National Parks,  North America,  Travel

(New) Mexico Road Trip

Last fall we did our first road trip as a family of four. I’ve been writing this post since then, 4 months later I’m finally done with it! This was our first trip since the world shut down, and we were pretty excited to get out and go somewhere after so long.  

Oliver, clearly thrilled to be in the car

 We went down to Mexico to visit Mauricio’s family and have them meet Genevieve. We’ve done this drive twice before, but this time we decided to make it a proper road trip and see all that we could of New Mexico instead of just cruising right on through it like we had before. 

Four Corners

On the way down to Juarez we broke it into just two days. On the first day, Monday, we drove to Albuquerque which is about 6 hours from home and we detoured on the way to Four Corners. Let me tell you something. The area around Four Corners is a whole lot of nothing. To be real, Four Corners itself is mostly a lot of nothing too. But we all got to be in different states at one time and now we can say we’ve done it. I think that’s really the whole cash cow of the monument, “well we’ve done that now”. Due to our detour and stopping occasionally we got into Albuquerque pretty late and didn’t see much of the city itself since we were heading out first thing the next morning to get to Juarez. Our hotel was on Route 66 though and there were lots of neon signs leading us in, which was pretty cool. And no, I didn’t take any pictures of them to share because I was focused on finding our hotel. Sorry.

White Sands

Day 2, Tuesday, we had about another 6 hours of driving. But we decided that wasn’t quite enough driving so we decided to detour over and see the White Sands National Park. We had driven by there on another trip and didn’t have any time to even slow down, but we knew that we wanted to try and see it sometime. It wasn’t exactly on our way this time, but it really isn’t on the way to much unless you’re visiting the Air Force base and missile range that basically surround it. We didn’t really have much of a plan for visiting the White Sands, but we really just wanted to get some energy out and it was perfect for that! We drove through and did a boardwalk type walk through some of the dunes. Then drove in a little more and climbed some dunes and let Oliver play in the sand for a while. The interesting thing to me was that the sand wasn’t hot. It was HOT out, just walking around we were cooking and we aren’t strangers to desert heat. Oliver wanted to take his shoes off and I was strongly against it because in my experience that kind of heat only leads to burning hot sand. But nope, it wasn’t hot at all. I mean, it’s not like it was cool, but it was totally fine to go shoeless, and Oliver was very pleased with that. After playing in the sand for a while it was time to get back on the road, so we made our way back to our path and down to Juarez.

We basically go to Juarez to visit with family, so thats exactly what we did for the next couple days. Then they had an idea to go on a trip for the weekend. I’ll admit, when Mauricio first told me that they wanted to drive 5 hours south I wasn’t thrilled. We had already done so much driving, and had a lot more left! But I composed myself and realized that there really wasn’t a reason to say no. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow and say yes to the opportunities that come up. Anyways, his brother had been told about a place to visit just outside of the town of Camargo. So we all loaded up and headed south. It was another day of driving, but once we got there it was pretty worth it! Our hotel had access to a man made pool that was fed by a natural spring. The water ran right through and on to the next pool which you could access from a campground next door. It was a pretty cool setup and had we known we were going to do it in advance, we may have taken our camp stuff to camp instead. We spent the next two days swimming as much as we could and just enjoying being on a vacation inside a vacation. Then on Sunday we made our way back to Juarez. 

