I explore the town I was born in and close-by White Sands National Park

Or second destination in the Adventure is my ‘original’ home town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. I was born here in 1955 exactly one year and one week after my parents were married. Mom was pregnant with me when she flew out here to meet Dad who drove out earlier.

Greetings from Alamogordo
Greetings from Alamogordo

We did not live here long before moving to San Diego, California where brother Rick was born 18 months later. I returned once – albeit briefly – on a cross country trip in 1978.

My brief visit in 1978

There are two significant aspects about this area that have been part of my life. The space program, which has played a huge part in out family, and the Manhattan project – specifically the Trinity Test site – from the 1940s which played such a huge part in our recent past. This occurred here because of what is now White Sands National Monument. I was interested in learning about both.

Jake and I drove from Lovecraft on Wednesday. The scenery changed dramatically as we dropped down out of the Lincoln National Forrest into the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert. Alamogordo was founded in the late 1800s to support the expansion of the railroad. It is an early example of a planned community laid out on a grid whose streets are named after the states. Interestingly enough we lived on Florida Street which is now one of the main drags through town. The old part of town was rather run-down looking but there were a lot of examples of growth. Seems like it is still a one-horse town supporting Holloman Air Force Base.

Exploring Alamogordo

Thursday I put the Jakester in Doggie Day Care at a somewhat sketchy but ultimately perfectly fine facility just outside of town. I had forgotten this is the big memorial day weekend and the closer facilities were booked.

I visited downtown and the Alamogordo Museum of History which had some fascinating displays of the local area, White Sands and especially the Trinity site. I had goose-bumps when I noticed a very early instrument used to measure nuclear activity which was a precursor to the instrumentation I used as a graduate in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Washington. There are also several monuments for notable people form local history and for the military. An old water tower erected during the railroad still stands guard on the entrance to downtown!

Later that afternoon I paid a visit to the New Mexico Museum of Space History just east of town set in the foothills. I was very impressed with the museum – they had a great collection of artifacts from the activities that Holloman has supported or been involved with.

Inside where five floors of exhibits that widely varied in nature. They are busy adding more attractions too. In particular these caught my eye.

A display of artist Chrystal Jackson’s work on the early space program. She was one of several artists commissioned by NASA in the early 1960s to capture the space race from and artists perspective. Some very cool paintings of live in Cocoa Beach and surrounding areas in the ’60s.

A display on the impact of inertial navigation and the space program. This was of significant importance to successfully launch and navigate. It was also my Dad’s area of expertise that carried on through his work on Apollo and the Space Shuttle.

A great display of Star Trek memorabilia!

I also spoke with the staff about visiting the Trinity Site. Tours are arranged twice a year for people to visit and the next availability is not until April 2022! They also had some very small and expensive samples of trinitite. This was the mineral formed during the blast. My Dad had a box of the stuff when we were kids that would have been worth thousands if it had not turned to dust over the years!

Eddie and the Giant Pistachio
Eddie and the Giant Pistachio

On the way to pick up Jake I made a stop at a well-advertised local tourist trap McGinn’s PistachioLand! The featured attraction is the world’s largest pistachio and hosted tours of the pistachio orchards.

Jake survived the day just fine and we headed back to the Excellent Adventure.

White Sands

On Friday Jake and I visited White Sands National Park. First, however, we towed the Excellent Adventure to repair shop in the area to fix the air conditioner!

White Sands National Park Panorama
White Sands National Park Panorama

White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. It was formed by gypsum runoff from nearby mountains then ‘worked’ by the wind over the millennia to produce a very fine white sand (and dust). It is full of both plant and animal life – the most striking plants were the beautiful soap tree yucca.

The park had a lot of visitors – especially a lot of families with young children riding the dunes on sleds. We enjoyed the drive and hiking the nature trails and boardwalk over the dunes. While it was not a hot day, the blazing sun really took it out of you! The sand was cool too touch partially because it is so white it reflects most of the light. Jake and I both sucked down the water!

Jake & X6 at White Sands
Jake & X6 at White Sands

We enjoyed the drive and then headed back to pickup Adventure and bask in air conditioning once again!

Jake & Eddie's Excellent Adventure at White Sands
Jake & Eddie’s Excellent Adventure at White Sands

Tomorrow we head west again and leave New Mexico – this time to the mountains in Greer, Arizona. I had fun discovering my ‘roots’ and look forward to meeting my friends Dan, Maggie and John at the Grand Canyon on Monday.