Monday, August 31, 2009

RV Ranch, Burleson, TX

We spent two nights in Odessa. Ted was able to shoot at the Permian Basin Gun Club and I got caught up on odds and ends around here. We went to Mass Saturday evening and to Texas Roadhouse for dinner afterwards.

On Sunday we drove about 325 miles to Burleson, TX. We will be here for 8 nights. Today I found a salon and got a manicure, pedicure and a few other maintenance things done. However, I'll leave my hair color and cut to Brenda when I get home next week. Ted changed the light bulb in his truck tail light and that finished his jobs around here. He switched the bedroom and living area lights since we use the bedroom one all the time and never use the one over the couch. He finally found a 110 receptacle cover for the outside in Albuquerque. He changed that out and caulked it all. And our vent was replaced in Santa Fe so we're all put back together. These are all minor but you have to stay on top of such things. Our next stop will be Rayford, the campground near our house.

I looked back to see how we did with the blueprint that we had pulled together before leaving. The first change was Sikeston, MO instead of Dickson, TN. We just decided to drive a different route. We added the side trip to Elyria, OH for Ted's nephew's funeral, something we certainly never dreamed we would have to do. We stayed in Garryowen instead of Harding in Montana and Mancos instead of Durango in Colorado. We skipped Carlsbad, NM and Alpine, TX and went to Las Cruces, NM instead. This had to do with driving routes again. We stayed pretty much on the path we had set and kept to the timing.

I probably won't have much to post this week. Ted is going to Fort Worth tomorrow and Dallas on Wednesday to make business calls. By Thursday the Texas Boomers will start arriving. They said 29 rigs are coming in. Monday we'll leave for Rayford to empty out and clean the rig. It will probably be put away until December when we plan to attend the Texas Boomers Christmas Rally. But you never know ........

Friday, August 28, 2009

El Paso - 60 Plus Years Later

Wednesday morning we went to the Farmer’s market in downtown Las Cruces before heading out for Alamogordo which means Fat Cottonwood in Spanish. It was another short ride and we were set up just north of town by lunchtime. The campground owners told us to drive three miles north to the Eagle Ranch to take a tour of the pistachio groves. So we had a bite to eat and did just that.

Most pistachios are grown in Iraq and Iran with California being the biggest producer in the U.S. They are also grown in Arizona and here in New Mexico but on a much smaller scale. This ranch has 85 acres planted with 12,000 trees. It was a good time to take the tour because they are getting ready to harvest.

Trees are shaken and the nuts fall onto a conveyor belt, are packed into wooden crates then put in cold storage. They will keep for one year so they have product to work with until the next harvest. We were taken building to building to see the various machines that clean, remove the outer shell, sort, roast, flavor, package, ship, etc.

They also have vineyards and after the tour and many nut/candy/cookie samples we were given five wine samples. We bought a pound bag of roasted, salted nuts and a bottle of wine.

The campground owners also told us to drive to Cloudcroft up in the mountains. So when we left the grove, we did just that. Route 82 is the road we planned on taking towards Carlsbad. The first 16 miles was a 6% grade that rose almost 5000 feet from the 4000 we were at in Alamogordo to 9000 feet in Cloudcroft. It was a narrow, twisting road with no guardrail at times and a tunnel. We were glad we went with just the truck because we knew we had to re-evaluate our route.

We asked around and some said we could do it, others said they wouldn’t and offered a couple alternate routes. We turned to the Trucker’s Atlas and the Mountain Directory. The atlas did not show it as a truck route. Going any other way is a long way around so if it was suitable for trucks they would certainly use it. The Mountain Directory had a strong advisory on it. To be on the safe side, we decided to bypass Carlsbad this trip and just head south to El Paso, pick up I-10 then I-20 and head to Burleson.

With that settled, Thursday morning we drove to White Sands National Monument. We took in the film at the visitors’ center, rented a sledding disk and drove into the park. The “sand” is actually gypsum. Mountain runoff moving across gypsum rich rocks collects in Lake Lucero at the southwest end of the Tularosa Basin. With no river to drain the water, it evaporates and leaves gypsum crystals that are broken down by the elements. The strong southwest winds break the crystals apart and blows them into the dunes which appear to be white sand or even snow! The amazing thing is the dunes never grow beyond the area they are in. They can shift up to 30 feet a year but the area never increases.

We felt as if we were driving after a snowstorm. You can see where the plow has gone through to clear the road.

