52 States in 8 Months

The White Sands National Monument

Posted in Las Vegas to El Paso by Ulf on May 2, 2009

My parents will not be very happy about this blog post. I took more than 200 pictures on March 30, and I could not resists putting about 35 of them into this post. Everything started with our great breakfast in Las Cruces: We went to Burger King (I think this was my first time in the US), and it looks as if I had an “Croissan’wich”:
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After our nutritious breakfast we hit the road. For a long time everything looks like … well, just as everything looks like in New Mexico, but then there was this white dune in our way:

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We had arrived at the White Sands National Monument. And since we are in America, there is a road directly leading to the place we wanted to see. Although seeing the road sometimes wasn’t that easy. They have to plow the road constantly to make sure the dunes don’t cover it.

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Just like every good National Park, White Sands also has restrooms in the Park, sun shades, picnic shelters and also something which looks a bit like a large campground. Or maybe just a spot to test how much lateral acceleration your rental car can stand?

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Now, I’m afraid I can’t show you pictures of the most beautiful spots. The problem is that my camera somehow refuses to take pictures at that place. It was really strange: I pressed the release button, but nothing happened. However, once I pointed the camera at a darker spot (maybe my clothes or my hand), then it would suddenly change its mind and take the picture. Well, not the picture I wanted, but some picture of my clothes or my hand.

Still, I managed to take enough pictures to prove that we were there:

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There is an interesting story about the dead Yucca plants which you see here and there. They’re actually killed by the sand dunes, but not in the way that you expect. The soaptree yuccas, just like all other plants, usually grow in the interdunal flats. But as a passing dune begins to bury the yuccas, their stems start growing rapidly upward. This way the leaves will usually remain above the sand. Now, the problem is: Once the dunes pass, the yuccas collapse under their own weight and die. Still, it is a good way of surviving much longer than most other plants that don’t survive their burial with sand in the first place.
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Now, since our car had quite some fun in the desert, we also found a lot of things to do with white sand. Apart from putting it into a bottle and stealing it, of course. Mascha: We left a large STK logo in White Sands. Paul has pictures of it. Just that you know that we went big :-).

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Please have a look at the picture in the lower left corner. You’ll notice that there is a constant sand storm just over the ground. I was wearing long trousers which turned out to be very good — Paul was always complaining about the sand pricking into his legs.

Coming back to cars, did I mention that I encourage all automobile manufacturers to use White Sands for their ad campaigns? If GM wasn’t going bankrupt in the these days (only Chrysler is quicker), I would start making up slogans for our Chevy Cobalt and put them into these pictures:

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Now, even after leaving the National Monument we were still in the White Sands Missile Range close to the Holloman AFB. We didn’t see any German Tornados, but there were a couple of F-22 Raptor planes flying low-altitude manœuvres above our heads. That can really distract you from driving, especially on the long, empty and straight roads in New Mexico.

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When I saw these planes I thought about weapon guidance systems. I mean, can there a better method for detecting planes than watching for dark spots on the sky? Why on earth should one rely on active radar or heat if the planes are so clearly visible? (Unless, of course, the guidance systems are also supposed to work at night…)

We couldn’t spend to much time down there since we had to get back to Albuquerque. Both Paul and I had to catch our planes in the next morning (I already wrote about my private, state-sponsored flight). We drove through Alamogordo (having trouble pronouncing it? try Alamo-Gordo), and then we once again entered the everything-looks-the-same-New-Mexican-landscape. Don’t be fooled by how Alamogordo looks, it really is the only city in that area.

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To give you an idea of how boring the whole area is, here is a story which happened in the postal office of Carrizozo. Paul and I both needed stamps, so I went into the post office. The desk was empty, but when I rang a bell, a clerk arrived. I asked her for a couple of international stamps and a single domestic stamp. Well, as you can see, I got the domestic one. However, she couldn’t sell international stamps. I mean, they had stamps, but they store them in a safe, and the person who has the key to the safe wasn’t available at that time. But she had a solution for us: She offered to call the post office in Tularosa (about 50 miles to the south) to see if they have access to international stamps. Well, we were heading to the north, so this was no option for us. Still, it was an interesting experience to see that some post offices can’t sell you the stamps they have…

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One more interesting experience was a car accident. Somewere along the boring road we were overtaken by a police car, and about half an our later we arrived at the place where the accident had happened. And yes, we were the first car in the row, so we had a pretty good view on how the officers recorded the accident. There were three cars involved: The Chevrolet Monte Carlo with the ugly color which you see on the street, and two SUVs which came off the road on the right side. I do assume that the cars which were now in the roadside ditch were overtaking each other. That’s a bit dangerous in New Mexico since looking forward is generally not required while driving.

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The steering axle of the Chevy Monte Carlo didn’t break during the accident. Actually, they could even turn on the engine and drive a few meters with the car. Well, up to the position were the car is on the second picture, because that is where the steering axle actually broke ;-).

When Paul and I arrived in Albuquerque, we decided to visit the so-called “Old Town”. All tourists have to go there, so we couldn’t refuse. They have an empty plaza with a gazebo, and there is church next to it. And a lot of shops for tourists, of course.

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Since Paul and I were hungry, we simply rushed into the first Mexican-looking restaurants at the plaza. We had some do-it-yourself tacos as an entree (translates to “Hauptgericht”), and since I’m a sucker for American-sounding food, we also had to try the “fried ice cream” afterwards.

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You wonder what that is? Now, fried ice cream is just fried ice cream. They put some corn flakes around the vanilla ice, fry it for a second or two and serve it with a lot of cream. Yum yum :-).

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7 Responses

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  1. Tommy said, on May 3, 2009 at 6:36 am

    AAAWESOME! I want that for my backyard!!! :D
    .
    (p.s. fried ice cream?! eeewww!)

  2. elke said, on May 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Awesome, beautiful, astounding pictures, brother! What a magnificient place!

    elke

  3. Mascha said, on May 3, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    babe these pictures are amazing!
    minus Paul’s naked girl flip-flops

  4. Ulf said, on May 3, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    I’m just coming back from swimming, and that makes me believe that the most beautiful pictures are actually the first one and the last couple. In other words: HUNGER!!!

  5. Andreas said, on May 3, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    YOU were overtaken? And you needed half an hour to catch up with the other car even though it was waiting for you???
    I’m really disappointed.

  6. Ulf said, on May 4, 2009 at 5:11 am

    Yes, it is really disappointing. But remember, I overtook a cop car in Texas, so it was just fair that I didn’t race this one ;-). Tomorrow I’ll publish a blog post on the speed of the police car.

    However, the time until the crash scene doesn’t really say much about the officer’s speed. We would have needed 30 minutes to catch up even if the cop drove just 56 mph. I mean, I was allowed to drive 55mph at that place, so the crash was still a little less than 30 miles away when we were overtaken. Seems like a short distance in New Mexico dimensions ;-).

  7. Tommy said, on May 5, 2009 at 2:53 am

    oh yeah, aaawesome misogamic assecoires, paul!!! :D
    (thanks masha, i hadn’t noticed them before.)


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