Roswell was our first official stop on the road from Louisiana to British Columbia, Canada. I’ve determined that at least eighty percent of the drive was desert. Desert in Texas, desert in New Mexico, desert in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming. Even California provided little relief with its brown grass caused by the never-ending drought. But our visit to Roswell came on just day two of our trip, so the drive was still interesting and exciting. We passed several decrepit wooden shacks and crumbling concrete buildings with interesting graffiti. I’m not sure what the difference is between a butte and plateau, but they went as far as the eye could see.
Luckily, we ended a long stretch of highway and entered a town right around lunch time. We thought we’d stop at a park to let the kids run and make sandwiches. Just as we entered the town there was a large park on the right. The universe had read my mind and provided. We pulled in, unpacked the food bags and cooler, and headed down the slight hill to a picnic table by a pond where geese were gathered nearby. I was smiling and gloating in my head at how much I was winning this vacation.
We started pulling out food and slapping together sandwiches when the kids began complaining.
“There are too many flies.”
The smell pierced my nostrils and popped the gloating bubble in my brain. I took in the area with fresh eyes and saw the overwhelming presence of flies swarming the trash cans and table, but that wasn’t the worst part. The flies were also in the grass munching on the massive amounts of bird poop we hadn’t noticed in our excitement when we walked down. Okay, minor hiccup, I thought. We gathered everything back into the bags and set our sights on the benches next to the playground. Suddenly aware of the bird poop scattered like confetti at a New Year’s party, we carefully watched our steps as we jumped and tip-toed our way back up the hill. It was no real surprise to find the benches and cement the playground sat on were also covered in bird poo. The kids unanimously decided they’d much rather eat in the van while we drove than spend another minute in a place that clearly belonged to the birds.
We arrived in Roswell by mid-afternoon and headed straight to the UFO museum. It’s basically a big open room that’s been sectioned off. I enjoyed the antique artifacts, news paper clippings, photographs, and UFO art. The kids enjoyed the life-like alien statues that seemed to breathe, but only the brave little girl dared get close to the display depicting an alien autopsy.
There were several shops to explore on the same block, all loaded with alien souvenirs. The one directly across the street from the museum was the largest shop we went in. It had a large selection of clothing, mugs, shot glasses, and assortment of things. The woman running the counter had her son helping; he couldn’t have been more than fourteen. They were friendly and warmly answered our questions.
We scouted restaurants as we drove to the hotel to check in and decided on a place called Peppers. The server was nice, fast, and great with the kids. They had alien themed coloring pages for the kids, and my daughter turned one of them into one of the wolves from The Walking Dead.
Roswell was fun and the people were nice, which is more than I can say for the rest of New Mexico. Outside of Roswell the people were stone-faced, as though the heat had melted their hearts and all hope of happiness. After talking to a couple of other road-trippers I thought maybe they just hate tourists. As a native Floridian, where over one-hundred-million tourists visit each year, that’s something I can understand.
It was still dark the morning we left, and the long stretch of road with few signs of life made for the perfect place to stop and watch the sunrise. A train was riding parallel to the road. The sun rose behind it, leaving the train in shadow, creating a picture that made me truly appreciate the beauty of New Mexico.
As the morning dawned I felt incredible satisfaction at sharing this beautiful sight with my children – the sunrise, the hot air balloons of Albuquerque, the beautiful plateaus. No amount of bird shit or hard-faced gas station clerks could take away the experience I was giving my children. I was the master of road trips. Queen of the road. Then, the fiercest bug in the desert flew into the windshield, cracking it.