I had a conference call at 8:30 am so we stuck around home until after the call wrapped up and then headed out for some sight-seeing. There could be a new opportunity for me around the corner…we’ll just have to see how things play out.
We headed out about 10:15 and headed west on US 70 to White Sands National Monument. We first stopped at the Visitor’s Center and watched a 20 minute video about the dunes. The sand is actually gypsum that have been blown by the wind and broken apart to make sand. The video was quite interesting and very well done.
We wandered around the exhibits, many of which were hands on…which we enjoy. We also made sure to purchase a sticker for our Passport Book and stamped our book as well. They have a nice gift shop but prices were pretty high so we just browsed and left empty-handed.
There is a 16 mile round trip scenic drive that starts out in the Chihuahuan Desert. Here you see some sand but there are lots of bushes and plants. The further you drive and the closer you get to the ‘heart of the dunes’ the less plants are noticeable.
There are several trails you can walk, however, today several of them were closed. We stopped at one of the boardwalks and walked to the end, reading all of the signage along the way….most of which pointed out various plants growing in the sand.
The first 5 miles of the drive is along a paved road, while the last 3 miles are on a sand road. The sand here is hard-packed and safe for even large vehicles (motorhomes, etc) to drive on.
At the end of the drive is a loop where there are a couple of picnic areas with covered tables. The interesting thing about these picnic areas is that all of the ‘sheltered tables’ are movable. Because the dunes are constantly moving due to the wind blowing the area changes quickly and if everything wasn’t movable they would soon be covered in sand.
It is highly encouraged to get out of your vehicles and go play in the sand! So we did just that! It was so fun! The sand is soft and cool to the touch yet it’s hard enough to walk on easily….no sinking in like when you walk down the beach.
We took lots of pictures and wandered up and down a couple of hills…in absolute awe of this whole area…just absolutely gorgeous. It felt like being in the middle of the Sahara Desert like back in an old movie where people started seeing mirages….although we never saw any mirages!
It reminded us so much of snow (they even plow it!) that Michael felt the need to make a snow angel. We acted like kids and drew a heart with our initials in it…who knows how long before the wind erases our memories.
We spent a couple of hours at the monument before heading back down the highway…another 28 miles west to White Sands Missile Range. White Sands was established in 1945 for testing of German and American long range rockets. Testing continues today.
Michael spent quite a bit of time working at White Sands back in the mid 80s when he was part of the Patriot Missile program. He still remembers being dropped off in the middle of the desert and having to carry everything by hand to their destination. He rode a bus from Ft. Bliss…leaving early in the morning and returning that same evening. He remembers it to be about a 3 month mission.
We walked through the missile park, that was full of various types of missiles and missile launchers. Michael remembered several of the different missiles – the Patriot, of course, the Sidewinder, the Hercules, the Pershing, the Stinger, the Tow, etc.
Even I found the missile park very interesting. The exhibits were very well signed with information for nearly all of the missiles and equipment within the park. Great job!
There is also a museum located in the same area, which we toured as well. The museum didn’t do a whole lot for me and I was feeling a bit overheated so I did more resting than perusing. Michael, however, wandered around a bit but was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more information/exhibits about the Patriot Missile.
After leaving the museum we drove around the post a bit (it’s quite small) and as we drove through one of the housing areas we saw that in one of the older housing areas they were demolishing several of the homes and several had already been wiped out. We’re assuming that they’re demolishing the old outdated housing to make way for new housing.
We made the 40 or so mile trip to Alamogordo for dinner. Rizo’s Mexican Restaurant had a 4 1/2 star rating so we hoped that it would prove to be as good as it seemed it would be.
Michael ordered a chimichanga with shredded beef in it (with rice & beans) and was very happy with his meal. I ordered 5 street tacos (carnitas (simmered pork), carne asada (grilled steak), pollo (chicken), deshebrada (shredded beef) & carne molida (ground beef)). I, too, was very happy with my meal but really enjoyed the pork…very tasty and flavorful.
We made a quick stop at the grocery store before heading back home and settling in for the remainder of the evening.