Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tourism by Detours

I have a view of vacations which is not always popular with my children. Ask kids where they want to go, and you're bound to get a list of theme parks. Or the kid-themed cruises. Ask my kids, and you'll get some of the same answers. Tough, I say. (Fortunately, I'm backed up on this one.)

I remember going to amusement parks as a kid, but they're sort of a hazy blur. The childhood vacation memories which stuck with me are of digging my toes into the sand along a creek bed. Putting worms on fishing hooks. Toasting marshmallows over the campfire and burning my tongue when I pulled them off the skewers with my teeth. Pouring over maps. Cheeseburgers in diners. Racing to finish a book before we reached our destination, so I'd get a brand new book for the drive back home.

Hoping to instill a sense of adventure in the kids, we don't do theme park vacations. We'll go to Six Flags here in Atlanta, and will bend to a birthday trip request for Sea World or even Universal - which is very affordable when it's just the birthday kid and a parent. But vacations are for getting out and doing something we can't do at home. Spending a week in the mountains of North Carolina on the river, with tubing, hiking and horseback riding. Camping in New Hampshire and swimming (some diving) in the icy waters of Lake Winnipesaukee. Renting a house and spending a couple of weeks exploring (and doing nothing) around Apalachicola Bay.

While we like to go someplace and stay there, the journey is a big part of it. We've seen some truly beautiful sights on the long drives, from a sunset while crossing the Washington Bridge in NY to miles of migrating butterflies in Florida. The long drives usually involve a little bit of time off the interstates, too, giving us plenty of opportunities for detours.

Carlsbad Caverns was one of those detours. A look at the New Mexico map on the way back to Santa Fe from Capulin Volcano - yes, an off-the-beaten path destination on it's own - sparked a discussion of how close we were to Carlsbad. By close, I mean 5-6 hours out of the way, but what's that in the middle of 1,500-1,800 mile trek?

The drive to get to Carlsbad was all highway, and part of it was on the Historic Route 66, which made for some cool "ghost town" driving, and an amazing sunset to our right after we turned south. Drove through Roswell, NM after dark, which gave the children great entertainment... alien head street lamps and a UFO shaped McDonalds. (My photos are missing, so this image is from the livejournal of a fellow named brennando).

And Carlsbad was probably one of the favorite road trip stops of my life. It was wonderful to be sucked into the enchantment with the kids, and to have conversations about not just the science and history of the geological monument, but to weave the fairies and greek gods from our trip audiobooks into the conversation during the miles long walk through the caverns.

The photos from the camera may have been lost, but here's a few of the images taken on the iPhone.

Oh... even the food in the cafeteria by the gift shop was delish. I expected high prices like you find at most tourist stops, but the meals were worth it. They had the typical beef hot dogs you'd expect, but we got bean or chicken burritos in tortillas made with organic flour and FRESH green chili sauce, a spicy pulled pork which is far better than from my favorite mexican spot at home, and a grilled chicken salad on locally grown mixed greens. (No, didn't eat all of those things. I had the burrito, but was sharing across the table.)

No comments: