Day 23: August 16, 2012
Rockets to Nuts
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For the first time in awhile, I found myself with time to eat breakfast with no plans and no motel supplied bagel (I was at a Motel 6.) so I turned to the internet. The Waffle & Pancake Shoppe was high on everybody's list. To really clinch things, it was less than half a mile away and in the planned direction of travel. I sat at the counter and chatted with the cooks, the waitress, the cashier (who may have been the owner) and a couple of customers. Great western omelet.

Next stop was the New Mexico Museum of Space History just up the road a few miles. The burned out shell of a V-2 sitting outside turned out to be the high point for me. There were other rockets inside but none that I found exciting. I did enjoy the display of eleven year old space station technology. The plaques on the conical monument commemorate the Apollo disaster and the two shuttle disasters. The museum is home to the International Space Hall of Fame and pictures of inductees hang on the walls inside. One special "member" is actually buried in front of the outside sign. That is HAM, the world's first astrochimp. HAM was also the subject of a display inside. For the curious, that rocket standing behind the V-2 is Little Joe 2.

At under four years of age, the World's Largest Pistachio Nut is a relative newcomer to the biggest of breed club. This thirty foot nut has stood at the Pistachio Tree Ranch since 2008. Current owner, Tim McGinn, had it built to honor his father and the ranch's founder, Tom McGinn. Read the plaque here.

US-70 between Alamogordo and Roswell is 100% modern divided four-lane expressway. It is not, however, a boring drive thanks to the scenery. As is fitting on a drive to Roswell, the outline of a flying saucer can be seen landing in the trees at the right of the first photograph. I can't completely rule out the possibility that it's actually a suction cup mark on the windshield but I'm going with the saucer.

In Roswell, my first stop was at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. It looks like a great resource for UFO related information. Crop circles and other possibly extra-terrestrial activities are included in the museum's displays but most are, understandably, related to the "Roswell Incident". A key display is a timeline that starts with July 4, 1947, when something crash-landed on Mac Brazel's farm and continues through the early days with reports, affidavits, and other items. The facts and allegations are presented fairly evenhandedly. There is also quite a bit of art work and just-for-fun displays in the museum and that attracts many cameras including mine.

The entire town is certainly not making a living off of the incident although a few individuals probably are and many businesses at least give the little green men some recognition and that includes big outfits like Walmart and McDonald's. The city itself gets into the act with its street lamps. Whoever came up with that idea deserves to have a park or something named after them.

Perhaps it's fitting that a town known for Unidentified Flying Objects has a museum filled with unidentified objects. That description doesn't apply to all the objects in the Roswell Museum and Art Center but it does apply to many. I took no pictures in any of the art galleries but most items there, including a number of paintings by native son Peter Hurd, are clearly identified and described. But in the history sections, few items were directly identified. In a couple of spots a binder was available with a diagram supplying numbers that matched description that were also in the binder. In other sections, I couldn't find even this slightly awkward aid. Maybe I was missing something but I found this part of the museum rather unsatisfying.

Fortunately this secretiveness did not extend to the Goddard sections. Robert Goddard was not a native of Roswell. He moved here from Massachusetts in 1930. The museum has much of his workshop and even the last rocket he ever built. It's the one in the second photo. A nearby display includes some pieces from his very first launch in 1926. Like nearly everyone, I knew that Goddard pioneered liquid fuel rocketry but I didn't know that the liquid that powered his very first launches was Texaco gasoline. One of the more interesting displays is outside the museum building. It is Goddard's actual launch tower with the man himself, in bronze, standing nearby ready for blastoff.

As I passed through Portales, New Mexico, the Garmin app alerted me to a nearby personal collection of windmills. Curiously, it is not listed on their website.

After stopping for the night in Clovis, New Mexico, I went online looking for a place to eat. I came up empty and figured it was going to be a Subway in the room night. But before I pulled into the nearby shop, I decided to look over a few restaurants on the main street. I'd turned around and was mentally preparing my Subway order when I spotted this place about a half block down a side street. I'd seen online reviews of the Twin Cronnie, which has a, ta da, twin in Portales, and had not been impressed. But, after actually seeing it, how could I not stop there. This was, as the sign proclaimed, Hot Rod Thursday and several classic cars were parked under the canopy while their owners sat in a circle swapping jokes and memories. Music from a classics radio station played through overhead speakers. There was no car-side technology meaning a carhop came out to take my order, came back to bring it, then returned to get the tray. The food was no better than the reviews claimed and I had trouble getting even a bad picture of it without including a close up of my neighbor. But it was the right food. Over-battered onion rings and a so-so 'burger are probably exactly what I ate the last time I sat in a drive-in across from an early 1950s Oldsmobile eating from a tray and listening to the Byrds with a bunch of people my own age. The only thing that's changed is the age -- and the free wi-fi.

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