Sunday, December 4, 2011

Days 159 - 161: New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, Hospitality, and Big Caves!

Now that we're back in Austin (woohoo!) with some regular wifi access we'll be able to finally get caught up on what we've been doing.  Last we left off, we had just spent a great time with Lee and Patti, celebrating Thanksgiving in Colorado, and Angie's brother Vince had joined us.

Vince had about a week before he had to return to work so he rode back with us to see some sights and do some camping with us.

First stop was Albuquerque, NM to see Angie and Vince's Aunt Karon and cousin Tyger.  They put us up for the night and Karon made us a delicious dinner of lasagne, salad, and red wine.  Following morning we went to Karon's favorite breakfast spot, Flying Star Cafe.
I highly recommend the "Southwest Bennie".
Thank you so much Karon!!!

There were some nearby petroglyphs in Albuquerque so we headed over to the visitor's center to get some info...

...and LeTigre wouldn't start!  So, I got to spend the next hour or so tracking down the problem...

...and installing a new starter.
Mmmm shiny new parts.

Ok, where were we?  Oh yeah, petroglyphs.  Van fixed we head back over to the petroglyphs which are carved into volcanic rock.  Note the spaceman to the right of Vince.

We headed south towards Carlsbad Caverns and stopped for the night in Roswell.  The starter repair set us back timewise so it was dark when we got there (and I needed a shower after rolling around under the van) so we splurged on a motel.
Nearby was a pretty decent Mexican restaurant, Tia Juana's.
Tacos, now you see 'em... you don't!

Next morning, onto Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
We've driven past a couple of times and never had time to stop.  If you like caves and find yourself in the area, make time, this cave is awesome!

This is the natural entrance.  There's also an elevator if you don't want to walk down 750 feet but you'd miss out on a lot of the cave.

More of the path snaking down into the caverns.
Walking in also gives you a better appreciation for the early explorers that went into the darkness to map the cave.

Zoom in and read this if you can but basically it says:
250 million years ago this was a limestone reef along an inland sea.
60 million years ago sulfuric acid disolved cavities in the limestone.
3 million years ago water drained from the caverns and sections collapsed.
Then cave formations began as limestone-laden water dripped into the cavern.

Angie reads up on cave formations.

The discoverers gave the different areas clever names like
Devils Spring, Chinese Theatre, Whales Mouth, Iceberg Rock, to name a few.

As usual, the photos don't do the cave justice.  As you look at these just assume everything is huge, 'cause the cave is really big!  You can just see me walking down the cave path next to some big stalagmites.

The cave is well lit but it was still a challenge to get good photos.  I have to give most of the credit to Vince, he took most of the better photos.

These formations take thousands of years to produce.

Looking upwards, stalagtites by the hundreds hang from the ceiling.

Hard to get any proportion from these little photos but that ceiling is probably 30 feet high, the stalagmite on the right 20 feet tall, and the stalagtites suspended from the ceiling 10 feet long or more.

Draperies, taken from below looking up.  Again, they're huge!

We've only visited a handful of caves but Carlsbad is the most impressive, no doubt.  Every cave formation you've ever heard of is here.

Caves are fun!

At the end of the tour Angie and Vince wait for the elevator back to the surface.  The shaft was blasted out in the 1930's.  It's 75 stories tall and only takes 60 seconds to get to the top!
Go to Carlsbad Caverns if you get the chance, you won't be disappointed!

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