We drove to the picnic area at the end so we could sled on the hills.

It is quite a climb to the top but such fun to slide down. How great it would be to bring the grandkids for a picnic and a day of sledding! After several climbs we were pooped so we drove to a boardwalk and took it out into the dunes.

We saw a whiptail lizard that had a turquoise head and tail with a white body, his protection on the white gypsum. A volunteer gave a program and we also learned that German Air Force training goes on in Alamogordo and there is a German compound there much like the American compounds our friends in The Woodlands live in when they go overseas for the oil companies. We then understood why they were advertising an Oktoberfest in town in September.

We came home for lunch and then headed back into town and browsed through some stores. We are still looking for new recliners for the RV but stores never stock pairs, only one of each. I guess we’ll order a pair of Lazy Boy Pinnacles from Moore Furniture in Conroe when we return.

On Friday we drove 85 miles south to El Paso, TX. My parents lived near Corona, NM when I was conceived and then subsequently moved to El Paso. My mother returned to Cincinnati in October and I was born in Cincinnati. On December 2, 1945, (according to my baby book) I took my first plane trip on American Airlines - Cincinnati to El Paso. We lived there until November, 1946 when we returned to Cincinnati. Except for changing planes in Dallas in 1985 on our first trip to Hawaii and changing planes in Houston when I went with the girls to Albuquerque, I had never been back to Texas until we moved there in 2001. I had never been back to El Paso until today. We drove on to Odessa and will be here until Sunday when we'll head to Burleson. It's good to be home ... well almost home.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Las Cruces, New Mexico

On Saturday Ted went to a gun club north of the campground to shoot skeet. He has not had a lot of opportunity to use his golf clubs or to shoot this trip. He said he had a good time then jumped in the pool as soon as he got home.

After dinner, we found church with no problem and instead of a mariachi band we had an accordion and a guitar. We’re getting pretty good at the half English/half Spanish Mass. Afterwards we drove west to the Route 66 casino. Suffice to say we transferred our winnings from Sandia Casino to this one.

Sunday we went to the Balloon Fiesta Museum. Albuquerque’s claim to fame is its yearly Balloon Festival in October. It is in its 37th year. There are lots of displays featuring balloons, baskets, gear to inflate them, the French start to ballooning, etc. Ted and I both used a video game to attempt to land a balloon on a target. I got a 50% score, Ted got 60%. The problem is you can’t steer. You can give propane to go up and vent it to come down but the winds blow it and the skill is in learning at what level the winds will take you where you want to go.

We learned that during WWII the Japanese launched 9,000 balloons carrying bombs that drifted along the jet stream into the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Because the jet stream only worked this way in the winter, the bombs were ineffective because of the damp, wet terrain they fell in. One family that found a bomb during a picnic was killed. The farthest east a balloon was found was Farmington Hills, MI which is a suburb of Detroit. Neither of us had ever heard of this. Thank goodness it wasn’t effective.

The next day we drove to Las Cruces, NM. We arrived safely and got settled in a great park. We have a lovely, spacious spot. We went to do our Wal-Mart run but only to buy meat, produce and bread. I’m determined to empty the pantry. Next door was a Furr’s Buffet. This is a restaurant that we patronize in the Rio Grande Valley. They advertised a senior lunch for $5.79 including drink. Since it was 3 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten yet, we decided to eat before we shopped. I did a couple loads of laundry in the evening and then it started to rain.

There was lots of standing water in the morning so our trip to the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum was in jeopardy. We were told it would be too muddy. So we went to the historic town of Mesilla. This city was the largest stop between San Antonio and San Diego east to west and Santa Fe and Chihuahua north to south along the Camino Real. The $10 million Gadsden Purchase in 1854 from Mexico included this strip and established the southern boundary of the U.S.

San Albino Church was established around 1850 and last year was declared a Basilica. It is the main focus on the plaza. It still operates as a parish church.

The Maurin Building is the oldest documented brick structure in New Mexico. The bricks were made in a kiln belonging to Maurin. Inside, the original hand-hewn vigas support the low, irregular ceiling.

La Posta is a 70 year old restaurant in what was the original post office circa 1850. It was fascinating to roam around inside. We had to decide if we wanted to eat here or at the Double Eagle which was once the Governor’s Residence.

We opted for the Double Eagle so we could see the ballroom dining area with a 24 carat gold leaf ceiling along with crystal chandeliers and antiques. These areas were French in decor and contrasted with the Spanish courtyard with fountain that we sat in.