Come Monday it was time to start our journey home, and this is where most of our New Mexico trip would be. We always think we’re going to get up and get going when it’s time to come home, but we just aren’t real get up and go kind of people. Especially when we’re leaving family who we only see once a year at best. We got heading out of Juarez around 11 and we had to cross the border and then had about a 3 hour drive to our first stop at Carlsbad Caverns. I had heard many a good thing about the caverns and knew that we had to make it a stop on the trip. Due to covid, I think, you have to make reservations to go into the caverns. You have to make the reservations at least the day before you visit so I had scheduled us to go the absolute latest we could go knowing that we are who we are and we weren’t going to be there early. Well, the latest reservation meant we had to be there no later than 3 o’clock so we had to get going and had no time for stops along the way. As we watched our estimated time of arrival click closer and closer to 3 while we waited in line at the border, I got less and less confident that we would see the caverns that day. But we eventually moved along and away we raced…after we stopped and got gas. As we were going we noticed that we were going back and forth through a time change, one minute it was 2:05, then a few minutes later it was 3:10, then back to 2:15. I realized I had no idea what time zone the caverns were in and we may have already missed our reservation window. Either way, we kept cruising along and we pulled into the caverns a cool 10 minutes before three. We quickly got checked in and took a big sigh of relief when they told us we would be able to go down, as long as we got in the elevator within the next 5 minutes. I’m sure the rangers absolutely love people who show up like we did, but hey, we made it. And let me just say, I’m so glad we did.

I’m going to share a few pictures from the caverns, but it’s one of those places where pictures just can’t do it justice. We walked the whole loop and I was amazed at every little corner. Seriously, if you find yourself in southern New Mexico, make the extra little trip to see this place because it is amazing. I say make the extra trip because I can pretty confidently say that you aren’t going to be going by here unless you’re specifically going to the caverns. As with most things in New Mexico, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Before you go down into the caverns a ranger gives you a little speech about being respectful of the cavern, how far down you’ll be and how important it is to be quiet. That last part had us pretty nervous. Oliver, like many three year old boys, isn’t typically described as quiet. Genevieve, like many 5 month olds, cries often. Without saying it, I think we both had the expectation that we would be down there for about 5 minutes tops before some loud outburst sent us back up. Shockingly Oliver took what that ranger said to heart and he was SO quiet while we explored for a good hour. Genevieve did of course cry, but all it took was a quick stop to eat and she was happy again so we didn’t have to cut anything short. 

Alien crash

After our cavern exploring, it was time to head on, because that night we were staying in Roswell, which was about 2 more hours down the road. Again we rolled in late and pretty much just went right to bed, set to see the aliens in the morning. Roswell with the kids at their ages was…not great. Oliver thought some of the alien stuff was cool, a lot of it freaked him out or bored him. Genevieve of course had no idea what was going on. I’m not saying it was bad, but I’m also not saying it was good. I think it would have been a better stop if the kids were a bit older and understood more about aliens. I’m not going to spend much time on Roswell because I don’t want to make it seem less than it is just because we didn’t have the best day there. Also we were getting to the final days of our trip, so I think we were all getting a bit tired. So on we went to Taos.

Rio Grand Gorge Bridge

We made our way from Roswell to Taos, stopping for an early dinner in Santa Fe. Of course we got into Taos after dark and everything was closed. So we just got checked into our best hotel of the trip and went for a late swim in the pool to get some wiggles out before bed. Oliver really embraced swimming on this trip and it was so fun to play with him in the pool. We still have plenty of lessons to go, but I was excited to see him so proud of swimming on his own (with a life jacket). When we got up the next morning we had the best breakfast we’ve ever had at a hotel, and started our way back home. We didn’t stay to do much in Taos simply because we were at the end of this trip and we were all feeling pretty ready to be home. We did make a quick stop just outside of Taos to see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Oliver really likes bridges, like he notices when we’re driving over one and gets excited. So when I saw that one of the highest bridges in the United States was on our drive, I figured it was worth a stop to get out and look at it. Oliver loved it, but he was mostly interested in how we were going to get down to the river which we definitely were not doing. 

After our quick stop at the bridge, we made our way about six hours back home. We stopped briefly in Durango for lunch and to walk around a bit, but overall we were pretty ready to just get home. The kids really did great on the trip. Oliver does great in the car, I always bring tons of toys for him but he spends most of the time just staring out the window. Genevieve did what a baby does and slept pretty much the whole way.

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