travel

Big Birthday Photobarf

This post is incredibly delayed because it includes photos which were gifts to family, but here it finally is.

I’d been planning a birthday trip to Disneyland and other points of interest in the area for, oh, the last year and a half or so. Maybe even two years. That trip happened in early December, and I was thrilled to have my parents join me.

In total we did three days at the California Disney parks, one at Knott’s Berry Farm, and one at Universal Hollywood. Definitely an exhausting – but fully enjoyable – trip.

One thing I was super excited to do was to take another progress photo in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. (Sorry Tarzan, it’ll always be their place in my heart.) Here’s that photo. I didn’t take a photo in the treehouse on my second most recent trip because I was ashamed of how much weight I’d gained back, so we’ll have to settle for a photo from my meet & greet with Boba Fett from that trip.

L-R: Feb 2013, Oct 2014, April 2017, Dec 2019

I never want to go back to where I was in those earlier photos. Hopefully I’ll look even healthier in the next one – whenever that happens. And now for the real fun, VACATION SLIDESHOWS!!!!

We spent a grand total of three days at the Disney parks: two at Disneyland and one at California Adventure. I’ve just lumped them all together here because I’m feeling lazy. High points included treating my folks to a birthday lunch at the Blue Bayou, piloting the Millennium Falcon with my dad, and catching part of the candle light processional (even if we weren’t important enough to warrant invitations to the show).

We spent a day at Knott’s Berry Farm, which I hadn’t been to since our first big amusement park vacation back in the early 80s. They’ve got a TON more awesome rollercoasters than they had back then, and I rode most of them. The Silver Bullet did me in. Got in a couple more coasters after that, but then I had to call it quits. This was only day two out of five straight days at theme parks and I didn’t want to burn myself out too fast. Didn’t get a ton of photos, but here’s what I do have.

We also spent a day at Universal Studios Hollywood, which I also hadn’t been to since that same vacation we first went to Knott’s. I shouldn’t have been surprised that the rides were pretty much all screen-based, but I was. And they made me sick. We had a fun day, but I don’t feel the need to go back. This was Day Three of the Five Days of Funn.

If you know me at all, you know that’s a hell of a lot of peopling for me. Once back home, I had to get out on my own and recharge my nature cells. I’d been wanting to get down to the Chiricahuas for weeks, but my schedule just didn’t allow it. I decided to make it work that Saturday after getting back, and it was absolutely worth it. I stopped at The Thing on my way home just for shits and giggles, and to see the “upgrade” to the museum. That was…. an experience. At least I ended up with a souvenir tee shirt that I really like, and which cost a fraction of anything I saw in any of the theme parks and didn’t like nearly as much.

So there’s my bigass photobarf. Hope you enjoyed it.

And because it’s timely, I had a lovely Christmas with family and am looking forward to a most likely quiet New Year’s Eve as a hermit. Unless I change my mind and go out. Then there’s no telling.

Fall Colors

Today I went back up to Mt. Lemmon in hopes of catching some fall leaf colours and it did not disappoint. It was a deliciously chilly 46° F when I got to the trailhead, and only 53°F by the time I was all done and headed back down the highway. I took the Marshall Gulch/Aspen Trail loop – including a little offshoot that I’ve been meaning to check out – then explored the Sunset Trail a little bit while I waited for the General Store to open up so I could buy a box of fudge.

That’s the AllTrails map and elevation recording. And now, a giant photobarf. Click on any photo to embiggen.

So, yeah. Should the day come that I leave Tucson for good, this pretty much cemented that it’ll need to be for a place that actually has four distinct seasons.

Denial can be a good thing.

