New Mexico: White Sands National Monument in the ILX

Odometer (Legend):  520,154

520154

Odometer (ILX):  31,237

31237

Trip Distance:  906 Miles

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Road trip time!

Ever since my friend Jason and I met up in Bisbee a couple of months ago, we’ve been wanting to coordinate another drive together.  This time, I put the planning responsibility on Jason and traveled to his hometown in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I grabbed my friend Chris and we hit the road around 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon to head eastbound on Interstate 10 from the Phoenix, Arizona area.

This rainbow sighting happened just north of Tucson.

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For dinner, we pit stopped at one of my favorite restaurants:  Texas Roadhouse.  I love this place so much that I downloaded their app to my iPhone.  For any who are seeking recommendations, I like the 6 ounce sirloin (medium), with sides of steamed veggies and mashed potatoes.  Best $9.99 I’ve ever spent for a steak dinner!

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I had to capture the above picture inside the restaurant since the “Be Legendary” sign was calling my name.

Our drive that night was 394 miles of all-interstate driving until we got to my Jason’s house right off I-25 in Las Cruces.  The ILX achieved 32.4 miles per gallon even though for a good part of the drive I had the cruise control set at 80 miles per hour.  The rest of the time, speeds varied since we went through pockets of heavy rain.

Jason and I didn’t waste any time before pulling out my huge atlas and laying the ground work for our travels the following day.  He’s done quite a few travels in his Honda Accord coupe which are being captured on his blog, Driven for Drives.

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I got the chance to learn quite a bit about Jason.  He and I actually met “electronically” via this blog, but in-person this was only the second time we’d met.

Jason and his friend Jouhl are entrepreneurs.  They operate a business called Wisebliss which specializes in bonsai trees.  But these aren’t just any bonsai trees, these are hand-crafted “biobonsai” miniature trees made from a plant material that needs absolutely no care.  Finally a plant that even I could keep alive.

Check out Jason and Jouhl’s website here.  They’ve got some really neat stuff.

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I also browsed through Jason’s extensive collection of car magazines.  The first one that I grabbed was a 1993 Motor Trend “New Car Issue” that had a write-up on the Legend.

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Saturday morning was a sunny day in Las Cruces, with an expected high temperature in the 60’s.

Jason, Tyson, Chris

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First order of business was a photo-op at none other than the World’s Largest Chile!  I’ve been known to seek out lots of “largest” things, including the largest firecracker, which is located in Nevada.

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From there we headed eastward on US-70 toward Organ Mountain.  A sign on the roadside told us we were fewer than 40 miles away from our destination.

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Along the way, we took a twisty one-lane side-road toward Aguirre Spring.

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Following Jason

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This warning sign means business!

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After we made our way back to US-70, weather ahead looked good but there were clouds looming in the distance.  Or were they not clouds after all?

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Jason in hot pursuit this time (well, not really, since we were both going only 70 mph) as I took the lead for a little while.

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It was around this time that Chris spotted a Silver Moon Acura ILX going the opposite direction as we were.  Looked great going down the road.  I think that was the first Silver Moon I’ve seen in “real life” outside those sitting on a dealership’s lot.  Finally, we made it to White Sands and pulled off toward the visitor center at our left.

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White Sands is a field of white sand dunes in the southwestern part of New Mexico.  It covers over 143,000 acres and was designated a national monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1933.  The “sand” actually consists of gypsum crystals, and this site is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.

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Entry was $3 per person, but Jason picked up the tab for all 3 of us.  Thanks, Jason!  I owe you.

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The two-lane highway headed north into the monument area.  Heavy winds had pushed sand across the roadways.  Chris told me that they actually use sand plows to move it out of the way as necessary.  It looks a lot like snow!

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Some parts of the road were quickly getting drifted as the sand got kicked up by the wind.  What I’d thought were clouds earlier in the afternoon were in fact caused by sand in the air.  *cough, cough*

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We made it to a parking area and took a break to soak in the surroundings.

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Much like the scenic Monument Valley drive that I did a few weeks ago, White Sands also offers an un-paved loop for people who want to get a little more up close and personal with these sand dunes.

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It truly felt like we were in another world!

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The area is extremely remote.  There is a missile testing facility just north of the monument called the Trinity site.  This is where the first atom bomb was detonated in 1945.

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Here you can start to appreciate how windy it was.  Even with sunglasses on and my hoodie pulled over my head, I got sand all over the place.  In my hair, eyes, mouth, and nose.  All part of the experience!

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And it wouldn’t feel right to have a world of sand at my disposal without kicking off my tennis shoes and digging in my bare feet.