We also saw the building which was the courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried and convicted of murder. He escaped before he could be hung only to be killed later by Pat Garrett. Also in Mesilla is the former home of Sam and Roy Bean. In 1864 a Marshall’s Deed was filed confiscating the property because of their complicity in the Confederate cause. Roy went on to become the Hanging Judge Roy Bean of Langtry, TX.

Next we went to Veteran’s Park. We were astounded at what we found. A semi-circle wall displays a plaque for every war starting with the Revolutionary War 1775 to the Gulf War 1991. A large plaque explains what led up to the war, the battles and the outcome. It was American History 101 in a few meaningful paragraphs. The first three plaques explained the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Starting with the fourth, the Civil War, everyone who served from the state of New Mexico is listed. If they were killed, captured or are missing, that is also listed. It continues around in the same fashion. WWII and Viet Nam list the most servicemen.

Also in the park is the Bataan Death March Monument. New Mexico had a disproportionate amount of residents victimized by this terrible event in history. Every county in the state had sons affected. The bronze statue of three servicemen helping each other along has lots of footprints in the rear to represent all those that were forced on the march. In front of the statue are actual footprints of some of the survivors. It was a very powerful visit.

Tomorrow we leave for Alamogordo. We’re just hitting the highlights of the area as we make our way to Burleson and then HOME!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Historic Old Route 66 and Jemez Mountain National Scenic Byway

After Ted returned on Thursday we drove Central Avenue east from our campground into Old Town Albuquerque. They say this is the best 18 miles remaining of The Mother Road. It would be neat to take pictures of all the remaining court-style motels with neon signs to do a slideshow of Motels of Route 66.

Old Town is the original part of town that is being maintained for posterity. It has lots of shops, galleries and restaurants. We visited the church of San Felipe de Neri, a church that has been in operation for 300 years. It is in surprisingly good shape.

We had a great conversation with a couple manning the visitor's center before taking a stroll to see some of the sights. This Indian was having his picture taken for a tip. Ted put $1 in his can. I told him to buy low and sell high. I think he liked Ted's dollar better.

We ventured into this plaza where a well was still in use. We eventually went to La Placita for lunch. We sat in what originally had been the courtyard. They have a covering over it now but lots of light filters through. There were many old windows and openings still in place in the walls that were used when it was an open courtyard.

It was a nice afternoon in a lovely, old city.

On Friday we decided to drive the Jemez Scenic Byway. This was an area I visited with Eileen, Marilyn and Rita back in the late 90s on a girls' trip.

We visited the Welcome Center to the Jemez Pueblo. We have determined that a pueblo is like a village. The whole area is the pueblo, not a specific building. I took a picture of the wall in the courtyard. An elderly Native American gentleman was enjoying his lunch and told me what the objects mean. The middle "circle" is the sun and the seven feathers represent the days of the week. The circle to the left is the moon and to the right the stars. The feathers on top are prayers going to heaven. The corn, chilis and melon plants represent what they grow. The hummingbirds and butterflies show the pollination of their crops.

I took pictures of an orno (oven), a mud field house that would have been built as shelter in the fields and the red rocks of the area. We were surprised to see ornos in most every yard in the pueblo.

Our next stop was at the Gilman Tunnels that were blasted from the red rock in the 1920s to allow logging trains access along the rushing Guadalupe River gorge.

We continued on to the Soda Dam. This is a natural dam forming from a calcium carbonate spring. It has been building for centuries but the water keeps making a path through the deposits.

Our next stop was Battleship Rock, a sheer cliff that rises suddenly above the river like the front of a ship.

If we had continued on we would have eventually come to Bandelier National Monument but we had visited that from the east entrance during our stay in Santa Fe. So we turned around and headed back. We stopped to take a picture of the Dragonfly Cottage that the girls and I stayed in during our trip. It looks the same.

We took a turn off and went to Ponderosa to a winery. They advertised award winning Rieslings and that's my favorite wine. We were greeted by a slew of hummingbirds. After a few tastes we bought a bottle of New Mexico Riesling and a bottle of Jemez Blush.

As we approached the city Ted decided to check out the Sandia Resort and Casino. It sits high on a hill and has beautiful buildings, grounds, golf course and a huge casino. We really liked signing up at this place. They gave us cards with $20 credit on each one, two T-shirts and two nice pens. We played for a little over an hour. Ted won $36 and I won $10. I think that keeps us in the black.