I wasn’t quite ready to admit my vacation is almost over so I got up early to drive up Mount Lemmon to go for a hike today.
I decided to do the Marshall Gulch and Aspen Trail loop, for a total of 4.4 miles. (I actually logged 4.6 miles wandering around the bottom of the trailheads after I got back, but the official loop is 4.4.) I started with the Marshall Gulch trail, which mainly runs through ponderosa pine forest.
It was deliciously cool, and there was even a trickle of water in the gulch.
The trails also go through old burn areas from past wildfires. It was interesting to see the new growth against the old, burnt trunks.
There were even still some wildflowers around.
Hey, I think I can see my house from here!
It was wild to walk through such dense growth of young pines. Most of these were only 6-8′ tall.
This is on the Aspen Trail portion, which is largely lined with – you guessed it – aspens. I never knew we had such lush green pathways up on Mt. Lemmon. I’d always assumed it was mostly just the pines and scrub with some interesting rock formations. I didn’t take a ton of photos along this section because I was too busy enjoying it.
Obligatory self portrait. Yes, I actually hiked shirtless. I’m no Adonis, but it’s nice to finally have the self confidence to do that.

I think this is my new favorite local hike, though I’m toying with the idea of heading up the mountain every other weekend or so to explore a new (to me) trail. I can’t believe I’ve been in Tucson for this long and never actually done a hike up there. I’ve been up the mountain multiple times, but usually just a little day trip to have fudge or pie or something. And the last time I did that was years ago. Seems a shame to waste such a great resource just about an hour drive from my front door.

Also, super mega thanks to the guy who gave me a pen so I could fill out the forest service’s fee envelope to avoid a potential $80 ticket. There were no writing utensils at the fee box and apparently all the pens I which used to keep in my car have mysteriously disappeared.

There and Back Again…

Despite lack of activity here on the blog, June has been a very busy month. Lots of travel for me, which always makes staying on track with the healthy habits a challenge. First week of the month, work sent me to Phoenix for a four day class culminating with a certification test. I am now a Jamf Certified Tech, which is pretty cool.

I’ve also taken off the last two weeks of the month for some much needed personal time. The first week was a road trip up to Boise and back, partly with my parents. I have lots of photos, which I will break up into smaller batches to share here. We were in two vehicles, Dad and I doing the driving and Mom switching who she rode with. So any road photos you see here were taken by my mom while I was driving.

First leg of the trip, our goal was to make it to the dinosaur museum in Blanding, Utah. The museum was pretty cool, though I did not take any photos inside. Mom got a lot of great road scenery photos for me, and we made a stop at Wilson Arch on the way to Moab.

From there, it was on to Arches National Park, which was phenomenal. Mind blowing, you might even say. Wouldn’t mind getting back there with actual hiking supplies and check out some of the longer trails.

After that, we made our way to Green River, UT, where we crashed for the night. Ultimate goal the next day was to make it to my parents’ place in Meridian, ID. We made a few stops for interesting dilapidated cabins on the way to the Dinosaur National Monument. Spent a couple of days just hanging out with the folks at their place while they took care of things that needed doing before their next road trip. We did go tour the Old Idaho Penitentiary, which was interesting. The gravestone for Dennis the Cat marks the final resting place of the prison’s cat. He’s the only inmate to be buried in the main yard. I also tried to take a trail run up to Table Rock one morning, only to find that a McMansion development was being built right on top of where part of the trail used to go. I did eventually find my way back to the rest of the trail and got some interesting photos.

Finally, I started the journey home. Mom and Dad had a short road trip they needed to make for work, so we once again caravanned out with a couple of fun detours. First we went to check out the Shoshone Ice Cave, which was pretty cool – both figuratively and literally. (Temperature in the cave is generally 24-32°F year round!) Then we stopped at Mammoth Cave, which along with the on-site museum was pretty neat. After that, we parted ways. Mom and Dad to finish their trip and me to head home. I stopped for the night in Provo where according to Priceline, I got the last room in the Super 8 – the most budget friendly option. That room? Yeah, it was the Brigham Young “suite”, done to the nines in BYU memorabilia. I also got to go for a run at the Provo River Park .

Up early the next morning, I made my way to Vegas where I would spend my final night on the road. I crashed at Circus Circus because the room was only $16. Of course, that’s not including the “hotel fee” of $38 which Priceline didn’t mention until I was actually buying the room. But even still, I’m pretty sure it was the cheapest room in the area. Also, it turns out the room was so cheap because it wasn’t in one of the main hotel towers, which suited me just fine. (They offered to “upgrade” me for an additional $15 but for that much I probably would have just chosen a different hotel.)

