Up, breakfast and out on the road. Headed down to Brownfield TX, took a right and headed along the 82. That was a LONG straight road… dead straight! And very fast. Had another couple of “OooShit!” moments with oncoming vehicles hidden in the heat mirage. I wonder how many accidents there are stateside due to mirage related “I didn’t see them until it was too late” moments?
On the way to Roswell NM (or maybe after, the last few days of the roadtrip kind of blurred a little), I saw a crop dusting plane, working away off to my right side. I think most people know they exist, but I have never seen one in real life (we dont have them in the UK as far as I know). It was amazing to watch it, buzzing the fields at silly low speed and altitude, and yet able to pull up at the end of the run, turn, and get back on target for the return run in what seemed like almost no distance. I pulled over to the side of the road and watched it for 10-15 minutes as it worked its way across one field, then cross the road right above my head, and started on another field. Wondrous to see this tiny aircraft flitting about the sky, without a care in the world.
As I rolled into Roswell, I had to stop and take a picture of the roadsign. Not quite what I had imagined.
I hadn’t been out of the car for more than 20 seconds when I took that photo. Suddenly, the car behind the sign that the red arrow is pointing at braked hard, pulled across the oncoming lane, and parked on the shoulder behind me. Out jumped this lady who asked if I wanted me photo taken with the sign. Err.. right… OK! Let me just hand over my really expensive DSLR to a complete stranger… but I did….
I really had no idea what to expect in Roswell. Was it going to be a major city, or a hick town in Nowheresville? Well, it turns out that most of Roswell appears quite normal, like any other New Mexico town or city. That is, until you drive down the main street on one side of town.
Now, I am no UFO crank, I just added Roswell to my roadtrip because I could (just like Rachel NV). As such, this was no trip to somewhere that was going to affirm any beliefs in little green men. I went in, unsure what to expect…
Lots of newspaper clippings and articles posted up on the wall, some audio commentary, and that was about it. I has a slow wander around, looked around the gift shop, grabbed some T-shirts, paid and left.
Stopped for lunch at Denny’s… this one was a bit unusual, not the normal standard Denny’s type building. This place was heaving with people, the busiest place I had eaten on my entire trip. It took a while to get served, but I was so hungry, I really didn’t care.
This was deep inside a native American (Indian) area, with lots of casinos… but loosing money was the least of my worries. The biggest threat was losing my life from the crazy driving from some of the “residents”. They really didn’t seem to care, almost like they knew that they would not be held responsible for any actions. I am not talking about one or two small incidents, I am taking pretty much on every stretch of road I was on. Big pickups, usually with even bigger trailers, mostly overloaded and with the load not tied down in any way, overtaking on blind corners, down the middle of the road, against oncoming traffic, speeding past other vehicles and then suddenly cutting across their nose to head up some tiny mud track into the woods. Yeah, I was glad to get the hell out of there. Things could only get better, right?
Well, the road opened up, the cruise control went on… 75mph in a 75mph zone should be OK, right? And I sure didn’t want another run in with the Police due to speeding. So, 75mph it was…
Eventually, on a steep downhill section approaching civilisation again (Alamogordo, NM), I saw a “reduced speed ahead” sign, 65mph. So I thumbed the cruise control down… and down… and down down down!! Ah well, it wasn’t going to slow down on the cruise control in time, so maybe I should touch the brakes instead.
That was the sound of the cruise control turning itself off when I touched the brakes, so any engine braking I had at the time decided to instantly disappear, and gravity took over. Nice… gravity, large car, downhill…. and, wouldn’t you know it…. a police car! Maybe he didn’t see me… you know, the big car, going fast, downhill, driven by someone with blue/green hair, whizzing past ~4 feet from the front of the police car sitting in the central reservation… or not….
On went the lights behind me as he pulled out into the fast lane, and floored it to catch me. “Gee, why were you going so damn fast?” he said. “Fighting the cruise control, Officer”, I replied as I handed over my UK drivers license and my passport. So, he went back to his vehicle, and ran some checks (while I quickly grabbed the camera for the above shot).
After 5 minutes or so, and with me REALLY hoping that the previous speed warning from Kansas a few days earlier didn’t show up on his system, he walked back to my car.
Him: “That will be $537 and 40 cents, cash, check, or direct payment, within 14 days”
Him: “Just kidding! Just a warning, sign here, have a nice day!”
Me: “……. err…. ”
While I was signing the warning, we started chatting about why I was there, what I was doing in the US, mentioned I was there for a network security / Hacking conference in Vegas the following week, and then went on my way.
Now, I was confused… using the cruise control got me pulled over… not using the cruise control got me pulled over. Oh well… at least I had another warning to add to my collection
Driving out of Alamogordo, you head through the White Sands Rocket range. Its a vast area, that flat and has a lot of sand that is… err… white-ish. The side of the roads had a lot of odd signs that said things like:
“Do not stop at the side of the road, restricted area”
but then also had hazard/warning lights to alert drivers to any sand storms that could obscure the road, and signs that then said
“In case of zero visibility, do not stop on the roadway, pull to the side of the road”
Given my run-ins with the forces of law enforcement, I didn’t really want to find out which was the least worse option if a sand storm started building, so just kept rolling through and out the other side of the area.
Although I was aiming at stopping at the end of the day somewhere around Tuscon AZ, I gave up early, and stopped in a place called Deming NM. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it before either, but it was there, and had a few hotels to choose from. I chose the nearest to the exit ramp (Holiday Inn Express), rented a room for the night, and just relaxed in the near deserted hotel. You know a place is generally known as a gas and food stop along the highway when even the hotel staff were utterly bemused as to why I had stopped there, of all places. Oh well, it was quiet, with restaurants just down the road, and it had internet access in the room… what more do I need?