US 70, Day 1: Globe, AZ - Roswell, NM


I get home from my business trip to Norfolk, and now I'm on vacaction. I'm driving US 70 from end to end, which runs from Globe, AZ to Atlantic, NC at the Atlantic Ocean. Prior to 1964, US 70 ran to Los Angeles, along the current route of US 60 and I-10. I'm starting from Phoenix.

So, here I go.

I got up a little earlier than I expected, which was good since I had a long delay on US 60 due to a paving project east of Superior. At the 60/70 split on the east side of Globe, I stopped to take some pictures of the signage. While I was setting up my camera timer to take a picture of me next to the END US 70 sign, a cop pulled up to see what I was doing. I explained, and got him to take the picture for me. :-) I'm going to get a picture of myself next to the other end's END sign.

I've already driven most of US 70 in Arizona in the past. From Globe, US 70 goes into the Gila River valley, a big farming area. US 70 used to curve around the south side of San Carlos Lake, and cross the Coolidge Dam. It now goes over a bridge on the north side, on a much more direct route. I'll be following modern US 70, though I'll make some side trips to look at anything interesting.

The old inspection station on US 70 east of Safford has been demolished. It's a fair distance from the border, but at this location one station could get traffic on both US 70 and US 191 (old US 666). US 89's inspection station was near Cameron, nearly 100 miles from the border.

Near the NM border, there's a truck weigh station. Arizona only has weigh stations at the borders, not inside the state. Eastbound into NM, signs direct trucks to use the station on I-10. On the NM side, US 70 makes a long flat run to Lordsburg. Every so often, a dirt road turns off, going to a ranch far back from the road.

Lordsburg was hit hard by the I-10 bypass. It used to be a major junction for US 70 and 80. The route through town now is a collection of abandoned motor courts, gas stations, and diners. The only ones left are near the east end of town, at the interstate. On the sign marking the old junction, you can still see where it said "Phoenix", when US 70 and not I-10 was the prefered route.

East of Lordsburg, US 70 joines I-10. NMSHTD doesn't mark the duplex very well. I didn't see any reassurance markers for US 70 or US 180, which also joins I-10. There are a few fragments of the old two-lane highway, but most of it was paved under by I-10. The Continental Divide is east of Lordsburg. This is probably the least remarkable crossing of it. It's just a sign in the middle of a nearly flat plain. I stopped for lunch at Deming.

East of Deming, I saw Amtrak's Sunset Limited running along side the highway. I took this train on my vacation last year. I wanted to get a picture, but it was going faster than me.

US 70 leaves I-10 near Las Cruces. From this point to Ruidoso, US 70 is a four-lane divided road. US 70 crosses the Rio Grande on a fairly new bridge. In Las Cruces, it's under construction. It looks like it will be very nice once it's done. At the I-35 interchange, there are signs that still refer to US 82. US 82 was cut back to Alamogordo in 1990, but NMSHTD still hasn't removed all of the signs. East of Las Cruces, there's a sign warning that if the lights are flashing, US 70 is closed for a missile launch. This is probably the closest to a MISSILE XING sign you're going to find.

US 70 enters the White Sands Missile range. Signs warn against leaving the highway. The speed limit goes up to 75. There didn't seem to be any visible activity today.

Next up, White Sands National Monument. This is really amazing. Water washes gypsum from the mountains down into a dry lake bed. The water dries out, and the gypsum is deposited. Eventually, it crumbles into sand and is blown into dunes by the constant wind. The illusion of driving through snow drifts is amazing. Most of the road through the dunes looks as if it were a snow-covered road that was freshly plowed. The road surface is made from gypsum sand that was wetted and then compacted. It forms a very hard surface. Very wide areas were cleared out in the same fashion to form parking lots and picnic areas. Each picnic table has a canopy on one side to protect it from the prevailing winds.

Alamogordo is a military town, serving White Sands, Ft. Bliss, and Holloman AFB. There's a space museum there devoted to space flight testing that was conducted in the area. The museum itself was closed when I got there, but it had a large outdoor exhibit too. Included were serveral Saturn V engines, a test vehicle for the Apollo escape mechanism, and a rocket sled. On 12/10/1954, John Paul Stapp rode it at 632 MPH, experiencing up to 43Gs.

I took a little side trip down US 82 East to see a tunnel. The road climbs very steeply into the Sacremento Mts. Near the tunnel, there's a vista point that gives a great view of the valley and the dry lakes. Due to recent monsoon rains, though, there was a bit of water making a brilliant reflection in the setting sun.

Back on US 70, I took it back into the Sacremento Mts. It tops out at nearly 7000 feet in a pine forest. Most of the forest is part of the Mescalero Apache reservation. They run a ski area, and a casino and horse track. It was a little dispointing to find that the Inn of the Mountain Gods was a casino. I guess the gods want me to play the slots.

I had dinner in Ruidoso, which is a big tourist town. In the winter, it's a ski town, but it still gets a lot of people in the summer escaping the heat. It only got up to 70 there today.

The sun had set by now, so I drove to Roswell in the dark. The road slowly descends out of the mountains. I found an old motor court called the Frontier Motel in Roswell. Single story, neon sign, parking at the door. It's not that bad actually, and really cheap. The only complaints I would have are that there's no bath tub (shower stall only), and the "non-smoking" room has an ashtray and matches. Fortunatly, I'm not that bothered by it.

Tomorrow, assuming I'm not abducted by aliens in the night, I'm taking a detour to Carlsbad Caverns.

Next day: 8/25
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