My only real goal with stopping in Vegas was getting to Frankie’s Tiki Room for a couple of tasty tiki drinks and a new mug for my collection. I chose to walk there and Uber back because driving didn’t seem like a good choice. Next time, I Uber both directions. That was not a fun walk. Anyway once there, I started with the Surf Dragon along with its souvenir mug, which was quite tasty. Then I had the Lava Letch, which I have to say is now my favorite tiki drink ever. I’ll have to get that mug the next time I’m in town since I limit myself to one souvenir mug per tiki bar visit because those things are NOT cheap. Also, I’ll need to learn to make this tasty, tasty tiki drinki for myself.

I also found a Zoltar machine – y’all remember the movie Big, right? – in the Circus Circus midway and had to make sure it was plugged in. (Okay, I’m pretty sure I saw at least three Zoltar machines, but still.) That night I wandered all the way down to the Bellagio to catch the water show, which ended up being cancelled due to high winds. So that was frustrating. What about winning those fat stacks o’ cash? Yeah…. I’m just not that interested in gambling. Since I no longer smoke, it’s not an inviting excuse to take advantage of the opportunity to smoke indoors. I did blow a few dollars on slot machines, but nowhere near the $20-40 I would’ve had to limit myself to when I would’ve sat there smoking like an industrial chimney. I’d guess maybe $10 at most.

Oh, I also took advantage of the hotel’s water park and did a thing that’s been on my Weight Loss Goal List for a long time. I went shirtless in a public swimming space. I figured if I was going to do it anywhere, Vegas was the place since the chances of me ever seeing any of these people again after leaving the next day were slim to none. And you know what? Nobody stared. Nobody pointed and laughed. I was just another dude having fun on some water slides.

I’ve been back home for several days now and am enjoying being a hermit for my second week of vacation time. Also, I’m pretty proud of myself. I didn’t miss a single workout day while traveling, and only really bounced up a few pounds after going a little overboard on food in Vegas. I’m also already almost back down to my pre-June Travels weight now. I’ve just been getting back into my personal routines, enjoying time with the cats, and not thinking about work until I absolutely have to this coming Monday.

I have really enjoyed just disconnecting and enjoying nature, family, travel, and alone time. It’s good to eat right and exercise and all that, but it’s also good to take care of your brain once in a while.

Thanksgiving

So we’re fresh off of Thanksgiving here in the USA.  I got to travel to visit with my parents for a few days last week, which was lovely.  We had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal, watched a few movies, and even got to drive out to the mountains to see some snow.

When I went to my conference in late October, I decided to aim for maintenance calories each day since I knew there was no way I could accurately log conference buffet food and I didn’t want to stress about seeing those red numbers in MFP for going over my deficit goal.  Came home about six pounds “heavier”, which I know was mostly water weight from markedly increased sodium intake for that week.  It took a couple of weeks, but my body sorted itself out once I was home and back on my routines.

For this Thanksgiving trip I decided not to alter my intake goal and instead, log to the best of my abilities and accept that I’ll likely go over my deficit goal just about every day – if not every day.  This seemed to work much better for me.  For about the same length of trip I was only up about three pounds once I got back home to my scale, and I’m starting to get back down again already.  So I guess that’s a lesson learned.

Aaaaaand… here are some photos I took while out and about with the parents.

Now for the rest of the holiday season….

C25K Report: Week 6

  • W6D1 (Thurs)
    • Walk 5, run 5, walk 3, run 8, walk 3, run 5, walk 5
    • Went fine, though finished session a good half mile away from my starting point.
    • Think I need to recalibrate my running stride length on my fitness tracker.  It thinks I went a good half mile (at least) further than I actually did.
    • Travel day (last day of JNUC, returning home).  Very tired.  Looking forward to my own bed.  And the cats.
  • REST DAY (Fri)
    • Got home around midnight last night/this morning.  Grocery/pet supply shopping after sleeping in, then orchestra rehearsal in Sierra Vista.
  • W6D2 (Sat)
    • Walk 5, run 10, walk 3, run 10, walk 5
    • Felt… not great.  Legs just didn’t feel good.
    • Orchestra dress rehearsal and concert in Sierra Vista.
    • Didn’t quite make it back into my smaller tux for this concert, but I did get back into one of my proper tux shirts.  And my old larger jacket fit properly again.  Here’s a photo comparing last April’s concert with this weekend’s concert. Didn’t quite manage to get the same angle, but I think the difference in my face is noticeable. tuxprogress
  • REST DAY (Sun)
    • Actually rested, for the most part.  Laundry, dyed pants for Halloween costume, was otherwise a vegetable.
  • W6D3 (Mon)
    • Walk 5, run 22, walk 5
  • REST DAY (Tues)
    • Sick day.  Woke up and the world would not stop spinning.  Called in sick and spent most of the day asleep.

