6 minutes Between the mass of public outrage and media coverage on TSA's new policies - a choice between cancer-inducing penis measuring device, or getting molested by a stranger - and traveling on the day before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days in the year, we have prepared ourselves for an aggravating security experience. Turns out our entire TSA experience is one of the shortest and smoothest we have ever experienced: six minutes from curb to coffee line, no cancer, no molestation. Or is it? The moment we feel smug, Dan realizes the cab never returned his credit card!! Shoot! We call the cab company, who calls the driver. Dan heads back out to the curb. Cab shows up and once again, Dan is thru TSA within minutes! Coffee is back on track.
Spanish For Armpit In El Paso (Spanish for armpit), once we load up our car rental we realize Dan's legs won't fit in the front seat! Woops! A quick car change and we are on our way out of town. Twenty minutes into the drive, and wanting to do a bit of drive-by-shooting:
Dan: Where is your little camera?
Assana: In my jacket's pocket… on the back seat.
Dan: There is no jacket on the back seat!
Doh! The jacket is on the back seat of the first car! Backtrack back to the airport to retrieve it (we do… all is fine). Once again we are back on the road… for real this time.
My name is Al Mogordo. Please to meet you! The road is boring! We speculate about all the cars towing several other crappy cars behind them… all heading to México! Stolen cars? Who knows! And we ask the border control dude what the elevation is (and he enthusiastically and proudly answers: "I sure don't know, m'am!") We reach Alamogordo, and NOT wanting another Harold's Place Inn on our hands, we decide to get a room at the first place that looks reasonable, and that turns out to be a Hampton Inn. It is no Blackberry Farm, but for 105 bucks we get a clean room, free wifi, a hot breakfast, and care packages for the road!
Red, White, Rose, Bubbly At the park's Visitor Center Ms. Mogordo tells us to rush into the park to catch the sunset. Amazing colors! The next day we head to center of the park, an area aptly named Heart of the Sands. The dunes are huge and just so stark white… white and uniform enough to confuse our cameras! Assana can't get enough of it. We end up with lots of pure white photos! Back to town we eat at Pepper's Grill: the wine list read: "Red, White, Rose and Bubbly!" For Thanksgiving eve there are a lot of folks out. We watch as Officer Mogordo stops by to chat with his extended family.
Flambé We reach Carlsbad Caverns NP too late to enter the caverns. We backtrack back to Carlsbad where we are staying at a roadside Best Western which also has a Thanksgiving buffet. This is the first Thanksgiving in a long time that we are not at Rick & Randy's. By the time we get to dinner they are out of turkey and stuffing, but there's ham, and mashed potatoes and all sorts of veggies. And yummy banana and strawberry flambé with ice cream.
Adopt-a-bat The pictures don't do the caverns' justice. Be it our own, or professional photos. Until you see them, you have no idea how huge and kooky they are. We choose to walk down the natural entrance which follows the original explorer's trail: a one mile hike that drops over 750 feet into the caves. Amazing! And then we walk the entire Big Room, which takes us another couple of hours and another few hundred blurry photos… all worth it! November is not bat season - they are all wintering in México - but we wish we could watch the Bat Flight event where thousands of bats head out of the cage at dusk for an evening of yummy insects. It is supposed to be spectacular. Oh well. We did, however, adopt 4 of them!
Los Bandidos Guadalupe Mountains NP is thirty miles away and kind'a boring. We do a short hike on the Frijjjjjole trail, and then head back to El Paso. The approaches to the city really remind us of the outskirts of Oaxaca! Except that we don't remember seeing auto salvage yard/strip joint combos in Oaxaca. Or gas station/pawn shop! Our cheapest and best hotel is our last night (80 bucks at Courtyard by Marriott). Dinner, however, is absolutely fantastic. We eat at Los Bandidos De Carlos & Mickey's, a superbly authentic Méxican restaurant. Everything about this restaurant was Méxican except for its address: the wait staff, the other diners, the band, the food. And some of the best Méxican food we have ever had. We're happy.
Molested by TSA The TSA experience on our return trip back home is equally uneventful... at least for the two of us. But for our new buddy, Al A Mogordo (purchased at White Sands' gift shop), not so much! He throws the X-ray machine for a loop! After much back and forth thru the machine, and much squinting by a whole slew of agents, he is pulled out of the backpack and rescanned... again at no avail. Finally a big texan agent blatantly manhandles him! There were a lot of squishing, poking and proding going on; Al took it like a man. He will be just fine once he has had some therapy.
$ While writing this trip report it dawns on me that this entire trip cost as much as one night at Blackberry! However it was definitely not any less fun! Two more National Parks down… 41 to go!