Silver City had a Cloudy Lining – Driving through New Mexico

clouds

We turned north from Davis Mountain TX toward New Mexico.  I plotted a course up toward Carlsbad Caverns, and once we arrived in the vicinity we stopped at a roadside diner for coffee to go (I also waited for a serving of fried okra).  I picked up a Carlsbad Caverns tourguide and we found we were 20 minutes late already for the “last entrance” to the caverns (2:00pm).  In our defense, we had crossed a time zone and it felt like 3:20pm.  We pulled into a Wal-Mart to spend the night, but it was awfully early to sit.  Chris confessed she hadn’t really had a lot of interest in the Caverns, and had kept her mouth shut thinking I was keen.  We decided to keep moving forward.
  
Northwest of Carlsbad is Lincoln National Forest, and one of the “most beautiful drives in the USA” according to the book Barb & Walt gave me, and we figured from just looking at the map that we could drive through part of it, stay at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park overnight, and finish the rest the next day.  I didn’t really scope it out using our navigation system or notice that the driving time implied an average speed of about 40 mph.  Needless to say, as we approached Lincoln National Forest we started seeing signs warning truckers to check their brakes.  That was a small red flag.   We gradually crept higher in altitude, seeing a few interesting signs along the way:

turkey

We started seeing TREES (rather than scrub and cactus) and climbing higher and higher until we saw … SNOW.

snow

By this time we were getting tired, realized that the sun wasn’t suddenly going to set an hour later just because we had crossed a time zone, and that the altitude problems we had in Texas at 5400 feet were going to be with us in full once we reached Cloudcroft NM (8800 ft).  We saw an RV campground with electricity and gladly pulled over for the night. 

The next day, as we entered Cloudcroft, we passed a ski area (not enough snow) and saw a cute small town and of course stopped for more coffee to go at Big Daddy’s Diner (Chris said it looked like it had some good food).  They sold her some “awesome” cookies to go with the coffee.  We took a side road up to see “The Lodge” and then continued out of Cloudcroft.  Then we saw signs like this:
alt sign
Cloudcroft and Alamogordo are only 16 (windy road) miles apart.  We drove slowly down the mountain, seeing vistas of the desert beyond, with a white stripe where the White Sands National Monument is:

vista view

 

It was beautiful, but very taxing on the driver.  At the top of the mountain it was 20 degrees, and by the time we descended we were back up in the high 50s.  We zoomed across toward Silver City and a state park called City of Rocks. It is a place in the desert where people believe a volcano eruption from Albequerqe (180 miles away) landed and gradually eroded so that there is a flat center park that is surrounded by large interestingly-shaped rocks.  Some RVers we met at Seminole Canyon had encouraged us to go there.  Of course, by the time we neared Silver City we were low on diesel, propane, and energy.  We filled up with diesel and propane and pulled into a KOA campground for the night instead.  The next day it was raining with that big nasty cloud overhead (top photo) so we skipped the 4-hour commitment to go see the City of Rocks and Gila Cliff Dwellings tour (opposite directions – yes, tourists of convenience).  We would have liked to see Santa Fe and Albequerqe, but they were further north and we were concerned about the RV freezing – so we headed for warm Tucson.
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