Sleep was good but the slow sunrise in the desert was even more of a treat and I’ll watch the sun shine through empty train cars while Caleb puts the tent away. We’ll pull over for our morning walk, something that’s been a part of my day since we had dogs, and is why we still enjoy our evening walks, now without them. Getting out is to the soul what oxygen is to the lungs — refreshing.
We continue east to the Dwarf Car Museum where we take our time outside exploring rusted parts, license plates, and a pet cemetery before going inside to see the cars, more license plates, and toy cars. There are two guys and a cat, that looks like a smoker, watching the shop and they share some of the history and famous visitors that have made their way to this part of the desert.
We stop for more photo opportunities before getting to Biosphere 2, Earth being number 1, where eight people volunteered in the name of science in 1991 to spend two years confined together in an enclosed space representing a rainforest, an ocean with a coral reef, mangroves, a savanna, a fog desert, and a living area with laboratories contained in a little over three acres.
The facility was built to test humans’ ability to live in outer space and they experienced animal deaths, a lack of oxygen, and a food shortage which added to the tension. None of that is felt now as we walk up to the rainforest building that looks like a glass mountain so that the plants have plenty of access to sunlight. The experiments performed here inspired the film Bio-Dome in 1996, which might have made a few kids think about a future in research and preservation, but received terrible reviews.
It would be 24 years until a documentary, Spaceship Earth, was made on the brink of a worldwide quarantine into our homes and grocery stores and out of our routine of mass gatherings and small get togethers. But I’m not thinking about this while I stare into my reflection as I try to capture the beauty of the plants growing against the glass, metal, and rubber that keeps them steamy from their dry biome surroundings.
Looking at the kitchen, I imagine Caleb and me living here and wonder who else we would want to be stuck with cooking us dinner every eighth day and gathering enough coffee beans to share a cup every two weeks. The Biospherians went to the doctor every eight weeks for physicals and were able to maintain contact with family via a computer and phone.
There are three large artificial landscapes that make up the Landscape Evolution Observatory, so that scientists can better understand and measure where water goes in the landscape during precipitation and evaporation and how better to move this valuable resource to offset the negative effects of droughts and shortages in the future.
It’s one thing to see this place, but I can’t look at the rooms as individuals and not think about all the work it takes to keep this biosphere running properly — temperature alarms, goats on the loose, taking seed inventory, cleaning the office, measuring coral health, etc. every day. The tour is too short, but that usually seems the case when you don’t want something to end or know there’s more to be explored.
I’ve been to Mt Lemmon once before and remember the magic its elevation brought me as I made my ascent and I wanted to share that with Caleb as we attempted our way into the Coronado National Forest but turned around at the 24 minutes to traverse a five-mile dirt road, one-way, being on limited time for this trip and not knowing how close that road would bring us to hiking the 9,159-foot mountain.
Our route instead will take us to an unknown gift shop for hot jerky, spicy jam, and flavored pistachios before reaching Bowie. Here, we will walk by a boarded up Skeet’s Tavern, the charred remains of a house, and the empty, overgrown tennis courts at the high school before we explore the abandoned basement of The Teepee, which used to serve lunch and offer karaoke. Now, it would make a great backdrop for a horror film.
We enter New Mexico and are greeted with a palm tree wearing a bra and warning signs of what to do in a dust storm — swerve all over the road, speed up and hit the brakes a lot, remove seatbelt, and enter full panic mode — though that might just be the most severe case of dyslexia or disobedience, so you should probably read the signs for yourself the next time you’re in The Land of Enchantment.
But we don’t stop there. We drive through and reach Texas at 730pm as I start to get tired after a 500-mile day and look for a place to sleep. I think I’ve found a state park but the gate is closed and the highway closer, so Caleb will drive us to a rest stop an hour away and set up our bed in the car after not finding a smooth enough surface for the tent. I’ll get in a nice walk while he does this and he’ll join me before we climb in for the night.