November 29

Carlsbad Caverns

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We woke up just in time for the free breakfast - full breakfast, not just a continental one, as was pointed out to me when checking in. Downstairs we found an embedded Chinese restaurant where four choices of breakfast were being offered, while during the day the restaurant switches to the full blown Chinese repertoire which lists broccoli beef, pork and chicken as well as sweet and sour chicken, pork, and prawns as six individual house specialties, or about 50% of its menu. We eventually both got someone else's order, further supporting the theory that restaurants in New Mexico are somewhat chaotic.

We drove through Carlsbad, with its very own courthouse, Physician's Rehab (whatever that is), and even a university - probably a school of irrigation, a psychiatric clinic, a Wal-Mart supercenter and of course my ever favorite drive-in restaurant, one of the most bizarre inventionws I have ever seen. But soon we were out of Carlsbad and on the way to the Carlsbad Caverns. With a number of other people we entered the cave through its natural entrance, which is full of bats during the summer months. No bats to scare anyone today, but the thought of entering the cave seemed to be a bit too much for little Chandler, a maybe 3 year old boy who was afraid of entering the cave. It seemed that daddy's "selling" of the cave helped, as we later saw Chandler and his five siblings having a great time in the cave.

On the descent of 750 feet, during which we got to see some fascinating formations we were passed by a group of Japanese tourists who were living up to their reputation and pretty much ran past the other people. Maybe they were planning to see the sunset at White Sands, who knows. Eventually we made it down to the Big Room, which is indeed big - the largest cave in the western hemisphere. In a way, our visit to the cave was just beginning. Numerous stalactites, stalagmites, columns, yes even popcorn and some nipples and other highly suggestive formations were abundant. I took some of the pictures with a particular friend in mind - hope you enjoy them =)

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Back to the top we rode an elevator, operated by a friendly ranger; I wonder whether she gets motion sick after riding the elevator with glass walls up and down through the narrow tube all day. Back at the car Essan ate some snacks, I drank a liter of grapefruit juice, fearless of the consequences, and off we were on the way to nearby Texas, the lone star state, home of our very president, elected by a minority of the voting people. At least on the way from the caves to El Paso we saw some desert, desert, and more desert, some of it polluted with garbage. The closer to El Paso we got the more polluted things got, until the air was almost brown. This way we completely wasted the magic hour of light - there was simply not much to use it for, plus Essan was getting rather hungry, and I knew perfectly well what that meant. Since we skipped lunch we treated ourselves to an Italian dinner which was very good and filling, even though the service was more resembling that of some Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area.

From El Paso we decided to motor west as far as we could, since it was dark and probably not very scenic anyway. The Border Patrol station west of Las Cruces was temporarily out of comission because one of the officers just arrived from the nearby town with some fresh coffee a bunch of donuts, so we were spared a traffic jam and some excitement. When the iPod battery died we had to once again rely on the airwaves, which was moderately painful until we found a station playing the "Saturday Night 80s" mix; at that point it became only painful for Essan, as I was clearly having a blast, which was more than obvious thanks to my dorky dancing at the steering wheel. The station disappeared just around the AZ / NM border, and we retired for the night shortly later in Wilcox AZ. It's interesting that the towns around I-10 in this area all seem to have just three streets - Motel Drive East, Main Street, and Motel Drive West.

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