After grabbing a bite to eat at IHOP, we made our way into Las Cruces and then out to White Sands National Monument. (I don't know what the distinction is between national parks and national monuments since quite a few national monuments are parks, not impressive edifices.) When we arrived at the monument/park entrance at 8:04, the monument/park ranger informed us we had to leave by 8:30 due to missle testing at 9:00 (the Air Force has a test site 30 miles away). A string of expletives as long as Ulysses wouldn't have adequately expressed my displeasure. We had driven 11 and a half hours so we could sightsee for 26 minutes!
To save some precious minutes, I raced to the back of the park with blatant disregard for the 35 m.p.h. speed limit. We weren't out of the car two minutes when it dawned on Janet that it was only a few minutes after 7:00, not 8:00, because we had entered the Mountain Time Zone. With my ire assuaged, we went about exploring the dunes.
Although Janet and I marvelled at the beauty of the vast expanse, we didn't have as much fun as Baxter. He rumbled up and down the dunes with his tail wagging and his ears flapping like wind socks. After an hour at White Sands, it was time to drive on to Albuquerque.
Now, New Mexico's nickname is "The Land of Enchantment," but that's a bit of hyperbole. "The Land of Intermittent Eye-Catching Scenery" would be a more appropriate moniker. To put it in terms of human beauty, the desert between Las Cruces and Albuquerque is pre-botox Meg Ryan to the Salma Hayek of Arizona's deserts. By the time we reached Albuquerque, all we wanted to do is sleep. And, man, did we ever.
Somewhat refreshed by our six-hour siesta, we ventured to the Old Town section of the city to eat dinner and stretch our legs a bit. Although the area now is basically just a melange of restaurants and curio shops, most of the buildings, which are designed in quintessential Southwestern style, are from the original settlement. Janet and I found the area quite charming and a nice place to wind down after a long day.