We continued our journey onwards from Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, through Teton National Forest and then the high plains desert areas in the south of Wyoming. While the area through to the Colorado border has a stark beauty, it is difficult to see how what few people there are manage to support themselves. Of course in the past, the area around Rawlins and then north and east of Lander was where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, operated so I suppose earning a living in the area has always been a challenge !
After passing through the fabled old west towns of Laramie and Cheyenne, we left Wyoming and entered Colorado, specifically the town of Colorado Springs where the intent had been to go up to the top of Pike’s Peak. There are not a lot of place where you can drive to the top of a 4,301 M (14,110 feet) mountain peak, and once up there, the view is spectacular – I drove it previously many years ago and had been looking forward to a second visit, but it was not to be. When we arrived, the area, at ground level at least, was shrouded in freezing rain and sleet, so prudence overcame enthusiasm and we decided to save that experience for another time.
Continuing south from Colorado, we passed into New Mexico and made our way down to Roswell, the object of much X-Files style speculation by conspiracy theorists and part time crazies, around a supposed UFO crash site and subsequent US Army cover-up which is alleged to have happened in 1947. I found it interesting that the welcome marker for the town of Roswell doesn’t even mention the supposed UFO incident, which is largely the only reason most folks have ever heard of the place, so perhaps there is a conspiracy after all ! The local residents at least do seem to have a sense of humour, or at least a keen willingness to take advantage of the notoriety, and there are many shops offering “genuine” alien and UFO paraphernalia as well as a UFO museum !
From Roswell, we continued south to Carlsbad which is the site of a truly amazing set of natural caverns. We have visited many tourist accessible caverns over the years but this one is special. The main cave, called the Big Room, is located about 230 M (750 feet) underground has a walkway around the perimeter of just over 1.6 km (1 mile) long, and the cavern itself has a total area of just over 6 football fields ! While this sort of tour is really tame (I admit we took the elevator down, rather than do the 2 hour walk), it is a very nice way of making something as special as this readily available to the public. Worth a visit if you are in the area.
We crossed over into Texas, and headed for Austin through west Texas desert and scrub lands – I’ve been told this is the location of one of the worlds largest oak forests, which may or may not be true although there isn’t much to see over a meter tall ! We did see one roadrunner (but no coyote !) and a few ghost towns – its a fairly bleak area.
The one really nice thing was the speed limit, in typical Texan style, was higher than anywhere else in the USA we’d driven so far – 80 MPH ! As well, I noticed that the fuel sold was 2 numbers higher in octane (93 rather than 91) than in the previous three states – not sure why that would be the case, but I’m sure there must be a reason.
Next stop – the Alamo !