This week’s rediscovered running music is another one of my originals, the EdBot5000 Megamix.  Did this as an art trade with EB5K a bunch of years ago.  He got this podcast music, and I got the painting shown in the track artwork below.  I really should make some more 8-bit style music again.  This was fun.

C25K Report: Week 5

  • W5D1 (Fri)
    • walk 5, run 5, walk 3, run 5, walk 3, run 5, walk 5
    • Not awful, but I wasn’t too worried about it.  Days 2 and 3 (especially 3) however…  Yikes.  This is where it ramps up fast.  Which I guess makes sense.  Next run is the half-way point for Active’s version of C25K.
    • P90 Sweat 1-2 and Ab Ripper 100
      • Decided after work to see if running helped my endurance with this at all.  It did, but I still can’t quite make it all the way through yet.  Damn run-lunges and cross-hops are hard.
  • REST DAY (Sat)
    • P90 Sculpt 1-2
    • My abs hurt from yesterday.
    • Orchestra rehearsal.
  • W5D2 (Sun)
    • walk 5, run 8, walk 5, run 8, walk 5
    • Wasn’t entirely sure about those 8 minute run segments, but a chill tune came up in my playlist when the first run started and reminded me to slow down.  Got through it just fine.  Didn’t burn out but didn’t have a whole lot left in the tank at the end, either.
    • Abs are still a little sore.
  • REST DAY (Mon)
    • Travel Day (attending JNUC 2018)
  • W5D3 (Tues)
    • walk 5, run 20, walk 5
    • IT’S FARKING COLD HERE!!!
    • Made it through the 20 minute run just fine, actually.  Only real issue was that I got turned around in the park by my hotel, so I didn’t make it back to my starting point by the time the app said the workout was finished.  Well, that and it was 34°F outside.
    • JNUC Day 1
  • REST DAY (Wed)
    • P90 Sculpt 1-2
    • Feeling frustrated because of my weigh-ins while traveling.  I know part of it is the increased sodium intake and decreased of rest. I also didn’t weigh my clothes before leaving home and I usually weigh nekkid, so there are a couple of pounds accounted for.  Plus, different scale, so there’s no telling its calibration.  I purposely moved to maintenance calories for this trip because I didn’t want to feel like I was failing by not meeting my deficit goal and I know things’ll even out once I’m home and back in my normal routines.  It’s just hard to focus on the big picture when I’m this tired.
    • JNUC Day 2

This week’s rediscovered running music is this instrumental version of Namaste by the Beastie Boys.  The chill vibe and laid-back groove helped me remember to slow down for the increasingly lengthening run segments.

a 30-year dream

Yes, it’s been a while yet again. I’m still working on rebuilding those healthy habits and re-eliminating the bad ones. But being better doesn’t only apply to physical wellness. Mental and emotional wellness are also large parts of it – and parts that I tend to ignore.

I recently did some math and discovered that I had 17.5 days of surplus vacation time that I’ll need to use by the end of the year or I’ll lose them. So I scheduled a week off and took a road trip to finally realize a dream that I’ve had for 30 years – to visit Carlsbad Caverns. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I first learned about the park in my 4th grade science class, and the trip did not disappoint.  Fair warning, I’m using this post as a sort of travelogue for this trip.  It is likely to be rather lengthy.

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I hit the road Sunday afternoon, making it to Carlsbad, NM that evening. Somewhere around Benson I realized that I had failed to pack one of my flannels.  While the outside temperatures of the locations I was planning to visit are similar to Tucson’s, the Carlsbad Caverns website suggested bringing a light jacket as the temperature inside the cave system is rather cool year-round.  So I stopped at The Thing tourist trap outside Willcox and picked up one of those woven Mexican “ponchos” (they call them ponchos but they’re really just hoodies) that were so popular back in the mid to late 1990s for $10.  Teenage Me had always wanted one and now Middle-aged M
e has one. Any way. I checked into the hotel and had a rather uneventful night.

