Sunday, June 19, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns & the Super 8 Saga

On our drive from Amarillo, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico on Wednesday afternoon, the landscape didn't change much, but there was at least a sprinkling of interesting things to see.  For instance… oil rigs everywhere!  And cows!  We still felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere, and I kept wondering who owned all those cows and where did they live.  We rarely saw a house!  When we did see a house, then I wondered where in the world those people shopped!
Texas Oil Rig
This sign at a used car dealership caught Scott's attention - notice the gun!

We finally arrived in Carlsbad for our visit to Carlsbad Caverns.  I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about this hotel.  Last night I made the mistake of looking at the reviews on tripadvisor.com.  I saw words like “infestation” and “theft.”  I don’t know why I looked – we had already booked a room.  After reading the reviews, we decided to call Travelocity to see what the cancellation policy was for this specific reservation.  You guessed it… nonrefundable!  So we decided to just wait and see for ourselves when we got there.  After all, we would only be there overnight, right?  We were pathetic as we drove into the town.  You would have thought we were driving to our doom!  We were all on the edge of our seats just waiting for the axe to drop!  And I have to admit that I was sending up some heavy-duty prayers that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it was going to be.

As we drove into the town, we were seeing some newer hotels and thought it wouldn’t be so bad after all.  I kept waiting for the lady on our navigation system to say, “You have arrived.”  She never did.  We drove right on past those newer hotels.  Five minutes later, the lady on our navigation system decided to speak up to tell us we had arrived at our destination.  I wanted to throw her out the window!  We drove into the parking lot and decided to do a “drive-by” before we checked in.  As you can see from the photo below of the back of the hotel, it was not looking good.   Nobody really said a word... we just drove on out of the parking lot toward the Carlsbad Visitor Center to get information about the evening bat flight at Carlsbad Caverns.  I guess we thought we would delay the inevitable for a bit longer.
Anybody need a sink?
The ranger at the visitor center asked if we had just arrived, and then she started filling us in on what had been happening at the park over the past few days.  On Monday afternoon, a fire broke out in the national park and forced them to close down the caverns for three days.  Fortunately for us, when we arrived on Thursday afternoon the park was re-opening for the night bat flight that evening.  Bolstered by that piece of good news, we decided to head back to the hotel to officially check in.  On a side note, notice the temperature on this sign.
This was at 4:00 PM.
So armed with a flashlight in my purse, we headed to the front desk to check in.  We then went on to the room before taking any luggage inside so I could check out the “infestation” situation.  On advice from my mom-in-law, I pulled out my flashlight.  Scott shut the curtains, the girls turned off the lights, and then the girls and I tore into the bedding like women on a mission searching for anything that moved or any shred of evidence of a bug of any shape, color, or size.  Bed number one... under the bedspread, under the blanket, under two sheets, under the mattress pad, at the foot of the bed, I found a toothpick.  Yes, gross!  But at least it wasn't crawling.  I moved on to bed number two.  One pillowcase and one sheet had a dirty spot but, once again, no moving critters.  So while I put the beds back together, Scott and the girls headed down for a luggage cart to start unloading the van.

Our room was on the third floor of a three story hotel, and we have two month's worth of luggage to bring inside.  And there were no luggage carts.  Why, you ask, would there be no luggage carts?  Well, a hotel doesn't really need luggage carts IF THEY DON'T HAVE AN ELEVATOR! We had originally thought we would just leave most of our belongings in the van just in case there really was a bed bug issue that I missed with my trusty flashlight, but a couple of the reviews mentioned that their cars had been broken into, and there was a very visible sign in the parking lot that warned that the hotel was not responsible for valuables stolen from your car.  So guess what happens next.  Two months worth of luggage lugged upstairs piece by piece by piece.  Looking on the bright side of that... at least I got some exercise.

Then the process began!  After finding out about the possible "infestation" issue, we stopped off to buy some heavy duty, extra large, contractor grade garbage bags.  Every single item that came into the room was bagged.  If Emilee could have stuck herself inside one of those garbage sacks, she would have!  After bug-proofing our luggage, we were off to see the bat flight! 

When we got the park gate, the ranger told us we had to go directly to the outdoor theater at the top of the mountain.  Because the grounds were still hot, we couldn't stop on the road or pull into any of the stop-offs, which they had actually blocked off.  Since we had never been to Carlsbad Caverns before, we didn't know what we expected to see, but it certainly wasn't what we saw.  On our drive up the mountain, most of the surrounding landscape was black.  When we arrived at the top you could see that the firefighters had concentrated their effort on keeping the structures from burning down, and there were still firefighters working to make sure that hotspots didn't cause the fire to start back up in the area.  Even though we didn't see any active fire where we were, they told us it was only 60% contained at that time and that more than 30,000 acres inside the park had burned. 
Burned landscape in Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Shortly after we arrived at the amphitheater, the ranger began the bat flight program.  She started by telling us that the bats were pretty predictable... they fly out every evening at sunset to feed, and they eat half their body weight in moths every night.  Then she proceeded to tell us that they had not flown out of the cave since the fire that began on Monday, so they just didn't know what to expect.  They were hoping that the bats would be hungry enough to leave the cave that night since they had been hibernating for the past two nights, but they just didn't know what was going to happen.  Then at about 8:00, the first bat made an appearance at the opening of the cave.  A couple of minutes later, a steady stream of bats made their way out into the sky.  We watched them fly out for about 20 minutes, and when we left, they were still flying out.  There were hundreds of them!  Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures during the bat flight.  There were actually two police officers standing by to give a citation to anybody who tried.  Wouldn't want that as a souvenir!
Cave opening where bats fly out every evening to feed.
Ready to watch some bats leave the cave!
Then it was time for the inevitable!  Back to the Super 8 for bedtime.  Since before we checked in, Scott kept telling me that he was more than willing to lose the money on this hotel and find somewhere else to stay if we were uncomfortable and would not be able to relax.  I kept telling him we would be fine.  After all, it was only one night, and nothing had skittered across the floor... or the bed... yet.  Anyway, once he realized we weren't changing hotels, I guess he thought he could convince us that it really wasn't that bad, so he kept telling us just that.  Then I looked over at him in his pajamas.  The boy had his pajama pants tucked into his socks, his shirt tucked into his pants, and his sleeves pulled down over his hands.  And he was laying ON TOP of the blankets.  Not that bad, huh?  Then I looked over at Emilee who looked pretty much the same as Scott except she also had on a hoodie with the hood tied so tight around her head that the only thing you could see was her eyes and the top half of her nose.  Then Ashlee and I followed their lead.  We all slept covered almost head to toe, on top of the blankets (I had already stripped the bedspreads off and picked up new sheets from the front desk).  Nobody was going under the covers that night!  I would love to be able to show you pictures of my family the way they looked at bedtime that night, but none of them will let me post those snapshots.  Needless to say, we were up and out of there bright and early the next morning!  And although it wasn't the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in, it definitely provided some entertainment and some funny memories to look back on and laugh at!  And I won't be reading anymore hotel reviews before we arrive at any of our other stops... this one wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't already had a preconceived notion.  Makes for a good teachable moment for the kids... and for myself!

Stay tuned for part two of our tours inside the cave.  Some of the most amazing things we have ever seen!  Although the pictures don't do it justice, I'll post lots of them.  This will definitely be one of our favorite stops!

1 comment:

  1. You have GOT to post pictures of you all in the hotel!!! hahahahahaha!! My family had one of those hotel moments in Maine one time. We didn't make a reservation and were stuck with a roach-motel, literally. It was pretty traumatic and ensured that we booked ahead every time for then on!

    How neat about the bats! : )