After a very enjoyable night spent at Datil Well Campground, I woke up to a very chilly trailer which is a hazard of overnighting at 7500 feet at the beginning of April. Nothing that a quick burst of the propane furnace wouldn’t solve. And by the time I stepped foot outside it was very pleasant, though a bit windy (more on that later).
I went for a 3.5 mile hike around the campground and was plenty comfortable in shorts, long shirt and a light windbreaker. I have been doing a lot of hiking in Arizona so I am in decent shape, but let me tell you, hiking at 7500 feet is a wee bit different then hiking 6000 feet lower. Gasp, gasp.
Departing the campground at 11:00, I headed a little ways to the east into the Plains of San Agustin, an ancient lake bed that is oh so very flat and wide. It also happens to be the home of the Very Large Array (VLA) which is a radio astronomy observatory. A what? A bunch (27 plus one spare) of REALLY large (82 feet across) dishes (radio antennas) that are pointed at the skies collecting radio signals from the outer reaches of space.
Unlike traditional telescopes that rely on visible light and only can be used at night, the VLA collects data around the clock as it isn’t dependent on visible light, but rather ‘listens’ to radio waves that are invisible to the human eye.
The 27 dishes work together to form one very large radio telescope, each gathering signals which are transmitted via fiber optics to a central super computer that crunches the numbers. Spread out on three arms in 72 possible positions, the dishes can be close together or spread out over miles. There is an east and west arm, each 13 miles long, and a north arm that is ‘only’ 11 miles long. The dishes are moved about every 4 months to different positions using two monster transporters that travel via rail lines. Quite an impressive setup, to say the least!
There is a self-guided walking tour that gives you a basic idea of the why’s, what’s and the who’s of the VLA. Definitely worth a look if you ever find yourself in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico.
Continuing east I was in search of some food, specifically a green chili hamburger from the Owl Bar & Cafe in San Antonio (not that San Antonio). My best friend Brian lives in the ABQ and mentioned that this place gets written up all the time as having the best green chili burger in the state, so who was I to turn down an opportunity to see what all the hype was about.
San Antonio, New Mexico is a very small town just off I-25 about 90 miles due south of Albuquerque, my final destination. Know as a gateway to the White Sands Missile Range, or more specifically, the Trinity test site (where the first atomic bomb was detonated) San Antonio is famous for its green chili burgers. Oh, and as being the birthplace of Conrad Hilton, whose blood line brought us Paris Hilton. I wonder if she has ever been to San Antonio. I seriously doubt it.
So how was the burger, you ask? It was a decent burger. Not sure I would travel a long distance to hunt one down, but it was an interesting experience. And I almost felt like a Hilton for a millisecond.
Then it was onto the final push into Albuquerque, my destination for the time being. OMG, what a ‘pleasant’ drive that was. Or not. Remember the wind that made an appearance in the first paragraph? Well it really made its presence know as I headed due north on I-25. Welcome to New Mexico in April!
I had a very strong left front quartering headwind the entire trip to ABQ. Gas mileage suffered more than climbing over 6000 miles the day before. Oh, and my speed greatly suffered as well. Not that one travels very fast towing a 5700 pound trailer with a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it is even worse with a stiff headwind.
I think that last stretch was worse then driving up to the Continental Divide the day before. Not a great time was had by all. And by all, I mean me.
Then I managed to hit Albuquerque at rush hour. Oh, what a great way to top off a long day. Talk about exhausting!
I ended up at the North Albuquerque KOA which is right off the I-25. I think this is a bit overpriced so I will be checking out my options once I fully recover from the last two days.
What a way to start my journey!