I set off from my hotel in Van Horn, Texas, an hour later than planned. It had been a record day for PROtastic with 147 orders so I organised some freight from my factory in China to ensure I don’t run out of stock before Christmas.
Some people have surreal experiences now and again. A day in my life feels surreal most of the time and today was no exception…
EL PASO, TX
Although a condition of me booking this trip laid down by ‘er indoors was that I’d promise not to go into Mexico, as I drove through El Paso it looked so close. I could practically spit over the border! So, I decided to make a little detour from the highway to go and see Trump’s ‘wall’ at first hand. I found a road that ran right next to the wall and put it into the sat nav.
I was driving listening the loud music as usual, and today’s choice was the first classic Stone Roses album.
At a bend in the road I saw a lay-by with a Government Border Protection vehicle parked up. I pulled alongside the stern looking driver and he stared at me then wound his window down. I couldn’t believe it, and I don’t think he could either. He was playing ‘Fool’s Gold’ by the Stone Roses… and so was I in my car! Talk about ice-breaker. He asked me where I was from and when I told him Manchester he jumped out of his car and came to shake my hand to thank me for the music, and for being America’s ally in wars!?
He said I could take photos of anything except himself or government property. So I snapped away around the wall and chatted about music and government conspiracies with a Stone Roses loving Border Guard. Weird.
As I was about to leave, I pointed at the large gate in front of us and joked that he should open it and let me have a selfie in Mexico. My jaw dropped as he reached for keys, released a padlock and pushed the gate open. “Off you go” he said, with his gun pointing in my direction. I got a selfie, thanked him and went on my way totally perplexed.
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, NEW MEXICO
I was heading to White Sands National Park, but got over excited and followed signs for White Sands Missile Range by mistake. It’s a simple mistake to make, at White Sands National Park you can sledge in the desert; while at White Sands Missile Range they test atomic bombs.
After driving for 90 minutes without seeing much, the road abruptly ended with an army check point. I sheepishly drove up to it and when asked what my business was, I told the soldier I was here to go sledging. He immediately realised my mistake and burst out laughing. He explained that only army personnel can get inside the Missile Range, but as I’d come so far if I give him my passport and 5 minutes to run some security checks he’d let me in to see the ‘missile park exhibit’. I waited patiently, his colleague returned with a security pass and briefed me that I could only take photos of exhibits and which direction I was not to take any photos in.
WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK, NEW MEXICO
I was in my element taking photos of nuclear bombs, but I was on a strict time schedule and wanted to get to the National Park before sunset, which was about an hour away. On my way out the soldier advised me to check I had at least half a tank of fuel and there weren’t any gas stations within White Sands and the nearest was an hours drive away. He said I should rush to catch sunset, so I set off on a long straight road and set the cruise control at 110mph!
This time I got the right location, paid my entrance fee then drove deep into the dunes. The sand here is unusual in that it’s bright white and made from gypsum, the material plaster board is made from. It’s not powdery as I expected and feels like normal sand. I stood and watched an amazing sunset over the mountain range, as a family sledged on the dune next to me. As soon as the sun had gone it was like someone had turned off the lights and the park was plunged into blackness.
Knowing my track record for getting locked in places, I knew the park gates were locked at 18h00 so I made sure I was out early and back on the road to Truth or Consequences.
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO
I rolled into town and my hotel for the night around 20h00, a couple of hours later than planned. It had been a long drive today and I walked into reception wearily. The owner of the hotel greeted me, I recognised his accent and asked where he was from. Rochdale, about 5 miles from where I live. A surreal end to a surreal day!
He said he was 70 years old and bought the hotel 10 years ago as he was positive that Virgin Galactic would have commercial space flights leaving from the nearby Spaceport very soon and his hotel would then be full. Currently though, it was very quiet and I look forward to exploring the town tomorrow…