Our next target was Carlsbad in southern New Mexico. To get there, we drove through Cloudcroft, a small resort town I remembered hearing about when I was a teen in Texas. It was the only place within striking distance where you could ski. Turns out it was a pretty puny mountain with one short chairlift, but hey, in this area, you take what you can get.
On the other side of the small town at the peak, we drove for miles alongside a beautiful meadow between the hills.
Eventually the landscape changed to flat, featureless scrub, and as we got closer to Carlsbad, it became clear this was serious oil and gas country. We could even smell it inside the coach.
The Carlsbad KOA was in a lovely rural setting, next door to an orchard, no buildings in sight. The RV sites were spacious and surrounded by large grassy patches. As we walked into the office, we nearly tripped over several unafraid rabbits nibbling the grass and hopping around near a lovely koi pond. It looked very pleasant and Mike even suggested the possibility of staying an extra night.
When Peggy, the office clerk, told us our site was right across from the pool, I expressed some concern; we like it quiet. But she assured us there was never any noise at the pool and she didn't seem amenable to a change, so we went to our site and settled down for a nice quiet evening.
The next day, we set off to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I was surprised that it was an hour's drive away; I guess I didn't completely research the RV park's remote location, not really near the town of Carlsbad or the cavern. That morning we went on a ranger-guided tour of a not-open-to-the-public part of the cavern; the tour was just OK. I was struggling with my camera, which was producing disappointing results compared to its past, so Mike and I wasted most of the tour futzing with the camera settings.
In the afternoon we explored on our own in The Big Room, which certainly lives up to its name. Mike was pretty impressed with the sheer size of the cave.
After we were back in camp for a while, we noticed a lot of noise -- yelling and screaming -- outside the coach. We discovered that there were a number of kids around middle-school age at the pool. There were more ominous signs: a large school bus parked at the office, and a large tent on the lawn next to the pool. Further observation revealed that they were also occupying the two nearby cabins and there were at least two dozen of them.
The yelling and screaming continued into the evening as the kids played on the lawn. Mike went over to the office and learned that (a) the kids were from a school for the deaf, so their noise-awareness was limited; and (b) they were staying that night and also the next night. I knew that pool would come back to haunt us.
The noise went on until around 9:45 p.m. when Mike went over and asked them to pipe down. He looked for someone in charge and the only adults seemed quite young and were deaf themselves, so he had to make his point with gestures.
As we went to bed, we decided that since we'd seen the cave that day, we'd leave the next day even though we were paid up for another night -- we couldn't take another evening like that. Also we'd been struggling with what to do next. Big Bend in Texas was already too hot, and I just couldn't work up any enthusiasm for going north into Colorado. So we decided it was time to turn around and go home.