I am writing this from a laundromat in Tropic, Utah, where I am in the middle of a road trip for Semana Santa (aka spring break). This post will chronicle the first few days of the trip (I hope to write a Part 2 at the end of the trip, as long as I am not too lazy to do so).
Because I know I have a tendency to drone on in my posts, I’ll just jump right into it. My friend Amanda B. and I are doing this trip. I was so excited when she said she’d join me on this adventure, because I’ve always wanted to go on a legit road trip out west, especially to Bryce and Zion, and that’s exactly what we are doing!
But before Bryce and Zion, there were other adventures to be had, and those are the ones I’ll write about in this post. It’s been such an amazing trip so far, and I am extremely excited to document it not only for my own memory, but also to share and encourage you to come out here and see the amazing beauty that is just waiting for you to enjoy (as long as a certain idiot doesn’t continue cutting land from our National Parks and Monuments!).
Day 1 – Travel Day
When we first planned out the trip, we weren’t quite sure which airport to use, so we just sort of checked in the general Southwest USA (on southwest.com, coincidentally) for the best flights and cheapest fares. We ended up settling on El Paso, Texas, which was exciting because it’s quite close to White Sand National Monument. White sands is a giant gypsum field (actually the biggest gypsum field on the planet) that has been here in various stages of its formation for 280 million years. Humans have been intrigued by it for the past 10,000 years! It is also used for missile testing by the US Army, and is sometimes closed to the public as a result. Fortunately for us, the missiles were at rest when we were there!
But anyway, back to the travel day (more on White Sand later). It was a pretty normal travel day. On the first leg of the journey, we watched The Perfect Date, a new Netflix romcom that I quite enjoyed (I LOLed a lot). We laid over in Houston, which was exciting, because they have Chik-Fil-A!!!!!! So obviously we got some chicken! We don’t have Chik-Fil-A in Costa Rica, so this was quite a treat.
Once we got to El Paso, we rented a car (who we have since dubbed as Stevie), and after a bit of confusion with our reservation (don’t worry, it’s all figured out), we were on our way! We were headed to Alamogordo, New Mexico, but we took a slight detour in a city called Las Cruces, New Mexico, in order to go to TARGET!!! This was even more exciting than Chik-Fil-A! We spent some time in our glory, buying coveted items like Cheez-Its, pickles, and baby carrots, and once our fix was over, we finally got back on the road to Alamogordo.
Like I said, pretty run-of-the-mill travel day. I was excited to add two new states to my list (Texas and New Mexico). The rest is pretty much your normal dinner, hotel check-in, and bed.
Day 2 – White Sand National Monument and Santa Fe, New Mexico
We woke up nice and early because obviously it’s crucial to get to White Sand early so the light is good for Instagram photos. Breakfast was included with our hotel, so we grabbed that (it was pretty basic a continental carboloading, but we were able to add some cheese and fruit from our Target haul to help balance out our nutrients). From there we headed straight to the National Monument.
When we entered the park, it looked pretty cool (basically like a desert), but the woman who took our entry fee told us it keeps getting better, and boy was she right! We did the Dunes Drive, which is just what it sounds like: a drive through the dunes. The further into the park we went, the more awesome it was. The plant life was more and more sparse, which means the dunes looked more and more like pristine mountains of snow. The sand (gypsum) was super white and just looked awesome against the clear, blue sky.
We spent a lot of time running around taking pictures at different spots, totally being self-indulgent so as to ensure a great Insta story. Judge us if you will; we don’t care. The decision to get up and go early was a good one, both for the sun and also the crowds. By noon or so, it was pretty darn-tootin’ hot, and the park was much more full. It was nice to have some time pretty much to ourselves earlier in the morning, with the perfect temperature and lighting.
After our photo shoots, we spent some time in the gift shop (I got a desert survival bandana, which I’m quite excited about) and then changed into our running clothes because we started a spring break running streak! The goal is to run at least a mile every day of break, kind of to counteract all the hours in the car, as well as some of the travel food that might not represent the best nutritional choices (although honestly we haven’t been eating too poorly!). The fun part about the streak is running in different places (and at different elevations). For sure this was my first run in the desert, as well as my first run inside a National Monument! We ran a short stretch to the playa (no, not the beach, but a huge basin of sand that sometimes fills up from underground), but since it was somewhat short, we had to run it a couple of times to complete the mile. Despite the sun, heat, and dryness, we had a great time and were pretty proud of ourselves for completing our goal!
From White Sand, we headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we were planning on spending the night. The ride there was unbelievably straight. I guess the people who made the roads were tasked with just connecting Alamogordo and Santa Fe, because they basically just built a super straight highway connecting the two cities. I couldn’t believe how long I had cruise control on! This was quite the difference from driving in San Jose, where I don’t think cruise control is even a thing. Also, we saw so many antelope! I had pictured them as having huge, curly horns, but apparently those are the ones in Africa. American antelope just look like deer, only with slightly lighter fur and white bellies. Oh, and I’m fairly certain I saw a bald eagle while driving (Amanda was sleeping, so I can’t confirm). But it was a huge, gliding bird with a large wingspan and a bald head. So I’m just gonna say that’s what it was.
Since this is a true road trip, we hadn’t booked a room in advance, but pretty much the second we arrived, we decided to splurge on La Fonda, an historic hotel that is pretty fancy. It was so worth it! It was a beautiful hotel filled with New Mexican art in the rooms, hallways, and lobby. And not for nothing, but the bed was COMFORTABLE. In general I have been sleeping great on this trip, but so far, the night in La Fonda was the best.
But before bed, obviously we had to explore Santa Fe a bit, since it was still light out (8pm sunsets are amazing! I’m so used to the 5:30 sunsets in San Jose!). We were in search of dinner (a lot was closed because it was Sunday), so we just roamed aimlessly for a while, checking out the stores we wanted to visit on Monday and looking for some typical southwestern, New Mexican comida. We found just what we were looking for at La Fogata, a cute little place that felt oddly like it was inside a children’s play corral. Amanda had the enchilada with green chili, and I had the enchilada suiza (yay for tomatillos!!!). As anticipated, the food was delish, and our hankering for New Mexican food was satisfied. At least until breakfast, that is.
Since this post is starting to get long, I am going to end today’s post here and start a new one for days 3 and 4. See ya then!