A Very Spatial Road Trip: Day 5

Sorry for the long delay between the post for day 4 and day 5.  Like most travelogues, not everything goes as smoothly as anticipated and documentation gets overridden by circumstances. Then, we got distracted by the ESRI User’s Conference and then by all the stuff we didn’t get done back home because of the Road Trip and the User’s Conference.  But we’re back at it and have lots more to report!


When you’re planning a trip across country there are a number of important things you plan before you leave.  Then there are the things you just forget, but get sorted out along the way.  And then there are the things you just don’t even realize you’re supposed to ask.  We’ve all seen topographic maps of the US and we’ve seen the little brown bits showing the higher elevations.

(map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

What we didn’t realize is exactly how much those elevations matter.  The highest point in West Virginia is Spruce Knob at 4,863 ft.  Most of our day to day existence is at the 1,000 to 2,200 foot elevation.  The evening of day 4 we slept at 5,377 ft in Limon, CO.  Altitude sickness begins around 5,000 ft, depending on the person.  It turns out Frank happens to be one of those people, unfortunately.  Our original route was supposed to head further up the mountains ultimately hitting over 9,000 feet in Brian Head UT.   We decided for medical reasons to err on the side of caution and head to lower lands, which means heading due South.

Plan A had to move South to Albuquerque NM and see what the University of New Mexico had to offer.  The drive from Limon CO to Albuquerque NM can’t easily be done via Interstate without going through Denver first, which we didn’t want to do.  Our only choice was to take two lane roads through Colorado into New Mexico.  The drive is just stunningly straight, but utterly gorgeous.  You can see for miles in any direction.  Just after we hit the road, we saw a sign that read, “No Services 75 Miles”.  We’ve never actually traveled anywhere that had nothing for 75 miles… until now.  Colorado state route 71 has a whole lot of amazing scenery, but nowhere if you need to fill up either yourself or your tank.

Eventually we made it to I-25 South toward Sante Fe.  We decided to check elevation numbers and discovered Santa Fe sits at a robust 7.200 foot elevation.  Turns out that 7,000 feet is when the ‘crabbies’ symptom of altitude sickness sets in.  Sure, that’s not an official symptom, but our field tests confirmed it as such.  We started checking the elevation of Albuquerque to discover it was near enough to Limon’s to make no difference.  That’s when we formulated Plan B, which was to drive to Pheonix AZ, which sits at a much more comfortable 1,00 foot elevation.  We drove through Albuquerque, but not before Frank got to fulfill a childhood dream of  taking a left turn at Albuquerque.

A nice little town named Socorro sits a tad over an hour South of Albuquerque.  Socorro isn’t known for a whole lot except for being the home site of the Very Large Array.  The VLA is a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which makes it a prime VerySpatial point of interest.  Housing 27 different radio arrays, the VLA is designed to search for astronomical units, like pulsars, quasars, planets, and stars, among other things.  Unfortunately, Plan B didn’t allow for us to get too far off the beaten path, so we didn’t get to see the array itself.  There are tours available on Saturday, as well as a virtual tour!  We did stop long enough to see the outside of the operations center in Socorro.

Back on the path South, we headed toward La Cruces NM, home of New Mexico State University.  We took a turn West toward Tuscon, AZ.  One interesting thing we discovered in New Mexico is the existence of Homeland Security stops.  On the East Coast, we drive from state to state with nothing between borders besides a slightly more advanced rest area.  However, in at least the South West of the US, there are stops at which all drivers must stop.  Vehicles towing anything get pulled off to another section than cars.  We were waved through with nary a glance, but it is a very different experience.

The drive from Limon Co to Tuscon AZ is all of 13+ hours covering 918 miles.  That’s a long way and a long drive to take in one day.  Plan B had been to make it to Phoenix, but Tuscon was long enough for one day.  We bedded down in Tuscon out near the airport to sleep until our next stop…. in Scottsdale!

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