Day Fifty, Date Sunday, April 19, 2009
Time in Saddle: 2:58
Distance for the Day: 21.97 miles: From West of Whites City, NM To just NE of Whites City
Accumulated Trip Distance: 2158.1 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 3790’/3778’, Highest: 4138’, Accumulated: 879’
Speeds: Avg: 7.3 mph, Max: 35.3 mph
Weather: 44° in the AM, warming to temperate levels during the day, clear
Woke up just before sunrise, packed up quick, had a PayDay candy bar for breakfast (I’d have a bigger one in Whites City), and headed for the main (paved) road to attempt resetting my derailleur. I fiddled with it for about 45 minutes, and got it to where it seemed to be working okay. I then rode into town, found out from the Info Desk, there, what the deal was with how and when to see the Caverns, and went to have a real breakfast at the local restaurant. Ham & eggs w/toast and OJ – mmm-mm! ($9) Okay, it was seven miles up the road to the caves, so I started. I got the unpleasant surprise that it really was UP the, at times, pretty steep road, so my progress was slow, and my gears started to slip again. Arghhh! I hobbled along, and pulled off at a level spot to continue fiddling. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, for another 20 minutes. Twist this knob, loosen and retighten this cable a couple of times. This time, I got it right – everything worked perfect (yay!) So, I continued up, slowly but Shirley, and finally got to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park at the top of a small mountain. I found the loading bay door, found it unlocked, and went in to find someone I could talk to about possibly storing my trike while I did my visit. “This is an employee-only section, sir; please go back out and come around to the Information Desk.” Thanksalot – most helpful. At the desk: “Sorry, sir, but public can’t leave things in or attached to federal buildings.” Thanksalot – most helpful. Okay, Plan B: put most of the valuables into my tiny backpack (computer, helmet cam, backup disk drive), lock the trike up out front, and cover the panniers with my stealth cloth. I’ve done this before at other high-traffic places, and so far, it’s worked (knock on wood).
Since I have the National Parks Annual Pass, the entry was free (yay!), and I only did the self-guided tour (without the wireless speaker thingy). They have an $8 guided tour of another, smaller section of the cave, but I didn’t do that. I just walked through 75% of the publicly accessible underground complex of caves with my jaw dragging along behind me about three feet. I mean, literally, my mouth was agape most of the time I was down there. The entryway was this humongous hole the size of the Super Dome tipped on end, with a very nice and evenly paved walkway with handrails leading down a series of zig-zags down, down, down hundreds of feet. The mildly unpleasant smell of bat guano was present, but not overpowering, and disappeared in a few minutes. I won’t go into detailed descriptions, other than to say the vastness of this sub-surface world was strange, beautiful, and always mind-boggling in its scope and diversity. I would have liked to do some 3D pictures, but in the low lighting, it just wasn’t possible. After about three hours, I resurfaced up the seven-story high elevator through solid rock back to the surface. I perused the gift shops, and got a burger, ice cream sandwich, and soda for lunch ($10). After that, I went back to my trike, answered questions of curious passer-bys, and took off back down that road, stopping every now and then to read interpretive stations explaining the terrain, history, culture, and plants of the region; all very fun and educational.
I got back down into Whites City, bought a quarter-pound of choco fudge, some groceries ($16) and settled in the hotel lobby with free wi-fi to catch up on some email and do some blog entries. By the time I was done, it was dark out, and I had no idea where I was going to camp. In these situations, I am prepared to accept stealth sites of lesser quality, and found one quickly enough just down the road about a half-mile, in a field behind an abandoned gas station. Still pretty close to the road, with traffic noise, but in this remote location, there wasn’t that much traffic, and I’ve always got those earplugs. I set out my gear, hoping I wasn’t setting up on a bed of thorns or nest of black widow spiders, and went to sleep, counting satellites (found 9 of ‘em!) at about 9pm.