Sunday, October 19, 2014

On the Road: San Angelo, TX, to Farmington, NM

Sunday, October 5, 2014.

Today is day 1 of our 2014 Nevada trip. We like to go to Laughlin and/or Las Vegas at least once a year. This is our first trip since about this time last year.

We normally like to take different routes to see new things. The trip out to Nevada normally takes 2 days, though with hard driving you can make it in a single long day if you take the most direct route. For us, that is to hit I-40 at Santa Rosa, NM, then head straight west to Kingman, AZ, then take Highway 68 the final 30 miles or so to Laughlin. We don't like to push ourselves that hard, though, so we usually take 2 days and try to see some of the beautiful country out west.

On our first day, we basically covered territory we had seen at one time or another. Here is the route we took.

San Angelo, Texas, to Farmington, New Mexico: 680 long miles
The first leg of our journey was over familiar territory: US 87 northwest through Big Spring to Lamesa, where we stopped for our first break at the local McDonald's. From Lamesa, we took Texas 137 to Brownfield through farm country very familiar to us. From 1984-87, we lived in Wellman, just 12 miles from Brownfield.

At Brownfield, we headed west on US 380 to Roswell, NM. I've lived on the South Plains of Texas, and most people agree that land is flat, but the stretch from the Texas/New Mexico line to Roswell seems even flatter. There just isn't much break in the land. Most of the land is still in native grass, just like it was before settlement occurred, and there are few towns. There is a nice little comfort station on the south side of the highway about an hour east of Roswell should you travel this road. There are no thrills, but it does have flush toilets and is well maintained. The road itself has a good surface with a good shoulder, though only 2 lanes. However, the speed limit on this stretch of highway in New Mexico is 65, though none of the drivers I encountered seemed to be aware of this. As you near Roswell, the speed drops to 55.

A few miles east of Roswell, we passed the cutoff to Bottomless Lakes State Park. I always make note of parks, highway conditions, etc., for future trips, especially should we be pulling a travel trailer. Bottomless Lakes just might be a place to spend a few days.

At Roswell we stopped for gas. We turned north on US 285 for the least exciting part of our trip. US 285 from Roswell to I-40 at Clines Corner is rather monotonous. There isn't much to see. The landscape is more or less undisturbed and is covered by good grass. There are few trees and there isn't even much cactus aside from some resembling cholla. There are even fewer towns. But the road is great. It is 4 lanes with a great surface, and there is a rest area about half an hour or so north of Roswell. Speed limit is 70.

At I-40, we turned west on the interstate towards Albuquerque. We've been on this stretch of road numerous times, but always heading east. It's interesting how things can look so different just by turning around. That's why when I hike I make it a point to stop frequently to simply turn around and see what the view is like behind me.

The Sandia Mountains lie just east of Albuquerque, and I-40 weaves through the southern part of the foothills. It's a scenic drive. Sandia Crest, the highest point in the range, is 10,678 feet.

We turned north on I-25, towards Santa Fe, but only for a short distance. At the northern edge of Albuquerque, we exited in Bernalillo on US 550. We stopped for more fuel, then headed towards the 4 Corners region on US 500. We followed this route almost exactly 2 years ago when we were pulling our Rockwood travel trailer through this part of the country (see "On the Road: Santa Fe, NM, to Cortez, CO"). The road is great, 4 lanes, with the speed limit set at 70. There is really only 1 town along the route, and that is Cuba. Trees start appearing near Cuba. After passing through this little town, you begin climbing, eventually reaching the Continental Divide at over 7,000 feet. The trees then begin to give way to more of a desert landscape.

As we approached Bloomfield and the San Juan River valley, mountains appeared in the distance to the north. We crossed the San Juan River, then turned west at Bloomfield onto US 64 for the final 20 miles or so to Farmington.

It was a long day, and really much farther than we normally like to travel. However, it set us up to jump off into new territory on the following day.

We spent the night at a reasonably priced Comfort Inn on Scott Avenue, about a block north of Business 64. We enjoyed a peaceful night there, and were surprised to find a full complimentary breakfast in the dining room the next morning: waffles, eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, bagels, and other assorted goodies were available. We'll make a note to stay there again should we ever pass this way in the future.

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