We woke up early on Day 4, tired, cranky, and hungry. I forgot to mention that due to the icy driving the night before, we never stopped for dinner. And in order to make it to Carlsbad Caverns before it closed, we had to leave pretty early. I had signed us up for a tour at 1:00 p.m., but I knew we were not going to make that.
Luckily the roads weren’t bad. By the time we crossed into New Mexico, the day was sunny, the speed limit was 75 mph, and there were very few other cars on the road. We had left the icy interstate behind, and the driving was excellent. We were also lucky that New Mexico gave us another hour.
We pulled off the road to take a photo of this sign, and minivan pulled off behind us to do the same thing. It was clearly a family on a road trip, just like us.
We made it to Roswell, NM in time for lunch, and we stopped at a local Mexican restaurant, Los Cerritos. Mike and I both ordered chilaquiles, which neither of us had ever had before. I learned that however I thought they were pronounced was definitely wrong, because our Latina waitress said it back to me and for a brief moment I thought she had gotten it wrong. And then I realized that no, I was the one who had gotten it wrong, of course. We spent the rest of lunch trying to remember how she had said it, to avoid future embarrassment, but I don’t think it stuck.
Then, of course, we went to the UFO Museum, which is both cheesy and awesome. If you are a big fan of diaramas, this is the place for you.
After raiding the gift shop, we headed out for Carlsbad. The landscape for the first part of our trip through New Mexico was flat and pretty similar to Texas. As we got closer to Carlsbad, we started to see more desert features, like these hills.
We got to the caverns in time to go through all of the Big Room, which is the largest cave chamber in North America at 8.2 acres. The trail through it is a mile long, and we were down there for about 2 hours. We made it back to the elevators pretty close to the last rides up for the day.
It was really hard to take photos in the caverns. You take the elevators down 750 feet to reach them. The park service has installed flood lights so you can see the formations, but the lighting overall is very dim. If there were no lights at all, it would be absolute pitch black. I switched off between using my Canon and my iPhone for photos, because sometimes the iPhone actually worked better. But although some of the photos came out okay, I don’t think any photos, even ones shot professionally, give you a real sense of what it is like.
The space is huge, and the air is humid and dank. At some points water dripped on my head. Mike and I didn’t get freaked out by being in the caverns, but I could certainly see how a person could really get freaked out by it. And apparently people do, if the warning signs are any indication. We didn’t see any of the famous bats, since they had migrated for the winter.
We were staying in Carlsbad for the night, so when we resurfaced, we headed into the town for dinner. Carlsbad doesn’t have a lot in the way of culinary choices, but we found a really nice restaurant, Yellow Brix (which doesn’t seem to have its own website). We got to the hotel pretty early and for the first time since we started the trip, we had some time to relax.