Now in Carlsbad, New Mexico
Saturday, March 19, 2005 - We moved out of Alpine, Texas a bit before 9am this morning and had an almost pleasant drive for the 188 mile tow up here to Carlsbad, New Mexico. The roads were all two lane but excellent as they mostly went through level ranch country with almost nothing but scrub for as far as the eye could see up to the mountains on the distant horizon and with only occasional traffic. The only minor fly in the soup was an unforecasted sprinkle or two of rain, but it was really of no consequence.
We arrived at the Carlsbad RV Park & Campground just before noon local time (we gained an hour since New Mexico is on Mountain time), got signed up, and had camp set up very shortly later, as pictured above. Click on the photo to get a better look at Sandra having lunch at the picnic table.
This RV Park is a double bonus: first in that it honors the Passport America program so it's half price, and second is it has free wi-fi internet access. It's not campground-wide but is broadcast from the park office, the roof of which can be seen beyond our truck in the above photo. So it's quite a distance to connect with wi-fi since we're almost on the back row, but thanks to the marvelous ethernet bridge we bought in Rockport we can access it easily from the RV and with a strong connection. Without the bridge, Sandra's laptop couldn't even see the network while my laptop could see it but not connect. So once again, the bridge makes a huge difference. Without it we'd have to walk up to the office to take advantage of the free network.
Anyway, here we are, only a few miles from the famous Carlsbad Caverns where I hope to take some interesting photos.
This 'n That from Alpine, Texas
Thursday, March 17, 2005 - This afternoon Sandra went with me to see the McDonald Observatory, one of the world's top astronomical observatories which is only 40 miles north of Alpine (and no relation to McDonald's Restaurants).
Unfortunately, we didn't arrive there in time for the last tour of the day, but I saw enough just nosing around to make the trip more than worthwhile.
The observatory complex occupies two adjacent mountain peaks and consists of three main telescope facilities, two on Mt Locke and one on Mt Fowlkes.
Pictured above is the one housing the Hobby-Eberly telescope (HET) on Mt Fowlkes as seen from the facilities on Mt Locke. The HET incorporates the world's largest telescope mirror with the world's third largest viewing aperture and is of a unique design.
Also of note this week is the fact we saw our first tulips of the year, as seen on the right, as well as hyacinths, daffodils, and a number of other kinds I don't know the names of. Spring has arrived in west Texas and I expect we'll be following the blooming of early Spring flowers northward much like we followed the Fall foliage southward last autumn.
As to the future, we are planning to leave here bright and early Saturday morning for a week in Carlsbad, New Mexico to see the caverns there. This will in all likelihood be our last stop before starting our return trek to the north country. According to the weather forecast, Carlsbad is to have warmer weather than we've been having here in Alpine where the temperatures at night have been dropping below freezing although turning mild with the arrival of the sun each day.
Click on the photos for larger views.
Mystery Lights at Marfa
Monday, March 14, 2005 - On this evening as sundown was nearing, we drove west of Alpine about 20 miles to see the Mystery Lights at Marfa, which we'd learned about from tourist pamphlets listing local attractions. I did no research on the lights before we went just so I'd be surprised by what we saw, if anything.
We arrived at the viewing deck in due course, checked it out, then went back to sit in the truck due to the cold that had blown in from the north during the day. While sitting there, shortly after the sun went down and daylight was fading we noticed what we thought were headlights on a distant range of mountains, but when several more lights appeared and none were moving as cars would have been, we went back to the viewing deck to see if the people there knew anything. And despite the cold and the fact this viewing deck is out in the middle of nowhere, there were quite a number of people there.
As it turned out, what we had seen were indeed the mystery lights and I have to say they weren't at all what I was expecting, which was something more along the lines of a nebulous or gaseous kind of vague light. However, what we saw were bright points of light along the side of the mountains and for the most part the lights didn't move, just kind of slowly came on, burned for a few seconds, then quickly faded or flickered out. But all this varied and at times there were no lights visible while at other times there might have been as many as 7 or 8.
Sightings of the lights were first recorded back in the late 1800s by pioneers and long before that by natives and it is hard to believe that something as bright as the lights we saw can't be tracked down and their source revealed, but that is apparently the case. These lights were even featured about 15 years ago on NBC's popular TV show Unsolved Mysteries and have been researched by people from around the world and so far no one has come up with a plausible explanation. After seeing them, I sure don't have one.
The photo above that I took of the lights was a 30 second exposure and the lights appear to be along a line going down the mountain, rather like a road would or a strata layer, but when viewing them with the eye they were simply bright points of light that appeared seemingly at random.
The red light on the left of the photo is a beacon and helps locate the area where the lights appear, generally to the right of it, so any other lights you see on the mountainside are the mystery lights. The really bright one on the right was one of the quite intense ones and considering those mountains were miles away, up close that light would have had to be blinding. That the source of these lights still remains a mystery is as much a mystery to me as the lights themselves. They were indeed most puzzling.
Back in Alpine, Texas
Saturday, March 12, 2005 - As planned, we made the scenic but relatively short drive this morning from Big Bend back up to Alpine and are now residing once again in the Lost Alaskan RV Park, except this time we're here for a week instead of two days, so I signed up for a week of their subscription wi-fi internet service which we can reach from within the comfort of our RV. Joy!
So for the next week we will have constant internet access and will give prompt replies to emails.
Our stay at Big Bend ended up being much shorter than I'd originally estimated (one week instead of two or three) because we had such cooperative weather (miracle of miracles) and I felt I'd taken about all the photos I wanted for this visit (final total 1,267 shots) and was anxious to have time to process and upload some of them. What I missed were photos taken along nearly impassable back roads and from hiking trails which I did none of and is something to do the next trip.
Boring Technical Blurb
Regarding our current internet connection, one problem we've had in the past with these subscription wi-fi services is they only work from one computer, which means if I'm the one signing up, as is always the case, then Sandra couldn't log on from her computer but had to use mine.
Enter the fabulous ethernet device I bought a while ago in Rockport. In theory, because it's output is ethernet this meant I should be able to hook it to a router (which I just happened to have kept from our previous life) instead of hooking it directly to a computer and the wi-fi service should see the router instead of a computer and to the router we can hook any number of computers and share the wi-fi connection. This is the theory but until today I never had the need or opportunity to test it and didn't know if I had enough technical expertise to get it setup properly.
So, once camp was established, the next thing I did was try the theory and to my great delight things worked as I'd hoped.
Not only can our two laptops share the connection via ethernet, the router I setup is a wireless router so while I was configuring things I created our own personal wi-fi network of the subscription wi-fi network, so Sandra and I can now also both connect via wireless as well as ethernet. Most cool when things work as they should.
For Older News
To read details of our previous stops and camps, visit the News Archives.
Updated Thursday, March 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005 by Gordon L Wolford .
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