This stretch of US 82 is a 110-mile microcosm of New Mexico, from the hot desert floor to cool mountains. The route begins in Artesia, a small town with a renovated main street and a visible pride in its work ethic, then climbs through rolling farmlands into the Sacramento Mountains, and down again, to the military town of Alamogordo, and the dunes of White Sands.
The most impressive site you’ll find as you roll through downtown Artesia, New Mexico is this huge monument to the region’s oil and gas workers. It’s called “The Derrick Floor”, and was dedicated in 2004. The life-sized monument includes a 34 foot high drilling rig, complete with four larger-than-life men working the equipment. Surrounding the rig is a water fountain.
Several other sculptures surround the central figures. (To find out why these men appear to be discussing a big red mug, you’ll have to visit my other website, www.bigredmug.com.)
Once you leave Artesia, US 82 goes from flat to slightly rolling and curvy. The road stretches out for miles ahead of you.
Eventually, those rolling hills turn into mountains, and you’re driving through an incredibly green valley, full of farms and windmills. As I passed through this area, I was witnessing a fantastic New Mexico sunset (even though you can’t tell from this picture).
As you drive through the farmlands, you’ll find a good view at a roadside turnoff. There’s also a cross planted here, overlooking the valley. While the sun was providing a spectacular scene for my eyes, it wasn’t for my camera, and these pictures simply don’t do it justice.
You’ll pass many windmills along this road, and almost every other rural road in New Mexico. A few are falling apart, or have been replaced by solar panels, but most are still spinning away, pumping water.
This is the best place I found to photograph the sunset. The crosses are on a hillside, across from the Mayhill Baptist Church, in the tiny town of Mayhill. The pink and orange clouds are just a sample of the colors that could be seen everywhere–which is typical of New Mexico sunsets.
High in the mountains, but less than 20 miles from the desert floor of Alamogordo, you’ll find the village of Cloudcroft. There’s still a wild west feel in the small downtown, which is just a couple of blocks north of the highway. By the time I arrived, the sky was almost dark and the old Cloudcroft Motel was the only business open.
[tmt_info =””]There are some great hiking trails through the forest around Cloudcroft, including one that gives you a view of the town’s picturesque railroad trestle. This website has some details, but isn’t complete. (There’s also a viewpoint from US 82 that should allow you to see the trestle–I can’t confirm it since it was dark by the time I arrived.)[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2006.