Got up early Monday morning, had a cup of coffee and apastry from the hotel lobby, and drove out to the Caverns.

My initial plan as I devised this trip was to just go and stick to the two self-guided areas (the Natural Entrance route and the Big Room loop). Before I left town, however, I decided I should go ahead and buy tickets to at least one of the guided tours since there’s no telling how long it’ll be before I get back again.  Or if I ever will.  So I got online to see what was available for the one day I was planning to be in the park.  There was one ticket (out of 12) remaining for the Lower Cave tour ($20) first thing in the morning, and multiple options for the King’s Palace tours ($8) which take place throughout the day.  So I bought tickets for both of those tours before leaving home, and boy am I glad I did.

IMG_3245I got to the park a a few minutes before the visitor center doors opened so I had a little time to enjoy the view from the top of the hill on which the visitor center is situated. When the doors opened I bought my general admission ticket ($10) and picked up the tickets for both of my tours, then had a little more time to wander through the museum before they announced that it was time for the Lower Cave tour group to meet up. According to the website this tour is limited to 12 people, and I got the last available ticket. At the time of, there were only six of us. (Well, eight if you count Rangers Christina and Landis. Which I do.) I have no idea what happened to the other six people, but they didn’t show. We sat through a short orientation, were given gloves, hardhats, and headlamps, and took the elevator down into the cave.

Apparently that was also a big deal. It seems the elevators had been out of service since November and had only just re-opened. We were one of the first Lower Cave tours that got to take the elevator down rather than having to hike the Natural Entrance trail before actually starting our tour.

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I’m not going to lie to you, Marge. I was pretty nervous about this one. You see, this tour starts with using a knotted rope to descend a slick roughly 45° angle rock slope. And then there are three ladders you have to climb down. Of course, just as I got to the bottom of that last ladder I realized that I left my “poncho” in my car which was parked 800 and something feet above my head. That turned out not to be a big deal at all as between the humidity level and our activity level, I was soon dripping sweat like nobody’s business.

So, back to the tour. There are no paved paths, no hand rails, just strips of orange tape outlining where you’re allowed to walk. And strips of red and white striped tape indicating exceptionally fragile places where you’re especially not allowed to walk. One of the first things we saw was a lovely drip-pond. I tried to get some photos of it but my phone’s camera just didn’t do it justice with our meager headlamps. We got to see some great deposits of cave pearls real up close and personal-like, and were passing within inches of stalagmites and stalactites. I can’t tell you how tempting it was to reach out and touch them, but self-control prevailed. (Touching cave formations can damage them. General rule is HANDS OFF.)

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It was amazing to be so close to such gorgeous formations, and with such a small group of people. And the cave was incredibly active. We were dripped on pretty regularly for much of the tour. The rangers even said that the Lower Cave hadn’t been this active in quite some time. I know it’s silly, but I kind of like to think the cavern was putting on a special show just for me. It was a much more intimate experience with the cave than I could have ever imagined.

Because our group was able to move so quickly due to being half the size of most groups on this tour, the rangers were able to take us down a couple of different side-paths where most tours only get to go to one place or the other. And then they told us about another path that they don’t get to take very often because they can only take 10 people – including both of the rangers – through at a time, and wanted to know if we wanted to try it even though it would be a little more challenging with some climbing and crawling, and would add a bit more time to our planned 3-hour journey. Of course, we were all game. The rangers weren’t wrong – it was quite the challenge. And totally worth it.

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In one of the larger areas, we all sat down on the floor of the cave and switched off our lights. I’ve been in some dark spaces before but I can’t say I remember ever experiencing a darkness so total. And then we sat in silence for a couple of minutes. You don’t realize how much sound we’re surrounded by until you’re in a place where there isn’t any. I found myself closing my eyes to better experience the silence then realizing that I didn’t need to block any visual stimuli as the darkness was so complete.

