Day 66. My motel room at the Caverns Inn of Carlsbad New Mexico was slightly more cozy than the caverns themselves, but not by much. I didn’t waste any time getting packed and out of there. 18 miles southwest of Carlsbad is the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. My agenda for the day was to go spelunking in the caverns and then head 75 miles north to Roswell and do the whole alien tourist thing. I crossed into the National Park around 11am and thought I had plenty of time. Our nations national parks are really beginning to impress me. They are situated on the best plots of land and the facilities are always clean and safe. Carlsbad caverns are the underworld of the Guadalupe Mountains. They were formed millions of years ago as acidic water encountered very weak stone, such as limestone, and eventually drained away, leaving huge, mostly dry pockets of underground emptiness. These days, most of the activity in the cavern comes from dripping water that seeps its way through the ground from springs in the mountains or, the very rare, rainfall. The steady, painfully slow, drips of mineral rich water create features in these caverns called stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites are the formations that hang, or grow, from the roof of the cavern and, in most cases, are icicle shaped. Some stalactites come out looking like drapes hanging from a window. Stalagmites, on the other hand, grow up from the floor are the culmination of what’s left after a drop of water hits the floor and drains away leaving the minerals to stack up. Many times these rise up and are thick and round-shaped and resemble ice cream scoops stacked one on top of the other. That’s a very basic run-down of what will be in the pics. The anticipation was rising as I was making my way to the mouth of the underworld. I love checking these places out. They are just the most fantastic looking places on the planet. A park ranger gave me a quick safety orientation, where she said the hike down may be hard on the knees. Hiking into Carlsbad caverns is equivalent to taking the stairs down an eighty story building. No easy feat. Seeing the caverns massive entrance hole was breathtaking and probably not so fun if you are afraid of heights. A paved path weaves its way down into the blackness. That path goes on for a couple of miles and it didn’t take long to realize I’d be down there for quite a while. I think my total underground journey was just shy of 3 miles. The cavern has a section called the Big Room, which is the western hemispheres largest underground natural opening. It’s comparable to 14 football fields and has about 600,000 feet of floor space. I’ve been to Luray caverns on the east coast and they are impressive and potentially more colorful, but as it goes in the west, this place was huge. The whole experience was amazing and took until 2:30pm to complete. After reviewing the pics though, it was evident, I needed a better camera for parts of the trip that are going to be dark or inside. I took 146 pictures inside the cave and about ten turned out just ok.
Due to leaving the caverns late, Roswell and the aliens would have to wait until the next day. Time came to head 75 miles north to Roswell, but first a stop by the Carlsbad Radio Shack was in order to scope out their selection of cameras. My Samsung camcorder will film in high def, but its pic taking capabilities are only 5 mega pixels. I have a Radio Shack credit card and I knew if I bought a new camera with it, it wouldn’t kill the budget. They had a Canon Rebel T2i in stock that I really wanted, but I decided to do some research on the camera and sleep on it before spending the loot. After all, I thought I could just pic one up at the Radio Shack in Roswell the next day. I arrived in the odd town of Roswell around 4:30 pm and found a place called the Trailer Village RV park who let me pop my tent up for $10 a night. They only give this privilege to motorcycle riders. Anyone else entering the park has to have an RV. After setting up camp I decided to head to town to check out Radio Shacks cameras. I was shocked when I realized Roswells, larger, Radio Shack only had little tiny digital cameras. Shite! They said Wal-Mart carries it, but that was out of the question. Buying a new camera with cash would kill the budget. Feeling a bit let down, I made my way back to the tent and bundled up for a long cold night.
Day 67. Damnit it’s cold, was my first thought when I woke up. The bath house was only 100 feet away and has hot showers. The coziness of the sleeping bag was hard to leave. Eventually after a pep talk I made a mad dash for the shower. All refreshed and slightly warmer is was time for an insane mans mission. I thought about it all night and I just had to have that Canon Rebel T2i. The weather was not on my side. It was calling for dropping temperatures, rain and snow all day. I knew that I’d only have a few hour window in the morning to make it 75 miles south to Carlsbad to get the closest camera within a few hundred miles. What sucks is that I had that puppy in my hand yesterday when I stopped by Radio Shack to check their supply. With the temperature at 34 and the weather as nice as it was gonna get, I gave the G0ose a pep talk and headed down 285 south back to Carlsbad. I mean I was hauling ass and burning gas! I made sure I got there just before the store opened up so that no one could sneak in there and purchase that bad boy before me. You know how Murphys law works. Take no chances. Anyway, with new camera in hand it was a race back to Roswell. My competitor? The dark clouds in the distance. I won, temporarily. I made it back to camp and was pulling out to finally go do the alien touring when I felt the dreaded loose feel in the rear of the bike. DAMN, a flat rear tire and as it turns out it had, not one, but two punctures at once. Somewhere along the line I must have ran over an old utility knife blade. That’s what I pulled out of the tire. I’m just glad I made it back to Roswell before that puppy went flat. Eric, the campground owner and also a bike guy, hooked me up with some compressed air after I plugged the holes. I said thanks and headed to town to finally see some alien action. The first stop was the UFO Museum and research center. It is the thing to see if you come to Roswell. As I was paying the $5 entry fee, I looked outside and noticed that the rain snow mix had begun. No worries though, the tent was only a mile and a half away and if I could ride 150 miles to get a camera in freezing weather then I could handle a mile and a half in the slippery stuff. The museum was great and I walked out of there a bit more enlightened than before I went in. I love, love, love to learn new things. The pics came out clear as day and all was right in the world again. After that I bounced around from gift shop to gift shop searching for the perfect sticker for the Goose. With a bright green alien/Roswell sticker in hand, I headed back to camp in the rain and decided to download the new pics to the blog so that I could check out their quality. I planned to put up 64 pics for two days. I made it to about 53 pics downloaded when the campgrounds internet connection went out and, simultaneously, wordpress.com lost my post that I just sat for an hour and a half and created. In the words of my best friend Steves dad “Sun da bitchin bastards.” Defeated, I limped my cold body back to the tent and crawled in my cacoon of a sleeping bag for a long, very cold night.