Tuesday, April 2, 2019

#LeapFrogs: Speeding West Again

During our extended stay in Granbury, Texas, I kept an eye on the weather and battled my own inner doubts about continuing our journey. We had a choice to make - either head back home and settle into a quiet, normal life again, or continue traveling. (No choice for some of us, right?)

After much prayer and many discussions, we knew there really wasn't a choice - we wanted to keep traveling and just had to make some adjustments to make traveling work for us instead of against us.

The weather appeared to be clearing up out west, so we decided to make the Grand Canyon our next goal, with a few stops on the way. Once we had that on our radar, I began deeper research and plotted our route.

When we packed the car in Granbury (in wind, sleet, and darkness), we couldn't figure out how to fold up our new hexagon-shaped tent, so we just stuffed it in the car, intending to fold it later. Just as we approached the state line, we found a great city park just outside Seminole, TX, where we could car camp over night, and we pulled out our tent there, and figured out how to fold it up and get it back in its bag. Whew!

We tried not to backtrack in any area we'd already been, but couldn't avoid it completely. We went through Artesia again, traveling the same road we'd left from there in the dark, and discovered we hadn't missed much the first time.

But from Artesia on, we were in new territory. And back in the mountains.

(For those of you new to our journey - I'm terrified of mountains, particularly mountain driving. The fear has intensified as we've traveled, although I have no clue why.)

We learned something important on this leg of the journey - with the new hitch on our car, we realized it probably could not handle towing a pop-up camper at all. The SUV struggled a great deal through the mountains of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, with an elevation of 8,668'. 

I was focused on getting to the NM/AZ state line before nightfall, and we wanted to see White Sands, so we didn't hang around Cloudcroft, except to refuel. We could sense the altitude difference - both of us were extremely thirsty. Snow was still on the ground, too. I loved seeing all the evergreen trees in the area - a new and refreshing site. 

And then - White Sands!

Pulling into White Sands National Monument, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Driving through the entrance gate wasn't that impressive - just looked like a little white sand here and there, and we've seen plenty of that on beaches. But the further we drove into the park, the more white sand there was - and when you realize all this sand is constantly blown about by winds, and yet remains, it's quite incredible and beautiful.

Notice the sunshine, too. A very rare sight in our travels thus far, and not one we take for granted. Such a beautiful day!

On the drive from White Sands to Las Cruces, we encountered something new - a dust storm! Tim snapped this photo of it while I continued driving. The storm wasn't severe enough to make the truckers stop driving, so I just followed their lead and kept moving, too. 

(Interestingly, we encountered the dust storm BEFORE all the warning signs informing us what to do in case of a dust storm!)

After all the struggle the car had with the mountains, and after the dust storm, when we got to Las Cruces, I decided we should replace the air filter. I'm glad we checked it - it was filthy and heavy. While we were at the Auto Zone, I discovered the town had a Sportsman's Warehouse, so I checked their website and found a case for my fly rod - FINALLY! Once we had acquired that, we hit the road again, determined to get close to the state line before nightfall.

Since I was doing all the driving, Tim served as shot-gun photographer and snapped this cool tunnel just outside Alamogordo.

Just before sunset, we arrived at a rest stop in San Simon, and was amazed at how the terrain was changing once again.

Tomorrow, we begin exploring Arizona!

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