Friday, 27 May 2016

Our Epic Detour: Sandboarding in New Mexico

Our EPIC Detour:
Sand boarding in New Mexico

Okay, I have definitely reached the moment during a blog series where it gets more and more difficult to write...mainly because I just end up becoming sick of the whole thing. This happened once before when I did the Christmas Chronicles...however I think it's actually worse this time because I ended up stretching the entire trip into WAY more posts than I initially intended. But the show must go on, so let's power through these last 3 posts! You with me? Nope? Cool.

I don't know if this just happens to me, but I constantly find myself watching travel video after travel video wondering how the hell some of these wonderful places can possibly exist - and also, why am I not there right now? Photographers and Scenographers have this amazing ability of showcasing these glorious landscapes and turning them into something out of a dream. Seriously, it's a talent. I'm talking those jaw dropping scenic montages where an adventurer is driving alone on a deserted highway and the road just continues on into oblivion. It is the highway out of an Aerosmith music video; every road tripper's dream and an urban legend...until now.

Ladies and gentleman, I have found one such highway that offers some of the most amazing views from the road: Texas Hill Country. Sure this glorious place may not have majestic mountains and stunning ocean views BUT it does have some quaint little Texan towns, rolling hills AND desert lands that stretch on as far as the eye can see. We even drove past some abandoned towns that looked like something out of a John Wayne movie. I almost expected a tumbleweed to roll across the road in front of us....instead we got discarded McDonalds takeout bags blowing along in the wind. Ah 'Merica. There you go taking something wonderful and throwing up commercialized crap all over it. 

Anyways...back to the trip.

So when I last left you we had reached a bit of an impasse in our trip which we solved by pushing through towards our next destination: New Mexico.

New Mexico was my choice in destination for the road trip. I originally decided on this state because it was one state further than Texas and closer to the coveted route 66 highway but when I found out that White Sands National Park was a thing, it was a given. I researched a bit about this place enroute from Austin (and by that I mean a quick efficient google search of New Mexico's "hidden gems") and found out that this National Park not only looks INCREDIBLE but you can also rent circular discs and go Sand-boarding (or rather, sand tobogganing). Hell to the Yes!

So now we were more than just excited, we were absolutely stoked. It was just what we needed to lift our spirits from the other night (and a few nights before that).

While we had driven through the night we still had a ways to go, so we trekked on only to stop for gas and breakfast once we reached El Paso (or at least just outside it). After a luxury meal of McDonalds, the standard road trip fare, we took some time to walk around and admire the surrounding view as the weather was all too lovely to pass up and the empty desert roads stretched on for miles.

The trek from Austin to New Mexico was the first time that we really felt like we were on a road trip across America. These are the roads that Willie Nelson and Neil Young sing about; these are the roads Jack Kerouac wrote about; these are the roads that wanderers dream about...but maybe not the roads that you want to end up stranded on as there are usually no rest stops for miles and most likely plenty of snakes. A terrible way to die if you ask me...but then again you could argue that all ways to die are terrible. Regardless, you do not want to get stuck on the darn road.

Once we reached the sign marking the border between Texas and New Mexico, we stopped our car and got out to properly give ourselves a New Mexico welcome. Yes, we straddled the state line and took MANY - and I mean MANY - pictures. We couldn't help ourselves, we are products of cheesy 90s/early 2000s movies like A Walk to Remember so it was a must, especially since the scenery was so incredibly picturesque. There was no shame.

We arrived in Alamogordo shortly after 3pm and easily found our way to the national park. After we rented our sand boards we drove in closer to the park and got our gear out of the back. It was hot as hell so we changed into our bikini tops, loaded up on sunscreen and donned our sun hats. If you are as pale as me you know to add on multiple layers of sun cream unless you want to look like a lobster the next day, which is hardly flattering unless that's the look you were going for.

