After I left San Angelo, TX I continued west. This was actually my first time exploring the west besides a couple of times in California. Once you get further in West Texas the terrain definitely changes. You slowly start seeing the Chihuahuan Desert form. You drive for hours through the oil fields with thousands of oil wells pumping. Then you finally cross into New Mexico and eventually you come to one of America's great underground wonders: Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
In 1898, a teen named Jim White explored the limestone caverns and named many of the features such as the Big Room, King's Palace, and Fairyland. In 1923 it became a national monument and in 1930 it was declared a national park.
I found the online information about times to be confusing. If you are hiking down the long entrance you have to begin by 3:30 PM, if you are taking the elevators down then you have until 5:00 PM, and if want to see the bats then there is a presentation at 8 PM. The times may change so I suggest calling. Good said they were closed, but that was inaccurate and I wasted a day waiting around because I didn't call.
The largest and most beautiful portions of the cave have an easy to navigate path fit for people of almost any ability. It is wheelchair friendly and I watched a lady on crutches explore as well. If you stay until dusk you can see thousands of bats fly out for their nightly dinners. I did not catch it this time, but I'm told it is an impressive site.
Carlsbad has had a massive oil boom over the last decade and their hotels are full or overpriced so I do not recommend staying near the caverns. Instead you can continue about an hour away and end up in Roswell, NM.
Roswell may be the quirkiest cities in America. After a UFO was spotted in 1947 and legends and stories spread of little green men many made their way to Roswell to explore the town and the town embraced. Making for a economic boost alien art and souvenirs are found throughout the town. I decided to stop at the International UFO Museum and go for a tour. I expected a small, cheesy museum with no visitors, but I found a medium, cheesy museum packed with people from around the world. Along with a timeline and eyewitness reports of the 1947 crash there are props from movies, ancient alien tales, and sightings from around the world. I was also pleased to meet Thomas J Carey, co-author of Witness to Roswell and Children of Roswell.
If you make it to Roswell I recommend the Hampton Inn and Suites in town.