I passed through without stopping. Not sure now why I didn’t. I think because I wasn’t sure which of the crumbling ruins was where Hemingway stayed and I had gotten a late start this day and wanted to get to Flagstaff by day’s end.

I only got to Gallup, however, before calling it a day. I do tend to dally in my travels.

Meanwhile, intrigued by the Hemingway connection to Route 66, I got online and discovered this 1999 blog http://www.dukecityfix.com/profiles/blogs/the-cubero-adventures about Hemingway’s Cubero adventure. I definitely would have stopped if I had read it first.

I also discovered that Lucille Ball had stayed at the Villa de Cubero when she and Desi split.

Sometimes it seems like such a small world we live in. Connections seem to be everywhere.

Bean’s Pat: The Power of the Sun http://tinyurl.com/7sufeox The Blonde Coyote takes action that’s good for the environment and eventually her budget.

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“Reckless automobile driving arouses the suspicion that much of the horse sense of the good old days was possessed by the horse.” – Unknown

High up on a pole, this bright yellow vehicle advertises the Route 66 Auto Museum. — Photo by Pat Bean

Running Board Back in Time

After a night spent at the Santa Rosa RV Campground, where you can order a western-style barbecue dinner be delivered to your motorhome, I decided to check out the town’s Route 66 Auto Museum.

The running board on this old vehicle took me back in time. — Photo by Pat Bean

One of the spiffy, polished cars on display here had a running board. Not writing it down in my notebook at the time,, and not being a car buff, I can’t recall the make of the car, just as I can’t remember the make of the old car with the running board that my dad owned.

While my dad’s car never looked anything at all like the flashy, polished-to-a-reflective-shine, ivory-colored car on display at the museum, the sight of the running board sent a jolt of memory through my body. I clearly remembered standing on just such a running board many years ago.

The thrill of that brief moment, when I was about 6 years old, was relieved in all its Technicolor excitement. I remembered holding onto the car door for dear life as my dad drove his car down the driveway of my grandmother’s home.

My dad would probably get arrested for child endangerment today.

Route 66 heydays: When Elvis was hot, wild and young. — Photo by Pat Bean

Of course so would I.

The first cars I drove didn’t come equipped with seat belts. I remember once driving to the store, holding a baby on my lap with one hand, and with a death grip on the steering wheel with the other hand.

I also remember frequently flinging my right hand out to keep a child sitting next to me from doing a death plunge into the windshield when I had to stop suddenly. Back in the 1950s, a lot of moms were expert at this maneuver.

Thankfully I survived, and so did all my kids.

The upside is that my canine traveling companion, Pepper, who occupies the passenger seat of my RV today, gets the benefits of my youthful right-hand-flinging practice.

Bean’s Pat: My Life is a Scream: http://tinyurl.com/6vrdpbl A hilarious take on Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” selling for $120 million dollars.

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 “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

Cactus Motor Lodge

Tucumcari, New Mexico, is a city full of Route 66 memories.

Until you take a closer look. — Photo by Pat Bean

One of those is the old Cactus Motor Lodge where I stayed this past week. Not in the lodge itself, but on the property where it once stood.

While the former well-used motel rooms, some with their own auto garages, sit vacant and ghostly, the grounds have been turned into a landscaped RV park. While I was there, it was popular with both travelers and western kingbirds, the latter an especially nice touch for this avid birdwatcher. The gray flycatchers with their bright yellow belllies were all over the place.

The historic stone lodge, once neatly trimmed with bright orange and yellow paint, was built in the 1930s. Its office was converted from an old dance hall, where gambling was conducted illegally in the basement, according to some unsubstantiated information I turned up on the internet.

The dance hall supposedly had an escape tunnel, which was most likely cemented in when a swimming pool was built at the lodge in the 1950s. At least that was the guess of new owners who looked for the tunnel, but couldn’t find it.

Memories from Route 66’s past, when gas was only 39 cents a gallon, seeped into my thoughts as I walked my canine traveling companion, Pepper, around and around and around the property. She’s a young dog with a gazillion tons of energy and I’m an old broad who needs to keep walking.

We’re the perfect pair of wanderers. And Route 66 is providing us with plenty of colorful opportunities to wander off the beaten track.

Bean’s Pat: This Man’s Journey http://tinyurl.com/7wkhksa A different take on the photo challenge.  Perhaps we all need to unfocus a bit.

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“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are. Take one step. Do one thing. Move, even if you don’t feel like it.” Katherine Misegades

Gypsy Lee parked among the cacti at Pancho Villa State Park in New Mexico

Travels With Maggie

I’m going into my eighth year of full-time living and traveling in Gypsy Lee, my 22-foot RV that I bought in 2004 when I retired and sold my home.

My rootless life has allowed me to get to better know my five grown children, who scattered far and wide when they left home, including Japan, Korea, Canada, Egypt and Hawaii. There’s no question in my mind but that they inherited my want-to-see-the-world gene.

Jobs and financial realities meant we saw little of each other before I became rootless and could visit them, although not too long at any one place so as not to wear out my welcome. I mostly spend winters in Texas, where three of my children and nine grandchildren live. Summer, however, finds me heading north to both escape the heat and for a little bit of solitude, which I’ve discovered I need as much as I need people.

Curved-bill thrashers were plentiful at the park. -- Wikipedia photo

One of the other things I’ve come to appreciate most about my rootless lifestyle the past seven years has been the changing, always scenic and educational view out my RV window. I’ve found something awesome everywhere I’ve traveled, even in a crowded, cement-landscaped RV park in El Paso that was located right next to Highway 10’s whizzing traffic roar.

