“One more thing,” I said to Dave as I ran upstairs for my binoculars. I picked up a pair of rain shoes on my way out the back door and tossed both in the back seat before we took off.
It’s a rare trip that I can take my binoculars without a second thought as to what I must leave behind to give them a space in my frugal suitcase—one of the many pleasures of a road trip.
Close at hand in the front seat I had a map and a tattered copy of The Place Names of New Mexico. Filled with a wealth of history about the state, I started recording our travels in its margins a few years ago.
On this trip our first stop was Albuquerque with the prominent Sandia Peak to the east. Sandia means watermelon in Spanish, but it isn’t known whether it was named for gourds grown in the nearby valleys or for the appearance of the mountain at sunset. Two hundred miles down Interstate 25 when the Organ Mountains come into view, there’s no doubt. The row of vertical spires resembles nothing more than a pipe organ.
I also carried the New Mexico True Adventure Guide, published each year by the state tourism office. Organized by region, it’s filled with ideas: climb a volcano, explore a cavern, slide down a sand dune. Since ours wasn’t a vacation or even a mini-vacation, just a quick two-day tour of New Mexico to look at construction projects, we would only have time for one brief field trip.
I had to choose wisely and right away narrowed it down to either a wildlife refuge or a zoo. There were several of each along our route which took us from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to Las Cruces to Alamogordo and, finally, to Roswell before returning home.
We woke in Alamogordo to a drizzly morning and were behind schedule from the start, but made our planned stop at the Alameda Park Zoo, the oldest in New Mexico. Wedged between Highway 54 and a railroad track, it’s a pretty little zoo with rescued raptors, naturalized habitats, and Mexican wolves, the main attraction for me. The two wolves, in a large enclosure with tall pine trees and a small pond, calmly observed us as we watched them and took photos.
Many miles and several hours later we were back home. We had driven just over 650 miles and not once did I need my rain shoes or binoculars.
Have a great week and let me know what you discover on your adventures this summer!
Road Trip Resources
Place-name books – I wasn’t able to find a complete list of guides, but a quick search of the internet turned up similar books for several states (California, Virginia, and Arizona, to name a few).
National Wildlife Refuges – great places for hiking, fishing, birdwatching and photographing wild flowers. There is at least one in every state. We are lucky in New Mexico to have nine.
Zoos – This Wikipedia list for the United States seems to be up-to-date. It includes all of the zoos in New Mexico, even the small ones. I especially like zoos that provide homes for rescued animals and/or work with US Fish and Wildlife to recover endangered species.
Picnics – I wasn’t very creative on this trip bringing along only a bag of trail mix and some cheese and fruit. For the next roadie I’ll make time to fix a couple of the items on Mark Bittman’s list of 101 easy and inspired picnic dishes.