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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Sands of Time Flow Too Fast

Thursday March 26, 2015 Clarion Inn Room 203 Lafayette, Louisiana

The AT&T guys and I guess the Verizon wifi guys were here on Monday afternoon working on the lines for the new restaurant that was scheduled to open today. Before they got going on the connections I had four bars and incredibly fast internet. They left and down to one bar and nothing wanted to load. If I did manage to connect and changed pages on a site I was thrown off I finally stopped even trying though I informed the management each time we went out to explore. Last night, after trying to find the problem, a short in the wiring to the router was discovered and repaired and so we are back in business.

I called on Monday and made a reservation with Shelly at Cajun Country Swamp Tours to go out on Lake Martin at 10 on Tuesday. As we drove down Rookery Road we enjoyed the sight of the high rise nest sights with the various pairs of white herons and egrets getting ready to beget the next generation of birds. It is quite a sight thousands of white birds all packed into the trees with more to come and the roseate spoonbills haven’t arrived in force yet.

Continued down to the boat launch to await our guide and the rest of the party. It is always fun to get there early and check out the view and the activity of the various guys going out to fish, the cats looking for a handout, though there was only one and it stayed near the hut since there was a nice dog greeting everyone, Think the cat was leery of it. A young man, probably late 20’s came paddling up on a paddle board. He introduced himself as Derek and asked where we were from. The people here are incredibly friendly and welcoming. He grew up here and said he is used to the Swamp and doesn’t really think about it much but when he meets people like us, he looks at it again and can understand its allure to visitors. I told him I find it incredibly beautiful and peaceful and he admitted he likes its serenity as he paddles.

Soon our guide arrived—Bob—new to us. He said Butch, the owner, is cutting back on going out and Shawn, Butch’s son, had taken a couple of days off. Bob was every bit as enjoyable and knowledgeable. Of course, though Bill and I listened to him, it was with only half an ear. We’ve been out so many times now, that we mostly just drift along, enjoying the sounds and views and wildlife and smells of being outdoors. Today’s group consisted of a couple from San Francisco and their two children, a boy and girl, probably late teens early 20’s. We also awaited a latecomer, Richard, who’d managed to get lost and found himself on the other side of the Lake and so arrived about a half hour late. He did also mention that he’d thought we were going out at 10:30—a bit scattered—but had he not been late we would have missed the large alligator’s catch right next to us of a very large carp. So, glad he didn’t get there by 10.

Today was cloudy and not as warm as it has been in the past. As a result,though we saw a number of alligators they were more frequently swimming in the water, rather than sunning themselves on the logs. Most probably the water was warmer than the air. As usual, many birds, especially cormorants that are really problematic wherever they proliferate. Saw a pair of osprey fly into their aerie, each of them carrying food—one a very long snake. Are the babies already there or are the parents  in the process of incubating the eggs?  Hard to get a shot of them, they are so obscured by the branches of surrounding trees. The most exciting event of the day, other than our hunter at the outset, coming upon two males trying to attract a female.  I never got a look at either of them, since they immediately swam around the trees out of range of us. I don’t think the fisherman who had been sitting and watching the event was too happy when we inadvertently cruised between him and the bull. Though we didn’t see the bull we sure heard him---he sounded like a deep, large bass drum—very distinctive. Don’t know if he was as large as his voice implied but I sure would have loved to have seen him. Hearing him and the other, less deep sounding bull, would have been wonderful.

We went down the far reaches of the swamp where a female has been laying her eggs for years. Saw the most adorable baby alligator but again, as soon as we arrived, it sank down beneath the water and out of sight, so no picture. These are such fascinating animals. Bob told us that the adult has had to change her nest location several times, since she is right near the road and people stop and throw things at her to try to get her to rise and hiss at them. Idiots!  Bet they watch those reality shows where the alligators are tormented to act for the camera. Damned Idiots!

All too soon our two hour tour was over and so we took off for Breaux Bridge. Our tardy fellow is Dick Cooley from Wisconsin. He is an artist who makes some neat metal sculptures using sparkplugs. He calls himself the sparkplug guy and that is his website. He has been travelling to various shows in the South and just finished up in Alabama. He decided to cool his heels in Lafayette before heading over to Texas for two more shows. He chatted with us in the boat a bit and wanted to know what to do in the area and where to eat. Mentioned Shucks to him and he asked that I come to his car to give him directions. I did and he immediately dug out a few sculptures, which I admired and then gave him the directions. Couldn’t tell if he was looking to latch on to us but we weren’t headed to Shucks but instead to Mulates.

Mulates sold out and the restaurant is now a local place. The food was just as good, which is to say, very home-like------nothing fancy in either presentation or flavor. I had a bowl of chicken-sausage gumbo and half an oyster po’boy with sweet tea. Good and satisfying and reasonably priced. Lots of locals which we like. Music starts at 6 but trying to get Bill to go out to listen to music is impossible. He is really a pain in that regard—I hate it, but he isn’t going to change.

For many years we have passed the long tree lined road that leads to the Rip Van Winkle Gardens, assuming that it merely leads to a landscaping business with a cafe or an old plantation home, which Bill has seen enough of, and a cafe. I’ve signed up for emails from Louisiana Tourism since we spend so much time here. Last week their email talked about 12 beautiful gardens open to the public and lo and behold there was Rip. So I told Bill I’d like to check it out and eat at the Cafe whose menu was listed and appeared diverse and reasonably priced.

Yesterday morning, sick of just coffee for breakfast, since they no longer provide breakfast here, nor creamer for the coffee in preparation for this restaurant due to open tomorrow, we started our day at an old-fashioned diner, Mel’s on Johnston St. A short stack of three pancakes, real bacon, real orange juice and fresh brewed coffee with real cream and I was ready to face the world.

We arrived just as a huge group of school kids were leaving—thank God—their shrieks and running would have totally ruined the quiet and beauty of the gardens. Why is it that it is no longer part of education to teach kids how to behave in public and to be conscious of the presence of others and their right to enjoy whatever the event or place may be? I hate the screeching that every commercial, game show, and television comedy project as acceptable reaction to any event. Somewhere it became the norm to allow kids unbridled freedom of action and sound with no correction no matter where they are. They are undisciplined animals with less training than most dogs undergo. Horrible.

The grounds were just beautiful with the azaleas of all colors in full bloom. There were rose bushes and a golden tree and one with dangling red blossoms like sweet peas. There were live oaks, that are so huge with such interesting crooked branches and male stamens dropping onto our shoulders and hair as the breeze blew in off the lake.Looking up through some of the branches, their shape and the Spanish Moss hanging down form almost dome-like arches over head.

As is the case in many of these old places owned by the famous of their day, there are spots that have been highlighted—such as the tree under which it is said that Grover Cleveland is said to have enjoyed napping beneath. There is even the remnants of an oak under which some of Lafitte’s treasure is said to have been found.This actor, Jefferson,  would have been a contemporary of John Wilkes Booth and his brother, also a well-known actor of the time. Another of their contemporaries was the actor who imported Fonthill Castle, stone by stone, from England to a piece of land north of NYC on the Hudson and had it reassembled as a gift for his fiancé, who jilted him. In despair, he sold the land to the Archdiocese of New York, which was looking for a place to relocate its secondary school for young women, having been displaced by Robert Moses and the city. They wanted the school’s current location for the development of Central Park. So it came to pass, that Fonthill Dial was the library on the campus of Mount Saint Vincent and the primary reason I chose that school as my college.  Wonder if these guys all knew each other and socialized?

We opted not to tour the house but were impressed by the servants’ quarters which now server as the accommodations for the Bed and Breakfast that is located here. Might have to explore staying for a few days—the gardens are at one’s disposal as is a tour of the house. Don’t think they are raising the doves for the dinner table any longer, however.

As we moved around the back of the house and then down along the path away from it we came to a brick building identified on the tour map as the bomb/wine shelter. Interesting. Tucked away behind the azaleas and bamboo are small gardens and buildings—a tea house, guarded by giant frogs—an Alhambra garden patterned after Moorish gardens in Granada, Spain. The water coming from those leonine mouths was very cool and refreshing on the skin of my face and neck. While the shaded areas were comfortable it was 82 degrees and midday in the sun—hot!

One of the loveliest features is the Balinese Gateway, custom carved on Bali. It now serves as the background for wedding ceremonies. It faces the West and the couple enters facing the East, the rising sun and the source of light. After being married, they enter the gateway which represents their new life as a couple. The standing guardians of the gate prevent past lives from following them. The seated guardians discourage them from returning to the single life, since marriage is a lifetime commitment. Behind the gateway is a barrier representing the hurdles life throws at us and a path that allows one to go around it,since it is easier than passing over the hurdle.

In front of the Gate spreads a lush green lawn extending to the shores of Lake Peigneur. The story of this lake and the chimney you see within it is harrowing. It is the result of a man-made vortex created when salt mining engineers made a boo-boo. Actually, the lake existed above the salt mine but not as large or deep as it is now. The man who owned the property in 1980 when the error occurred lost his home and died shortly thereafter.  To read about it follow this link:  www.losapos.com/lakepeigneur

Having returned to the main building we went into the Cafe overlooking the Lake and ordered lunch. First and foremost a huge pitcher of icy sweet tea and then a pastrami sandwich for me—not up to NYC standards but at least steamed, not fried, as I’ve been served in Vt—OMG!  and Bill had chili and a Caesar salad. The whole meal less than $20!!

We headed over to New Iberia to pick up my book from Books on the Teche and said good-bye to the owner ‘til next year. Then it was to Vice’s barbershop for Bill to have a cut—of hair, beard and moustache. Sheared but looks good, if very gray. Tim Vice is a delight—former city employee who retired shortly before his Dad, a barber died. He took over the business and loves it. Thus ended a long but satisfying day.

Today we finally went to Borden’s. We drive by it innumerable times while here but we are always too early for ice cream, or headed someplace else or coming back from a big seafood meal at Shucks or Lagneaux. Well, today, we went to Keller’s to get the baked goods Barb wants and that I want to take home and THEN we headed across street and both ordered a banana split for breakfast!!!! I had mine with walnuts, too. Fabulous, delicious, we ate every last bit. AND we chatted up the ladies—Connie behind the counter. Found out about a great weekly paper that lists all the Lafayette activities for the week. Also chatted cooking—how to use tasso, a dried pork sausage—what kind of sausage is best for gumbo and red beans and rice ( Hillshire Farms smoked port sausage—lol) and Connie said we had to try Boudin—ground meat and rice forced into a sausage skin. Told us to ask for Keisha or Joey at Lagneaux and try it. Met Keisha and  it is fabulous. They sell it frozen—but we can’t keep it frozen til we get home—and cooked and hot there. Will add it to our repertoire of must eat while visiting Lafayette in future.

Should have taken a picture of that wonderful small market—next time. But then it was time to return to the motel, do the laundry and pay some bills. Surprise, surprise—the restaurant is not opening until Sat. The people have a truck with NH plates but Bill forgot to ask where they are from, although apparently the woman is from Syracuse—don’t know how he discovered that. For now, he’s gone to Applebees and will bring me some wings. I have to put the laundry away and secure the Keller’s stuff in saran wrap and zip lock bags to keep it fresh. So, off to The Five and housekeeping.

Tomorrow is our last day here—Jeanerette for fresh French bread and a last meal at Shucks until next time. Then we’ll have to come back and assemble our stuff for departure  :(

For now, I’ll close and say Good night all—pray for warm weather and melted snow. Right now, the rain they said would come, has started and is coming down in buckets. Hopefully, Bill will be back soon. The Two Travelling Peas.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Three Strikes and You're More Than Out--You're Dead!

Three Strikes and You're Dead;Three Strikes and You're Dead; by Michael A. Draper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you love baseball? Do you think it is priced out of the reach of families? Are the players overpayed? How about that baseball strike back a few years ago? Can you imagine the nerve of those guys? What can we do about it? Isn't there someway to send a message to those pampered, spoiled, drug abusing, woman dissing, prima donas? How about we kill a couple of them off to get their attention? Anybody out there who feels the same way?

A chat room, a lonely, slightly off kilter guy, and a manipulating watcher who sees his chance to gain some attention. The stage is set for a thriller that keeps you and a special investigative team busily trying to determine where and when the next baseball star will be eliminated to make a point. Not only when and where but also how the next star will be dispatched.

The story moves back and forth between the three person team--a young widow, her brother and her deceased husband's best friend who has fallen in love with her and the perp. Their interaction with their long suffering mentor, Pete, is quite amusing since he is so technically illiterate and is fighting their use of iPhones and computers, tooth and nail. There is also interaction with various law enforcement agencies that seems to belie the common belief that there is never any cooperation among them.

So far at the diabolical methodology of the Vindicator, as the murderer has chosen to identify himself in the chat room, is blood curdling. Not only are the demises of the players horrific but the possibility of such behavior in reality is mind-numbing. The Advocate, the manipulator, is even more cold-blooded for he seems to be not only educated but also mentally competent, unlike the misfit he has chosen as his henchman.

If I have any complaint at all, the ending seems so anticlimactic. After all the action and sleuthing, there is a let down in the way the perps are caught and brought to justice. It is, however, satisfying that they are. The last minute revelation of the contact the Advocate has in house does not ring as true as the rest of the story, nor does there seem to be any stated resolution to that revelation. This is a minor fault, in an otherwise enjoyable read.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Continuing the Texas Trek

Monday March 23, 2015 Clarion Inn Room 203 Lafayette, Louisiana

St Patrick’s Day dawned sunny and breezy as we made our way to our first stop, the Texas tourist information center in Wichita Falls. My Texas map was new in 2010 but after five years of opening and closing, refolding in many different ways it was literally coming apart at the seams. While there the lady told me to take two for when this one wears out—I did and also picked up the travel guide, primarily to refresh my memory of the various regions of the State. I can always remember Hill Country and Piney Woods, which we call the Big Thicket, but the other names escape me. I don’t think of Texas having a panhandle, since I always associate that term with a narrow strip of land, such as the panhandles of Florida and Oklahoma. The Gulf Coast should have stuck as well as the South Texas Plains and Big Bend Country but the Plains and Lakes region was not an easy one to recall. At any rate, for those of you interested enough there is a Region map and a State map pictured among those of March 18—soooo you can sort of follow our route. What you can’t get from those pictures is the vastness of Texas. What looks like just a hop, skip and jump on the map was actually a day’s journey, one that usually started at around 930 and ended at the hotel about 4ish, pretty much without any stops and moving along at 70mph, slow in these parts.

This day was not much different—we passed through many small towns, while listening to Sirius XM radio tuned to The Spectrum since they played Irish music the whole day—some traditional, some contemporary—like the Drop Kick Murphys and Flogging Molly! Again we encountered private planes flying low—one headed right at us and passing alongside toward some invisible runway around a “hillock” and another doing acrobatics in a field behind a huge yellow Church, with which I thought he’d collide.

We were headed almost due South toward Brownwood-Early where we were to spend the night. Even in some of the most dilapidated towns there would sometimes be a pretty little house, well kept and eye catching. And oh, the Texas stars and Texas flags. Rocks painted like  the Texas flag in a driveway and yard filled with junk. Other places had huge elaborate gates guarding driveways to unseen houses. Though Texans have lots of American flags flying they are far outnumbered by the Texas flag. Does ANYONE in Vermont or New York fly the State flag????

We stopped to read some historical signs including the one about the halfway-oak—this tree so well loved that they have propped up some of its branches with metal supports to keep them from breaking off with their weight.

As we passed through the town of Rising Star I noticed the window with the chalk drawing proclaiming Rising Star the home of The Snake Man,Jackie Bibby. Well, I looked him up—though imagining anyone with snakes hanging out of his mouth was less than appealing. Since I never watch reality TV, Mr Bibby was totally unknown to me—but it would seem there is a show called Rattlesnake Republic and this here guy is the next celebrity non-celebrity in the making, He even holds several Guinness World Records—God deliver me—but here, for your gratification is the link to his info if you are so inclined:http://www.jackiebibby.com/

In time we reached Early and the Leprechaun poop I found on the desk in our room ( actually Bill put these cookies there for me) Prima Pasta is right next door so we went over and Bill had sausage pizzaola and I had veal picata. His is sausage, mushrooms, peppers and onions in a red sauce and mine is sautéed veal in a white wine lemon sauce with capers. We both had them served over spaghetti. Delicious. It is a chain but we’ve only eaten in this one—we did a couple of years ago, as well. I like it as much  as Carino’s, although they don’t have the wine selection that Carino’s has.

We sat at the bar as usual and another fellow came in. Since March Madness was on the TV he asked who we were for—I said Villanova but don’t ask why—just a guess. We’d seen the Wisconsin – Michigan game and I said I suppose we should be for  Wisconsin—Bill said he was and so was the other guy. He’s from Wisconsin though he’s lived in Texas for 38 years—he works for Kohler—some management position. The company’s home office is in Wisconsin and when he left college for lack of money he asked his Dad, who was working at the Texas location if he had a job for him. He did and so he moved here. His father worked for the company for 39 years and this fellow got his engineering degree eventually and has been working for them for 38 years. He was waiting for his brother to meet him for dinner and said his brother also works for the company in the home office in Wisconsin and has been with them for 35 years.

As we shared our traveling itinerary it seems this fellow has a goal of visiting every National Park—he has been to over 20 of them. This led to comparing notes about those we’ve all been to, filling each other in on ones only some of us have seen and yet more of those none of us have seen but would like to visit. All in all an enjoyable dinner conversation that ended with the arrival of his brother and his party, as they moved off to the dining room. One more drink and a visit with the young waiter Bill had met on our way West a few weeks back—the boy is a high school senior who is going into the Air Force at graduation and is anxious to get out into the world. Let us hope he stays safe and comes home whole—no guarantees in today’s military, I guess.

It rained overnight so when we headed to Zephyr it was cloudy and the roads were wet. Early and Brownwood run right into each other—never sure where one ends and the other begins but the pair of them sit squarely on the boundary of Hill Country—scenically my favorite part of the country.It also is the part of Texas that poses a real navigational puzzle for a driver who wants to avoid urban centers and sprawl at all costs. Some of the big cities, like Amarillo, El Paso, Galveston etc are alone in wide open space. It is a cinch to go around them. But in East Texas the State has an off-center spine with scoliosis that is strung with one big urban area after another, Dallas-Fort Worth, Waco and then Austin to San Antonio both of are so sprawled that the small towns like San Marcos and New Breunfels are suburban mazes. Trying to avoid this area or to cross it is a trick.

Today we were driving due south on route 16 west of the spine and so it was a fairly easy drive made more enjoyable by the appearance of the sun. Fredericksburg can be a problem since it is a tourist center. At this time of year it is not as crowded as it was in the fall, but the main drag is still congested—two, sometimes three, lanes in each direction and several main highways converging. Why 16 does a dog leg through two blocks of the mess is perplexing, but we arrived early enough that we thought we’d do one of the two places we wanted to explore. Since the Nimitz Hotel is right on this street we decided to check it out and save LBJ’s ranch, out of town toward Austin for the next morning. Well, when we tried to find a parking spot anywhere near the museum it was impossible. LBJ’s was it. On the way, we stopped at a What-a-Burger, never having had one before—it is no better than any of the burger joints but they do provide golden agers with free drinks and the young lady said we can get free coffee at any time of day at any of their sites—that is a nice touch.

Off we went out to Stonewall. While still President the two LBJs decided that upon their deaths the ranch should be handed over to the State of Texas and that it should continue to be an operating ranch. LBJ ran a herd of white face and both sold breeding stock and beef cattle. Both of those enterprises continue here. The herd runs free and signs indicate that they have the right of way on the ranch roads. There is no charge for the self guided driving tour, though Bill made a donation. There is a charge to have a 20 minute tour of LBJ’s office in the ranch house. We opted not to take that tour---it was crowded as can be. We also opted not to walk the grounds around the house. It was beautiful to drive the grounds along the Pedernales River. The only gate had a small guardhouse and opened onto a small driveway that ran along the river, crossed on the small dam and rose across the river into the backyard of the home. It amazed me how exposed the whole compound was to anyone driving on Texas Rte 1 that led to the ranch road. If they were alive today, I don’t think anyone would even be allowed on the road, a public road.

