OCTOBER 9, 2014.
TULAROSA, NEW MEXICO: CITY OF ROSES. Our drive from Roswell to White Sands today took us along State Route 70, through uninterrupted fields where you could see for miles and then over a 7,500 foot mountain pass before we descended in the driving rain toward Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument. The byway took us through several tiny little towns along our route…Picacho, Tinnie, Glencoe and Tularosa, where we stopped for lunch.
WE MET SOME LOCALS. Turns out that Tularosa is quite an interesting town and we met a couple of locals who gave us some of the history. The first fella was the chef at the Steakhouse Restaurant where we had lunch. He’s an Army Veteran..took his artillery training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and went on to serve two tours in Afghanistan before “getting out” after about 5 years service. Nice young man, and a pretty good chef as well. The second was the receptionist and server at the restaurant. She’s American Indian and lives “in town.” She tired of living with the rest of her Apache family “up in the hills on the reservation” and now lives and works in the big city…Tularosa has a population of about 3,000. She was also most friendly. Here’s what these two young people told us about their village.
THE CITY OF ROSES, Tularosa is one of the oldest settlements in the Southwest and is nationally known as the City of Roses, because wild rose bushes once lined the banks of the Rio Tularosa. As settlers began to arrive in the area during the 1860’s they not only had to battle the elements as they carved out homes and an existence here, but they also had to deal with the Indians. The nearby Mescalero Apache Indian didn’t appreciate the invasion of the newcomers and showed their hostile disdain by stealing and running off their cattle and sheep, stealing crops and on occasion raiding and killing.
APACHE INDIAN ATTACK. The conflict between settlers and Indians came to a head in April of 1868, when 200 Indians attacked Sgt. Edward Glass and his thirty troops from Fort Stanton. In less than two days and against all odds, the courageous soldiers and settlers defeated the Indians at the Battle of Round Mountain, nine miles northeast of the village. While the men of the village were fighting to save their families and homes, the rest of the town’s population stayed behind and prayed for God’s intervention. As legend goes, they promised to build a church in St. Francis de Paula’s honor if the men were victorious and their lives were spared. The church was of course constructed and it has gone through several major renovations and changes during the course of history. It stands to this day as a testament to the determination of that small band of settlers and their resolve to build a home for their families in this place.
AFTER LUNCH we drove another 5 or 10 miles to the Elk’s Lodge in Alamogordo, where we’ll be staying for a few days while we explore White Sands. Another nice Elk’s spot: We’re parked in an area covered with crushed granite and surrounded by trees and brightly blooming yellow wildflowers. We have a full hookup. A freight train rumbles by as lightning tweaks the darkness over the distant mountains. All is good. I’m so glad I joined the Elk’s Club. As they say, “Membership has its privileges!” Oh, I almost forgot to mention: We have the whole place to ourselves!
A PLUG FOR THE ELKS CLUB. I remember having lunch with a dentist friend of mine over a year ago, before we embarked on our Great American Adventure. As we were saying our “good-byes” he asked me if I was a member of the Elks Club. “Elks Club? What does that have to do with anything even remotely related to our conversation?” I thought to myself. Turns out that Elks Lodges all across the US have RV parking facilities for the exclusive use of their members, usually on a “donation” basis of about ten bucks a night. Most have full hookups and of course there is the proximity to the Lodge, where food, drink and camaraderieĀ awaits. So I decided to join a Lodge in San Diego before we departed, thinking I’d learn some silly fraternal handshake and belong to a birdbrained animal club but, what the heck, I’d have yet another option for places to stay while on the road. I was right and wrong. Right: there are in fact Elks facilities almost everywhere. Where I was wrong was thinking that the Elks Club is a silly organization offering nothing more than a place to stay in a pinch. Elks International is a very substantial organization which donates millions of dollars annually to worthwhile charities…often military veteran-related. Turns out that it’s a win-win deal. I’m glad I joined, for more reasons than one.