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DAY 6: El Paso to Joshua Tree, 564 miles 

This rock looks like Phil Spector

White Sands National Monument, MoonGate, New Mexico (forever.) 

We wake up at the gas station a little cranky and a little terrified. The air is cold and crisp and all we can see for miles are billboards, military signage, and scrub. We drive down the highway to White Sands National Monument, and that’s when things get cool. The park is like a lunar landscape-eerie white dunes rising high as far as the eye can see, and purple mountains miles away on the horizon. Everything is a shade of pale, from the spiky cactusy flowers that resemble Tim Burton christmas trees to the gold leaves that cling to brittle white branches on the side of the highest dunes. The sand is frosted with sparkling white snow, and it’s easy to wander off into the park and get completely enveloped in whiteness. After stumbling around the sand for a few hours in the crisp cold air, we drive starving to the nearest town, a lunar outpost surrounded by mountains and gas stations with an establishment called the Moongate Cafe, where we slurp coffee and eat steaming hot breakfast quesadillas and beans amid sparkly tinsel and friendly locals who assure me I can handle the hot salsa. 

Today, we drive through epic New Mexico landscapes, traversing crazy terrain and watching dust storms kick up near the mountains. Then the skies crack open and we drive into the dark in a crazy rainstorm, crossing into Arizona as the wind shoves the car from side to side and we’re almost blinded by rain. Note-if you want to feed two people in Phoenix, stop at a Logan’s Roadhouse, where even a salad comes with unlimited peanuts and buttery buns. But we’re dead set on the desert, and we stop at Safeway to pick up chili beans, rice, a baguette, eggs, olives, hot sauce, avocados, tomatoes and beer-provisions. The nighttime highway gets windier and scarier as the storm kicks up and we drive past overturned trucks and cars pulled to the side, hazards flashing. But we make it through the storm and at 3 in the morning, we’re pitching a tent in the howling wind in Joshua Tree National Park. 

 

White Sands National Monument 

White Sands National Monument

Waking up in the friendliest place on earth…

White Sands National Monument

Waking up in the friendliest place on earth… Can be a little terrifying.

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

Moongate Cafe, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Scary storm, cool flag

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