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Cruising the Bahamas

Since I setup my cruise while still at the gate in Fort Stockton, I had booked a flight out of Midland, Texas so I had to drive there from New Mexico. It wasn’t too terribly far but it was an adventure with lots of construction and traffic blocking my way as I tried to go down the 285 to catch the I20 east. Huge mistake I will never repeat. I ended up turning east as soon as possible and luckily managed to make my flight on time. Since this would be a longer trip than normal as the vacation to beat all vacations, I parked in the more expensive covered area near the terminal. The flight on Southwest was fine though I quickly discovered my packing experiment was a huge failure. I should have taken both my wheeled suitcases and tied them together as usual in a luggage train rather than trying to substitute a non-wheeled duffel for one of them. Duffels are fine for local travel but suck for flying.

I got into Fort Lauderdale very late at night and waited for the hotel shuttle. When it came, there was my girlfriend Bernie on it to greet me. She flew in earlier in the day and checked us into the hotel. She made my night! We got to the hotel too late for me to get dinner so Bernie shared her leftover sandwich with me before we went to bed.

The next day the local shuttle I arranged came and picked us up to get us down to the ship in Miami. Check-in and boarding were pretty fast. The ship was the Carnival Sensation. We dropped off our luggage in our stateroom and hit up the buffet for lunch while we waited to set sail. We walked around the ship and explored every nook and cranny as usual. It isn’t one of the huge ships but I liked it. I booked a porthole room so Bernie would have the light she liked in the room and could try the different type of stateroom. I like porthole rooms as the best balance between having some sort of view with light and price. The area under the porthole is also great for putting your stuff.

Carnival SensationHalloween cruisingBernie loves to cruise

This was only a 5 day cruise with three ports. We usually do 7 day cruises but as I said, this was to be the vacation to beat all vacations so stay tuned. Our first stop was Nassau where we went to Atlantis hotel and waterpark. I was so fed up with salivating over their commercials that I just had to see it. Busses picked us up at the dock. The walk through the hotel to the waterpark was much longer than I cared for though the area is very beautiful. We did enjoy the waterpark. Bernie relaxed in the pool while I climbed the pyramid several times to ride down the chutes. The one that goes through the lagoon full of sharks was great! We finally found the hidden hot tub though it was more like a warm tub. Lunch was good. We had a good time but I have to say that it just isn’t as good as Schlitterbahn. All hail the king of waterparks, Schlitterbahn!

Atlantis waterpark temple slidesFun in the beautiful poolTubing through the shark pool!

Our next stop we both agree was the best. We stopped at Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by Carnival. We took the Eco Tour in a glass bottom boat around the small island and learned a lot. Lunch was served by the ship in a huge pavilion surrounded by smaller pavilions with picnic tables and it was wonderful! It tasted more like a normal American picnic lunch and not like the fancy food you get onboard. Plain is good sometimes. After lunch, we went swimming with schools of fishes swimming by, music playing, and a sand castle contest going on. The water was warm and oh so relaxing. I got to use my full face snorkel mask. We both want to go back.

Swimming with the fishesLunch served on the island

The last port was Grand Turk where we signed up for a rope climbing/zipline excursion. The part we thought would be easiest turned out to be the hardest. Those rope nets to get up the towers were pretty steep to climb. We watched the others struggle to get across the dual logs then easily maneuvered over them ourselves by using what we learned during the waterfall hike in Hawaii. The obstacles were easier to get over than the course I did in Canyon Lake, Texas but still challenging. Loved ziplining out over the cliff and back and then the next to final one where you have to leap off one tower to zip straight over to another with no down angle to help you. We survived the course and had fun though Bernie says once was enough. LOL.

Me climbing the towerOh yeah, we got this!Lovely Grand Turk

For more pics click here.

Roswell, NM

One more day until time for my cruise so I headed north to Roswell 60 miles away to check out aliens. It’s an interesting little city that loves it’s alien notoriety and outer space themed stores. I went to the alien museum first. The displays are excellent and it certainly has a story to tell. Nothing like a good government cover up and little green men to make your day. I had fun in the photo booth and taking pictures with my alien cousins as a space ship rotated and made lots of noise. I definitely will NOT be reporting any UFOs after seeing what happened to the folks of Roswell who did. It was very cool to see the robot Gort from the movie “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and get a picture with him. Klattu barata nikto y’all!

