We’re crossing the desert and that, alone, is enough to let us know that we’re almost home. It’s bittersweet to be heading back to Southern California; we’re all looking forward to being back with friends and family, but we’ve truly enjoyed our adventures together!
Our last days on the road have included two sightseeing stops. First, we left our campsite in Arkansas on Wednesday to drive halfway across Texas. We slept at a charming little motel in Abilene, called the Whitten Inn. Their lobby was decorated warmly for the holidays, and the room was remarkably clean and comfortable while still very inexpensive. Booking.com has been a huge help on this journey!
From Abilene, we traveled the rest of the way across Texas and into New Mexico. We aimed for Carlsbad in order to visit the caverns, but we had a very hard time finding a place to stay. We had decided that Arkansas would be our last camping experience, as we wanted to get home quickly to deal with some work and family stuff that had come up. We cut a week off of our trip and just decided to haul buns across the Southwest. Moving quickly meant only one night per stop, which, for us, usually means no pop up. It just takes too long to set up and break down for a 16-hour stopover. However, every motel in Carlsbad, New Mexico, no matter how budget or poorly reviewed the accommodations, was over $100. Decent motels and hotels started around $200 per night. Not happening for us at this stage of our travels! Campgrounds in Carlsbad were less expensive, to be sure, but the reviews of them online were not inspiring.
In the end, we stayed at what had been deemed by others as the best campground in Carlsbad, but which I referred to as “the ugliest campground in the ugliest city in the world!” I’m sure this is due, in part, to my bitterness over the hotel situation and perhaps some travel-weariness that was making me grumpy. In the end, the Carlsbad RV Park and Campground was ugly, but did seem to be the best spot to camp in Carlsbad. It was staffed by friendly folks and included an indoor heated pool that we enjoyed that evening.
It was a beautiful, peaceful desert night, and the moon shone brightly. When Daisy couldn’t sleep that night, she and I were able to take a midnight walk. The moonlight, breeze, and occasional holiday lights decorating RVs softened the campground making it almost appear lovely (or as lovely as a gravel parking lot of RVs can be made to appear).
We were able to break down camp fairly quickly on Friday morning, and we made our way a few miles down the road to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. There, as we descended 750 feet below the surface, we were impressed by the huge caverns decorated with stalagmites, stalactites, cave pearls, water flows, and more.
After leaving the caverns, we ate a quick lunch at the truck and got on the road. We headed towards Tombstone, Arizona, the final stop of our trip. The girls don’t have the same fascination with the “Wild West” that Jon and I grew up with, but we’d been talking about visiting Tombstone for a few years and Mickie was eager to experience it.
We found a room at the Tombstone Grand Hotel for a great price, and made excellent time driving there. The girls watched a documentary about Tombstone on the drive. We got to the hotel around 9:00 at night, with enough time to take advantage of their heated pool and hot tub. Unfortunately, we missed the start of the movie, Tombstone, which was playing in the lounge. I had been hoping to watch it with the girls. Gotta love Val Kilmer!
This morning, after checking out of our hotel, we headed into the historic part of town. There, at the Gunfight Palace, we watched three reenactments of historic Tombstone gunfights. It was fascinating to ponder a time and society in which shooting and killing another human being, over a minor offense, was not only acceptable, but expected. The actors were really great about explaining the history of each gunfight before the reenactment, and they made sure to preface the show by assuring Daisy, the only youngster in the small audience, that it was all acting and that no one would actually get hurt. She was like, “Yeah, I know.”
After the gunfights, we walked through town, stopping in a few shops and an oddities museum. We finished our tour of town with a stop at the Bird Cage Theater. This is the only saloon in Tombstone that is 100% original from the 1880s. This museum offered a really fascinating look into the history and culture of the Wild West. Original furnishings, untouched bottles and casks of liquor, paintings and photos of the “ladies of the night,” card tables, bullet holes, and more decorate the museum. In its heyday, it was well known as a wild and wicked night spot for gambling, drinking, musical entertainment, and other pleasures. It was also known as the site of 16 documented gunfights in its 8 years of business, during which it never once closed its doors.
Following our visit to the museum, we asked around to find the best place for lunch, and got unanimous votes for Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. We enjoyed a hearty lunch, live western music, and friendly service in a restaurant filled with an old-time saloon ambience.
We had a fun visit to Tombstone, and we’re now on our way home. We’ll be spending one more night on the road and should be back in our own beds tomorrow night. It’s hard for me to say goodbye to the road, but it’ll be nice to be home.