They Don’t Call it a Cavern for Nothing

By the time I got Walden moving Fred and Ethel were already off putting on a roof or whatever it was they were to do that day for Habitat for Humanity. I’d met them the day before at a local watering hole and they had graciously arranged for me to be able to park for free at the Eddy County Fairground where I even had electricity.

I bought a breakfast burrito and gas at a convenience store and pointed Walden toward Carlsbad. Walden and I were headed for Carlsbad Caverns. We arrived at Carlsbad pretty quickly. Sadly, Carlsbad Caverns is not very close to Carlsbad, New Mexico. The Caverns were nearly another hour away.

At the Caverns I was pleased to learn that my National Parks Pass meant that I again had no entrance fee if I was willing to talk down into the cavern. Buying that pass back in . Ticket in hand I headed toward the entrance where I found this imposing sign.

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I was not feeling especially weak-kneed, so down I went. I had been to
Wind Cave and Jewel Cave where you had to go on a guided tour. Here Carlsbad Cavern you just walked on down at your own pace. That is because this hole into the ground is huge and the walkway is paved all the way down. Actually, both the other caves I had been in had walkways the whole way to protect the cave floor.

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There were signs asking people to whisper, which seemed odd at first, but as I descended I found that the quiet solitude and darkness of the cave was indeed very peaceful. I stopped for a while just to bask in the quietude. I later found myself annoyed by those who did not whisper. I moved pretty quickly, and got down to the bottom of the cave in about an hour, about half an hour less than the published estimate. The Carlsbad Caverns cave is really spectacular in that it is just so, well, cavernous. The biggest rooms in Jewel and Wind caves were a few tens of feet across, this thing was massive. The walk around the big cavern is a mile and a half.

It took me a bit of trial and error to get the exposure right, but in the end I was pretty happy of this photo of myself with the camera on a tripod. The flash lit me up and the twenty second exposure let the light of the cave show up.

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Why did they print this sign upside down? Oh. Mirror Lake. I get it. Cute.

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Given that I had gotten down so quickly, I considered walking back up the 1.5 miles and 750 feet, but then thought that I needed to get moving and took the elevator instead. It was a bit faster. I resumed the journey eastward.

I have been interested in abandoned buildings for the duration of the trip. For example, I checked out an abandoned farmhouse in Wyoming. Usually, though, abandoned structures are behind fences with No Trespassing signs. Not so in Texas.

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Some I was even able to walk in to and check out further.

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It was pretty interesting. There are more pics if you’re interested.

When I got to the I-10 onramp there were a couple of hitchhikers, a man and a woman in their early to mid twenties. I stopped. The said that they had been stuck there for five days. Weird, the two of them
and their two dogs couldn’t get a ride in Texas? Fine, kids, get in. And what the hell was that he was carrying “Is that a cello?” I asked? Indeed it was. She had a ukulele.

We talked some. She was from somewhere in the midwest and traveled for about nine months of the year. I didn’t get much about him. Though I tried several times to initiate conversation, the conversations all ended pretty quickly. I don’t think that they ever even asked enough questions to learn about the fire or how it was that I was traveling. Having given up on travel, I decided to play Todd Snider’s “Tales from Moondawg’s Tavern,” an album of a bunch of extended stories he has told between songs in live performances (I think you can download it for free here). She seemed to be familiar with Snider and laughed at this stories, so this was how I managed to connect with her.

As the end of the day approached, I tried to get to an RV park. I thought that they could camp and I could stay in Walden as I had with
Little Bird and Ox. There was an RV park that Google Maps said “location approximate.” It turned out that by “approximate” Google meant that it was approximately in Texas, but nowhere near where we were. It seemed shorter to continue on the road we were on rather than backtrack to the interstate. I found a cool picnic area that did not have “No Overnight Parking” signs that I almost certainly would have stayed at if not for my guests in tow, but stopping with them in the middle of nowhere felt a bit uncomfortable. Oh well, on to Ozona, the place I had originally planned to stop for the night.

Ozona was a pit. The RV park place was a parking lot and not suitable for camping. I let the hitchhikers out to fend for themselves. I gave them my card and told them that I would give them a ride to San Antonio to the next day; from there it would be easy to get to Austin, their intended destination.

Returning to my problem of where to sleep for the night. The hotels in Ozona looked crappy. I tried a couple that looked only a little crappy. They were both more than $100 for the night. Even the low-rent place was $60. Sonic had WIFI. I bought something there and got the wifi password. After driving around Ozona a bit more, I decided that on the street by Sonic was my best bet. I found ways to darken the lights in Walden so as not to attract attention.

I was starting to wish that I’d taken Fred and Ethel up on the shower they had offered me the night before. I surfed the net and tried to write for a while before retiring for the night.

More pics: Carlsbad pictures.

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