US 70, Day 2: Roswell, NM - Clovis, NM


Just a few more notes for yesterday first. I drove 592 miles, which was a bit on the high side. I got into Roswell well after dark. I probably won't get as many miles on the next few days. I'm not doing one of these "I drove from Key West to Seattle by myself without stopping once!" things.

A bypass is under construction around Alamogordo. Although my National Geographic atlas shows it complete, it's not open yet. It looks to be close, though. The road leading to the space museum is NM 2001. Y'know, in a couple of years that's going to look downright quaint.

Now for today. Roswell, in case you've been living on Mars, was the site of an incident in the 40s. The military says it was a top secret project for detecting nuclear explosions. Others think it was a crash of an alien space craft, the technology of which is being tested at Area 51 in Nevada.

The town hasn't hesitated to cash in on this notoriety. Big-eyed aliens are everywhere. Even the globes of the streetlights downtown have alien eyes painted on them.

Road stuff: Roswell has a recently constructed bypass around the west side of town. However, it's not clear where the main highway goes. My atlas indicates that US 70 and US 285 have been moved to the new route. The signage, though, still seems to show them going through downtown, with the bypass being a truck route.

You'll note I didn't get very far from Roswell today. That's because I drove there via Carlsbad, which isn't quite a direct route. :-) This is as close to Carlsbad Caverns National Park I'm likely to get for a while, so I went to see it.

It looks like what is now NM 2 was formerly US 285. That follows a wide four-lane highway now. From Carlsbad, it's US 62/180 the rest of the way to the park.

The cave really is as amazing as they say. Note that it closes at about 5pm, so last admissions are 2-3pm. I got there about noon. I had a lucky break -- 8/25 is Founders Day for the National Park Service, so admission was free. There are two self-guided tours. One is a very steep winding trail through the natural entrance. This is one-way downhill. You return to the surface via elevator. This is also available to those that can't make the hike down. The other tour is the Big Room tour, which goes around the edge of the largest cavern. It's over a mile to circle it, which should give you a clue to the size. There are also various guided tours, from a flat walking tours to climb-and-crawl tours. There's also a presentation at dusk where you can see the bats take flight. The bat cave isn't open to the public. Considering the guano is 40ft deep, it's just as well.

On the way back, I saw a really strange marker in Carlsbad. This section of road is US 62/180/285, and NMSHTD has managed to jam all three into a standard sized US shield. Don't worry, I got a picture and will post it on my web site. Lots of business had blue Carlsbad Cavemen banners up; I have no idea what team this is, or even what they play.

I drove back to Roswell, stopping for a late lunch in Carlsbad. From Roswell, US 70 breaks off US 285 at an interchange north of town, which is where the bypass ends. Although my atlas shows a two-lane road, it's four lanes divided for about 20 miles. It then goes to two lanes before becoming 4 lanes again near Portales. This leg crosses farmland and grassland. There are a lot of dairy farms too. In Portales, US 70 takes two one-way streets through the downtown area. Portales is home to Eastern New Mexico University. It's got the tiniest stadium I've ever seen for a university. Greyhound stadium holds maybe 2000 spectators.

It was getting near sunset, so I decided to stop in Clovis for the night. Clovis is a big railroad terminal for the BNSF, with big silos near downtown. This creates one slight problem. All the motels are along the main highway, which is along the rail line. I'm glad I carry earplugs, as the train horns are really loud. I stayed at another old single-story motor court, though this one is now a Days Inn. It's a real non-smoking room this time, and has a bathtub to boot. A nice long hot soak is good. I've actually been really relaxed, though I got a workout hiking the cave.

I was a bit worried when I saw a school bus pull into the motel. It's a girls soccer team from Roswell. Fortunately, they stayed in another wing. And I have the earplugs anyway.

Next day: 8/26
Previous day: 8/24
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