After leaving Oliver Lee SP, I spent a few days longer in Alamogordo than I intended as I awaited forwarded mail. I slept for 4-5 nights in the Alamogordo Super Walmart and noted numerous other van-dwellers and RVers. This included a pleasant talk with a New Zealand woman who parked her little Class-B van next to mine and who was on a 10-month van-dwelling stint herself. Less pleasant, though, was the dickhead who parked his truck camper in the middle of the lot and ran a noisy generator non-stop, day and night. He even had the little accordion-shaped stairs down and everything, as if he were out in the woods. What the hell?
I visited the much-hyped White Sands National Monument but left feeling dissapointed and grumpy. Or perhaps I was grumpy to begin with. You know, the sand was a little brighter than what I encountered at Monahans Sandhills SP, but not by much (or so it seemed). I didn't like how you had to drive the 8-mile road rather than get a chance to bike or walk it. Then came the real pisser: at about the halfway mark, the paved road inexplicably turns to dirt. It was so severely riddled with bumps and holes that I began to hear things breaking in the back of my van. This is a road you pay $3 to drive down and it's only 8 miles long. They claimed the road was friendly to all vehicles - sedans, trucks, trailers, and so on. I disagree! Is there some ecological reason they couldn't finish paving it? If you know, please post the answer below, so I can forgive them...
As soon as my mail arrived, I drove south to Las Cruces, then north again but on the opposite side of the mountains. I spent a night at Elephant Butte State Park...
ABOVE: My campsite over the lake, or reservoir, whatever it was. The view was pretty but overall Elephant Butte SP was my least favorite state park thus far, mainly because it revolved around watersports, which don't interest me. Also, the "freshwater" coming up from the pumps was brackish.
From Elephant Butte, I drove north to Albuquerque. I'd heard that Albuquerque was an up-and-coming city... well, it was so up-and-coming I'm not certain it really exists, yet. Construction everywhere. And where there wasn't construction, then strip malls. I parked at a church downtown and walked around... the downtown area seemed to have that same lousy city-planning syndrome that Providence had, where too many too tall buildings crammed together kill any sense of community or rhythm from block to block. It makes you feel small.
BELOW: My impression of Albuquerque...
The next day, I drove north to Santa Fe. Perhaps the city-planners in Albuquerque decided not to make it interesting because Santa Fe is so close - and so interesting. It's immediately appealing for a visitor. The roads are wide, the signs clear, and the buildings low, giving you a view of the surrounding snowy mountains. It was chillier in Santa Fe than anywhere else in NM and there was old snow on the ground in places.
ABOVE: I was able to park overnight at the visitor's center, since the Santa Fe Walmart supposedly forbids camping.
ABOVE: The whole "clay abode" style architecture was refreshing. It may be a gimmick but I'm all for gimmicks if they're pleasing to the eye, modest-looking, and make for a fun downtown area. The "Plaza" in Santa Fe was geared toward tourists (BELOW: one of the many vendors), but it was very pedestrian-friendly and vibrant.
I walked all day which included a jaunt up a sidestreet to enviously look at the houses. On my way back I had a burger and some beers at a hotel restaurant where nothing was more expensive than $6. Another bar-goer told me that New Mexico should be called "Land of Entrapment" rather than "...enchantment", due to how often people tend to fall in love with the place and stick around.
Today I will begin the trek westward into Arizona. But before I go, check out this awesome little truck camper I spotted: