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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Turning Eastward

On Sunday we took out the Arizona map to figure out our next move. We decided that to go farther West would entail quite a distance past Flagstaff and then significantly south to avoid the whole Phoenix debacle. Trying to cover such a large area would involve more time and money than we feel we have at our disposal. So we made the decision to take our time and a scenic route and work our way back to Socorro, NM and make a visit to the Bosque del Apache, which we love. That night I happened to see that our friends, Gloria and Bud, were planning a Monday excursion to the Bosque. We intended to call them from Socorro and ask them to join us for dinner there on Tuesday. Since the Bosque is in the next town, San Antonio, I face-booked and called to ask them to postpone their trip and come down on Tues and do the refuge with us and have dinner with us. Gloria suggested that we return to Belen, 40 miles north of Socorro and use it as our base of operations. Then we could all go together on Tuesday, we could spend another night with them and leave fresh on Wednesday. And so it was decided--the day's trip would be Holbrook, Az to Belen, NM.

Our plan had been a bit up in the air as to how to leave Holbrook --we'd thought of going West to Globe and then swinging widely Southeast through Safford, Az and back Northeastward to Socorro. Since we were now adding 40 miles to the day and also since we wanted to take a scenic back road route we decided to cut back on the loop as planned. I happened to look in the Arizona travel guide and saw that there was what looked like a nice road through the Ft Apache Indian Reservation.

Taking a quick jaunt on Rt 66 in Holbrook to check out the historic WigWam Motel, we were surprised to see it is still operational! Each WigWam that wasn't rented out has a vintage car parked beside it. In the future we may just check out the cost of a room for the night--it's pretty unique.

We then took Rt 77 south out of Holbrook to Snowflake--a stretch of open road with no towns for 26 miles. Unfortunately, the road is being widened and otherwise improved. I say unfortunately for I love taking back roads and hate to see them become main thoroughfares. I found Snowflake quite impressive--beautiful old-fashioned style street lights from one end of the three mile town to the other. Snowflake flows directly into Taylor, not to be outdone--this town has double-lamped fixtures.( In both these towns, and the next, the lamps have solar panels attached which supply the energy to light them at night!) Then it was on through beautiful woods of the Sitgreaves National Forest, for 19 miles, to ShowLow, which is apparently a card playing--poker? --ploy. The main drag is called the Deuce of Clubs! The area here is not only magnificent forest of stately ponderosa pine and pinon pine, but also a land of lakes and at least one ski area. As a result, the lengthy stretch between ShowLow and Pinetop-Lakeside, is filled with very ritzy walled communities, fancy restaurants, upscale lodges and inns, and expensive shops. Think Stowe multiplied ten times. Seeing this stretch it became clear why Rt 77 is being improved. It was a great relief to enter the Apache Reservation--through a rather impressive stone entrance way, which I was too slow to capture.

We entered at Hon-Dah and it became immediately evident that the Apache are doing much better economically than the Navajo and Zuni within whose reservations we had so recently traveled. One reason is their stewardship of the forest--it is quite selectively cut and the trees are growing tall and straight. Excellent building timbers. We encountered our first snow on the ground in a long time and, though we are glad not to be home with the weather that has been going on, it was actually nice to see it. I'm not sure I really could live here without the changing seasons--or at least without the dramatic change in seasons which we experience in the Northeast.

The pictures show the beauty of the drive and in time we entered a high mountain valley with snow fences and views of the mountain tops with which we shared elevation. What an incredibly beautiful view--like the scene in Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is dancing on top of the world--huge valley with only sky above and mountains all around. This is known as the White Mountains Grassland Area. On we descended into Eagar and then Springerville where we had a quick lunch at the TrailRiders Restaurant--I had some good taco salad and sweet tea and Bill had fajitas. We both downed the chips and salsa whilst waiting for the meal. When we left the restaurant it was snowing!!! The first blowing snow I've felt on my face in over a month!

In a very short while we bid good-bye to Arizona for the last time this year. I love Arizona and hope we will spend more time there next trip. Picking up Rt 60 we continued through Quemado, Omega and Pie Town into Datil where the road opens onto The Plains of San Augustin surrounded by the Datil, Luera, San Mateo , Gallinas and Magdallena Mountains. Spread across this almost 30 mile wide valley are the satellite dishes that make up the Very Large Array or VLA. I thought they looked pretty impressive coming from the East but from this direction you can see them for a much longer time and from a far greater distance. I remember a picture of this arrangement of dishes monitoring sound waves from outer space in my General Science book as a ninth grader in 1956 and in every physical science, general science and earth science text that I used as a teacher. It was really special to finally see them on our first trip in 2008 and they still excite me now.

We continued through the Cibola National Forest and Magdalena and into Socorro. Stopped at a Smith's grocery and called Gloria to see if she needed anything. Picked up I-25 north to Belen and the winds picked up like mad--the dust storms blocked the view entirely and the tumbleweeds went mad. When I saw the sign Belen--the Hub of Enchantment--I laughed and said I've got to kid Gloria and Bud that this is what we want to give up ice and snow for--blinding windstorms in the hub of ENCHANTMENT! LOL

Despite New Mexico's best efforts we held the road and arrived at their home at 4:02 in 61 degree weather! Gloria had offered, once more, her washer and dryer and this time I took advantage and started the wash almost immediately. The wind had torn their storm door off the house and they agreed that this was a bit much. We also said that the Bosque would be out if the weather continued. Around sixish friends of theirs, Sue and Russ, arrived for dinner. The men bonded in the living room while we ladies retired to Gloria's workroom to look at the scrapbooks she is doing for her grand-daughters, Lisa and Gia. Sue also scraps so it was really fun and it is always great to pick up pointers for our own work. The albums are beautiful and both Sue and I are really impressed by Gloria's creative use of patterned paper. Russ came in and said what it this--ladies' gabfest? and I said sure, you guys are having a buddy bull session!

Dinner was really nice--homemade chili and fresh baked rolls to die for. Gloria made a coconut cream pie the consistency of which was off, making the flavor different though not unpleasant. Poor Gloria was so upset but I really believe that the change in pressure caused by that awful wind was the culprit. She admitted that there have been times that her bread hasn't risen as it should etc and altitude and barometric pressure definitely plays a role in that. Conversation was all over the map and was fun and interesting. All in all a true social success. We truly liked Sue and Russ and they love the relocation from California as much as Bud and Gloria love the move from New Hampshire.

Got to be earlier than the last time--which Gloria told me was more like midnight than 10ish! LOL Time is so insignificant when you are having fun!

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