The focus of discussion of LBJ’s presidency here where he was born, lived and died focused solely on his environmental work and Lady Bird’s focus on beautification movement. I remember my Mother speaking of the wildflowers on all the medians of major Texas highways—a Lady Bird project. She is also the one who insisted that junk yards be hidden behind fences so as not to detract from the beauty of the surroundings. There was some mockery of her at the time, but I do remember the ugliness of scrap yards and other junkyards alongside roads and, now, years later, I’m glad they are hidden from view.

Some of the ranch must have been sold off for the exotic animals behind the wire fence were on a private property not part of the ranch. When we arrived a large group of white-face were resting under a tree, when we passed them on our way out, they had gotten up and spread along and across the road, we had to stop for several who were trying to decide where they wanted to go. In another spot we stopped to admire a calf who was sprawled out on its side, sleeping away, under the watchful eye of its mother. As we stopped it began to get up, but rather than stay while it rose,lest, as children will, it became curious and approached us. Not that we wouldn’t have enjoyed petting it ( at least I would have) but we didn’t want to upset the mother and make her rise to protect her infant. She, in actuality, seemed totally disinterested in us, as she lay and chewed her cud—lol

Having finished our tour we headed back through Fredericksburg and its Willkommen ( the back of the signs say Auf Wiedersehn ) sign and down the road to Kerrville for the night. Bill went out to a wings joint and I stayed in and ate from our pantry and fridge.

The next day we got up early and headed back to Fredericksburg and found a parking space directly across Austin Street from the entrance to the complex that includes the Nimitz Museum in the Nimitz Hotel and the National Museum of the Pacific War. We walked through the Plaza of the Presidents and part of the Memorial Courtyard to the entrance of the hotel on Main Street. The tickets are good for 48 hours and though we only spent this one day, if we truly wanted to absorb the entire history of the war in the Pacific we should have returned the next day.

We began in the Hotel, where the story of the German immigrants to Texas was told in general and the story of Admiral Nimitz’ family in particular was told. His father died before his birth and his mother, after giving birth to him in her family’s home across the street, moved into the hotel with her father-in-law and other family members. She eventually married her husband’s brother, William. After touring this exhibit we returned to the huge memorial courtyard—pictures of ships, servicemen, and plaques devoted to whole crews fill the six foot high walls and partitions. To read all of them would take days. Though we had no particular ship or service person we wanted to view, I think some kind of directory to the various plaques would be extremely helpful to those who do. I could see no particular system used to display the information. In reciprocation for Nimitz’ support for the restoration of an important Japanese flagship after the war, the government of Japan donated a Memorial Garden to the site. Unfortunately, the peaceful space was closed since it is undergoing renovation. Still, it was possible to see it over the wall at a rise in the courtyard.

We then proceeded to the George Bush Gallery—huge place. It starts with the history of Japan and its relationship to its neighbors, China and Korea. In order to do this the history of China and its weakening through the influx of European traders and missionaries and the turmoil that ensued was explained in great detail. The superior attitude of Japan toward what they considered a disgraceful China and toward Korea, which they’d always considered lacking in culture and intelligence, continued to build until it finally showed itself in incursions against both countries. The move to become the power in Asia. This historical overview started in the 13th century and continued for several exhibit rooms through the many regional wars and the First World War and culminated with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

