Billy the Kid and Smokey the Bear Lived Here

After I saw the birds eating their breakfast, I thought that I should do the same. I stopped at a little tiny store and decided that I should also buy gas, as this part of New Mexico is full of a bunch of nothing. These were old-school pumps, the kind that requires the purchaser to interact with a human in order to make the transaction. After contemplating the store’s offerings for breakfast, I opted for an ice cream cone.

Driving down the road I noticed that I was in the middle of a huge field of volcanic rock. The pictures really don’t do it justice. There are a few more with the rest of the pictures.

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It turns out that there was a real bear named Smoky the Bear, though he was so-named after the whole Smoky the Bear thing was conceived. A big fire left a cub orphaned and he was bottle-raised and then went to live in a zoo.

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Here I am with Smoky.

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A bit further down the road was Lincoln, New Mexico, the town that made Billy the Kid famous during the Lincoln War. My friend who recommended seeing The Birds said that Lincoln was worth stopping in as well. I doubt that I would have done so otherwise, but since the birds were so cool, I decided to risk it and see what this Lincoln thing was about too.

The story, as I understand it, was that there was a single store in this little town. Another guy moved in because, you know, due to lack of competition the guy with the one store charged outrageous prices. So the new guy comes in a makes a store, but the other guy burns the store down and kills the guy who started it. Billy the Kid tried to stand up for the guy with the new store. The cops sided with the guy who had the money and wasn’t dead. It’s a pretty cool little town and you can see stuff like the hole shot in the wall by Billy when he escaped. You can see that room and the courtroom in which he was to be tried, too.

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My route took me through Roswell, New Mexico. Perhaps because I am a former fan of The X Files, I was familiar with the Roswell UFO Incident, and somehow became aware of the International UFO Museum and Research Center. If you’re not familiar with the Roswell UFO thing, the legend is that an alien spacecraft crashed in the desert and the US government went to great lengths to hide it. This was a stop not to be missed.

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I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but from what I could see in the silly museum, I do believe that something crashed in the desert and that the government went to great lengths to cover up whatever it was. I don’t know whether it was aliens who crashed in the desert or not, but I got my picture taken with these.

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My destination for the next day was Carlsbad, but I got tired and hungry around Artesia, NM and found myself at The Wellhead, a microbrewery. There at the brewery I met Fred and Ethel. They eat at the Wellhead once a week. They had been in town for over a month building a house for Habitat for Humanity. This is apparently a pretty good gig for those who live in RVs, as Habitat typically provides a free place to park an RV and has power and water hookups. Here in Artesia, the Eddy County Fairground has hookups. Fred and Ethel very kindly checked with the folks in charge and said that I could park there for free and have access to electricity.

I found my way to the fairgrounds, Fred showed me where to park and then I went and hung out with Fred and Ethel for a couple of hours. They even offered to let me use their shower. I told them that I thought I was clean enough, but thanked them for the generous offer.

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