Las Cruces Love

It was practically love at first sight…but first, how we got there. 

As I mentioned in my last post, our visit to El Paso, TX was super-short due to weather and the lack of a car. It was the first time I have been in a Walmart and didn’t see any other white people! We were impressed by how art is everywhere in El Paso – even on the highways! Here are a few photos to give you a taste. 

We originally had plans to visit White Sands National Monument for some sand-sledding, but Ross was nervous about getting enough music prep time in, so at the last minute we decided to settle into Las Cruces, NM for a couple of nights. We’re so glad we did!

Their library was surprisingly easy to fit a smaller RV into – at least on a Saturday – and I was overjoyed to see that we were within an easy walk of downtown! So after a few hours researching campgrounds and settling on an expensive KOA with amazing views of the mountains, we took a walk downtown. 

After showing Ross the music store (one of three, it turns out) and the phenomenal used bookstore (they also carry sheet music, albums, comics, theater books etc.; It’s a mess but it’s a fabulous treasure hunt you could spend weeks exploring) I went off to visit some of the FREE museums downtown. 

I started with the Nature & Science Museum. Although these aren’t usually my favorite museums (I prefer history and art typically), I hadn’t gotten a science lesson in recently and I thought I was overdue to learn about the region. Not only did I get to see amazing reptiles and amphibians with the fossils – I was also invited to enjoy a private behind the scenes tour of the museum! Here I saw LOTS of additional animals, learned how they are fed and cared for, including a Gila Monster, and I got to get up close and personal with the creatures I had previously seen behind glass. It was such a unique experience! 

There are three other free museums. I skipped the Railroad Museum, which is a bit of a walk from where I was, but I loved the Art Museum (it’s small but had a phenomenal contemporary exhibit), and the Cultural Center offered exhibits on the region, including the use of quilting by Native Americans and one on military costumes, in a historic and beautiful building that I was glad I made time to visit. 

When we weren’t enjoying downtown, we were learning about this awesome university town, barely 90 minutes from El Paso. It has farmer’s/crafter’s markets twice a week that are one of the best in the state. It has great programming for its residents. Dance classes were dirt cheap – $2-$4 – at many local studios. And it has two downtown theater companies, one more mainstream and one Black Box (A New Brain was on the docket there). And of course anything you couldn’t find in town would be found in El Paso. 

We drove to the KOA, where we were greeted with the best views yet. 

We spent two nights surrounded by mountain ranges and beauty everywhere we looked. The gorgeous showers didn’t hurt either! 

Monday morning, we packed up and headed to Mountain View Market Co-op, where I struggled to stick to my budget (but did) and was impressed by their offerings, especially the wide variety of local honey products. Ross meanwhile visited a comics shop with fun collector’s items. On our way here, I had been brainstorming where to get Ross a taco – he’d been craving one and we hadn’t had one in Texas or New Mexico – when we passed Bosa Donuts & Burritos. So after I ate my own lunch, we walked to get Ross a donut and a taco plate. The donuts are moist on the inside but crispy on the outside, and after a bite of a taco, Ross said, “Yup. I wanna live here.” This institution has been around for twenty years or so and I really hope I will be healthy enough to eat it when we return!

Everyone was incredibly friendly in Las Cruces. Everyone! We felt incredibly safe walking around and driving was easy to navigate, even for me. Hubbard’s, another music store, was so friendly that they invited Ross to their regular Monday night jam. And we read about an LGBTQ choir, a ukelele group, theaters and a film society in town, so it seemed like we’d fit right in. 

Like Missoula, MT, Las Cruces is surrounded by mountains and completely gorgeous. We would prefer to learn Spanish, but unlike El Paso, we didn’t always feel like the minority here, so we felt we’d be fine without the second language. 

Suffice to say, we will be looking up their university offerings. Arts seem to be pretty cheap here, which may mean it’s hard to make a living in them, but the cost of living also seems low based on what we were seeing. Lots of mixed use communities we would be happy in. The bus system is pretty extensive and cheap ($1/ride, with other discounts available for frequent users) and buses to other parts of the region and El Paso are also available – particularly good for airport options I imagine.  

As we headed West, we passed the Continental Divide, enjoyed 180 degree mountain views in Arizona and New Mexico (it was like a sea of mountains) and passed a Geronimo Surrenders monument. 

We will be back, New Mexico. As soon as we can! 

Catching Up and Passing Through

After our visit to the Dallas area, including Denton and Lewisville, it was time to head west. Unfortunately we didn’t feel comfortable bringing a rental car across the state, so we had to return it – leaving us without a car. We are still hoping to get another rental next week if I can get through to my insurance company (don’t ask) but in the meantime, this has made our sight-seeing much more challenging. So I’m sharing initial impressions to get you caught up on our travels. 

The Dallas highway signage – and traffic – is atrocious. I was so glad Ross was driving because I just couldn’t have handled it. And I was really thankful we could return the rental in Lewisville and avoid that insanity in an RV. The GPS was really confused too – it felt worse than Boston to navigate. At least they had bike lanes five miles from downtown!

We drove through Boyd, Texas, which Ross’ family should get a kick out of. (We didn’t stop though, Ross said he was Boyd enough.) 

Runaway Bay into Bridgeport Lake was one of the most gorgeous sites we’ve seen, with water on both sides of the divided highway. Hubbard Creek Lake was also gorgeous and immediately followed by the Plaza Motel, which I found amusing. Albany had a very cute old west feel downtown; and the next notable site was Abilene, TX. If we had had a car, we would have walked downtown (they have statues of storybook characters throughout) and I would have visited Abilene Christian University for a walk (it’s a great campus), but the campus wasn’t RV-friendly so instead we spent the day at the library and visited a What-A-Burger so Ross could experience it! (I had a tiny bite, a few sips of chocolate shake and one fry. I didn’t die!)

I chose a branch library that was in a strip mall. Tons of parking and the fastest upload speeds I had seen since my mom’s house! We picked another spot in town for the evening and headed out the next day. Abilene seems to have everything you need. But it could use way more sidewalks. 

We’ve noticed that Texas has lots of interstates parallel to state highways. Maybe these towns have been built up along these corridors? You can drive parallel to the interstate a lot – not something we have seen elsewhere. 

Our next stop was Midland, TX. The area is full of Spanish architecture (and Spanish-speaking people of course) and had lots of empty storefronts in this childhood home of G. W. Bush. We noticed buses and lots of sidewalks, multiple theatres and what looked like a cute natural foods market. But this area is bizarre. It’s surrounded by oil fields – not pretty – and it’s an odd, industrial place. I also noticed self-serve water stations, $1/5 gallons, which I had never seen before.

Before and after the oil fields we did see a lot of natural beauty in Texas. This was the first area we saw vandalism on highways. We passed the International Memorial Wall and a bridge to Mexico, and we were near the Rio Grande. After some last-minute repositioning in awkward traffic in El Paso, we settled in for a night. El Paso is clearly an awesome city but with pouring rain and Saturday crowds the next day, we decided to keep moving. 

That almost catches you up. I will save our drive from El Paso for the next post. Thanks for reading!