Road Trip Diary 103

prov grounds mountain sm

When I arrived at the hostel, there was a man with a, full head of hair and a beard sitting in the common area with a blanket around him. I thought about offering him some wine, then thought better of it.

A German couple came and went without much interaction.

The next morning, the man revealed himself to be rather creepy. While everyone else was getting dressed and planning a day….he seemed content to stay in what seemed like pajamas as he pulled out a tuperware container full of stuff and began to cook. Who was this guy? Was he a permanent resident? What was he doing there? I ended up going outside or sitting on the floor in my room to use the computer. He creeped me out.

I struck up a conversation with a young woman about the area and she asked me if I wanted company at White Sands. Oh hell no! I thought. I am not interrupting this freedom with some stranger. I attempted a polite decline. When she mentioned that she was disoriented by the curves of the mountain road and the altitude, I was glad I declined. I think she was looking for a stabilizing influence. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

The hostel host had a wonderful, huge map of the area on her wall. She began to show me all the attractions that were within a day trip of the hostel, offering a second night’s stay if I needed it. It was overwhelming. When I told her that I was headed to the Grand Canyon, she suggested a smaller one on the way, calling it magical.

I decided to go up to a sun observatory, then to White Sands and the Proving Grounds.

The drive up to the observatory was more interesting than the place itself. I stopped at several scenic views and there was snow or ice clinging in spots here and there. The weather was magnificent. Warm in the bright sun with a strong wind. At one stop I could see White Sands in the background. It was breathtaking. As I stood there looking at the view, I couldn’t believe I was really there. I was really doing this.

After a short time at the observatory, I found my way back to Cloudcraft and tanked up the car. I even bought an extra gallon of water. The drive to White Sands was wonderful. The mountains were beautiful and I was happy to have them at my sides and not on them. I kept the window down, allowing my hair to become hopelessly tangled. Continuing my obsession with JFK and Jackie, I listened to the audiobook, “America’s Queen.” I had read it once before and remembered being fascinated by how much Jackie spoke in private about the day her husband was assassinated.

White Sands was predictably crowded. I found a spot to park, put on some boots, grabbed my water and camera and headed in the opposite direction of the crowd.

I might have found the white dunes more impressive if I had not spent time on Ship Island in the Mississippi sound. That’s what it reminded me of, except there was no beach, no waves and no little crabs crawling around. Nonetheless, the sky was a brilliant blue and I found a piece of vegetation and interesting compositions to play around with. I had fun.

I went into the visitor’s center for my requisite magnet and bought a little figurine made from horse hair pottery.

Then it was off to the Proving Grounds. I was really looking forward to this. They had a V-2! I know I shouldn’t admire the V-2 so much. It was a weapon used by the Nazis after all but I believe that Wernher von Braun would have built it without the war for the same purpose it eventually served, to go to the moon. It is the basis of all the space travel rockets of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.

The drive there was both long and gorgeous. The happiness endorphins were flowing. Finally, I approached the entrance and found the visitor’s center closed. I walked up to the gate and a security officer met me. He told me I was about 20 minutes past closing. I could see the rocket park just behind him. He asked me where I was from and when I said Lafayette, he asked for my id and let me in.

The rocket park had a Redstone among many other missiles and small planes. I was surprised to see a saucer shaped contraption that the plague claimed was the “weather balloon” device whose crash became the basis for the Roswell alien crash myth. I actually wondered if it was real or created to debunk the myth. Not that I believe aliens crashed in Roswell. It was just a bit too flying saucer looking. It didn’t have that NASA-designed feel to it.

Sadly, the V-2 was housed in a closed building, but I peeked in to pay my respects.

The rocket park was nothing compared to the one in Houston so, much like White Sands, I felt like I had already seen a better version of what I was looking at. However, I was standing at the Proving Grounds. This is where the Bumper Program took place. This is where von Braun and his team began experimenting with higher stages. This was the birthplace of all the vehicles of the space program.

And it was a beautiful place. Surrounded by mountains and peppered with the stark, barren vegetation of the area. I wished I worked there.

It was after 5 and I didn’t know where I wanted to go next, so I decided to head towards Las Cruces and find a pillow to land on. Motel 6 it is.


Before I left Lafayette, I looked into getting my driver’s side door lock fixed. For quite some time now, the key stopped operating properly in the lock. But then it would and then it wouldn’t. I had made it a habit to leave the car unlocked unless I had something valuable in it, which I rarely did. The truth was, someone stealing my car would have been doing me a huge favor.

I had researched the problem and found it to be common with old Hondas. The consensus seemed to be that the tumblers were worn. I found out how much it would cost to replace that part and found it to be cost-prohibitive. So, I would just deal with the inconvenience of opening the passenger door, taking my umbrella, reaching over the steering wheel and unlocking the driver’s side.

Until……..that evening as I was leaving White Sands I felt like the ignition was behaving a bit like the door had before it decided to stop cooperating.

And then it happened. As I parked my car at the Motel 6 parking lot, I turned the steering wheel a bit too far to the right and it locked up. Putting the key in the ignition to unlock it, it wouldn’t budge. I struggled at length to get it to cooperate to no avail.

Well shit. I knew something was going to go wrong some time.

I would have to figure it out in the morning.


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