It has been a while, but we have finally found time to get back to traveling. We left home on Friday for our eventual destination, San Diego, where we will attend a reunion of my USAF pilot training class. We scheduled our first day to be our longest day, but still felt compelled to stop for a few minutes in Hobbs, New Mexico, where I spent six years working as a pilot for Mesa Airlines. Time, as well as the oil and gas economy, has been kind to the Eastern New Mexico area, and the entire downtown area of Hobbs appears to have been rebuilt since I was last there in 1997. Things have changed enough around town that I had to rely on my GPS to find the apartment where I kept a crash pad for those six years, and the old airport now had an all new terminal building and control tower. What really shocked me however, is that the nineteen passenger turbo-prop aircraft in which I once provided government subsidized Essential Air Service from Hobbs, through Clovis, Carlsbad, or Roswell into Albuquerque, has given way to a regional jet aircraft serving only Houston’s Intercontinental Airport. I suppose that connection shouldn’t be a surprise given the huge growth in the oil & gas industry in Eastern New Mexico, but I was really shocked. The other sad, but not unexpected fact in this entire turn of events is that the air service to Hobbs is no longer being provided by Mesa Air.
Leaving Hobbs, we found our way through the oil & gas fields between there and Artesia, NM. Where once there were hundreds of gas and oil wells, now there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of them. I couldn’t resist stopping to photograph the silhouette of a well against the late evening sun. While I would love to share the smell associated with this particular location, that technology is still a few years away. Sorry!
After stopping for a night’s rest in Artesia, we were on our way west again, stopping long enough to admire the scenery from an overlook as we descended out of the Sacramento Mountains above Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Our next intended stop was Las Cruces, NM, where we planned lunch with a couple from Kathy’s college days. Earlene and Glenn have a fantastic southwestern-styled home overlooking a beautiful golf course, the city of Las Cruces, and the Organ Mountains. Over lunch on their back porch we watched the birds come and go from their feeders and enjoyed some nice conversation. Following lunch, Glenn had a few questions about photography, so I retrieved my camera and a telephoto lens from the truck to help provide an answer. While there, I snapped a few shots of the house finches and doves that are both prevalent around the feeders, and managed to get my first ever look at and picture of a Pyrrhuloxia, aka Desert Cardinal, a bird that has been high on my bucket list for a while.
After saying farewell to our friends, we continued westward into Arizona to rest for the night before continuing on into California on Sunday.
Up next – Joshua Tree National Park