Starting Out

I began the trip with my friend Rick McKinney, the self-styled "Road Dog," a couple of days before the end of 2002, still hacking from my Christmas flu. We covered a lot of ground that first day—about 500 miles—pulling into Tombstone, Arizona, after dark for a brief visit and some vittles. No time (nor sunlight) to see Boot Hill or the OK Corral, but we definitely got a feel for this Old West relic.

Twenty miles later, we arrived for the night in Bisbee, another relic of times past. And what a quaint little treasure. I was immediately struck by the town's rustic brick buildings and narrow streets. Situated as it is within a narrow canyon, the town more closely resembled a Mediterranean village than an old Southwest mining center. It's almost as if a circa-1920 American town had been physically relocated to the cliffs near Monaco—sans ocean, of course.

Bisbee is now home to artists instead of copper miners, and it was with one of Bisbee's artists—a friend of Rick's—that we stayed the night. The plan was to continue on the next day into Texas, ultimately to Houston for New Year's Eve, but Rick decided to stay in Bisbee to ring in the New Year. Thus, I continued on alone, into New Mexico—which was just fine, since I still didn't feel well enough to celebrate.

I spent the next day making time, landing at the end of the day in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a largely uninteresting city in the desert. The next morning, I continued eastbound, finally reaching the first of my big sights: White Sands National Monument. Here, in the middle of the desert, giant white mounds of gypsum sand broke the surrounding monotony. The vastness of the dunes made the stark whiteness of the sand all the more dramatic. Add in the juxtaposition of white snow on white sand, and the place became surreal indeed. Though my next stop—the Carlsbad Caverns—had a more dramatic impact, White Sands ended up being the highlight of my trip.

Next: New Year, Old Cave

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