Packed the car and then walked around the Alamogordo Save the Chimps facility saying goodbye to every primate I could find -- both human and non-human. Everyone was very gracious and thanked me for helping. I may see many of them again if I return to New Mexico in the next year or two or in Florida, where many will be going. Some names I can't remember and some I never got, but bye and thanks to Jen, Julene, Dr. B, Shari, Millie, Marlon, Dylan, Bernie, Sandra, Belinda, Cathy, Kelly, Danielle, Vince, Theresa, Pooh, Kiki, Vince, Clay, Cheetah, Mandy, and all the rest.
Then it was north on US54, backtracking about 60 miles that I drove to get to Alamogordo. Stopped at the Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves again to pick up a selection of treats for my brother, whom I am now planning to visit. (Since he doesn't read my blog, the pistachios will be a surprise.)
At Carrizozo I turned west onto US380 and immediately started seeing interesting scenery: black lava beds dotted with big yucca plants and other vegetation on both sides of the highway. The landscape kept changing all along the route, and it was all fascinating. Mountains. Rock formations. Vistas. The view in the rear view mirror sometimes competed with the view up ahead and on each side.
I only drove for 8 miles on an interstate (I25) as I jogged north to Socorro and then continued west. I saw some signs that said VLA 40 miles (or some other number). I wondered what "VLA" meant. Was it something about road conditions for the next so many miles? Why would they assume that travelers would know what "VLA" was?
Traveling these roads through central New Mexico, you really need to plan ahead. You gas up and take bio breaks at large towns -- whether you need to or not. You can't trust that any other towns will have any kind of services what so ever. One speck on the map was apparently a rock shop and a house where you could buy "miracle soap." Rest areas are turnouts with a covered picnic table and a trash can. That's it. And those are generally few and far between.
After one little town that actually had some shops, I started to notice some dish antennae in the distance. Real big ones. Scattered on both sides of the road. Then I saw the sign "Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope." VLA!!! I stopped at a turnout and took some pictures, but I didn't drive the 4 miles to the visitor center. Too many miles to cover today -- and I figured I could find out about it on the web.
Sometimes the road was straight with gentle hills. Sometimes it was steep and curvy. A long stretch was smooth black top. Like driving in a car commercial. The speed limit varied from 65 to 25 (going through towns). Cruise control came in handy especially on long straight-aways because it was easy to go way over the speed limit without meaning to. Going up over the continental divide I got to use my overdrive override -- or whatever that thing is called.
When I was studying the map last night I noticed that I would be passing a little place called Pie Town right on the other side of the continental divide. I wondered whether it really had anything to do with pies. Just outside Socorro -- and 100 miles before the divide -- I saw a sign about Pie Town and pies. Decided I would have to stop there for a snack.
Pie Town is just a kink in the road, but there are actually two restaurants that sell pies. I stopped at Daily Pie, the one on the billboards I'd seen. I was lucky to get there just 20 minutes before they were set to close for the weekend. I had my pie -- a cherry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry concoction called Mayberry pie -- and chatted with the people behind the counter about how the town got its name. You can read about that on the town website -- although I was told there are several versions.
It wasn't much farther to Springerville, AZ, where I'd decided to stop for the night. Had to shop around a bit for a motel because the town is not covered in AAA or in the discount booklets. But it was the closest place west of the Petrified Forest National Park with several motels. I took advantage of the hour I'd gained crossing into Arizona and drove just out of town to a wildlife area and walked the trail. Didn't see much besides ducks and a lot of grasshopper-like insects, but I needed the exercise.
Now I really must get to bed early. It's about 90 minutes to the park and I want to get there before 10AM when there will be a ranger talk/walk about the geology.
[The rooms on both sides of me have been empty, but I just heard some people enter the room that has an adjoining door. And I just heard a dog bark. Yeesh. The walls at this place are not very thick.]