Pierre and I took advantage of the 4th of July holiday to spend four days discovering yet another state of our adoption country. We flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and did a road trip to visit some of the state’s most famous landmarks. Overall, we had a great time. It felt good to get away from the concrete jungle for a few days to see some different scenery. Distances between the points of interest were quite long so we knew we were in for quite some driving. We personally didn’t mind, as long as it meant being rewarded with great sights – and we were not disappointed!
Keep reading for the full story of our adventures in New Mexico, or head over to our itinerary page for all the practical day-by-day information.
Arrival / Day 1: looking for UFOs and walking on the moon
We left NYC on a Friday night, and arrived in Albuquerque at 2am local time as we were graced with a 3h late take off from JFK. We stayed the first short night in a hotel close to the airport and started our Saturday morning by finding the closest Starbucks and grocery store. To cope with temperatures close to 100°F, we created a makeshift fridge for the car with a cheap styrofoam cooler and ice (this “fridge” actually turned out to be even more convenient/effective than we originally thought, and kept our water bottles ice cold all day). It was then time to hit the road and start the adventure!
– Very Large Array –
We drove about 2.5hrs Southeast to the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, which is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio telescope facilities in use by the scientific community. It is composed of multiple rows of huge telescope dishes, which make it seem like you are on the set of a Sci-Fi movie. These antennas are way larger in person than they look in pictures (25m / 82ft in diameter). Every now and then, you will catch one slowly rotate as it realigns itself with a target in outer-space. It was interesting, and I am happy to have seen this site with my own eyes. However, in all honesty, I would not necessarily recommend doing the 1h45 detour to go all the way to VLA. We took advantage of this stop to eat our lunch we had bought in the morning, and then took the road again.
– White Sands National Monument –
We headed South for an another hour and a half to reach the most anticipated landmark of our trip to New Mexico: White Sands National Monument. This enchanting location is covered with immaculate white sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see. You can buy sleds to ride down the dunes, at the visitor center located before the paying booths. From there, you can take a 15min scenic drive which takes you deeper and closer to the larger dunes. We parked, removed our shoes (the sand is not hot to the touch), grabbed some cold water from the “fridge” and on we went.
For some reason, people did not want to stray too far away from the parking. Perhaps they were afraid to get lost in the desert? After walking just a few minutes towards the horizon, we were literally by ourselves. We couldn’t see or hear anyone, and there were no footsteps but our own! It felt like we were the pioneers of a newly discovered planet. I’ll let the pictures do the talking because I am at a loss of better words to describe this magical desert.
I will admit that we were quickly disoriented. Without our phones, we would have had no idea how to get back to our car. This is why I recommend you download the area in Google Maps prior to arriving (there is no service in White Sands). By knowing where the parking is situated, you won’t be afraid to venture off and fully enjoy the immensity of the site. Otherwise, you will be stuck near the parking lots, where the dunes are ruined by all the footsteps and do not make justice to the beauty of this place.
We slept in Alamagordo that night, since it was the closest town.