Road Trip Days 15-16: Santa Fe to Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We stayed on the outskirts of Durango, not really getting to see much of the town, and got on our way through southern Colorado towards Sante Fe New Mexico. We took the scenic route to Pagosa Springs and on South from there. Nothing much to report on this leg other than the roads getting noticeably less well maintained once we crossed into New Mexico.

We got into Santa Fe in time for a late lunch. We had mexican-style tacos (what else) at a place in the historic district and then walked around for a while. We wanted to visit semi-namesake Georgia O’Keeffe museum but it was closed. We browsed some of the shops around the square that seemed to be a mixture of high end ranch wear (how bout a $1,500 leather rancher’s coat) and elaborate turquoise and silver jewelry. I saw plenty of Bolo Ties, remembering wearing them when I was a kid living in New Mexico 50+ years ago. Eventually the afternoon sun got to us and we headed to the outskirts of town for the local KOA RV park.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. This was as close as we got…
Santa Fe Plaza

The next morning we had a long-ish drive across the flatlands of New Mexico heading down to Carlsbad. Today we were on a 4 lane highway that was in good shape, running almost due South for nearly the length of the state. There wasn’t much out in the desert of central New Mexico, other than oil wells, most of which were not pumping. Our one bit of entertainment for the day was a pair of cowboy figures facing each other across the road.

The cowboys….

Honestly, I have no idea what this is about, but it was a boring day, so here we are.

We took a little truck route detour around Roswell, NM, and fortunately were not abducted by aliens (at least not that we know of). On finally rolling into Carlsbad we were greeted by one of those time/temperature billboards on a bank that read 104 degrees. The RV air conditioner was going to get a workout today. We stopped for fuel here and had the lowest price of the trip at $185.9, and the flat roads today resulted in an economical (relatively speaking) 11 MPG.

Our final destination is White’s City, an RV “park” just at the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns. By park I mean relatively level strip of gravel with power and water hookups immediately off the road. This was all about convenience, and, honestly, if you want beautiful locations, you are not going to be staying in RV parks. Miranda suggested that we shutter all the windows, turn the AC on full blast, and pretend we are still a National Park.

We took advantage of the evening by driving up to the Visitor Center to watch the nightly Bat Flight out of the cave. They have closed the public viewing area, but still allow viewing from your vehicle in the parking lot near the cavern entrance, and broadcast a ranger program over FM radio. We pulled up our chairs and experienced a beautiful sunset while watching the thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats emerge from the cave to feed. They were tiny, and the winds were fairly high, so they were dispersed into many small swarms. Pictures did not turn out very well, but it was a lot of fun to watch.

That’s not dirt on the lens. The tiny specs are bats.
Evening sets at the Caverns.

Tomorrow we are up early to get entrance tickets for the Caverns. They allow 35 people in every 15 minutes. Apparently they sell out by 9 AM.