It was after 6:00 when we got home so Ted grilled a couple of filets for us for dinner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm Alive and Well in Albuquerque

We arrived in Albuquerque very quickly since we only had 60 miles to travel south on I-25 and west on I-40 to the park we had chosen. We set up under three big trees so we have shade this week while we're here. The weather has been pleasant but the A/C still comes on. I'm comfortable inside and outside so that's a good arrangement.

We made our run to Wal-Mart and this was a Super Wal-Mart so we got the groceries we needed. I'm trying to use up what is in the pantry so I don't have to take it home but I know some of it (perishables) will have to make the trip. My daughter suggested I change the name of my blog to Wal-Marts Across America.

After dinner we went to the pool and hot tub. With the sun down the pool water was a little cool so we opted for the hot tub. There wasn't anyone else around and we had it all to ourselves.

Tuesday we had breakfast provided by the campground in the breakfast room and then Ted prepared for his trip to Denver. He left shortly before noon and had no problems finding the airport, parking or catching his Frontier flight.

After I had breakfast in the breakfast room this morning, I decided to tear the RV apart in Ted's absence. I emptied every drawer, cabinet and closet. I thought I would have a lot to toss out or take back home because we didn't use it, but that turned out not to be the case. I cleaned and then straightened all the contents and everything is in fine order. Every piece of wood in here has been polished and every surface cleaned. Once Ted cleans the rugs it will be like new again.

I also received a box of mail from Eileen so I was busy paying bills online, making calls, writing checks, etc. Kara and I also spent time on the phone with Texas Medigap360 in Round Rock, TX discussing Ted's Medicare Supplement. He and I had gone over the options and selected what we wanted but we also wanted her to ask the questions we would never think to since this is her business. She was satisfied with whom we had chosen and what we had chosen so there were calls and faxes back and forth. We had Ted in Denver and me in Albuquerque on Mountain Time, Russell in Round Rock on Central Time and Kara in Michigan on Eastern Time. Hopefully it's all in place and Ted is set for his 9/1/09 Medicare date. He will be home tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

I did the laundry tonight and realized that using a laudromat would be in my Top Ten Reasons Why I Don't Want to Full Time in the RV. I dislike not being able to set the machines to what I want. You're lucky you get a Start button, not to mention the $2.50-3.50 a load it costs.

I'm starting to sound as if I'm ready to come in off the road. We have less than three weeks and I am starting to get anxious. We have another big trip to Europe that starts 10/6 and I'm already planning in my head what I need to pack for that. When I have a project, I like to get started!

Right now we're looking at the weekend in Albuquerque, on to Alamogordo, Roswell, Carlsbad and then a trek across Texas with an overnight in Abilene before arriving in Burleson, TX for our last week out. We'll see how it goes. It's just a blueprint. In the meantime, we'll "get our kicks on Route 66."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our Days in Santa Fe

After lunch on Friday we went to the Plaza in Santa Fe to take the tram tour. It took us through the Plaza area, out to the Museum District, along Canyon Road and into some residential areas. It was a terrific tour.

We made two stops - the first on Canyon Road. I took two pictures of the sculpture Walks Among the Stars. The blanket looked like material but is actually metal. It was absolutely beautiful.

I couldn't resist taking a few photos of the children sculptures. The three little girls reminded me of Kelly, Kara and Kristin. I loved the expressions on the faces.

The second stop was in the museum district to see the sculpture Journey's End which depicts wagons arriving at the end of the Santa Fe Trail. There was an audio information box and we were able to listen to the story behind the sculpture.

It was around 4:00 when we arrived back at the Plaza. I had read up on the Governor's Palace Museum and learned that all the museums are open for free from 5-8 p.m. every Friday night. Some of the galleries have wine and appetizers too.

We decided to have a drink and an appetizer and then visit the Georgia O'Keeffe (correct spelling) Museum, the Governor's Palace and the New Mexico History Museum. Unfortunately, the O'Keeffe Museum was having a private affair. I visited it last time I was in Santa Fe but would have liked to visit it again. So we took a guided tour with a docent through the 400 year old Governor's Palace and the new History Museum that just opened in May of this year. In no time it was 8 o'clock and time for the museums to close.

