Roswell (March 5th)

It was really damn cold that night. By the morning, my water bottle had frozen solid, and frost had grown on every available surface. I re-stoked the fire, which roared back to life, and tried to thaw out. Needless to say, it took a while for us to get going.

We headed east to Roswell.

I’d never been here, but I’d heard about the town’s obsession with aliens and figured it could be a fun stop. Even the McDonalds was in on the theme, with a playplace I would have loved as a kid. I felt a bit weird taking pictures of it though.

The people at the tourist information center suggested we visit a free museum/art gallery next door.

Along with a number of interesting art pieces, they also had artifacts from the pioneer era, including traditional Native American clothing.

The section dedicated to Robert Goddard, an inventor and physicist, was my favorite. He was one of the pioneers of rocket flight, credited with creating the first liquid-fueled rockets. His work paved the way for further rocket research, which would eventually result in spaceflight. He was sometimes ridiculed by the press and other scientists for his revolutionary ideas. I was surprised that I’d never heard of him before.

He created one of the first radio frequency oscillating tubes, sold under the name Gammatron.

Exhibits discussed his many other patents – he had ideas for a magnetic levitation system and a jet-driven propeller system which would eventually be utilized in turboprop and turbofan engines.

There were also copies of his failed rocket prototypes. He began building rockets in 1925, and was assisted in moving to Roswell by Charles Lindbergh after his neighbors in Massachusetts became concerned about his highly flammable experiments crashing back to earth.

Inside a replica of his workshop was a copy of his most successful rocket design. Built in 1938, this rocket would reach a height of 3,294 feet and would be Goddard’s last successful flight test. He continued building rockets until his death, 7 years later.

Back on the street, we wandered downtown.

Cartoon aliens were everywhere! In stark contrast to the admirable reality of Goddard’s work, the little green men were hawking everything from Coke…

… to Mexican food…

… to. Medical services? This was over the top. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to think about when I visit a doctor is “probing”. Brr.

It felt cheap and tacky, but I thought it was good for a laugh. Oz felt that the town was “more or less like being in a huge gift shop”. He hated it.

Alien kokopelli? Really?

Oz was curious what was outside the main strip. A single block away, the town seemed run down, in a surprising contrast to the gaudy facade presented earlier. I wondered what the town’s industry was like before the aliens invaded.

Some buildings were clearly abandoned or just crumbling.

Around sunset we headed out of town, heading for the Haystack OHV area. Darkness fell and it got ridiculously cold before we were able to find it, nearly getting run off the road by a speeding semi in the process. We arrived, chilled to the bone, and the wind whipping around made tent assembly difficult.

I made dinner, and in the process almost set the tent on fire when the wind caught the flames from my alcohol stove and lit a small amount of fuel that had dripped onto the ground below. I freaked out and acted quickly (only my sleeping bag was singed), but Oz was unhelpful and disagreed with me about the potential severity of the situation. We were both irritable and argumentative when we called it a night.

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