Off the Beaten Path

During our adventure trip this summer, MD and I really chose our route on a whim more than any previous year. The only destination we had locked in from the start was Denver; we made plans to visit a friend there for a couple of days, but beyond that...we just knew we had to be back before the school year started.*

Hence, we wandered our way through New Mexico, up to Denver, across Colorado to Utah, through about fifty thousand miles of national park land, into Las Vegas, down to Arizona, and eventually back into New Mexico and Texas. We did some hiking, a lot of sight seeing, went fishing, checked out a few historical markers, and watched Cirque du Soleil.**

We changed the route on the fly pretty regularly, and one of our favorite diversions was the trip back into New Mexico. We were heading east on I-40, and at the last minute we decided to divert south, along the Arizona/New Mexico border, then cut into New Mexico on old Highway 60.

First fun thing we stumbled upon: Red Hill! It's a ghost town, the site of a gold rush (that turned out to be a total gold bust) in the 1800s. This is a remote place -- up in the mountains, lush forest where the volcanic field has enriched the soil. Remote enough that the cows come sprinting over as you drive by, probably hoping you'll stop and talk for a few minutes.

After we passed through the Cibola National Forest (and a wickedly cool lightning storm) we emerged in a high plateau. We saw something odd on the horizon -- in fact, we saw 27 odd somethings. 


Turns out we'd stumbled into the Very Large Array. Coincidentally, the VLA has been on our list of "stuff we'd like to visit"*** for a couple of years. In case your interferometers, each antenna in the Very Large Array is 75 feet tall, and they're mounted on railroad tracks; the antennae can be moved around to the best configuration for the time of year, direction of target, and whether you're listening to Klingon or Vulcan.

We got some great gawking in before moving on to Magdalena. We were thinking about diverting from there to Kelly****, but realized that we'd have to keep moving if we wanted to make Ruidoso by dark. 

But we got to see the Very Large Array, on a totally unplanned side route. That might be the best thing about having kids -- we've got all manner of plans and ideas of where we'd like to end up, but when we make it a point to take the foot off the accelerator and enjoy the side roads, we stumble upon all sorts of awesome things.

* Turns out if your kid doesn't show up for school, the school system notifies various government agencies that you're a bad parent. Who'd'a thunk it?

** I feel slightly guilty about munching on popcorn and drinking a Coke while people with the finest physiques in the world do unbelievable physical feats for my entertainment, but hey, I paid for my ticket.

*** The "stuff we'd like to visit" list is in our family OneNote, right before "correct temperatures for each 3D printer filament" and just after "planting times for tubers."

*** Yeah, we stop at a lot of ghost towns. We're also suckers for historical markers, Mystery Spots, drive-in movie theaters, and any billboard that claims we won't believe our eyes.