This blogpost is the last one of a series telling the tales of my road trip through the American South West. If you’ve missed the previous ones, feel free to catch up: here’s Arizona, Utah, Colorado and the first part of New Mexico.
My SouthWest travel recap is finally coming to an end, this is the last chapter – almost one year after leaving, can you believe it?
In my last blogpost, I showed you what New Mexico looked like on the urban side, but that was pretty much it. Today, get ready to explore a total other side of this magical state: mystical landscapes, natural wonders and of course, aliens!
How could I write about New Mexico without mentioning Roswell? In the 40’s, this little quiet town suddenly gained fame when an unidentified flying object crashed nearby. A non-human body was allegedly found on the site of the crash and taken by the US government, which immediately denied it all with the help of a cover up saying the object that had crashed was just some sort of weather balloon.
Look, let’s get it out of the way, straight up, shall we? I believe it happened. I’m a believer. And our time in Roswell only reinforced my beliefs.
Roswell looks exactly like what you’d expect: aliens and flying saucers everywhere, gift shops on every corner, themed cafés and special menu items for aliens. There’s even a place called Area 51 (referring to the top secret military zone in Nevada) where you can take pictures in daily life settings, surrounded by paper mâché aliens. It’s fun, but it smells like feet and feels like a tourist trap, and after 10 minutes, you’ve seen it.
Right next to it is the International UFO museum & Research Centre, a small independent museum where you can of course find all you need to know about the 1947 Roswell Incident , but also learn about theories and see proof of the existence of aliens dating back as early as the mayans. I’m not gonna lie, the museum doesn’t look very fancy, but considering they don’t get any funds from the government and aren’t exactly widely supported, I think what they did is pretty decent, and very interesting at least.
Whether you believe in aliens or not, the museum is a very instructive and confronting activity to do, and it’s really worth spending a few hours roaming between the videos, the old press clippings and the testimonials.
While we were in Roswell, we also went to an escape room (alien-themed, obviously) and got to know the owner of the business, who helped us making some important decisions regarding the upcoming days. Indeed, the end of our trip was coming up and we had to make choices. Among which the dilemma: Carlsbad or not Carlsbad?
The Carlsbad caverns are an American National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site. They are among the biggest caverns in the western world and a big part of them was adapted to be able to welcome visitors. The drive was quite a detour but… how could we say no?
After an express elevator ride, visitors can choose between several ‘hikes’ underground to discover the different chambers. Since it was already 3PM (during off season, parcs usually close between 4 and 5 PM, or at sunset), we decided to play it safe and took the loop hike, which was taking us to pretty much all the most famous sights of the cavern and was estimated to about an hour.
We witnessed some gorgeous masterpieces designed by nature itself, during what turned out to be pretty much a private visit since there was almost nobody else down there. It was truly magical. My only regret is that we had to leave before the famous bat flight, which would take place a good two hours later: at sunset, bats emerge from the caves by hundreds and fly above the Caverns’ amphitheater for several hours.
That evening, we had decided to treat ourselves. After several days in desert motels, driving on endless roads, we stopped at the Adobe Rose, a bed & breakfast and restaurant, ran by a family, among which young chef Chloe Winters. And for less than 150 euros per person, we spent 12 amazing hours there. Our room was big, comfortable and tastefully decorated, with respect for the building’s original style. And the restaurant, oh my, the restaurant! Local, quality products, cooked very simply (grilled avocados, juicy steak) to showcase the flavours, and delicious margaritas.
The Adobe Rose is a real gem in the middle of nowhere, and the fact that we so randomly found it reminded me of how much I love the serendipity of road trips.
The next morning, we packed again and hit the road for three more hours, during which the weather went from sunny and warm to grey and cold. The closer we were getting to our destination, the shittier it looked, and we started wondering if would be able to enjoy our next activity at all: we had decided to check out the White Sands National Monument, a completely surreal area of white dunes (that you might have seen in this Ryan McGinley shoot with Brad Pitt) that was in my top 3 things to do during our trip. Can you feel the tension yet? Am I the only one who gets even more stressed during her vacation than at work, by the way? We were on the other side of the world, with only a couple more days left to explore, and this was just going to happen, rain or shine. What kind of Belgian would I be if I would let a few rain drops stop me, right?
When we got there, we realised the locals were a bit more reluctant: once again, we were almost by ourselves. Awesome!
The most popular activity at White Sands is to rent a sort of disk that allows you to sit and go down the dunes, sliding on the sand. But renting them there turned out to be quite expensive, and since it was cold and windy, we decided we’d go on foot and try to have fun no matter what. After all, we were in this unique place, and you can’t be sad because of some stupid sled, when there’s a double rainbow on your left and immaculate dunes below.
Eventually, we ran up and down the dunes (talk about a workout!), fell in the sand, stayed after hours likes badasses (well, only 15 minutes, does that count?). It’s such a great memory and I can’t wait to go back on a sunny day!
By the time we got back on the road, it was already 7PM and it was dark. We were hungry, and we still had a 2h drive to our next motel in the city with the best name ever: Truth or Consequences. Not that there’s anything special to see there, but the anecdote of the town that changed its name in the 1950’s because of a radio contest is pretty cool.
After an awful “””italian””” dinner at Olive Garden (what a joke, seriously) in Las Cruces, we finally arrived in an equally awful bed in the shittiest motel I’d ever seen – the day after, I found a huge cockroach under my toilet bag. But hey, we survived, we got gas and hit the road again.
The next day, we were visiting the last item on our list: a Very Large Array.
This place has been on TV and in movies many times (mostly from the movie Contact actually, watch it, it’s amazing!) and was created to “listen” to space with 25 huge dishes, looking to spot new elements , movements and maybe, hopefully, life.
The visit itself is quite basic – an introduction video, a small looped self-tour and a gift shop – but it’s complete and well-explained. And standing right next to these huge antennas feels really cool, too.
Despite being tired and going through some rough weather, I had an amazing time in New Mexico. I loved how diverse and surprising it was, such a perfect way to conclude 3 weeks of road trip! I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and that it made you eager to discover this lesser-known area of the States. Since Trump got elected, people always give me a look when I say the USA are my favourite country. I can see the judgement, but believe me, when you’ve spent weeks exploring the nature, the cities, getting to know the people, the roads, you quickly realise that the USA are something much, much bigger than some crazy old dude with a toupet and a duck face. I hope people can still see that.
(By the way, this is the only Trump-supportive message I’ve seen in 3 weeks, just so you know).