A year on the road is a long time together. It was in Phoenix that we decided to split up. Not forever, just for the weekend.
One of the positive aspects of the US Post Office’s two-week misplacement of our passports back in November is that the re-configured trip meant that I was going to be in the USoA when my son Alex graduated from college in December. When the time came, I decided to fly back to the eastern side of the US to see this happen, while Becci continued her travels through Arizona and into New Mexico.
My weekend in Knoxville was great, and young Alex did indeed walk across the stage. Meals were consumed. Toasts were made, Drinks were drunk.
Alex and a bunch of his friends. The image quality demonstrates one of the reasons why Becci takes 98% of the pictures on the trip, although in this case, alcohol may have played a role. From left to right: Olivia, Kayln, Alex, Sloan, Paysleigh.
There was a rental car incident on this trip (surreptitious concrete pad lurking in parking lot v. auto’s rocker panel), and I had to perform some impromptu body work on my rented Camry. “Barcelona Red” is hard to find in a spray can, but after visits to six different auto parts stores in the Knoxville area, it was acquired. All was well when the car was returned on Sunday afternoon, and I jumped on a big bird and headed to Albuquerque.
While I was gone, Bex drove around Arizona and explored a huge meteor crater outside of Flagstaff. The place is apparently just called Meteor Crater (and I have a pamphlet to prove it); it was created about 50,000 years ago when a 150-foot-in-diameter iron and nickel meteorite tore through the Earth’s atmosphere and made a big ole thud in the Arizona desert.
This meteorite weighed hundreds of thousands of tons, and struck with a force of in excess of exploding 20 million tons of TNT. Shock waves devastated everything on the desert plain for several miles. 175 million tons of rock were ejected from the meteor’s collision site, resulting in a crater that is 700 feet deep and 4000 feet across. Some of the rock was thrown for miles, and almost all of this can still be seen today. Bex saw it; I have only her photos and the souvenir beer koozie that was purchased there to remind me of this visit.
Fortunately, Bex and my separation was temporary. We were reunited at the Albuquerque airport, and from there we took a left turn and found Becci’s old and my new friend Anna, and her very cool family, who live in a small, older community outside of Albuquerque.
Albuquerque and the surrounding area sit at significant elevation, and the place gets a lot of snow in the winter. We hadn’t seen much snow since Iowa, but we encountered a bunch of it in New Mexico. It was beautiful waking up and seeing the snow and ice-covered trees outside our bedroom window. Becci and young Elliot took a break in the Steelers / Falcons game to make a micro-snowman.
Anna, Elliott, Jack Henry (not pictured), and Max the pup were wonderful hosts. Unfortunately, my traveling companion was beset with food poisoning on the morning that we were to depart. We stayed an extra day (the first day of Hanukkah) to allow Ms. Brace to recover. That day consisted of 20 hours in bed asleep and 4 hours in the bathroom. It reminded me of a few days that I had like that in Peru.
Bad news: we are all pretty sure that Becci had food poisoning. Good news: food poisoning generally ejects itself utterly within a day or so, and that is what happened in this case. We were back in Black Betty, and on our way to Roswell.
It seems that a flying saucer crashed near Roswell in 1947. You may have heard about it.
We checked out the International UFO Museum And Research Center in Roswell. This museum provides a sizable bit of information about the 1947 event. Museum displays include numerous written eye-witness accounts of the crash and the alien bodies, reproductions of local and national newspapers covering the event (which was covered initially as a UFO crash), affidavits from literally dozens of witnesses to either the crash, the aftermath of the crash, or the government’s strong arm tactics to suppress discussion of aliens. The official story is that it was a weather balloon, dammit.
There are also many depictions of aliens and spacecraft. Because the verbal description and subsequent illustrations of the Roswell aliens has become our de facto, comic characterization of aliens, seeing life-size depictions of these types of beings makes the whole thing seem silly. It undermines the legitimacy of the firsthand accounts and other circumstantial evidence around this event.
The museum was a fun place to visit. There are a tremendous number or signed, sworn affidavits from actual people who are certain that they saw alien beings and / or an extraterrestrial vehicle. There are a like number of signed, sworn affidavits from people who claim to have been coerced in one way or another by the US military to reject the extraterrestrial angle. The museum presents this story in a relatively convincing way. And what is described is just exactly the way that I have always envisioned a government cover-up: it was not a slick, quiet operation that drops in and doesn’t leave a trace of the visit; but rather it was a fast-but-not-quite-fast-enough, heavy, clumsy, destructive sweep that leaves a bunch of indications that it came through.
The museum is an interesting place; recommended if you have an interest in the subject. Admittedly, we did the whole museum in an hour, including a trip through the gift shop, which is a riot.
After leaving Roswell, we headed further south to Carlsbad, for a little cavern action. Unbeknownst to us, this area of New Mexico is experiencing a crazy oil-drilling boom and has been descended upon by hordes of temporary petroleum-industry workers. Hotel and motel rooms cannot be found, and when they are found they are (a) shitty and (b) profoundly overpriced. For example, I walked into a Fairfield Inn and Suites, and was told that a room with a Queen-sized bed would be $322 for the night. Approximately what you would pay to stay in a posh hotel on a weekend in New York City. I laughed out loud at this suggestion. When I asked why the pricing was so absurdly out-of-control, the first clerk briefly, politely mentioned the oil-boom situation. The second clerk (both were approximately 22 years of age) commented smugly “It’s supply and demand!”. OK, Adam Smith, thank you, I’ll take that under advisement! We found an Econolodge for $135 a night (outrageously overpriced; by far the most we have paid for lodging on this road trip) and vowed to stay but the one night.
Little did we know what would happen next. But that’s a story for a different day…