Day 8: December 26, 2009
Going Underground
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I arrived at the Buddy Holly Center a little ahead of the 10:00 opening so took pictures of the sign out front and the empty lot next door as I waited. I put a bigger view of the distant Route 62 sign in the parking lot to show that the Center is directly on my path. Before too long, Rebecca appeared to open the gate and I headed inside. The museum is well done with displays that include many things from Buddy's life in Lubbock as well as from his brief career. No photos are permitted in the galleries but the entrance hallway is quite nice, don't you think?

The statue that the sign in the first panel speaks of is currently at the Civic Center on Avenue Q surrounded by Walk of Fame plaques. It's a West Texas Walk of Fame so membership isn't limited to folks from Lubbock but even if it was it would still have some impressive names. Names like Mac Davis (Mac, Buddy, & The Crickets all have streets named after them.), Joe Ely, Delbert McClinton, and Jimmie Gilmore.

The city streets were still a mess but things got better as I headed out of town. There was plenty of snow along the road and even a couple of cars remained where they had landed two days ago. Things gradually improved and I believe that snow had disappeared by the time I reached New Mexico. At least the snow on the ground had. At a stop near Carlsbad, I noticed that I was carrying a little Texas -- or maybe Oklahoma -- snow with me.

I continued through the town of Carlsbad to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The main tour is through The Big Room and it certainly is. No skinny passages here and impressive formations everywhere. Guided tours that access other parts of the caverns are available as is another self guided tour through the Natural Entrance. Elevators take visitors to the Big Room tour. The Natural Entrance tour is described as "strenuous". I was too late to take the Natural Entrance tour, darn it.

Ernie Pyle wrote of visiting Carlsbad Caverns in 1938. That was just fifteen years after tourists started visiting the caves. Jim White, the cowboy who first explored the caves was still around then. White first entered the caves as a sixteen year old in 1898. It wasn't until 1922 that White convinced someone else to take a look at the underground marvels he had been discovering for two dozen years. The government moved in but they didn't just shove the cowboy aside. When Pyle visited, Jim White had a stand inside the cave where he sold a booklet for 75° which, according to Pyle, he dealt "out so fast he resembles a chef in a Los Angeles hamburger stand". I had hoped that the book was still available and it is -- at $6.95. It includes some truly interesting pictures including one of Jim with the big bucket that lowered the first tourists into the caverns. At least one ladder that Jim built can still be seen in the caverns. The book also contains a picture of Thomas Boles. Boles was the park superintendent for many years and the fellow who spoke to Pyle and others at the Rock of Ages formation. The total darkness they experienced there was once a standard part of a visit but is no longer practical. Another sign that things are different is that fact that, in 1938, Boyles "asks that cigarettes be doused" in order to achieve complete darkness. With the lights out, Pyle says "Your soul creeps and you sit there in mental obeisance." The silence is eventually broken by four rangers singing the hymn Rock of Ages and the lights are slowly turned back on.

The scenery in the park is outstanding. The first picture was taken just outside the visitors center at the entrance to the caves. The others on the drive back to US-62. I realize now that I should have hung around a couple of hours to see the bats fly from the cave but I hadn't even thought I'd reach the caverns today so hadn't planned properly and wasn't thinking too clearly.

In Whites City, near the park's entrance, a sign says the Pueblo Motel is being renovated. I certainly hope so because the place looks really cool. I returned to the town of Carlsbad for the night.

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