Drove from Benson, NM to Carlsbad Caverns, NM via El Paso and a bit of Texas on Tuesday.
We stopped to enter the Caverns before looking for a motel room and it's a good thing we did...but more about that in a bit.
If you've never been, you've got to go! Even if, like us, you don't take a guided tour or stick around for the famous bat flight at twilight, the self-guided loops are easy to follow and highlight the major features of these limestone caves. There's even an elevator to take you down the 600 feet to get to the Big Room. The sheer volume of open space is amazing. The walking loop around the Big Room is 1-1/2 miles long. We missed a few things by not walking down, but my knees are very thankful for that decision!
I've tons of pictures, but I'll spare you until I get them all downloaded and run them through Photoshop.
Leaving the Caverns about four in the afternoon, we started searching for a motel room for the night.
None in the immediate vicinity of the caverns and none in the town of Carlsbad to the north.
None in Pecos either. (None in Midland or Odessa should we think of going that way.)
Did I mention there's a oil and gas boom in Texas?
Makes the play for natural gas in Pennsylvania look tiny in comparison, let me tell you! Every motel was filled with oil workers. White trucks (the preferred color of the petroleum industry) were everywhere. We headed south toward San Antonio.
On a two-lane, undivided road with a posted speed limit of 75 mph...and lots of water trucks hauling fluids to and from oil rigs...semi-tractor trailers hauling lengths of pipe and God knows what else, and lots of white pick-up trucks that laughed a 75 mph. As night fall approached.
Eighty plus mile later we were in Fort Stockton refilling the Tundra and making phone calls to find a room for the night. The third call (Comfort Inn & Suites) said, "Why, yes we do." We rushed right over and checked into a beautiful suite at a more than reasonable price.
And nothing but the Dairy Queen was still open and serving food.
Wednesday we started a great deal closer to (and a whole day earlier than expected for) San Antonio, Texas. The high desert of Texas slowly gave way to more and more greenery and the drilling rigs seemed to decrease. Or, at least the became less visible in the more butte and mesa table lands. (Unfortunately, there was a stretch where those mesas were studded with windmills.)
We approached San Antonio around 11 AM and the traffic unsettled me. The downtown setting of the Alamo was not what I envisioned. I prefer to Remember The Alamo as sitting in a small village with wide open plains in front of it. Terry said she could pass on the River Walk as she'll be returning in two years with the Embroiderer's Guild of America. (And now I learn that tonight, Wednesday the 18th, there was to be a Championship Parade along the River Walk to celebrate the Spurs winning their 5th NBA Championship. Might not have been able to find a motel room there, either!)
And so we rolled on southeast toward Corpus Christi and Padre Island. We too I-37 all the way to the water and turned right. Drove along the shore road and drooled over the multimillion dollar homes erected there for the next major hurricane to sweep away. Then we went looking for a motel room at three in the afternoon. Just in case.
Got a nice room and a seafood recommendation for a place called Doc's Steaks and Seafood under the bridge going to Padre Island.
Drove south onto Padre Island and kept driving south until we reached the Padre Island National Sea Shore. Got to the visitor's center just 15 minutes before it was to close for the day. Had a lovely talk with a ranger about the best time to come to do some birding. Then Terry went to dip her toes in the Gulf of Mexico.
On the way back to the motel we stopped at Doc's and had a wonderful meal while watching the sun over the Intracoastal Waterway.
We're several days ahead of schedule and a few hundred miles further south than here I thought we were going to hit the Gulf shore, but that just means we get to see more of it as we drive north starting tomorrow. Then again, the USS Lexington is docked in town and there's the Texas State Aquarium, and the Port Aransas Birding Center is just up the road....
Speaking of birds, we have seen quite a few different species along the way. Great-tailed Grackles (the look like little black roosters and sound worse), White-winged Doves, Eurasion Collared Dove, Black Vultures, Little Blue Heron.... (Birding at 75-80 mph is tough! Most of these were seen from parking lots at motels, gas stations and rest areas.)