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October 17, 2022 by Scott Crosby - Views: 66

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In Part One of our Travelogue, which appeared in the August issue of the Sentinel, we traveled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and into Yellowstone Park.  

In Part Two, in the September issue, we traveled through the Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and, in Arizona, the Grand Canyon, and the towns of Tuba City, Flagstaff, Sierra Vista, and Tombstone.  

With this issue we finish up our journey in Part Three, traveling through New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and finally returning back home to South Carolina.

Part Three of our journey began with our departure from Sierra Vista, Arizona, headed for Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Arriving late in the afternoon, we checked into our motel, and then enjoyed an excellent dinner in a family restaurant called the Sopaipilla Factory Restaurant.  That meal was topped off with one of our favorite desserts:  fried ice cream – perhaps the best we ever had.  

We even tried to go back the next morning to have fried ice cream for breakfast.  But alas, they would not be open until lunchtime. 

Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Santa Fe Museum
On Top of the World

Our visit to Santa Fe really began that morning, with our arrival to Canyon Road.  Small and walkable, it is home to Santa Fe’s artistic center.  After a very good breakfast at the Teahouse, , with its relaxed, outside courtyard, we took a very pleasant stroll up and down the street.  Shops abound that showcase a wide variety of sculpture, paintings, and more – definitely an enjoyable and interesting experience.  

From Canyon Road we headed downtown, to Santa Fe’s town square and nearby museum, with its pueblo-styled architecture.

When evening came, we headed back to Canyon Road, to the Geronimo restaurant.  

We walked in without a reservation, but they found a table for us – so friendly, like everyone we met on our trip!  That was fortunate for us:  our dinners were among the best we have ever enjoyed.  

Our dinners included a pair of unique desserts, including one the menu listed as *Apple* – asterisks included.  It was described as "Roasted apples, white chocolate mousse, butterscotch sauce, toasted cinnamon crumbs, and cognac ice cream.”  

That totally luxurious dessert alone was worth the trip to Santa Fe, and to the Geronimo restaurant!

The next morning, we left Santa Fe headed for Taos, a few miles north.  Along the way, our road paralleled the Rio Grande Gorge, a miles-long canyon carved out by the Rio Grande River, which further south serves as the boundary between Mexico and the U.S.  

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Taos, New Mexico

Just north of Taos is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, an award-winning steel span which is definitely worth seeing.  

The next morning we were off again, this time driving to Los Alamos, several miles west of Santa Fe.  

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Los Alamos was the location where the atomic bombs used in World War II were developed.  Those bombs were instrumental in putting an end to Japanese tyranny, conquest of the Pacific, and widespread genocide.  

Manhatten Project Museum
and Tour Guide

The two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed many thousands, but the alternative – an invasion of Japan – would have resulted in a much greater loss of life – perhaps in the millions – not only for the Japanese, but also for American soldiers as well.  It is safe to say that a great many Americans alive today would never have been born – many of the men who started families after the War would have died in combat during an invasion.  The destruction caused by those two atomic bombs forced Japan to surrender, without all those deaths.

Physicist Robert Oppenheimer and
Major General Leslie Groves - Leaders
of the Manhatten Project

A museum now encompasses the grounds and buildings where scientists lived for several years, as they worked on the developing and creating the atomic bomb – the top-secret “Manhattan Project”.  

We enjoyed a comprehensive tour.  The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and related a great deal of interesting history about the area, its initial construction as a school, as well as a history of the Manhattan Project itself.  A bookstore on the campus is also worth a visit, with several good books.

 After the tour and lunch, we headed south for Carlsbad, several hours away, in the southern part of New Mexico.

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Early the next morning we entered the huge Carlsbad Caverns, a network of caves that go hundreds of feet deep into the ground.  Paved pathways with handrails make the walking easier.  We chose to walk down into the caves, but returned to the top by elevator – a choice we would highly recommend!  

Once inside, the walkway travels through a number of caves, each different.  Lighting has been strung throughout, to emphasize interesting features in the caverns for visitors to see.  

Carlsbad Caverns main entrance

Eventually, the walkway takes you into a huge cavern area, with several walking paths – some a mile or more, and some of shorter length.  

Looking out from just inside
Carlsbad Cavern

One offshoot from the main cavern also includes a restaurant, eating area, restrooms, a souvenir shop, and the elevator for those of us unwilling to walk up-hill from 755 feet below the surface.

The Caverns have their own menagerie of animals life inside.  That includes a flock of Cave Swallows, who live just inside the entrance.  They are constantly flying out during the day to hunt for desert insects.  By sunset, however, they return back to their perches.  

Another group of the cave’s inhabitants begins flying out at dusk, from deep inside the caves:  hundreds of thousands of Brazilian Free-tailed Bats take off, using their sonar to navigate and to hunt for the moths and other insects they thrive on.  

Stalactites and stalagmites in
Carlsbad Cavern

The bats are a real sight to see, and the Park has set up an amphitheater which fills with hundreds of people who come to watch the show.  No cellphones and cameras are permitted during that time; the sounds and lights can disrupt the bats’ ability to fly.

Carlsbad Cavern was discovered in 1898 when a cowboy spotted a big mass of bats, and figured there had to be a big cave nearby.

We left Carlsbad, New Mexico, the next morning, headed for Frisco, Texas.

Frisco, Texas

Frisco is a suburb of the Dallas – Fort Worth area.  Do you enjoy going 70 miles per hour (or more), on an expressway with five narrow lanes, packed with cars and trucks, and an endless number of exits, not only to the right, but also to the left?  If so, the Dallas area highways are a madhouse that might just be your kind of heaven.  Thank heavens we had a GPS, telling us what to look for and where to turn.

We vowed never again to visit the Dallas area in those moments.

The UP DD-40

Our destination in Frisco was the American Railroad Museum – home of some of the greatest railroad locomotives ever built, and definitely an exciting place for kids of all ages.  

The UP 4-8-8-4 Big Boy

At the top of our list, first and foremost, was the most powerful steam locomotive, the Union Pacific Railroad’s 4-8-8-4 Big Boy 4018.    

We also looked forward to seeing the most powerful diesel locomotive, the Union Pacific Railroad’s Electro-Motive DD-40.  

The Museum also owns a Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1, the most powerful electric locomotive ever built.

In spite of the Dallas traffic, the opportunity to see all three of these great locomotives was an occasion not to be missed!

S434-13.jpgThe Museum also includes a number of other locomotives, freight cars, a Pullman passenger car, and more, as well as a large room-size model railroad indoors.  

The next morning we left Frisco.  Our journey was coming to an end.  We had seen our list of sights.  After more than 3½ weeks of travel, we were headed home!  

The trip home included one more night in a motel, near Meridian, Mississippi.  After that, we would be home, and sleeping in our own bed!  No more motels!  No more restaurants!  

Chunky, Mississippi

But one more sight caught our eyes, as we headed east on I-20:  Chunky, Mississippi.  

Why “Chunky”?

For those who do not know, a Chunky, is a big, delicious – well, chunk of really good chocolate, with raisins and peanuts mixed in. It is definitely on the list of Nature’s perfect foods – or at least, so says one of the two people who made the trip around the U.S.A. in our car.

The name of that chocolate confection and the name of that town off I-20’s Exit 121 in Mississippi is purely coincidental.  Who cares? We had a great 3½ weeks, America!  Thanks to all of the many great people we met everywhere along the way for making that possible! 

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