June 19th, 2016 – Tucson, Arizona to Carlsbad, New Mexico: ~480 miles
The only real rule I had for Day 2 was getting to El Paso before 5:15pm, when Vy’s flight was scheduled to get in. So I got an early-ish start and just hopped on the freeway to superslab away the miles. Eventually I found myself in New Mexico, which has one of the better-than-average ‘welcome’ signs of any state in the country.
45 miles later on the 10 East, I found Bowlin’s “Continental Divide Trading Post” in Separ. I didn’t even bother going into the store, but I wanted to check out the teepee, which is pretty beat up nowadays:
I found this area to be really depressing, because nearly every building/business was abandoned. This would end up setting a precedent for a lot of what we’d see through small towns in the West. The icing on the sadness cake that was this town was the water storage tank, which announced (with a spelling error) that the town had ‘closed’ over a decade ago:
In Las Cruces I ended up riding by the Big Chile Inn, which claims to have the “World’s Largest Chili Pepper.” It’s 47 feet long and made up of 2.5 tons of concrete:
I soon made it to Texas and immediately found myself in El Paso:
I don’t really know of anything to do in El Paso, but I’m oddly affectionate about the city because the only other time I had ever been there (4 years ago), I had to ride through an incredible dust storm that involved dodging tumbleweeds. It was awesome:
Back to 2016 – the skies were clear and it was just hot as hell. Turns out the El Paso isn’t as exciting when you can actually see it. I had a few minutes to kill before Vy’s flight got in, so I rode over to a gas station that was originally built in 1919. In 2008 a local named Rod Davenport restored the station and the neighborhood apparently liked it so much that the area became a small park.
This quick detour made me realize that I should go to a functioning gas station so that I could have a full tank once I picked up Vy. I was amused by this sticker – how stereotypically Texan is it for an official government communication to start with “Howdy, neighbors!”?
I picked up Vy from the airport, where we were greeted with confused looks from people who didn’t understand how someone could get picked up from an airport on a motorcycle:
Unfortunately for Baby Jack, this meant that his time in the throne of the back seat was now over:
At the entrance/exit of the airport is a large statue (turns out it’s the second tallest statue in Texas and the world’s largest bronze equestrian statue, for what that’s worth). It’s got an interesting story: it was commissioned in the mid 90s and the original proposal was for a sculpture of Don Juan de Oñate, a Spanish conquistador who was known for celebrating the first Thanksgiving in “The New World”, two decades before the pilgrims made it famous in New England. Well, as the project commenced, people found out that maybe Oñate wasn’t the world’s nicest guy. Apparently he had a habit of taking local Indians who didn’t agree with his rules and having their feet chopped off. Fun. As a compromise, the city renamed the artwork to just become “The Equestrian”, even though the subject was the same. So if you ever need proof that people who ride horses are awful, here you go:
As you might remember from the first part of this story, this whole trip started because Vy wanted to see the Carlsbad Caverns. So our plan was to get over to Carlsbad tonight so we could check out the caverns first thing next morning. There’s a two-lane highway that runs along the Texas-New Mexico border for a while, which is where we saw something that I didn’t know existed: an adult film drive in theater. That’s got to be awkward:
The road took us through Guadulupe Mountains National Park and we were rewarded with beautiful views of the highest point in Texas and a large salt flat – I had to stop for the latter. Turns out it was the location of the El Paso Salt War of 1877:
Soon, the road through the park went into switchback mode as we quickly gained elevation. I was enjoying the road but Vy pointed out a historical marker she wanted to check out. It was the ruins of The Pinery, an old stagecoach station on the Butterfield Overland Mail route:
Sunset greeted us somewhere near the Texas/New Mexico border:
I was glad to be reunited with Vy, and looking forward to the trip beginning in earnest the next morning. Carlsbad Caverns, here we come…
Missed Day 1? Check out the introduction to the trip and my quick blast from Los Angeles, California to Tucson, Arizona in oppressive heat.
On to Day 3 – Carlsbad, New Mexico to Carrizozo, NM ~ 250 miles