With a 3-day weekend on the horizon last Monday and no husband in town, I did what any other girl would do in my situation: I bought some Wonder Woman underwear (really!) and planned an impromptu solo road trip! My main parameters for choosing a destination were:
- Escape the heat
- Drive less than 8 hours one way
- Explore somewhere/something new
- Limit Interstate driving
I decided on south-central New Mexico, and (spoiler alert) it was great. Like any responsible road tripper, I took care of some necessary items from my To Do list before setting out (namely, getting an oil change/car checkup and checking out an audiobook from the library) and then I made my plans.
On Friday I drove through much of Texas and just past the New Mexico town of Alamogordo to White Sands National Monument. Because I got started right after lunch, I arrived in WS at 7 p.m., right when the sun was setting. At the beginning of the drive through the park, I was underwhelmed, as I’d seen dunes before, and these all looked similar. However, once I drove further in, the white sands spread before me (those dots are people):
It was absolutely beautiful! I spent almost two hours watching the sunset, walking up and down the fine white sand, and just being generally incredulous as to the beauty surrounding me. Once I left the park, I checked in to my hotel in Alamogordo and went out to the back of it to watch the fireworks going off about a half mile away. It was a fun way to watch the show because I didn’t have to worry about traffic/fees/unfamiliar areas and I could go straight back into my room and be in bed 5 min. after it ended (a win in my book).
I was up early on Saturday to sample the fare at the Waffle and Pancake Shoppe, and true to form, everything from the no-frills silverware and heavy ceramic plates felt as familiar as it does in every down home mom-and-pop diner. The waitress, Nancy, suggested eggs and bacon, and gave me a pancake on the side instead of toast because, “After all, it’s in our name.” Breakfast was delicious, the coffee was hot, and I sat at the counter watching the cooks prepare food and in their downtime show one another photos of their families at the fireworks the night before.
After a big breakfast and a slow drive through some of the town, I packed up and headed to Ruidoso, about an hour away and up into the Sierra Blanca mountains. The downtown area (what they call Midtown) has the feel of a resort town, dotted with cute shops and restaurants being patronized by people wearing colorful flip flops, but I was meeting a friend for a hike, so I didn’t linger long. I met my friend and we went hiking for a couple hours in the Lincoln National Forest, then drove up to the Monjeau Fire Lookout to survey the surroundings and see firsthand some of the damage from the Little Bear wildfire that came dangerously close to the most populous areas of Ruidoso a couple of years ago.
We then had a late lunch at Casa Blanca, a restaurant in (fittingly) an old white house. I had green chile chicken enchiladas with the requisite rice and beans (they were really good; the beans especially so!) and a margarita (very refreshing, although not too potent), said goodbye to my friend, and went on my way once more. I stopped at Sacred Grounds on my way out of town for a pick-me-up for the rest of my day.
My next stop was the Mescalero Apache Reservation, where I attended the Ceremonial and Rodeo they were putting on that weekend. Even though it was open to the public, most of the people attending seemed to be of American Indian descent to some degree, so I felt somewhat conspicuous, although not at all unwelcome. The annual festival surrounds the coming-of-age ceremony for the young women of the tribe, and it was fascinating to see members who were dressed up (some more than others) in the traditional garb doing some of the traditional dances around a fire circle. One of the coolest aspects was that the families of the girls participating in the service prepared a meal for everyone in attendance (thousands), so I was able to sample fry bread, some kind of meat (I still don’t know what it was), a couple kinds of beans, pasta salad, corn, and watermelon, which were served out of huge vats lined up on tables. The Reservation board asked that we not take any photos of the proceedings, so you’ll have to imagine it all, but it was a really cool experience.
Once it started sprinkling a bit, I left the reservation and drove to nearby Cloudcroft, where I had booked a B&B for the night (sadly forgot to take photos). There I settled in to a comfortable room and woke up to the smell of pancakes and coffee. The hosts cooked “Ebleskivers,” traditional Dutch pancakes that are spherical in shape and sometimes cooked with apples or other fillings inside. They tasted great, and fueled me for a brief solo hike in the area. While hiking, I remember thinking about how great it would be to start every Sunday with good breakfast and a hike in the mountains!
I ate a quick lunch in Cloudcroft before starting the drive home, listening to Jane Eyre (which I’ve never read) and stopping to take a few photos of a beautiful sunflower field along the way. I made it home before the sun set and considered my weekend a success.
Hope your 4th of July (whether in the U.S. or not) was wonderful!