One thing that was especially cool about the park is that we didn't need to wear flip flops or sandals as the sand was perfectly cool on our feet. The sand is made up of gypsum crystals which are soft to the touch and do not absorb the sun's heat, which is one of the many things the park is known for. Even in the hottest part of the summer - in the desert heat - you can still safely walk on the sand without doing the "walking on eggshells" jig you usually do when you are on the beach. I thought this was particularly cool and it almost felt like a continuous foot massage every time you took a step :)

While there were a few cars in the parking lot, it was not busy at all (probably because we were visiting during the off peak season) so we had no trouble finding a secluded place to wander. Once we trekked to the top of the largest hill, we set down our stuff and cracked open the beers..well I did at least. Okay so the park said that alcohol was forbidden during the fall/winter months (strange but whatever), however WHO could possible reprimand us when the hills stretch on for miles? Surely they can't possibly patrol every single sand dune, it's impossible! I figured I would take my chances and as long as I didn't litter or leave anything behind, I'd be in the clear. Lord knows a day like that NEEDED a nice cold beer to complement it!

After a while we decided to try and sand board/toboggan down the hills. While I said I was super excited about this before...I was slightly less eager by this point. Probably because when we first got to the park I tried to plummet head first down a small hill and ended up face first in the sand with my mouth completely filled with the coveted gypsum crystals. Was it a smart option to go head first on my first try? No probably not, but that hasn't stopped me from doing stupid things in the past and surely wont stop me from continuing to stupid things in the future.

I always thought that my stupidity was only heightened in hindsight...and while this is true it clearly hasn't given me enough insight to change my ways. Oh well, I guess I will remain willfully ignorant to my stupidity. I wonder if they offer a Blue Peters Badge for this feat? I should look into it...

Anyway, back to round 2 of sand boarding failures. This time I went feet first with my butt firmly planted on the disk. Of course I chose the highest point on the hill (go big or go home) but as I needed to break in the fresh sand and leave the first trail, I also got to be the one who removed extraneous obstacles from the path. Lucky me. Unfortunately round 2 had me defeated by a cactus and just as much sand in my mouth. 

However, now that I had made a path, it was much easier and less hazardous to toboggan down. And while it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows at first, I have to was so much fun! Seriously, it you ever find yourself near New Mexico, detour to Alamogordo and visit this place. You wont regret it! But bring water! If it was this hot in just February, lord knows how hot it gets in the middle of the summer.

After we left the National Park we grabbed some dinner at Sonics, a drive in burger joint where you park and order at a kiosk and a server delivers your food. Becca and I had each ordered a burger, fries and a milkshake while Jelena ordered at least 3 combos. Seriously! That girl could eat! On a side note... no, they did not deliver our food on roller skates much to my dismay but after working as a waitress many a years I can vouch that roller skates and delivering food would NEVER be a good combination. 

Once we finished up our food and watched the sunset over the horizon, we decided to pack our stuff back up and head back to Austin as we wanted to visit this Texas roadside buffet/restaurant that Austin had recommended to us earlier but we never got the chance to visit. One of the things on our road trip "bucket list" was to eat one the state's famous dishes and since this place has one of the best Briskets in Texas, it was a sure thing.

Unfortunately on our drive back to Austin we were stopped by border police just outside El Paso. It was in the middle of the night - possible 3am - we were all groggy and exhausted and the lovely officers made us stop our car, get out and show them our passports. Even though we were MILES from the Mexican border and did not cross any borders except the state borders, we had to show our passports...which makes zero sense to me but whatever. Unfortunately we had hid our passports and emergency money in a small compartment under the lining of the know, in case someone broke into the car. While this was a good idea originally, it now proved to be a pain as we had to remove everything from the trunk to get to it.

Which took some time to the amusement of the officers and less amusement of us. Once we finally pulled every last item from the trunk, removed the lining and got our passports, the officer barely glanced at them before handing them back to us and letting us go.

Wow, thanks for nothing mate. Now we have to put everything back into the trunk *sigh* it was just a giant waste of time.

Alas the journey continued and the next morning we went to the roadside buffet and tasted the most amazing brisket and sweet tea ever. We then spent some time at Hamilton Pool, a hidden grotto near Austin. Even though the water was arctic temperatures and I'm pretty sure I lost all circulation in my limbs after swimming in the grotto, I braved the cold until I reached the waterfall and then booked it back when I felt something brush against my completely numb leg. I have an irrational fear of fish touching yeah, it's safe to say that I'm not a snorkeler or scuba diver.

That aside, the past two days had both exceeded our expectations so to continue the adventure Becca and I decided to amp up the trip with another cheeky detour: skydiving. And what better place to do this than the sunny state of Florida?

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