To make up for the way the last blog ended, I promised Bisckits he could write today’s edition all by himself. Unfortunately, I’m not sure where he is right now, and time is ticking on. I know he’s in or around the building somewhere, but he’s much too excited to think about blogs.
For most of this trip, I (helped by my friends) have been posting a blog every other day. But since yesterday was our last full day on the road, I thought I’d do one this morning, to wrap up that part of our journey.
As is usual on our holidays, yesterday (Tuesday) began early. We arrived at Carlsbad Caverns National Monument before the birds were even awake. We picked up our tickets and joined the group for our guided tour of the Left Hand Passage. This is a part of the cave system that most people never get to visit. And we were going to be seeing it in a very special light… candlelight.
Seventy-five storeys beneath the surface, we followed our guide, Ranger Matt, away from the illuminated parts of the caverns and into the pitch-black Left Hand Passage. The tunnel was much wider than I expected and the light from our candle-lanterns barely filled it, leaving many areas still in dark shadow.
Unlike the main section of the caverns, the paths in this part of the cave network were rough dirt and marked with orange tape. The combination of the candlelight and dirt paths really made you feel like an explorer (if you ignored the other 15 people in the group). And when Ranger Matt made everybody blow out their candles one-by-one, until there was nothing but darkness, it was really spooky.
After the guided tour was finished, we stayed below ground to investigate the parts of Carlsbad Caverns that most visitors see. Actually, it’s really just one enormous cavern. They call it the Big Room, which is one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever come across. The path we followed took us 2.6 miles, on a big winding loop through the cave. We passed all sorts of features, including at least a million stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes. It was truly amazing.
I said earlier that yesterday was our last full day on the road. From Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico we had to make it all the way to Fredericksburg in the heart of Texas, almost 450 miles. The downside to spending so long underground at Carlsbad was that the last few of hours of the drive was in the dark. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the Texan deer seemed determined to play chicken with the traffic. At least three times, Rich had to hit the brakes so as not to hit a deer instead. On one occasion the poor creature had already lost it’s encounter with a truck, and we had to swerve to avoid it. But finally we made it to our destination in one piece.
“So what was so important about getting to Fredericksburg, that you had to play dodge with the Texan wildlife?” I hear you ask. The answer is the place where we stopped last night… the Hangar Hotel. The building is constructed to look like a World War II aircraft hangar from the outside, while inside it has the feel of the 1940s.
Those of you who have read Jaspa’s Journey: The Great Migration or The Pride of London will know of Bisckits’ fascination with all things aviation. So you won’t be surprised to learn he’s been up and exploring since before dawn.
The Hangar is built right on the taxiway at Gillespie County airport, and Portia has just told me that Bisckits is outside watching the planes take off and land. I’d best go and find him, before he figures out a way to smuggle himself aboard one of them!