Road Trip – day 27 (NM; VLA, and Carlsbad)

While in Moab, Debi’s brother-in-law and brother suggested that we add a stop on our itinerary, the Very Large Array, which is a radio observatory in New Mexico.  It is the inspiration for the radio observatory featured in the movie Contact.  It wasn’t too far out of our way and seemed suitably geeky for us, so we made it our first stop of the day.  It was well worth it, much better than our next two stops.  The VLA is made up of 27 antennas, the arrangement of which can be modified depending on what the scientists are investigating.  The antenna are pretty big.  There is a small museum there, but then you can go on a walking tour that takes you right up to the base of one of the antennas.  It’s pretty cool.  Debi and I enjoyed it and Toren seemed to think it was okay as well.

Toren liked the display of parabolic dishes that allowed you to hear whispers from about 25 meters away.
Toren liked the display of parabolic dishes that allowed you to hear whispers from about 25 meters away.
Did I mention Toren got a sucker in the museum? That may have improved his attitude toward the VLA.
Did I mention Toren got a sucker in the museum? That may have improved his attitude toward the VLA.
Debi and Toren in front of some of the antennas.
Debi and Toren in front of some of the antennas.
Toren and I checking out the VLA.
Toren and I checking out the VLA.

From the VLA we headed to Roswell, New Mexico, which was something of a disappointment.  I was expecting lots of crazy alien stuff, but only saw a few stores that had alien themes.  We didn’t stay long, stopping just for lunch as we were really headed for the Carlsbad Caverns.  There are two primary draws at the caverns – first, the caves; second, the bats.  Toren is afraid of caves, apparently, so we didn’t end up doing that.  And the bats?  Well, it used to be the case that hundreds of thousands of bats would fly out of the cavern every night in search of food, making a veritable bat cloud.  Now, as the result of a drought and migration, a few thousand may trickle out each night, which is, well, underwhelming.  We probably saw 100 bats trickle out in the hour or so we watched after the sun set.  I was really excited about the Carlsbad Caverns but was pretty disappointed.  If you’re going, don’t expect an amazing bat show.

We ended up driving in to Texas to find a hotel, and couldn’t find a cheap one.  We eventually found a crappy hotel that wasn’t cheap but was the cheapest we could find.  There was no toilet paper and it was in pretty bad shape all around, but we were tired and spent the night anyway. (FYI, if a hotel has a note in the room that says, “No cooking” that’s probably a bad sign.) Oh, and Priceline double charged us for the hotel, which was upsetting.  We ended up disputing the claim through our credit card because Priceline wouldn’t help us and got the money back, plus Debi called the hotel’s headquarters and complained about how terrible the hotel was and they sent us a check for about how much we paid, so we ended up not actually paying for that hotel.  I’m thinking zero dollars was about the right amount anyway…

 

daily mileage: 560; total mileage: 7,042

states visited: Texas; total state count: 25 (plus 1 territory and 1 other country)

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