Have you been thinking that you would like to try a bit of a road trip? Whether you are driving, riding a motorcycle or a scooter, I highly recommend a trip to Roswell. I recently rode this and will describe the routes taken, towns passed and sights along the way. Following the route described, it is a trip of approximately 500 miles there and approx 600 miles on the return. I did the trip in two travel days. If you are doing this on 2 wheels and want to take in the incredible scenery, I recommend taking your time and using 4 travel days. Part I will describe the trip from Tucson to Roswell and part II will discuss the return trip.
I know I have disparaged the use of the interstate in the past. I will continue to use it as little as possible. However, when taking long trips out of Tucson, it can cost you a lot of extra miles and even more extra time if you chose not to use interstate at all. For example, compare the shortest route, which is the one I will describe in Part I, to the first route suggested when you use Google’s “Avoid Highways” option. Avoiding highways is 100 miles and 4 hours longer. As you have probably figured out, if you have read many of my posts, if it means cool roads, I don’t care too much how much further it is, nor how much longer it will take.
On to the journey. I have written about the Arizona section of I-10 in the past and there are some nice places and some interesting sites along the way.This route is best taken mid-week to avoid the many other travelers who use this road. Road quality is good UNTIL you hit San Simon. Suddenly there are pot holes and sections that are very rough, especially if you are on 2 wheels. Fortunately, the rough section only lasts until you reach the states line (about 12 miles) then it become good again.
As mentioned in Riding SoAZ, Part VIII, you pass the ghost town of Steins on the north side of I-10 about 3 miles after crossing the state line. If you have a few minutes, I recommend a quick stop there. 25 miles after crossing into New Mexico, you pass the town of Lordsburg. I enjoy getting off the interstate and actually going through town. Lordsburg has less than 5000 residents, but there is enough here to meet most of your needs. There are several hotels and a few restaurants. I ate at Kranberry’s the last 2 times I stopped for food in Lordsburg and found it to be pretty good.
If you’re not in the need of food or rest, you can continue another 60, mostly flat, mostly straight, miles to the town of Deming, which is another great example of small town America. There are 15k or so residents here, so there are more options in the way of food, fuel and services. As with many other towns bypassed because of “progress,” I recommend taking the Business I-10 route through town and checking out the “real Deming” and maybe stopping by a local restaurant of gift shop and helping out their economy. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, take NM Route 549 (Old Las Cruces Highway) going east. It parallels I-10 for about 35 miles before rejoining the interstate about 25 miles outside of downtown Las Cruces. Road conditions of Rt 549 are average to good.
If you are planning on continuing to Roswell, I suggest taking exit #135, W. Picacho Ave/US-80. Picacho Ave takes across the Rio Grande (There’s a nice little park along the river here as well.) and in to the older downtown area. For those choosing to make this a two-day ride, I would recommend Las Cruces as an excellent stopping point. Las Cruces is the 2nd largest city in NM and has a lot of history and culture. There are numerous hotels and restaurants from which to chose, plus it is a college town, so there is night life to be experienced.
When you’re ready to be on your way, turn north on Main St and follow the signs toward Alamogordo. Main St becomes US-70. As you leave Las Cruces, you can see the highway climbing straight up the side of the San Andres Mountain range. You climb approximately 2000 ft until you reach San Augustine Pass. Pull over and enjoy the view down into the valley. Much of what you can see from here is either part of Fort Bliss or part of White Sands Missile Range. US-70 is divided highway all the way to Alamogordo and road quality is good. Alamogordo’s claim to fame is their proximity to the Trinity Site, home of the world’s first nuclear bomb blast.
It is approximately 35 miles from the top of the pass to the White Sands visitor center. For $3 you drive through this most unique park. If you have a parks pass, it is free, of course. From the park entrance, it is only about 15 miles to Alamogordo.
With a population of almost 40k, Alamogordo is big enough to have a lot going on and plenty of things to see, but still small enough to have a great “small town feel.”The town sits at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains. From here, there are two main routes to cross and get to Roswell on the other side. As you near the north end of town, turn east on Route 82. Road quality is fair to good, but can be treacherous in winter. This takes you 110 miles on a lovely, two-lane mountain road that takes you through the ski village of Cloudcroft, then down to other side to Artesia. Once there, turn north and follow either Highway 285 or Route 2 and Roswell is only another 40 miles. Be advised, Cloudcroft is over 8000 feet in elevation. Snow is common in winter months and temps, even in summer, are considerably coolers than in the valleys below so dress accordingly.
The more common route to Roswell, from Alamogordo, is via US-70, through Ruidoso. It’s only 40 miles to Ruidoso and the road is 4 lane highway and is in very good condition. Prior to getting to Ruidoso, you enter the Mescalero Apache Reservation and pass through the tiny village of Mescalero. Mescalero is situated at about 6600 feet elevation. You’ll climb just a bit more before gradually starting down and into Ruidoso. Be advised, most of the food lodging and retail in Ruidoso is NOT on US-70. Turn west on Sudderth Dr once in town to find a lot more stuff. Ruidoso’s claim to fame is that their horse racing track is home to the Worlds Richest Quarter Horse Race.
Leaving Ruidoso, it is 70 only miles to Roswell. The road continues to be four lane and is in very good condition. US-70 follows the Hondo River and the scenery through here is nothing short of spectacular. I don’t recall and gas stations but there are several tiny villages (Glencoe, San Patricio, Hondo, Arabella, Tinnie and Picacho) and quite a few little fruit stands (open seasonally) and gift shops along the way. Slow down and enjoy this amazing drive. One of my favorite places to stop along here is the Ruidoso Trading Post, best known and “Fox Cave.”
Once you leave the mountains, you come into some wide-open, rolling ranch land. One can frequently see small herds of antelope along the side of the road. You come into Roswell on 2nd St. Most of the food and lodging is located to the north of 2nd St. When you come to Main St, the “world famous” UFO Museum and Research Center will bbbe on yuuur right. (Sorry, I can’t even type that without laughing.)
Roswell is a neat little town, even without all the UFO stuff. It home home to the NM Military Institute with many notable alumni like Dallas CowboyRoger Staubach, actor Owen Wilson and ABC Newsman Sam Donaldson. The Pecos River flows along the east side of town. There are still many family farms in the area and Roswell still has that small town America feel.
According to Google Maps, it is 466 miles between Tucson and Roswell, but if you got off the road at all to sight-see you’re have probably logged in 500 miles. This is a great ride/drive with lots of sights and even more American history. In Part II, I will cover different route back to Tucson.