When we drive long distances across the country in our house, we generally stick to the interstates. Except for construction delays, the roads are more reliably maintained, well marked and more easy to pass on. But when we study the route possibilities for the next day, sometimes the interstates do not provide the most direct route. When you only get 9mpg, those extra miles can add up to $$$. Side roads are often slow when you have to go through small towns, but New Mexico is so lightly populated, that's generally not an issue. As midwesterners we have been tripped up by elevation changes more than once, so we studied the map for mountain passes. New Mexico is generally flat with long slow inclines and declines, but every so often you come to a group of mountains that look like some giant child threw them down from the heavens.
So we decided to leave the interstate and take the shortest route that avoided the mountain clusters. We passed huge orchards of pistachio tress. We spent most of the day driving around the huge chunk of land that is the White Sands Missile Base. This is where the first atomic bomb was exploded. The White Sands National Monument is located at the southern end. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world's largest gypsum dune field. For people like us who have just left piles of snow, it didn't look all the appealing, but it is a unique spot geologically.
The drive this year has been blessedly uneventful and after a few more hours tomorrow, we should be in Tucson where will stop and linger for a while.