From Swamp to Desert to Mountaintop in Four Days

Volcanic rock formation in the Barrilla Mountains in western Texas. Despite what people told me, I didn’t find driving through Texas boring at all.

Keeping up with travelblogging hasn’t been easy, mostly thanks to the intense travel itself. When you last heard from me, I was in Louisiana. Since then, I visited LIGO, drove all the way across Texas—an experience that was much more interesting than my friends led me to believe. Now I’m in New Mexico, preparing to land in Arizona by evening. In the meantime, I spent a day at McDonald Observatory, and a few hours at the Apache Point Observatory. On the way to Las Cruces, where I am writing these words, I visited the White Sands National Monument (not to be confused with the missile range, which encompasses it).

A peak at the edge of the Guadalupe Mountains in western Texas, near the New Mexico border. I had to restrain myself from stopping every few miles to take photos, it was just that beautiful. (It was also rather desolate: the longest drive I’ve ever taken that passed through no towns, and for much of it, no habitations either.)

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of dining with some astronomy graduate students and recent Ph.D.s from New Mexico State University. In my current life, I rarely interact with scientists (except online, of course), and when I do, most often they aren’t astronomers. Though I’m largely happy to be a nomad and a dilettante, there are moments when the tribal affiliation is desirable, and the ability to speak a common language without an accent. Thank you, everyone who came out last night!

It’s been a very busy week, so I’m glad I’ll be stopping soon, and staying in one place a few days. My hope is to have sufficient time and rest to collect my thoughts, so I can get some book-and-blog writing done. (I haven’t been idle on the writing front, it’s just mostly been notes and Ars Technica articles on halo stars and black widow pulsars.) I’ll write you all a postcard from Tucson. Well, not really. A blog post, maybe.

A barchan dune at White Sands National Monument.


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