Friday, February 8, 2013

Southern Arizona

After exploring Carlsbad caverns, we returned to the town of Carlsbad. Sarah did laundry while I ran some errands and scouted out a place to watch the Super Bowl. We had cable TV at the RV park, but we thought it would be more fun to watch the game with other people. The first place I checked out was the one suggested by our host at the campground. It is a bar connected with a motel. It smelled bad and only had two televisions, one old rear projection big screen monster and a 32” LCD at the end of the bar that only a few people would be able to see.

In the grocery store, the check-out clerk suggested the local Chili's restaurant. However, he looked at his watch and said “you pretty much need to be there now if you want a seat”. It was only 1:30 PM and the game wasn't scheduled to start until 4:30 PM local time (we are in mountain time here). He also suggested Lucy's Mexican restaurant might have the game on. He gave me directions that sounded odd. He said that there were two Lucy's Mexican restaurants, directly opposite each other on the same street. He wasn't sure which one would have the game on. The first Lucy's I went into has a typical restaurant layout, a dining room with tables and chairs on one side and a separate bar on the other. Both the restaurant side and bar side had one small LCD television each. I asked one of the waiters if they were going to have the game on. He wasn't sure, but he would ask his manager. The very friendly manager told me that she believed the Lucy's across the street would be the better place because they were going to have drink and food specials for the game. She also told me that both restaurants were owned by the same person.

The Lucy's across the street wasn't open yet, but as I was pulling out of the parking lot, James Lopes came out to put some cardboard into the dumpster. I asked him what time he was opening and how early he opened and what time my wife and I need to get here to watch the game. He said there would be plenty of room if we got there by 4PM. I thanked him and told him we would see him later.

The Lucy's we returned to in order to watch the Super Bowl is much different than the one on the opposite side of the street. The first Lucy's I went into is an upscale, finely decorated Mexican restaurant. It is brightly lit and nicely decorated. This Lucy's is much darker. The furnishings and d├ęcor have seen better days. But what this Lucy's lacks in fine furnishings, it more than makes up for it with the friendly atmosphere. This Lucy's is clearly a local gathering spot, for many of the other diners seemed to know one another and their seemed to be almost equal cheering for both teams on the part of those present. The family seated in front of Sarah and I were wearing the colors and t-shirts for the 49ers, and took our cheering for the Ravens in a very sportsmanlike mannner.

The energetic desire on the part of the entire staff, especially James, to make us feel comfortable and welcomed cannot be overstated. Everyone of the wait staff shared responsibility for each and every table.

In another Tex-Mex restaurant in Texas, we had ordered margaritas that were far too sweet and made with a low grade mix. So, here at Lucy's, Sarah asked the bar tender if she could make a margarita using Sarah's recipe. The bartender gladly stated that she would be happy to make it any way Sarah wanted. It was perfect. Typical of most Mexican restaurants salsa and warm tortilla chips soon arrived. The salsa was good and didn't need any extra hot sauce, coming from me that means it was plenty spicy.

At the start of the game we ordered our appetizer of fried green chilies. We don't usually eat fried foods, but this was the Super Bowl. They were delicious. When we had half finished with the chilies, Each of us ordered our main course, chicken fajitas, just before half time. Lucy had some items on her menu that I had never tasted before. In most restaurants I usually order dishes that I have never had the opportunity to try before, especially in ethnic restaurants. However, seeing so many other patrons ordering the fajitas, and smelling the aroma of that dish caused me to go with what seemed to be very popular. Both Sarah and I were delighted with the fajitas. The chicken was moist and tender and had clearly been marinated in a perfect blend of spices. The chicken was accompanied by perfectly pan roasted peppers and onions.
Sarah and our gracious hostess, Lucy

When the lights went out at the Super Bowl stadium, I asked the woman whom I heard people call Lucy and who seemed to be the person in charge, if this was her restaurant. She replied that it was. I asked her to tell me why there are two Lucy's. She said that this was the first Lucy's and it was intended to be more of a cantina than a restaurant. When it became successful, she opened the more up-scale Lucy's across the street. She said that she also has another Lucy's restaurant in the town of Ruidoso. Lucy introduced us to her lovely granddaughter, Lean, who was one of the other very personable and hard working wait staff. With food as good as we ate and staff as friendly as we met, it is no wonder she is successful. Lucy's is the real deal in Tucson.

To get to our next stop on our way to Arizona, White Sands National Monument, we had to cross the Mountains. As we ascended into the mountains the temperature slowly began to drop. Approaching Alamo Pass we began to see small patches of snow. In the town of Cloudcroft, 8,600 feet above sea level, the mid-day the temperature was 45 degrees and there was lots of snow everywhere. As we descended into Alamogordo, we caught a glimpse of brilliant white in the far off distance. At first I was panicked. Was the next valley high enough that we were going to encounter snow? I thought I had done my homework, and with the exception of the high passes we had to traverse, I was keeping the Mary Joan away from that stuff. Then I realized we were seeing the dunes of the White Sands National Monument and Missile Site.
Advancing Dunes at White Sands National Monument

When we arrived at the monument, Sarah finally got her lifetime national parks pass. For a one time fee of $10, we now have lifetime admittance to any national park, monument or historic site. There are some benefits to getting older. For us, that will be a great savings because it also gets us a discount of 50% off our camping fees on federal lands.

Sarah and I drove into the White Sands Monument area and hiked the mile long loop trail into the dunes. Formed of pure white gypsum, the dunes were nearly blinding. Certainly, without good sunglasses, we would have been very uncomfortable. Besides being an amazing vista, they are an complex ecosystem, aspects of which were very surprising to learn about. For instance, the dunes are not stationary, they actually move across the desert as if each dune were a formation of soldiers advancing on a battle field, covering anything in its path. We discovered cottonwood trees that send roots deep enough to tap the water that is just three feet below this otherwise waterless desert. Remarkably, these large trees can survive the rising tide of sand as long as enough of its limbs are out of the sand and can bear leaves. We also learned that some of the small mammals that live here do not drink water. Instead, they live off metabolic water. Metabolic water is what is released when food is converted into energy leaving water and carbon dioxide bi-products.
These trees survive as long as some of the branches can bear leaves above the sand.
Frequently, we don't make reservations at campgrounds because we like the flexibility it gives us. The next place we wanted to stay was Rock Hound State Park near the town of Deming, New Mexico. It is 10-15 miles off the route we intended to take on our way to Arizona so we decided to call and make sure there was a campsite available but it was a first come first served site. The attendant told us there was one left but there were RV parks in Deming should someone get there before us. We arrived at 4 PM and was able to get the last spot with electricity. That is important because it does get cold at night here in the desert.
The two days we spent at Rock Hound State Park were very relaxing. The weather was perfect and although we didn't find any geodes, we enjoyed our stay.

This post is being written at Tucson Mountain Park, adjacent to Saguaro National Park. I'll update soon, stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I think I saw your Airstream as I took my dog for a walk this evening. We are in our '99 25' Airstream over in C28.

    I'm Tim and my wife Amanda and I full-time in our Airstream. We left from Vermont about 8 months ago. I added your blog to my google reader feed way back before we even had an Airstream, while I was still dreaming of this lifestyle.

    We have been here for 6 nights and are headed out in the morning. Great little park they have here.



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