It is impossible to tell you how thoroughly the war is covered—each battle, letters from sailors home, artifacts,pieces of Japanese planes, American ships,etc. Halfway through the war we’d had all we could absorb—even a darkened room in which the bombing of Pearl was in a small way restaged. It was the only room from which we emerged where not a word was spoken as we left. Bill went on ahead of me as I wandered through the rest of the exhibit, randomly reading signs or looking at artillery or planes or suspended bombs. I kept crossing paths with one young man, maybe in his early 20’s—both of us very politely excusing ourselves as we literally crossed in front of each other in various spots along the way. At the end, the voice of the Japanese Emperor’s radio broadcast to his people at the time of surrender was heard, as the Japanese text with interlinear English translation rolled across a screen. This was soon followed by the footage of the official surrender aboard the Missouri. Once more, the audience departed without comment. It seemed such a quiet, solemn end to the unbelievable noise and turmoil that we’d just experienced—even so many years removed from the actual battlefield. I was one of the oldest visitors and I was just an infant and young child during the actual war. For many of the others grandparents or great-grandparents would be the source of firsthand tales of the war—not parents. Not TV programs like Victory at Sea, etc. For them, especially the little pre-teen kids going through it, this war is as unreal as the American Revolution or Civil War were to me at that age. Boy, do I feel old all of a sudden—lol

As I emerged into the lobby, Bill was speaking to an older man sitting opposite him, apparently waiting, too, for someone still inside. With that appeared my young man—I laughed when I saw that Bill’s companion was waiting for him. I said, oh, our paths crossed many times in there and the young man added, yes, we’ve been through very much together and we smiled good-bye to each other. The museum obviously had an impact on him, too—but I bet he didn’t feel old!

There was still another part of the museum we could explore two blocks away—a PT boat, a landing craft and other large pieces of equipment. I forget what they called that area, but I do think it is the combat zone. We were exhausted and decided we’d had enough. Maybe someday I’ll go back and resume where I got too tired to continue.

Friday found us in the position of having to cross the spine in the best possible way, avoiding all urban areas. If you look at the map again, you will see that we Took the interstate out of Kerrville, headed toward San Antonio, but we left it at Boerne on the Guadalupe River, where there is a beautiful State Park as well as other interesting eye-catching things—I’m putting it on the list of places to explore next time we are in Texas, perhaps even a place to stay. From here we navigated between San Antonio and Austin, through New Breunfels to Seguin and back onto I 10 to route 77 north. Went through La Grange and Giddings, over to Brenham and Navasota and finally into Conroe. It wanted to rain all day and did ,at times heavily. We stopped in Montgomery to put the motel address into the navigation system. Conroe is a small suburb of Houston but still it has a loop around it and I-45 runs north and south through it.

The only problem with a navigation system is that you tend to pay attention to it and its directions rather than your surroundings and what roads you cross but don’t take. That can be a handicap, as we found out the next day. At any rate, we arrived at the motel with only a Cracker Barrel—YUCK—and Tia Juanita's for restaurants and a Macdonalds and some other fast food place visible. So we checked the navigation system and found that Applebees was only about a mile away. Tapped go and off we went. Found our way back to the motel with ease and settled into our two room suite!! One room totally devoid of furniture—listed as $125 a night at the senior rate!!!---we used points. Our room was huge and comfortable but that empty room was just weird. As I uploaded the night’s pictures I looked at the window and was amazed to see that it was a sheet of water—just a deluge. We made it in, just in time. We;d crossed the Prairies and Lakes region and were now in the Piney Woods. That wouldn’t last for long.

Saturday we woke to rain and could not figure out how to reach the ring road and reconnect with 105 that we’d taken into Conroe. Unfortunately, once we entered the city limits the system took us over many left hand turns and we weren’t sure where we’d made them and did not want to go back through the congested area in rain to try to find our way out. I thought that the ring road was north of us and that if we took 75 north we would intersect it. Going east on the ring road would bring us to 105 east. Well, I was wrong and we wound up in Willis, ten miles north of Conroe. Still, it was not the end of the world, we took a farm road north east, another road east and a final farm road south east and voila, there was 105 east. We drove through the little bit of Piney woods that we would see this time and continued toward the Gulf Coast. Here the goal was to get around Houston easily.

Now, Houston is an interesting place. I 10 cuts right through it and is congested, wide and busy with trucks and other traffic. Barb and I chose this route last Fall in a deluge—it was hell. Bill and I have taken the loop road but this has as many entrances and exits with as much traffic of all kinds and takes you way out in a circle—and we were in another deluge. We swung north of the city and then headed east until we reached Beaumont. The weather was so awful, it was useless to take any pictures to speak of. Got through Beaumont with some stress and then had to get to Orange and the Sabine and across into Louisiana. The southwest wind and the moisture from the Gulf would not let up and as we crossed we were struck by a blinding gale. It truly felt like being on a boat with the waves coming up over the bow, the only thing missing was the gut wrenching rocking of a boat in high seas.

