After dropping off the old man with restless leg syndrome in Carlsbad, NM, we looped around the bottom end of the mountain range which starts just above El Paso and headed back north. Along the way we stopped for a few hours at Guadalupe National Park to climb the highest peak in Texas. It’s a pretty flat state, so climbing the highest peak would be a trivial accomplishment if the people responsible for drawing the state lines had done their job correctly. Mt. G is the last peak in the Guadalupe Mountain Range, all of which is in NM except Mt. G. Any child old enough to color within the lines would have put the entire range in NM, in which case our task of peak bagging in the Lone Star State would have been thousands of feet easier. As it was, summiting the 8749 ft peak of Mt. G was a strenuous hike, but not an accomplishment that would impress all that many people.
We overnighted at Gila Cliff Dwellings, a place of cultural significance at the end of a 45 mile nearly one-lane very winding mountain road. Good fun in a Tesla! We didn’t actually stay in the Dwellings (We didn’t even think to ask at the time, but I don’t think Mr. Ranger-man would have looked the other way. Well, he was one of these people full of joy and might have, but the don’t-touch-the-rocks volunteers were not, and would certainly have put the kibosh on any such shenanigans. We stayed that night in a supremely delightful small RV park just outside the Dwellings, a peaceful abode that would be one of my sweetest RV park memories if I hadn’t been borderline traumatized by my confrontation with the wizened proprietress who roared up in a cloud of angry dust on her 4-wheeler. Honestly, the whole thing could have been avoided if they hadn’t protected their 50 amp outlets with 35 amp fuses. I was able to immediately size her up upon her initial ice-breaker of “Hey! Are you the one that blew my fuse?!” I’ve worked closely over the years with many different personality types in emotionally charged situations, and I can kind of tell several moves in advance how a particular conversation is going to go. I knew any argument progressing from a “Your fuse isn’t my problem, bitch” rejoinder would end badly, and after running a few others through the matrix I settled on, “Oh, I am so sorry, may I, please, pay for that?”. That actually worked out well, seeing as before I got it out she’d started suggesting that I also owed her for the gas she’d have to buy to get to town and back the next day to get more fuses. (Really? You don’t keep a spare fuse? That also isn’t my problem. B.) (And how ironic would that be, the pure electric car driver has to buy gas for the dually F350 pickup truck to smoke its way through the pristine forest to haul 4 oz back from town). Anyway, she didn’t mention the gas again after I paid her $5 for the fuse, so I guess that was a win for me.
Anyway, I got kudos from the waifu for being ‘smooth’.
On to Aztec Ruins the next day. The ruins don’t have any more to do with Aztecs than the nearby Aztec Tire-O-Rama, but as Southwest ruins go I can highly recommend them.
We also swung by Aztec Office Supply and grabbed an envelope to mail “The Three Little Javalinas” to Emily, which we’d picked up for her at the Mt. G visitors’ center ‘cuz I wanted to read it.
And then on to Mesa Verde, where was the House of Bugs. As you know, or if you don’t you will by the end of the sentence, we are driving around and pitching our palatial 12×12 tent at RV parks, campgrounds, state and national parks, national monuments, and other points of interest or convenience. We picked up tickets for a late afternoon tour of a cliff dwelling (Ranger: “You want an afternoon tour today or an early morning tour tomorrow?” Us: “Do we care?” Ranger: “Maybe. What kind of camera do you have?” Us: “Cell phone” Ranger: *snort* “You’ll be fine with the afternoon tour”) We pitched in the early afternoon in a campground on top of the Mesa, inside the park, with the door facing east, hopped back in the car and drove deeper into the park to catch the late afternoon tour of Balcony House, a dwelling with a spectacular view. (All cliff dwellings have a spectacular view).
We’d left the tent door open for ventilation, as well as the flap off the west side vent. The surrounding vegetation shaded the entrance, and the setting sun streamed through the vent. The combination proved to make the interior of the tent irresistibly attractive to any of the local insects who passed by the open door. We all know that there are an awful lot of bugs out there, but OMG you have no idea, really. There were QUARTS of bugs in there. Tiny gnats, big and little flies, beetles, BEES, WASPS, YELLOWJACKETS oh my. Ack
“Up” is a default behavior of bugs along with “go to the light”. And the tent is cone shaped. So they would go toward the light, bump a few times against the back screen, and then at some point head upwards. There was a cloud of bugs swarming against the sunset-facing ventilation screen, and a veritable cumulo-nimbus of them in the peak of the tent. The complexities of exiting the tent under those circumstances eluded our new friends.
“What in the world are we going to do?” I asked, and Laura’s suggestion was to pitch the smaller camping tent for us and abandon the big tent. Apparently, the complexities of getting our new friends to exit the tent eluded us, also.
I pride myself on my ability to think problems through, analyzing the causes and effects until a solution presents itself. However, I was chased down a forest path in Sequoia National Park when I was five years old by a swarm of angry hornets after I stepped on their nest. So my powers of analysis are somewhat degraded when confronted by anything with a sort of black and yellow motif. Especially if said black and yellow is flying around, confused.
The need was to get the insects from the peak to the door, but they were not at all interested in DOWN. They were interested in PEAK. So we finally figured, if we can’t bring the insects to the door, why not bring the peak to the door? So while Laura held the top of the tent door up, I moved the top of the center pole down and out the door, with the peak of the tent still attached. I felt rather brave, actually inside the Hymenopteran House of Horrors, but it was Laura, who was in the EXIT PATH who was the brave one. Imagine, standing her ground while the angry thousands whizzed by her and I screamed like a little girl. That worked well enough that Laura could go in and mop up the remainders.
Oh, this is how you get down to the cliff dwellings:
The next day we took down and packed up the tent, taking a break to chat with a pair of Rangers/Tesla admirers who rolled up in a golf cart (We feel a real camaraderie with people driving golf carts, those being electric vehicles, too. They are sure a lot more personable than people driving 4-wheelers, at least in our recent experience). OK, it was actually just me who took a break to talk to the guys. Laura finished up pushing the tent gear into the improbably small bags they stow in, popped the front trunk (‘frunk’), and started some girly screaming of her own. We were all close enough to see what that was about – there was a mouse (Curled up in a mouse nest!) inside the frunk! We were close enough to see the mouse and to shout helpful tips (Ranger 1: “Grab him!” Ranger 2: “Don’t hurt him! He’s protected by federal law!” Me: “Eeeee! Eeeee! Eeee!”), but, apparently, not close enough to do anything constructive. Soon the mouse scurried under the trim that hides the fuses. More helpful advice ensued (Ranger 1: “You’ll never get him out” Ranger 2: “You can’t take him out of the park, you know” Me: “You mean ‘her’ “).
Mouse. Nest. Pregnant? Probably. Think that might void the warranty? Probably.