It’s always a great joy to spend time with friends and family. We had the pleasure of staying with former Oregonians who live in Gilbert, AZ. Yes, I’m talking about THE Charlie Whiting and his family (my McMinnville friends are getting jealous right now). We caught up on all the normal business/economic drama and talked about jobs, life, Rotary and travels. Additionally, Charlie (who, by some, is known for his ability to make delectable cupcakes) showed us his secrets and together the three of us dirtied up the kitchen and made cookies & cream cupcakes. FANTASTIC, I tell you. I’m craving one right now as I write this…

People are in your life for a reason. And for us, it goes WAY beyond having a free place to stay in several different states. When you really take the time to sit down with others and listen, you can learn so much. Besides how to make bomb-diggity cupcakes, I learned more about Charlie and his passion for integrity in organizations, combined with an eagerness to provide opportunities for kids to learn skills, processes, and structure. I think the world is being changed little by little with the help of people like Charlie and his adorable family.  Our stay seemed long yet too short. We left on the morning of November 14th and drove to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Las Cruces, New Mexico
The view from our BnB in Las Cruces

Las Cruces is a lovely community in SE New Mexico. You can see small mountains pretty much everywhere and the sunsets are beautiful. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast just on the outskirts of town for 3 nights. At this point, you should probably click over to my post about Kefir, which takes place at this BnB, before reading any further.

Las Cruces at dusk

Thor: Ragnarok had recently been released, so we decided to spend an afternoon at the theater and grocery store. Another afternoon was spent on a short hike, which I heavily photographed because the scenery was stunning. We didn’t feel like we were in New Mexico at all.

After our 3 strange nights at the BnB, we were glad to drive away on the 17th of November and head to Texas. We left somewhat early in the morning so that we could stop at Carlsbad Caverns shortly after it opened. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico. It features over 300 caves and was nothing like we expected. Only $12/person to enter, we figured it was just a cool cave system. But we were so wrong. Carlsbad Caverns is by far the best cave system we’ve seen yet. And I doubt there will be many competitors in the future. You can use the natural entrance (about a mile walk down) or take an elevator down to the heart of the cave. We decided to walk down and take the elevator back up. WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS ROUTE. Step after step takes you deeper (the walk can be a bit steep but there are countless switchbacks on the trail), and every new section will make your jaw drop. I can’t explain enough how incredible this experience was. The pictures don’t do it justice! You’ll just have to see for yourself.

We left the caverns in the early afternoon and drove to Odessa, TX, where we stayed a night in a hotel on our way to Frisco (just north of Dallas) to visit our friends Brad & Courtney. New Mexico seems to have a lot of natural beauty, and we are eager to return in the future.