After the museum and lunch at a nearby restaurant, I got my jollies walking around town geocaching to earn my New Mexico souvenir badge. I managed to snag several geocaches and got to see some very nice historic sculptures.

Alien invasion in Roswell, NMMeet my long lost cousinsGort from The Day The Earth Stood Still

Lunch - way too much to eat but goodCan't hide from me!Cowboy heritage

For more pics click here.

Carlsbad Caverns

After a day of rest, I went into Carlsbad to get the lay of the land and on to Carlsbad Caverns. I hadn’t seen the caverns since I was a small child and went there with my family. The drive up the mountain is long and curvy. At the top is plenty of parking and I got there early. I chose to do the elevator down to the back end of the caverns this trip. At the bottom was the lunch area I remembered though they no longer serve anything more than salads and drinks there now. No crowds there eating like in the old days. They did have a mailbox you could use and the mail would be stamped as being sent from the bottom of the caverns. That was pretty cool and I did send postcards to family from there.

Carlsbad CavernsCavern elevator 750 feet downLunch area

The walk through the back caverns was pretty easy with a well paved and fairly level trail. It was cool but I brought my coat. I also brought a bottle of water which I was thankful for. I had picked up a trail guide device in the gift shop which told me all about the caverns every step of the way. It was well worth the rental cost. This part of the caverns is a great tour for families with kids and seniors. I also think it is the most beautiful part. It takes a couple hours to walk it and really enjoy it. Afterward, I ate lunch in their restaurant above. It was average. They only serve Mexican food but it was okay. After perusing their museum displays and gift shop, I headed down the steep path to the main cave entrance to watch the bats fly out during the evening program. Thousands of them swooped out over us and flew off for night hunting. You definitely want to stay to see that.

Cavern curtainsCave formationAmphitheater and main cave entrance

I decided to go back another day and try the front part of the caverns through the main entrance. I can tell you now that it is best for younger people. The trail all the way through to the lunch area in the bottom of the caverns is very steep. Take a hiking stick and plenty of water. It also takes more time and frankly I didn’t think the views were as lovely. I had to stop and rest several times but thank goodness they provide plenty of seating. You won’t see the bats in there as they actually sleep in a different area that is off-limits to tourists. If you take your camera on either tour, be sure to set it to manual and adjust the settings for darkness. There is plenty of lighting in the caverns for people but it is too dark to get decent pictures in auto mode. I don’t recommend trying to do the entire cavern in one day. That front part wears you out. Most of it is descending from the main entrance but you have to fight the steepness the whole way.

For more pics click here.

Time To Go

Finally! The cruise to the Bahamas I booked a year ago was almost here. I decided to leave the gate a week early to get some sightseeing in since I’m so close to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico (only 300 miles). I discovered there is an Escapees park known as The “Original” Ranch near there which would be a safe place to store my trailer. After all I have been through recently and with the traffic building up to uncomfortable levels at that gate, I decided to give up this gate rather than hire someone to stay in my trailer and work it for me like I usually did.

I had hoped to just run straight up north to Carlsbad but found out that the highway that runs straight there is a very dangerous death highway with many fatal accidents and a ton of construction going on along the way. I had to go way out of my way to get around it by going east to pick up another road north through Jal, New Mexico and then back west to Carlsbad. The drive was nice enough but long. In Jal, I blew out a tire on my trailer. I noticed a metal piece sticking out of the trailer in my mirror and stopped to check. The trim was damaged and the tire was completely gone but no other damage. I called the emergency roadside service but it would be two hours before they could get anyone to me in that remote area. I ended up changing it myself and paying for it that night with back pain. Oh well. At least I got to the park north of Carlsbad in Lakewood before the sun fully set.

The office was closed when I got there. I drove on in to their boondocking area known as The Corral. Just as I finished backing in to a spot, several residents came over to greet me and complement my backing. Not that hard to do in a wide open area actually. They called over the night guy who once he heard I was staying awhile, moved me over to a regular space with full utilities. He was fantastic at giving backing directions! He knew his stuff. We finished just as the sun disappeared.

In the morning I checked in and decided to pay for a month though I had no idea if I would be there quite that long.