The truth is out there. Way out there.
As Sue, our dog Iggy, and I travel in our RV, we occasionally veer off course and indulge our curiosities. That’s pretty much how this whole thing started, with Sue asking the supposedly-hypothetical question, “What do you think it would be like if we traveled around the country for a year in an RV?” “Hmm,” I said, as I often do when contemplating questions of life-altering proportions. “Let’s say we find out.”
While the stated purpose of our travels has been to visit as many national parks as possible, side trips are there to up the interest level of our travels.
Admittedly, not every side trip is a winner. Drawn in by no fewer than 50 billboards spread over 400 miles along I-90 in South Dakota, we visited Wall Drug, a sprawling South of the Border-style, Western-themed, mega-mall, for a cup of their “World Famous 5-Cent Coffee.” We were jokingly on a mission to determine just how awful a 5-cent cup of coffee could be. Turns out, that mission was no joke. Our coffee was bitter and burnt, yet somehow cold, and not worth a plug nickel. And the 99-cent slice of pie we bought to go with it? Even awfuller, still. Will we go back? Yes, absolutely. The coffee only costs a nickel. So, we’re there.
Among our side trip successes was our visit to Devils Tower in Wyoming, a 200-mile detour from our planned stop at Yellowstone National Park. I was 10 when “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was released and since then I have been sculpting Devils Towers with my mashed potatoes and wanting to visit the igneous rock formation that looms 867 feet above the surrounding plains. Sue and I spent an entire day hiking around this imposing structure, then we watched the director’s cut of “Close Encounters” on the back deck of a campground store, in full view of a moonlit Devils Tower. Sure, we both fell asleep, mostly because the movie started after 7 p.m. But, also because “Close Encounters” at 50 is exponentially more boring than it was at 10. Still, it was awesome!
What held our curiosity during our recent trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park lay 75 miles to the north. While Sue’s interest in Roswell, New Mexico centers around the “X-Files” and a mildly-concerning “Ancient Aliens” obsession, mine started with “In Search of” with Leonard Nimoy and hit its peak during countless hours of late-night radio’s “Coast to Coast AM” with Art Bell.
Ubiquitous alien memorabilia aside, Roswell is not quite what we expected. At 50,000 residents, it is New Mexico’s fifth largest city. It is home to New Mexico Military Institute, a military-style high school and junior college attended by Conrad Hilton, Roger Staubach and Owen Wilson. And, it has a Sam’s Club. They didn’t mention that once on Art Bell’s program.
Our visit to the International UFO Museum and Research Center, however, further piqued our curiosity about the “Roswell Incident” in which a flying saucer is said to have crashed at a nearby ranch. First confirmed by the communications officer at the Roswell Army Air Force base, then later denied by higher ups, newspaper interviews, deathbed confessions and affidavits signed by eyewitness military personnel and civilians lend credence to the remnants of an alien craft and at least two alien bodies being recovered by the military and shipped off for closer examination.
We may never know the true reason why the aliens who crashed near Roswell wanted to visit us. Perhaps they were in the neighborhood and heard of a planet where coffee sold for 5 cents a cup. We’d go, if we were them, if only to see how truly awful a 5-cent cup of coffee could be.
“Dispatches from the RV” documents the traveling adventures of Daniel Island News Publisher Suzanne Detar and her husband, Tom Werner, who are currently exploring the country in a motorhome. Last fall, they hit the road to take in an inner loop of the USA, and this year they are focusing on an outer loop, including America’s national parks and all the concurrent and surprising sites along the way.