Main Page > 1997 The Charles Kuralt Memorial Tour >
Waking up fresh and rejuvenated, the Boys last day in New Mexico was planned for a full day of adventure ! First on the docket was a trip to the very white sands of well ,,,,,,,,,,,,, White Sands !!!!
Truckin' through the New Mexican Mountains !
Grabbing a coupla cups of java, the Boys left the still smoldering heat sink of Las Cruces and headed Southwest up into a little mountain range, where the air was sweet with pine and pleasantly cool. After 20 minutes of going up and down and side ways a switchbacks the boys came out to a very different and stark desert. As they descended down the temperature shot up from 65 to 115 degrees in 20 minutes !!!
Mercury rising in White Sands !
As the Boys were heading to the National Park the came across the White Sands NASA Facility. Since White Sands has been used since the 1940's for missile testing, it made sense that the Boys would stumble across NASA. Mike and Bone stop to visit their small museum and let Bone play "Astronaut." After a few minutes of play Mike prodded Bone along to head to the beach, or was it ?
Gypsies in the Gypsum !
The Boys soon enter the incredibly white, bright, and hot White Sands National Monument, which is a U.S. National Monument located about 25 km (15 miles) southwest of Alamogordo in Otero County in the state of New Mexico at an elevation of 4235 feet. The area is in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin valley area and is a huge field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals, rather than traditional (and expected !) sand granules.
What's up with the Gypsum !?! Gypsum is rarely found in the form of sand because it is water soluble. Normally, rain would dissolve the gypsum and carry it to the sea. Since the Tularosa Basin has no outlet to the sea, rain that dissolves gypsum from the surrounding San Andres and Sacramento Mountains is trapped within the basin and either sinks into the ground or forms shallow pools that subsequently dry out and leave gypsum in a crystalline form called selenite on the surface. During the last ice age a lake called Lake Otero covered much of the basin. When it dried out it left a large flat area of selenite crystals which is now the Alkali Flat. Lake Lucero, at the south-west corner of the park, is a dry lake bed at one of the lowest points of the basin that occasionally fills with water. The ground in the Alkali Flat and along Lake Lucero's shore is covered with selenite crystals which reach lengths of up to three feet. Weathering and erosion eventually breaks the crystals into sand-size grains that are carried away by the prevailing winds from the southwest, forming white dunes. The dunes constantly change shape and slowly move downwind, covering the plants in their path. Some species of plants, however, can grow rapidly enough to avoid being buried by the dunes.
Unlike dunes made of quartz-based sand crystals, the gypsum does not readily convert the sun's energy into heat and thus can be walked upon safely with bare feet, even in the hottest summer months. In areas accessible by car, children frequently use the dunes for downhill sledding !!
Walking on Drywall !!!
Unlike sand where you sink in, when the boys walked into the Dunes onto a very solid mass, in fact the Boys didn't really break through the hard crust except when they tried. When they did it felt like breaking through drywall, which is exactly what drywall is made of, gypsum !
Gypsy Bone !!
Gypsy Mike !!
Bone in the distance, almost lost in the reflecting light !
The Burning White
One of the interesting phenomenon is how bright it was in addition to the temperature pushing 126 degrees, the Boys were getting sun burned in their noses and under their arms from all the light reflecting up from the very opaque gypsum !
I ain't rolling down this brick wall !!
Bone in the distance, almost lost in the reflecting light !
After an hour of wandering the Dunes, the heat and sun (and thirst !!) drove the Boys back to their rental car and the dangerously low Hall of Shame. Now normally when the Boys play in the sand, there is at least one romp and roll down a sand hill, with one or both of the Boys going head over heals down the hill like Jack and Jill. But when faced with the hard abrasive washboard of a gypsum hill, the Boys wisely begged off.
Wandering out of White Sands in Search of Drinking Sustenance !!
By 3:00 PM the Mike and Bone realized they had a 5-hour drive ahead of them back up to Albuquerque and were down to their last four Negra Modelo's, and decided to start up the Rio Grand Valley.
Running the Rio Grande Valley
Charles had it Right
The impetus of the trip was Charles Kuralt's adventure in New Mexico along the Rio Grande Valley, as Mike and Bone drove up from White Sands the Boys marveled at the ancient and austere scenery of the brown and golden mountains against the blue, blue skies while they listened to Charles Book on Tape of his time in New Mexico. To add a dimension of enjoyment to the scenery and great story, the Boys replenished the Hall of Shame for the trip up to Albuquerque with Coruna's !!
No DUI ? - Driving Under Idiot checkpoints !
As the Boys drew closer to San Antonio, New Mexico they encountered a sign stating that there would be a sobriety checkpoint in the next 10 miles due to the traffic on this Labor Day Weekend. Deciding that being caught with refreshments would be disadvantageous to their flight schedule the next morning, hence the Boys began to regretfully throwing their final stash of brews overboard along the side of the road. As they pulled up to the checkpoint, the officers swished the Boys through with nary a second look. Driving away the Boys were saddened by their unnecessary and tragic disposal of their liquid sustenance, at that point they realized that the officers of the law erroneously were profiling Native-American's on this holiday weekend for boozin' and cruisin', not immature, middle-aged white guys from the Midwest !!
Tired and sad, the Mike and Bone thought that they could wash out the social injustices and inequities of the world with a few beers and green chile burgers at the renown Owl Bar. With a goal in mind the boys spirit and speed limited increased considerably, especially since they were no longer carrying any booty.
A Setting Sun on a Setting Trip
As the Boys moved on from the foolish and totally unconstitutional road block, the Boys were on the look out for the Owl Bar that Charles was enamored with, Mike and Bone were treated with a spectacular
Bird-dogging the Owl Bar
"Charles, you were absolutely right about the Green-Chile Burgers !!!"
Known for their famous hamburgers, The Owl Bar & Grill in the sleepy little town of San Antonio, New Mexico always has people waiting to sit down. The bar pictured is actually from the original Hilton hotel. Story has it that the original hotel burned and workers with the Civilian Conservation made an offer to the man who owned the bar then. They would move the bar from the hotel to the Owl if he would pay them in beer and burgers. A deal was struck, and the men walked the bar to the Owl. It took them two days. Conrad Hilton was born and raised in San Antonio.
By the time Mike and Bone left the Owl Bar, it was pushing 9:30 PM, and the Sun, suds, heat, and hamburger had taken their tolls on the Boys. They were whipped, but had a 4 hour drive up to Albuquerque to deal with, while Mike complained the whole way about how his stomach hurt. By 12:30 AM they check into a Cheap-o Motel by the Albuquerque Airport, where Mike was able to assuage his tender tummy, with a lengthy and violent dumpage session. Getting to sleep at 1:00 AM was of little relief since the Boys needed to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 in order to make their 6:00AM flight back to Michigan. Hence, Mike and Bone completed their 1997 Tribute to Charles Kuralt, while leaving New Mexico a much less pristine place (especially the bathroom in the Cheap-o Motel!!)