Day 16 - February 13, 1998 - Milepost 1990 (419 today) - Las Cruces, NM

(BF). We are back on the road again, Texas bound. As the miles slip by I am reminded of the park rangers' nightly presentations and, in particular, the explanations of U.S. deserts. We've now traveled through all four (Great Plains, Mojave, Sonora and Chihuahuan) and today will be able to compare the latter two. We leave the Sonora, the wettest of the four with 9.5" annually, just below the 10" limit defining a desert. Its indicator plant is the Saguaro cactus. As we head east we transition into the Chihuahuan Desert where the indicator plant is the Prickly Pear. I begin to see changes just past Tucson when the road climbs rapidly and we stop at a rest area overlooking Texas Canyon, surrounded by boulders shaped like bloated elephants, hippos and whales, only larger. Now on the high desert of southeastern Arizona, I notice the Creosote Bush is replaced by sage and mesquite, while the cactus transform to yucca and agave. Short grasslands provide sparse fodder for scattered cattle and everything has a dustier drier look to it. We speed along I-10 past the Santa Rita Mountains, then the Huachuca and the Chihuahuan on our right, with shapes characterized by upheavals of sedimentary rock unlike the volcanic origins of the mountains we viewed at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The desert continues as we descend to the Rio Grande and get a panoramic view of Las Cruces positioned in the shadow of a formidable mountain, a scene not unlike Albuquerque below Sandia Crest. Dinner tonight is at La Posta de Mesilla, a restaurant we stumble upon in the heart of historic Mesilla. Mexican restaurants are always our favorites and out of perhaps a hundred that we have visited through the years, La Posta has got to be near the top of the list. What other restaurant can claim to be housed in a building visited by Billy the Kid (in the plaza where he was tried and sentenced to hang in 1881), Kit Carson, General Douglas MacArthur and Pancho Villa? And our dinner choice of Banquette Elegante superbly lives up to its reputation as "one that will be long remembered."

(SF). We say goodbye to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and I make a vow to return again soon. It is such a pleasant stay in peaceful surroundings. We follow Arizona 86. Arizona is one of those states Trailer Life lists as having a width limit. The road is without a wide shoulder and patrol cars pass us going in each direction but do nothing to us to enforce the law. Few Rvers travel this road, nor many other cars for that matter. We enter Tucson and decide we need gas. We stop at a sign proclaiming gas at $1.05. That is too good to be true we think. Bert comes in and tells me that the pumps have a sign on them stating that the gas has a minimum 10% ethanol content. This disturbs me, but the clerk assures us the law in Arizona requires all gas to have ethanol from September through March. Strange. We must have already purchased some of that gas in Ajo. We fill our tanks and hope that we are not damaging RTENT. RTENT starts just fine with its new mixture, does not cough or sputter, accelerates with the same amount or lack of power it usually has and cruises down the highway just fine. I relax. A little. We decide we have had enough of driving by the time we reach Las Cruces, New Mexico and stop at a new RV park called RV DOC. It is unusual in that it has its own service mechanic that will do repairs on site. TL rates the park with a 7/8.5/6 but I think the 6 a bit low. The sites are well laid out, neat and include picnic tables on a small grassy area next to each space. They even hand out a schedule of events, including a dessert night at 6:30. This is too early for us so we pass on the offer. We head for old historic Mesilla just two blocks away and decide to eat at a restaurant proclaimed to be housed in an original adobe building that offered hospitality to those traveling the stagecoach highway back in 1854. If the number of visitors is any indication as to the quality of the restaurant, this restaurant is five stars. We have a 45 minute wait and I visit the shops housed within the walls of the restaurant and read the guest list from January 1, 1998. I read the month of January and come across hundreds of names many from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, Norway, Spain and Ecuador. We are seated in one of the many rooms separating diners and pour over the menu. I notice the meals are very large and Bert and I decide to share one of the specials called Banquette Elegante. It is superb and certainly enough for two people. It even has two desserts to share, an empanada and a sopaipilla. We mark this restaurant down as one to visit again whenever in Las Cruces.

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