Weeks 21-22: Facing the Truth or Consequences
After spending several weeks retooling our RV in El Paso, it was finally time to get back on the road. Our first destination? The oddly-named town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The town was originally named “Hot Springs,” but it changed its name in 1950 to win a radio show contest. The show has long since ended, of course, but the town kept the name anyway.
A real marketing success, if you think about it.
We visited the town and had some “mind-blowing” waffles (according to Jake), then wandered around. It’s a strange place in a good way, with random incredibly-pink and purple buildings, and a window covered with cassette tapes. (We forgot to get a picture, but here is one by someone else.) There were a lot of shops but we have no idea what they are like, since at around 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, almost everything was closed, and wouldn’t open until noon. (Or “noon-ish.”) Retail was apparently suffering a hangover.
As for the hot springs baths in the former Hot Springs, which are supposed to be quite enjoyable, we’re sorry to report we never tried them. We fully planned on it, but then, we kinda just forgot?
Whoops! What can we say, we do a lot of stuff.
Our campground during our stay in Truth or Consequences was Elephant Butte Lake State Park. “Butte” here is supposed to be pronounced like “She’s a beaut,” and not like “Elephant butt,” but to be honest, we pretty much called it “elephant butt” the whole time we were there. I mean, how could you not??
Anyway, it’s a popular destination, and for good reason. The lake itself is large and very pretty, and very man-made – not many natural lakes in this part of New Mexico, we reckon – and the lake is surrounded by scenic-looking mountains (the “buttes”). Our RV parking spot was more or less right on top of the lake, and the view was fantastic.
Before and since, it’s the most beautiful place we have parked. The sunsets were glorious.
There was one quirky aspect to the view, though. Imagine a beautiful lake with beaches and sand, glistening in the sun. Picture it in your head. Nice, right? OK, now, just sprinkle some port-a-potties around out there.
Yeah, you read that right. Just mentally drop them right out there by the water, or maybe in a nice scenic area. That’s how they do it at Elephant Butte Lake.
At first, we thought the restrooms were ugly, and probably a little unnecessary, since we never even saw one get used (and there were many). But in time, we came to appreciate: these are the most majestic port-a-potties we will ever see.
This must be what port-a-potty heaven looks like.
We Are The Ones Doing The Knocking
Portable facilities aside, we liked the view at Elephant Butte Lake so much that we decided to shoot our Breaking Bad-themed holiday cards there.
Not with a view of the port-a-potties, of course. Those were carefully avoided.
The shoot entailed driving out on one of the park’s dirt roads with our RV to what we hoped was a quiet spot. Then, we put on our costumes: santa hats, hazmat suits, gloves, goggles, and fake respirators. We set up a tripod, mounted the camera, and… wasted 20 minutes trying to figure out how to trigger the image remotely using our phones (while wearing goggles and santa hats, mind you).
We eventually gave up and just had Jake trigger the 10-second timer, then run back down the hill in his hazmat suit into a pose. (Many poses.)
It turned out pretty awesomely, even if some of the resulting scenes were… strange. (We may have been practicing our rap poses a few times.) Three different cars ended up driving by the road while we were doing our photo shoot. Two of them were curious about what we were doing, then laughed and drove on when we said it was “for our holiday card” (why does that make it OK?).
The third driver stared straight down at the ground the entire way. As he drove past the two people wearing hazmat suits and respirators and Santa hats, with an RV, taking pictures on a dirt road in a state park in the desert. We aren’t exactly sure what that driver thought might be going down, but we are pretty sure he thought it would only be real if he acknowledged it.
Switches Get Stitches
While staying in “T or C” (as they say), we took a “day” trip to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings. During this trip, we learned two important things. First of all, we naïve Northeasterners learned that Western states are insanely gimungous (real word) (probably). It was 117 miles to the cliff dwellings, each way, which is a pretty normal distance for things to be apart in New Mexico.
Second, we learned that there are LOTS of mountains in New Mexico. So many mountains! Just mountains everywhere, really, and switchback roads going back and forth, up and down them, forever.
And those two reasons are how it took us almost four hours to go that 117 miles to the cliff dwellings. Granted, we stopped to take some pictures on various mountains – and one mountain pass – but mostly we just switched back. And back. And back. And back again.
For 117 miles.
After gawking at the snow capped mountains and pine trees of New Mexico, we finally made it to the cliff dwellings. Set in a steep-sided, lush forest valley, 10-15 Mogollan families at a time lived in these caves, for hundreds of years, before every resident mysteriously departed in the 1300s. We wandered around inside the larger caves, marveling at the building and the black ceilings (due to soot from the fires).
We have to say, they certainly picked a good spot: the view looking out from the caves was amazing.
On our way back, since the sun was setting, we decided to take a less adventurous route. Well… turns out that we could have easily just driven most of the way to the cliff dwellings on a highway, if only we had come from a different direction. And not just any roads, but classic New Mexico super-straight, totally empty highways.
So, our recommendation: see the Gila cliff dwellings, but don’t come from the east.
What’s now: We are in Mariposa, California, right outside Yosemite National Park. Beautiful and Internet-scarce.
What’s next: Drinking wine in Napa! We have a rough life.
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