This campground was the first place I stayed in which I thought there was no hope to feel nature’s presence. But then I looked out my window and saw a family of Gambel’s quail parading past. It felt like Mother Nature had turned into Santa Claus and could find me anywhere I went.

My traveling companion, Maggie, and I spent the next night 85 miles west of El Paso at New Mexico’s Pancho Villa State Park, where Mother Nature’s presence was expected. She did not disappoint either Maggie, who had lizards to chase, or me, who had birds to watch.

Quail, thrashers, red-winged blackbirds and doves twitted about the park’s historical ruins and large blooming cacti.

And before I left the next morning, I had also made a new friend, another wandering/wondering old broad like myself; had learned that the park was located where Gen. Black Jack Pershing had launched 10,000 soldiers to chase insurgent Pancho Villa back to Mexico; and had glimpsed a bobcat lurking under a picnic table.

I wonder what the sights will be out the RV window as Maggie and I continue into our eighth year of rootlessness? Wouldn’t you?

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 “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” — Mark Twain

Gypsy Lee among the cactus at Pancho Villa State Park near New Mexico's border with Mexico. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

The 114,500 miles I’ve put on my VW Vista RV, Gypsy Lee, the past seven years have been good ones. I bought her new in 2004 and she’s gotten me everywhere I’ve wanted to go, done it averaging 15 mpg of fuel, and never broken down on the road, well except for a blown tire.

Together – Gypsy Lee, my dog Maggie and I – have traveled from ocean to ocean and from the Mexican border up into Canada. In return for her faithful service, I’ve had her oil changed every 3,000 miles, bought her several new sets of tires, given her a complete tune-up at 65,000 miles, one new fuel filter, and one new set of brake pads. That’s It.

But now she’s in the shop getting a major, and expensive, facelift. This time when I had her checked out to make sure she was road ready, the VW technician – that’s what they call mechanics and grease monkeys these days – found some significant wear and tear. He pointed it out to me as I stood beneath her lifted body, which still looked pretty good he said.

Gypsy Lee got me to Canada so I would walk through a marsh in Point Pelee National Park in Ontario. -- Photo by Pat Bean

While a transmission service and new brake pads are the only things nearing an emergency breakdown, I opted to do all the work the technician recommended. The cost, while it hurts, is actually less than that of the new roof I put on my last home.

And Gypsy Lee is my home. Or she will be again when I get her back Monday. That’s my 72nd birthday by the way. And I can’t think of a better present than having my RV ready to hit the road again. Hopefully Gypsy Lee and Maggie will be up to the next 100,000 or so miles. I sure am.

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Photo by Pat Bean


Whose to say these mushrooms, which appeared to have sprung up almost overnight after a rainstorm aren’t as spectacular on a small scale as the Grand Canyon is on a large scale?

What small creation of Mother Nature do you find magical?


  “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” — Robert Brault

 Travels With Maggie

 My first look, many years ago, out over the sprawling grandeur of the Grand Canyon dazzled my soul. More recently, my bow-front ride on the Maid of Mist into the mighty spray of Niagara Falls’ filled me with exhilaration. It is, I’m sure, the same reactions the majority of tourists have to these two wonders of Mother Nature.

The last three leaves on a winter tree suprised and amazed me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 I’ve learned, however, that I can be just as dazzled and exhilarated by less grand things, for example three magical leaves. I use the word magical because against all odds they were the only leaves left on a tree that Maggie and I passed on one of our recent winter morning walks.

They reminded me of an O’Henry’s story, “The Last Leaf.” The tale is about a little girl with pneumonia who was determined to live until the last leaf fell from a tree outside her window. It never did – because it was painted on the brick wall behind the tree – and the girl never died.

 But my three leaves were not painted. They were as green as new grass on a spring day. And they amazed me. As did the colorful mushrooms that appeared in a city park overnight after a rain storm. And the one yellow cactus blossom on a plant with dozens of magenta colored blooms at Pancho Villa State Park in New Mexico. Or the Gambel’s quail that I almost missed because it blended in so well with its surroundings.

 Mother Nature’s canvases are both huge and tiny. While everyone may not be able to visit the ones we humans have identified as spectacular, everyone can see Mother Nature at work in the small things. You simply have to walk out your front or back door with your eyes wide open.

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 “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” — Lao Tzu


If I had turned right, as planned, I would have missed Chama, New Mexico, and a quick visit to this quaint art gallery. -- Photo by Pat Bean


Travels With Maggie

 I drove my son-in-law to work in my daughter’s new SUV, which came equipped with a fancy GPS system. It was a 45-minute commute across Dallas in rush hour. To make sure I wouldn’t get lost on the return trip, my daughter programmed her GPS for me.

All well and good – until I foolishly fiddled with it halfway back home. The map screen went blank and I had no idea how to reset it – and definitely no idea where I was. Needless to say the trip home took a lot longer than 45 minutes.

That was my first and only experience with a GPS. Instead, I continue to use my Microsoft Streets and Trip program – but I do it my way.

Maggie: Have you got us lost again?

While the computer mapping program likes major highways, I prefer backroads. So I manipulate the route planner to take smaller highways instead of interstates, or to take me through Santa Fe instead of Denver when I’m driving between Texas and Utah.

I carefully plot out each leg of a trip before beginning a journey, going so far as to distinguish between left and right turns on a cheat sheet for the dashboard. One would think I would never get lost.

But I do. And I’m thankful for it.

Of course, if I am going to get lost, I’d rather it be on a scenic backroad in New Mexico instead of rush hour on a Dallas freeway.

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