Ever the mother hen that I am, I awoke at 4:00 AM to check the parking lot, make sure Greg had gotten on the road. Will someone please tell me when motherhood and clucking over chicks will cease? I mean, really! My little chick has flown the coop and already is making his own little chicks!
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TJ (Traveling Jake) and I decided to head for the hills...the Guadalupe "hills" that is. Highway 54 leaves from right downtown Van Horn and rollercoasters its way up to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. 40 miles north of Guadalupe and over the New Mexico state line is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Time to do a little passport stamping.
Highway 54 will send you airborne if you're not careful. And not wanting to make TJ seasick, I kept a leisurely pace. Besides, it was far too nice not to. Many raptors were catching the updrafts and turning big circles over the desert as I rode by. Some appeared to have wing spans well over 4-5'...I wonder what they are. The cliffs along this mountain range reportedly are excellent dwellings for raptors. Yesterday I spied a very large raptor, standing at least 2 feet tall, snow white breast with only a few small speckles along the edges, chocolate brown shoulders. He was standing just off the shoulder of the interstate in New Mexico.
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I took the "Big Room" self-guided cave tour at Carlsbad. This is remarkable because I really don't like being 750 feet underground no matter what the reason. But, well...I was there, so why not. TJ stayed up on the bike, said the cave dampness would ruin his feathers. If it weren't for the fact that caves are underground, they are pretty neat! This one is all calcite formations so no pretty colors, but it had some really interesting formations. My favorites included Fairyland, a myriad little "busy" ornate formations on the floor of the cave. If you used your imagination, you could see a cast of thousands of little characters in a Steven Spielberg space movie, or a bunch of "extras" in a Dungeons and Dragons-type game. The other favorite was Rock of Ages, a speleothem (cool new word!) growing up from the floor with peculiarly symmetrical rows of "ruffles" around its circumference. Many small and aptly named formations were Chinese Theater, Doll's Theater...
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Did you see the movie "Cars" by chance? Well, I walked to the nearby McDonalds after returning from my ride today, and coming back, I was moved by the vague similarity - just a passing thought, really, you kinda had to be there - of the scene in front of me to the town in that movie, Radiator Springs. Picture this: deserted street, looking a little run-down at the heel, blinking red light over head, tall mountains and buttes as a backdrop...See what I'm saying? You can't really see it, but there's a blinking red light hanging over that intersection.
And look! There's even a 'Mater after his makeover:
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Tomorrow: Leg 1 of my SS2000 to Jacksonville!