SW Road Trip, part 3: Carlsbad

After our days in Las Cruces, we entered what turned out to be the most negative part of the vacation. Not that it was all negative, but we had a few things happen that soured some moments. I’m going to try to focus on the positive, though!

Day 7 – 9/30
We reserved Day 7 for travel, going from Las Cruces to Carlsbad (the city, not the caverns), where we would spend three nights in a hotel. The trip was only about 3.5 hours long, but we didn’t want to try to cram both travel and an excursion into the same day. We figured that if we wanted to, we could find a park to hang out in, or do something else fun. And that didn’t end up being the thing.

When we arrived at our “hotel” in Carlsbad, it turned out to be a motel instead, despite the Hotels.com description. Parts of the motel were under construction, with broken out windows and doors. The lobby smelled like cigarette smoke. The whole place looked very sketchy. I was reminded of when we first moved back to TX in 2017 and ended up at a motel that was full of roaches, rats, syringes, used condoms, and other detritus. I didn’t even want to get out of the car, and I certainly didn’t want to check into a room. We’d arrived early, so we canceled our reservation and set up at a nearby Hyatt. It was, thank goodness, far better!

(literally my only pic this day)

Unfortunately, Carlsbad itself was awful, especially in contrast to Las Cruces. We tried to find local places to eat, and there were very few options. Everything was on the just-above-fast-food level – Mexican food that could double as Taco Cabana, cheap bbq, and greasy bar American food. Literally nothing else in the entire stupid town. We ended up getting pizza the first day because 1) it was close to the hotel and 2) we hadn’t eaten lunch because we were driving through the the middle of nowhere at the time. And then there was the stink – the whole city smelled of sewage or rotten eggs. Jason said it was because it was an oil processing city, and that was the smell of the oil refineries. But GAH. Just yuck.

One more note from the day: I woke up to a message from a distant cousin asking me to be careful at the parks, spouting conspiracy theories from a man who runs a Bigfoot search organization, and the whole thing was just so sad. It pains me so much to have friends and family fall for this bs, and it’s just so common right now in the wake of Fake-News-Prump and Covid.

Day 8 – 10/1
This was our only good day in Carlsbad, mostly because we got out of the city and went south 15 miles to Carlsbad Caverns, my second-most anticipated stop on the trip. I’ve wanted to go into these caves for ages! They didn’t disappoint. We took the elevator down rather than going through the natural entrance (which would have involved hiking down a potentially slippery 750-foot drop), and then walked the 1.5-mile loop around the Caverns. The biggest thing I can say is this: I understand why the people who first found places like this believed in underground creatures. Your eyes pick things out and make stories of them. Some of those stories were pre-named (like the Fairy Garden or Mirror Lake), but J and I had a great time making up our own. The oogie boogie man. The king and queen of the underworld. The pit of despair. The giant skull. Dinosaur. Etc.

The only issue with the Caverns had to do with the air pressure. Being 750-feet below ground, I started getting a pressure headache almost immediately, and the spots that were clearly mildewed weren’t helping (I’m extremely sensitive to mold!). So yeah, I had a headache, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Afterwards, we got quite a few souvenirs – a pin for my bag (actually two, because we found one with a bat on it in the second shop we visited), a spoon for Laurence, a bat bookmark (currently sitting in my RIP book!), a stuffed bat for when our next kid leaves home (long story, family tradition), and a few other things.

We returned to our hotel for the afternoon, picking up some ice cream along the way, and this is when the food situation started to get dire. I’d been eating as well as possible all through this trip. We even bought fresh fruit and salads while in Las Cruces! But there was just nothing in Carlsbad! We ordered dinner through DoorDash and what arrived was…inedible. And yet there was nothing else we could order. So we ended up eating leftover pizza, snacks, and more ice cream than we should have. I think my dinner mainly consisted of poptarts and mint chocolate chip. It didn’t bode well for the next day!!

Day 9 – 10/2
You have to have one failed day on a trip, right? This was our failed day. We got up early, grabbed the hotel breakfast (they had a hot or cold option), and set to eat on the way. My food was literally a small croissant. Jason’s was french toast sticks…that were moldy. UGH. Bad omens all around. Guadalupe Mountain National Park is about 45 mins away from Carlsbad, which is the closest city to it (hence why we continued to stay there). As I said in my hiking post, this was my least looked forward to destination – basically chosen because we would be in the area anyway. And again, as I said in that post, our first trail got us lost, and the second trail didn’t even truly get started because the really crappy eating in Carlsbad was catching up with us. While the Guadalupe Mountains were beautiful, I didn’t enjoy them at all.

We left the park, and on the way back to the hotel, we decided to go home a day early. Every night, I’d facetimed home to see my (human and feline) babies, and I was growing homesick. Plus, I wasn’t looking forward to trying to scrounge up a Walmart meal for dinner, as we already knew the restaurant situation was AWFUL. I just wanted to be home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t cancel our last night of the reservation, but we left anyway.

The trip home was 6.5 hours of drive time plus any stops (we had to get both lunch and gas a few times along the way). The first 2.5 hours were soooooo long, driving through the armpit of the world (the oil basin areas), slowing for every podunk town, stopping at several more of those weird one-lane roads with stoplights (at least these worked!). When we finally got on I10, it was the best thing ever. My car is tiny and doesn’t really do 80 mph very well, but I ran it like that anyway. We put on the audiobook of Elantris, because Jason hadn’t heard it before, and that kept us occupied for the rest of the trip. At least most of what we passed on I10 was pretty, going through an extended hill country and getting out of the oil part of TX. We’d warned the boys that we were coming home early, and it was good to have a welcoming committee (happy cats, sarcastic boys…) when we arrived.

Favorite photos from these days of the trip:
My three favorite photos from this trip (two from the Caverns, one from Guadalupe) are already featured above.

Fun stuff along the way:
Um, to be honest, this part of the trip was so blah except for the Caverns trip that I don’t have a lot of extra fun stuff…

  • Ironically, it was faster to drive through Texas to get to Carlsbad than to go through NM. So we entered El Paso right at the beginning of I10, and now both of us have seen the very first and very last mile of I10 in TX.
  • We saw another rainbow before entering Carlsbad Caverns! –>
  • There’s one restaurant in Carlsbad called KaleidoScoops, which we wanted to go to for ice cream, except all the reviews talked about the very non-pandemic-safe practices, so we chose not to. Great name, though!

So there you go. I know this ends on rather a down note, but overall, our vacation was actually quite nice. And I got to see a new part of the world! Plus, Jason and I spent most of our time away from other people, making sure we stayed safe and hopefully covid-free. It’s been since September 2018 that we’ve had a vacation, and it was really nice to finally have another after three years!!

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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