 

Eventually we made it back to the ladders and climbed up to the rest area level before taking the elevator back topside. I took advantage of the lack of humidity above-ground to dry off and go grab my water bottle from the car as I was rather thirsty. I then had just enough time to get back down to the underground rest area to meet the group for my King’s Palace tour. Ranger Christina did tell me I might want the “poncho” for the King’s Palace tour as there’s a lot of sitting on that one and people do get chilly.

IMG_3190This time I chose to hike the Natural Entrance path back down into the cave. I didn’t stop to stare at as much as I really would have liked, as I did not want to be late for my tour group. Compared to the morning tour, however, this was a cakewalk. And while the Natural Entrance provided a much more impressive sense of scale, it also felt much less personal. And about half way down, I realized I’d once again forgotten my “poncho” in the car. And once again, I really didn’t need it after all.

I made it to the rest area with about 20 minutes to spare so I got in line for some food, as I suddenly realized I was famished. An overpriced ham and cheese sandwich never tasted so good. I finished my lunch just in time to meet the King’s Palace tour group and our Ranger guide. (I’m sorry, I do not remember his name.) There were probably around 40 people on this tour. So, yeah. A much larger group. And just the one ranger, as this tour is all along clearly marked, paved, lit paths, often with handrails.

The rooms we visited on this tour were stunning both in the sheer volume of the space and the number and styles of formations present. They did seem to be having some electrical issues in this section as some banks of lights were not on. Also, we passed a few electricians trying to figure out whatever the problem was. So I will likely take this tour again if I make it back so I can see what I may have missed.

IMG_3207Once again, in one of the rooms the Ranger had us all sit down while he switched off the lights in the chamber. He tried to get the group to observe a moment of silence but as I’m sure you can imagine, getting a group of 40 tourists to STFU can be a challenge. He then invited us to fire up our own light sources to see what we could see. I tried to imagine how different this moment would have been had I been there at a time when everyone smoked and therefore had sources of fire instead of cell phones with LEDs flashes and bright screens.

After the King’s Palace tour finished, I took my time wandering the Big Room loop. Without the distractions of needing to be careful about where I was stepping or placing my hands, or needing to listen to a guide, I was able to just walk and take it all in. I got rather misty more than a couple of times as the immensity of where I was really began to sink in. At least, when I wasn’t surrounded by large families full of whining children.

I’m really glad I decided to purchase those tour tickets, as the Natural Entrance and Big Room self-guided tours would not have filled my day. I’m also beyond thankful that the day went from a small, intimate tour group to a larger group, to free-range wandering with the unwashed masses. It kind of made it feel like these were *my* caves, not just some place I decided to go see on a whim.

IMG_3189Eventually, I made my way back up to ground level and the visitor’s center. I still had a couple of hours before the Bat Flight – which there was no way in Hell I was going to miss – so I went to the restaurant where I ordered a panino (which was still cold in the middle, but I was too tired to do anything about it), enjoyed sitting still for a while, read a book, and tooled around the gift shop where I purchased a nice Carlsbad Caverns hat before making my way to the Bat Amphitheater where another Ranger (again, I’m sorry, I do not recall his name) talked about the bats, the cave sparrows, and the story of how Jim White discovered the site while we waited for the bats to make their appearance. When they did appear, it was absolutely mesmerizing watching them swirl at break-neck speeds around the mouth of the cave before swarming off in search of whatever the night would bring them. Most likely water and bugs.

In all, this was one of the most fulfilling days I’ve had in a very long time. I can’t remember the last time I felt so satisfied.

I made my way back to my car as night began to fall in full and headed for Roswell. (Another place that I’ve been wanting to get to for years.) In retrospect, this was not one of my better ideas. I was really too exhausted to be making that drive. But I’d already checked out of my room in Carlsbad and had a reservation on another room waiting for me in Roswell, so drive I did. It was after 11pm by the time I got to the hotel. The clerk was very kind and upgraded me to a double room at no extra charge because the beds had memory-foam mattresses. I’d never slept on one before. It was interesting, but I don’t think I’d like that as my usual bed.

IMG_3246A friend had recommended the Cowboy Cafe in Roswell so my plan was to hit that for breakfast Tuesday morning, spend a couple of hours checking out the cheesy alien tourist trap places, then head home with a stop at White Sands.