On Saturday we headed to Bandelier National Monument but first we stopped in White Rock to stop at the Overlook. There were two waterfalls in the distance and a beautiful view of the valley with the Rio Grande running through it. I told Ted if we followed it we could end up at Pepe's On The River in Mission, TX and have a pitcher of margaritas!

We continued our drive to Bandelier near Los Alamos. This area was the ancestral home of the Pueblo people around 1200 AD. It was a free entrance day for everyone so we didn’t even have to use our Senior Pass to get in. Right after we entered the park, a coyote walked across the road right in front of us and then continued down the side, not in any hurry at all. I forgot to mention that when we were driving from Provo to Moab, a red fox crossed the road in front of us. Neither animal was perturbed by the truck on the road.

We went to see the video at the visitor’s center and then proceeded to take the Main Loop Trail. The ruins of Tyuonyi are visible as a “footprint” of a pueblo village that existed many hundreds of years ago. It was a circular two or three story building of many rooms and would have housed many people.

Next we encountered the Cliff Dwellings. The many alcoves and caves in the canyon walls were used as a basis for housing with vegas to support roofs and adobe bricks to build walls that made stone homes in front of these caves. Ladders were used to get to the higher rooms.

Next was the Long House, an 800 foot stretch of adjoining multi-storied stone homes with hand-carved caves as back rooms. There is a well preserved petroglyph that is being protected by plexiglass. Also visible are the holes that supported the vegas (roof beams) and even hand holds for climbing are visible.

The last half of the trail is beside the creek at the base of the canyon. These two things – water and protected shelter, made this an ideal place to live. No one knows why the people left this area. The people of the present-day Pueblos of San Ildefonso and Chochiti say they are the descendants of those who left the villages in the mid-1500s.

When we were leaving the park we decided to turn onto the road to the campground to see what it was like. Ted stopped suddenly and said “There’s a snake in the road.” He backed up and a 4-5 foot diamond back rattlesnake was sunning itself on the road. The truck disturbed it and by the time I got the camera out, it was slithering into the grass. All I got was less than a foot of its tail. I’ve cropped and enlarged it so the resolution is bad but I wanted everyone to see the rattle on the end of the tail. That was exciting (since I was safely inside the truck!).

We passed three casinos on the way up so we decided to stop at Camel Rock Casino on the way home. We signed up for cards and were given $10 to begin play. Ted went to the video poker and I wandered around trying to find a machine to my liking. I play the penny or nickels slots but that’s a misnomer. If you play 25 lines on a penny slot and select 10x on the bet, you are paying $2.50 for each pull. So I look for ones with 15 lines or less and have a one or two bet key. I also like them to have a “bonus” feature. When certain things appear you get to play a game and win money. It makes gaming a little more interesting.

The casino had some I liked but you could not put your card in to get “points.” I didn’t care because I wasn’t going to play enough to make a difference and I’ll probably never be back. We played for two hours and Ted found me to say he lost the $10 they gave him. At that point I had lost their $10 and my $20. Ted had a voucher for fifteen cents and told me to play it on a penny machine with 15 lines. I found one and ran that fifteen cents up to $5.03. I quit while I was only $15 in the hole and we left.

Sunday we got turned around looking for church and by the time we found it, we would have been 20 minutes late. So we went to a nearby flea market and waited for church two hours later. It was a true flea market, not the ones where they are selling new stuff (mostly made in China). We were looking for a small knick knack for my mantel, something for the yard and a Route 66 hat pin for Sam. We didn't find any of those things.

Church was an adobe structure that had a Mexican look inside. It was their feast day and the statue of Mary, Queen of Peace was carried in by gentlemen dressed in Mexican costume with red cummerbunds. Also present was the "Royal Court." We still don't understand what that is all about. A girl dressed in white with a white mantilla introduced her court. One represented Pueblo Indians, another the Navajo Nation and two princesses dressed in typical Mexican fashion also wearing white mantillas. The men were all introduced as representing different conquistadors. This must be a Mexican custom of some sort. All the music was performed by a mariachi band and sung in Spanish.

We stopped for breakfast at IHOP because by now it was after 1:00 pm. We came home to change clothes and then went to El Rancho de Las Golondrinas (The Ranch of the Swallows). This is an old Spanish ranch and living history museum, sort of a Williamsburg of the southwest. We didn't have a lot of time since they closed at 4 pm. Ted liked it so much that he said he would stop in Santa Fe again just to visit this place.

Tomorrow we move to Albuquerque.