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It was around this time that I gave Jason the opportunity to take the ILX for a spin.  He commented on how “solid” the drivetrain felt.  Clutch effort, he noted, was significantly lower than in his Accord.  He liked the width and diameter of the steering wheel and he commented that he exhaust note made the car sound aggressive.

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Back on Hwy 70, we were cautioned about the traffic coming toward us from either direction at 70-80 miles per hour.

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It was only about 45 minutes until we arrived back in Las Cruces and veered north on Interstate 25.

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Exit 241 was for Hatch, New Mexico.  A sign indicated that “Truth or Consequences” was north of us.  I’ve always thought that was a funny name for a town.  The town was originally called Hot Springs, but it was changed in March 1950 to be named after a game show on TV!  More about that here.

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The exit for Hatch was about 30 miles north of the Hwy 70 interchange on I-25.  Shortly off the freeway, we drove past “Hot Damm Chile” and the opportunity for a picture was too much to resist.

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Hatch, New Mexico is the Chile Capital of the World. There is even a Chile Festival held each Labor Day which can attract up to 30,000 people to the small town of fewer than 2,000 residents.  We had to give the famous “Sparky’s” Restaurant a whirl, so we followed Jason there.

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I opted for the Green Chile Cheeseburger pictured here, coupled with steak fries and followed by a root beer float.  They’re serious about this burger being “world famous.”  In fact, each time a customer ordered this burger, the clerk would exclaim, “World Famous!” as she rang up the total.  The burger & fries only came to $5.99.

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Odd decor was the name of the game around here.

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We all ordered the same delicious thing.

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This was the juiciest burger I’ve ever eaten.  Absolutely melted in my mouth.  So good!

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The last picture I got as we started our 377-mile return trip to the Phoenix area was this shot of an Adopt-A-Highway sign on Hwy 26 just south of Hatch.

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The misplaced apostrophe drove me nuts.  When I shared this with a friend of mine via text, he said, “Lol, maybe they should try cleaning their stores before committing to a highway.”  I got a good laugh out of that.

11 Responses to “New Mexico: White Sands National Monument in the ILX”

  1. Great pictures Tyson. All that white reminds me of the SLC NALM where a group of us went out to the salt flats.

    • Thanks Dave, and I thought the exact same thing. The white surroundings reminded me of snow or salt. I look forward to going to Bonneville again soon – maybe this year. Even though we didn’t have direct sunlight, it really took my eyes a few minutes to adjust when I took my sunglasses off at the sand dunes. They say the best time of night to photograph them is at dusk. I’ll have to go back sometime! Hope your weekend is going well.

  2. Awesome pix, Tyson and it was a blast! Hope to meet up again soon for another convoy somewhere.

    • You got it, Jason! I look forward to that. I would’ve loved to do more sight-seeing on our way out of town (Silver City, etc) but I will leave that for the next trip. Chris and I were somewhat anxious to get started on our 6 hour return trip and get home to Phoenix. I look forward to seeing your pics from yesterday. Thanks again for the hospitality!

      • You bet! My post is up of the best pix I could get from my collection. Most of them are basically the same as yours. If you’d like some full res copies, let me know and I’ll send them your way.

  3. Very interesting. I am fairly certain that I will never see that neck of the woods down in New Mexico, so I am glad I could visit it vicariously through you. Hopefully all the sand blew out en route home to Scottsdale. That hamburger you ordered and ate looked like it would take a 10-mile run to burn off, but worth it! You just keep driving and I will just keep running. I think it was the poet Robert Frost who said something about “…miles to go before I sleep.”

    Hang ten. Let ‘er rip.

    • I may end up making it back out to NM, but I’ll plan on spending more time. I’d like to hit up Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, and a few other places. I filled up a plastic water bottle with white sand (don’t tell the authorities) so I have a souvenir from the dunes if you want me to share a teaspoonful with you! The hamburger was definitely a dietary splurge. I haven’t eaten anything since, and I’m still not hungry – the following morning!

  4. Another great road trip under your wheels. Looks and sounds like you had a good time. You are sure racking up the miles on the ILX, great to see and read about your exploits.

    • Thanks Terry – yeah, this was a quick out-and-back trip but totally worth the effort. It’s only a matter of time until I plan a little Canadian road trip so I can grab lunch with you sometime…

  5. Tyson that sand park looks really cool. Closest I can relate to maybe down at the outer banks. There is a huge sand dune there. I believe the largest on the east coast.

    • Marc, yeah I would’ve loved to stick around the dunes! Only problem was that dang wind. Even with sunglasses on, it was blowing into my eyes. It’s easy to see / experience how the wind is constantly reshaping the terrain out there. I didn’t know there was a large dune on the east coast – now I’m going to have to research that for a road trip destination!

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