The Cowboy Cafe was quite good. Large portions of pretty standard diner fare at decent prices. After breakfast, I found some on-street parking near Main & 2nd around 8am. All three main attractions are about a half a block away from that intersection.

Now, all the research I did online said the International UFO Museum opened at 8am and the Spacewalk and Area 51 “attractions” opened at 9. The internet was wrong. The museum doesn’t open until 9 and the other two places not until 10. So I wandered around the area looking for open gift shops, as I needed a new shirt. I didn’t notice until I put it on in the hotel that one of the shirts I’d packed had been eaten full of holes by something. So I tossed it in the trash and had put on my travel shirt from Sunday. I needed something clean, but not too pricey. Eventually found a shirt I liked for about $16. I also picked up a little green bendy alien toy who is now stuck to one of the A/C vents in my car.

IMG_3265The International UFO Museum ($5 admission) was pretty interesting. It is largely devoted to the whole Roswell UFO crash of 1947. There are lots of newspaper articles and redacted government documents all over the walls along one half of the museum. The other half is more devoted to UFO lore in general. I spent about an hour there, and I didn’t read absolutely every piece of information on every wall. They also were showing a film at 10am, so I decided to sit in on that. Except it turned out it was the 1994 Kyle MacLachlan movie Roswell. I really wasn’t interested in sitting in a less-than-comfortable chair for 90 minutes so I bailed on that. I’ll find it on Amazon Prime or something and watch it from the comfort of my recliner.

From there, I made my way to the Spacewalk. It’s a cordoned-off area in the back of one of the alien-themed gift shops. It’ll cost you $2 to get into the blacklight art installation, and maybe a minute or so to walk through it. I did snap a nifty photo that I think will make interesting wallpaper on my phone. I just haven’t tried it yet. After that, it was off to Area 51 Museum in the Alien Zone. Again, a cheesy set of photo ops in the back of another alien-themed gift shop. I believe this one costs $3 to get in. It was in pretty poor condition and I was rather limited as to what kind of photos I could take by myself, but I was in town so I’m glad I stopped in.

IMG_3267Next, I stopped at White Sands National Monument on my way back to Tucson. $5 got me into the park. While I could have purchased a plastic saucer from the gift shop for sledding down the dunes, I just wasn’t interested in spending the $17 (okay, $12 after the $5 buy-back when you’re done). And I was very much a lot not interested in driving the rest of the way home with shorts full of sand. So I satisfied myself with driving the park loop and stopping a couple of times to go wandering in the dunes. It’s really quite the surreal environment. The picnic areas felt like something out of a Kubrick film. And getting out into the middle of the dunes, away from the road and out of view of the mountains, I could have very easily convinced myself that I had entered a whole other world. I’m not entirely sure how long I spent there – maybe an hour or so. There was definitely a sparse beauty to the place.

Then I got back in the car and headed home, getting here around 8:30 Tuesday night. I’ve spent the rest of the week binging shows on Amazon Prime and being a bed for the cats. All in all, this vacation has been exactly what I needed. A little adventure, a healthy dose of something new, and a fair amount of Hermit Mode.

I think Carlsbad Caverns has gotten into my blood. I can’t stop thinking about getting to go back again some time. And since it’s only a six hour drive away, there’s really no reason I shouldn’t get back. I think I’d like to set the goal of eventually getting through all of the guided tours. There are a few that – according to their descriptions, at least – are even more intense than the Lower Cave tour. And I want to experience them.

Roswell was fun, but definitely not a destination spot. Now that I’ve been, I don’t feel the need to go again unless I’m with friends or family who haven’t been.

White Sands was added to the itinerary at the last minute and was kind of an afterthought. I saw it mentioned somewhere online recently and thought, “That’s kind of near where I’ll be, isn’t it?” Pulled up Google (all hail our dear and glorious leader) Maps and saw that it was, in fact, on my way back home from Roswell and decided I might as well check it out. Again, I wouldn’t call it a destination spot but it’s definitely worth seeing if you’re in the area.

And you know what else? That “poncho” is still in my car.

Here’s the full photo album from the trip.

As always, thanks for reading.