|you can't really make it out... but these are the kids sprawled out in bed|
But we got ready, loaded the car, made a quick stop at the commissary, and headed out on the road once again. I did meet up with Leslie briefly to return her daughter's sun glasses left in my car and we said our final good-byes in person.
Our drive then lead us up through Cloudcroft. That was a beautiful drive into the mountains. I didn't stop and take pictures since I was doing another 3-hour hard drive to our next destination. Now I regret not stopping and truly taking in what I was flying by. When we came back through later it was already very dark.
|heading to "the mountains"|
After we passed over the "mountains" there wasn't much to see. It was all flat, brown, dry, and scrubby.
|this is what most of my drive looked like... for 3 days|
Eventually we made it to Carlsbad Caverns! Last year a wildfire whipped through the area so the actual National Park area was pretty grim looking... thankfully the actual caverns area was protected even though the flames came VERY close --- just on the other side of the parking lot. Whew.
|it was not a "fascinating" drive|
Anyway, I get the kids out and feed them lunch and allow them time to just get their wiggles out for almost an hour before we headed into the caves. I'm so glad I did!
|Right after we got out of the car. They REFUSED to look at the phone/camera.|
We took the elevator down since we didn't have the time nor did my kids have the endurance for the natural entrance. There are rules there: be quiet (your voice can travel over half a mile down there), stay on the path (it was paved with hand rails), small children should be kept at arms reach at all times (I had 2 kids and 2 arms), do not run (it is crowded and somewhat slick from the moisture).
Okay, we can do that.
The caves were fascinating. It is dark down there and a cool 50-something degrees. But there is a humidity to it and water occasionally drips down.
|checking out the stalagmites and stalagtites|
|water dripping off one of the formations into a pool of water|
No bats are in the main part of the cave. I didn't care... I told my kids we had to be quiet because the bats were sleeping. I'm not even sure they know what bats are! But it worked, it would hush them right up if their volume had risen.
I wouldn't say the cave is claustrophobic. It was very large, in fact.
|my attempt at self-portrait in the dimly lit caverns|
The path we took around the Big Cave was 1.3 miles... and my kids walked the whole thing. Well, sort of. About 45 minutes into our just over an hour walk Lana was pretty much done. Both kids really. They didn't want to be quiet anymore. They didn't want to walk, they wanted to run and jump. They didn't want to hold mom's hand, they wanted to go free. Those last 20 minutes or so were not enjoyable. It was more of a "hurry up, be quiet, and let's get out of here."
|resting at the "Top of the Cross"|
But it was a nice place to see. And I'm very glad I got to experience it.
After we finished at the cave I knew I needed to go someplace to let the kids run off their energy before forcing them into the car for 3 more hours back to Holloman AFB.
As I drove into the city of Carlsbad I was keeping my eye out for a public park or something. Best thing I could find was a McDonald's Play Place. It was later in the day so it was shaded. Score!
I bought something small for me then we spent nearly 2 hours with them running through the tubes, climbing up the slides, and playing with some more kids. The 2 other adults there provided some wonderful conversation as well.
When all was said and done there we loaded into the car and drove off. When we made it to the next "big" town (Artesia) I stopped at a Chevron to feed the kids dinner (I travel with food in the car so we don't have to eat out). While stopped, a bunch of bikers parked near us. Not sure what they were really up to but they all had matching red t-shirts and they were couples (guy/girl) and were in a group. I saw them trying to take a group photo so I pipped up and offered to take one of all of them. Turns out they didn't speak English. But they recognized what I was willing to do and took me up on it. Later more people showed up from their group and they asked me again to take another picture. Nice people. They saw my 2 kids in the car and were communicating that they were cute.
After eating we were off again.
Not sure how far we got and Will said he had to go pee.
I'm going to let you in on a secret. When traveling alone with small children it is better to make QUICK rest stops on the side of the road, if you know what I mean. And on those stretches of road, trust me... nobody is going to see a thing 'cause there's nobody out there.
When his business (and mine) were done I got the kids in their pajamas and back into the carseats. I knew by the time we returned to the base they would be asleep... and I was right.
We arrived safely back to Holloman that evening and I prepared for our return to Albuquerque the next day.