Big Dog is in his Natural Born Driver mode now. He can drive for endless hours. Normally a fidgety, restless guy, he transforms into a Zen monk behind the wheel. He likes the way the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is handling. We both love the mileage we are getting.
Each time we fill up, Big Dog reads out the stats. How many miles, how many gallons of gas. I calculate the MPG on his iPad. It’s always between 22 and 26 mpg. Yes, diesel costs more than regular gas right now, but fuel has been cheaper out here than California where we haven’t seen anything below $3 in years.
Sprockets rolls north, north, north towards the Guadalupe Mountains at the northern edge of Texas. There was talk of camping here but at the last minute we decide to keep going.
The land is shrubby grassland/desert with mesas sticking up. So it’s true. New Mexico IS the land of mesas.
From White’s City in the southeast corner of New Mexico, a short scenic road between arroyos takes you to the top of one of the mesas. This is the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns.
As much as Big Dog had wanted to go to the Alamo when he was a boy, I had always wanted to see Carlsbad Caverns as a child. It was my favorite section of my parents’ coffee table book on America’s National Parks. The caverns looked like magical palaces and I had begged my father to take us there but he was too busy and Carlsbad was too far.
Although there is an elevator you can take directly to the caverns, we go via the natural opening. A series of switchbacks descend into the darkness. Strategically placed lights shine on the most elaborate of nature’s creations. Massive wedding cakes, thin icicles, drapes, pillars, chandeliers… it really is a crystal palace for an Underworld Queen.
My imagination is on fire. I want to write a children’s story about the Bat Queen and her Palace. I want to turn into a tiny fairy and live here.
Just as impressive is the sheer size of the main cavern. Football fields could fit into it.
And just when you think it couldn’t be more sublime… we come to a concession stand with fast food and vending machines selling colas. It’s a strange throwback to the 60’s. Wonder if visitors were allowed to smoke here back then.
I want to stay longer. Or at least climb back out. But it’s getting late in the day so we take the elevator 75 stories up to the top.
“That’s definitely a Five Star,” Big Dog enthuses. From now on, everything will have to compare.
(Later observation: one needs to go to the Caverns to really see how amazing it is. Not a single photo could do any of it justice.)