January 20, 2013: Bonus day! My Sweetheart (SH), motorcycle adventure planner extraordinaire, built a day into the schedule for unexpected delays and to check in to the storage unit where our bikes will rest for 39 days until we begin the next leg of our adventure. The office of the storage place was only open from 11 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., so exploring the region on our bikes was not a good option for making the most of the day. Our adventures are never thwarted by mere logistics, which we demonstrated by renting a car.
We had a great breakfast at Denny’s, next door to our La Quinta. Then we caught the motel shuttle to the El Paso airport to pick up a Ford Fusion from Thrifty at 8:00 a.m. under sunny skies and 46 degrees. I am grateful for the great suggestions for “must do” activities on our play day in the area from my brother and sister-in-law, who lived in El Paso 23 years ago.
From the airport we drove the Trans Mountain Road, which dissects the mountain that divides east and west El Paso. On our way to take a picture of the house my brother and his young family lived in “back in the day,” we stopped at The Bagel Shop on Resler Road for my beloved latte and some blogging time in this pleasant, inviting environment. After snapping the photos and sending to my brother for nostalgia’s sake, we headed back to the motel to get our bikes tucked away into storage.
That task finished, we pointed the Ford in the direction – I thought – of White Sands, one of my brother’s recommendations. When I Googled White Sands, the first thing that came up was White Sands Missile Base, including directions and a little bit of background, so I thought we were headed for a history lesson. After reaching the gates, we found that we mere civilians were not welcome to go further. As a security measure, I’m sure, there is no bypass road to cut through to the highway that would take us to White Sands National Monument, which was the intended recommendation!
The “wrong” trip to White Sands Missile Base was actually pretty interesting. So we weren’t overly bummed about a long re-route, which took us through Los Cruces, NM, where we stopped at a gas station to grab coffee and a snack.
On Hwy 70 East, traffic was funneled through a customs / homeland security checkpoint through which we were filmed with multiple video cameras and ultimately had to stop for a brief encounter with an officer who glanced in the car and wished us a good day. I have to tell you, it was a little creepy — I wondered what is next in the evolution of government oversight of its own citizens. I know I’m flirting with a very complex topic with many passionate points of view. I only mention it to encourage myself and each of you to consider increasing our awareness of what is occurring in the name of security to make sure We the People, whom the government exists to serve, are informed as we make decisions about the individuals and institutions we hire for that service.
We were racing the sun at this point, but for some reason, it was really important to me that we see White Sands. After arriving there, I understood the reason. In the middle of nowhere, the White Sands emerge like a brilliant diamond from the surrounding mountains and relatively plain desert landscape, a mystical place full of ancient and contemporary spirits. The temperature dropped several degrees in the area. In the 4:30 p.m. twilight, the sun played with the pure white sand dunes and the mountain shadows to create a magical mood that moved me to tears. I was grateful to be sharing the experience with SH, yet there was something very personally powerful this place offered me. I’ll be processing this for some time.
I snapped pictures until I killed the battery of my little Nikon, wishing I had my Canon D50, but knowing that neither will capture the profundity of the experience. That will be for my heart to hold.
We chose to return to El Paso through Alamagordo, NM, an 88 mile route. The area is frying pan flat, surrounded by mountain ranges. The range to the west, which we completely circled in our travels today, looked like the backs of a line of slumbering dinosaurs, backlit by the fire of the setting sun. There was a lot of very poor housing in this stretch of highway, and actually is pretty consistent with the economic condition we observed in much of New Mexico. It appears to be a hard place to make a living.
On the outskirts of El Paso, we stopped for dinner at The Great American Land & Cattle Company. I had one of the best rib-eye steaks I’ve ever eaten, and SH was equally impressed with his burger. The “cowboy caviar” (baked beans) and coleslaw were also notably good. Great atmosphere and a manager who knew how to work the crowd – thank you Yelp! I’ll be adding my 5-star review there later.
After returning the Ford to Thrifty and catching the shuttle back to Room 148, we prepped for a 7 a.m. shuttle back to the airport to complete this leg of an awesome adventure.
Love, Tomboy Tam