The storm continued all the way to Lake Charles though we could at least see the bridge crossing there. And then, just as had happened in the fall, the rain was over. Something about Lake Charles—the storms turn north and east  around it. When we reached Abbeville and Shucks the people there were amazed to hear about the storm we drove through from Texas. They’ve been waiting for rain for weeks. The clouds and fields and rice paddies with their crawfish traps in Kaplan were beautiful in the fading light. We ate our full of oysters on the half shell and etouffee and then checked into the Clarion for the week.

Yesterday, was a totally down day. I read most of Three Strikes and You’re Dead, did some blogging and in general lazed around. Bill went to Wal-Mart for some supplies and hit the bank for nickels. He watched March Madness—is Villanova still in it?  Is Wisconsin?  Who knows. Got some fried oysters from our Chinese place over near the University. Today Bill took the car to Toyota –it has been very noisy on rough roads ever since we took it on the road in Organ Pipe. We’ve been worried that we had a broken shock or something. Dreaded what it might be but as we are approaching 8000 miles on the car, urged Bill to have it checked sooner rather than later. I’d worried it was brakes but since we managed to get in and out of the Salt River Canyon in Arizona without problems ( thank God ) figured it was probably shocks. As it turned out, we brought a rock home from Organ Pipe in the suspension system and a rod was loose. They tightened everything up, changed the oil, rotated the tires, etc etc and everything is okay No charge—they did the 10000 mile service checks and we are okay. Phew!

Again, I’ve stayed in but we go for a Swamp tour tomorrow and will probably go to a new place on Wednesday—the Rip Van Winkle Gardens and Jefferson Cafe which look interesting It is just nice to be settled in for a week. Good to be off the road. Good to catch up the blog for my own memories and notes even if they are a bit long for our virtual traveling companions to read.

It is hard on Bill though—he keeps taking walks and ran over to his coin shop earlier. He gets bored but I always find something that keeps me busy. The next two days will be good for him since we will be out and about—good for me, too because I love the Swamp and am looking forward to the Gardens.

I think I’ll finish 3 Strikes today and write the review soon. The author is probably wondering if I’m ever going to do it. Only another 100 pages or so and it is a good book. The Five will be coming on soon. Last night I watched a Dennis Quaid movie called Express about a Syracuse football player, Ernie Davis,who followed Jim Brown there and to the Cleveland Browns. But Ernie developed leukemia, never played pro and died at 23. He was followed by Floyd Lyttle who then went to the Broncos, according to the movie—though Bill thinks the timing was wrong.

Well, don’t know when I’ll be able to post this, since the phone and internet have gone out. They are working on remodeling the motel—a new restaurant is supposed to open in two days and the two rooms beneath us have been gutted.

So until I’m back in touch electronically with the world, take care, The Two Travelling Peas

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Traveling through Texas and then Traveling through History

Thursday March 19, 2015 Quality Inn and Suites Room 129 Kerrville, Texas

Left Guymon, Ok and its cobble stoned streets the day before St Pats. We were in the Panhandle of the state, otherwise known as No Man’s Land and so we traveled east for a bit before turning south into the panhandle of Texas. After the flatness of East Texas and Oklahoma it was nice to have some hills to go up and down although this section of Texas is not yet considered Hill Country.

Before entering Texas, however, we saw vanes of wind turbines being transported in a convoy headed out way. We soon passed through Balko, Ok and outside of town the Balko wind project. How I wish they were assembling a turbine. I would have sat for however long it took to get one up atop the already erected uprights. But, unfortunately, absolutely nothing was being done. It is obvious, though, that the vanes are put together first before going up. Bet it is an interesting procedure.

As we continued toward Perryville, vanes were being transported to the site from the south as well. After Perryville we came to Canadian, where we stopped to look at a wagon bridge that crossed the Canadian River and had been built in 1916. It is almost 100 years old and absolutely beautiful –it far end had been taken out by a raging Spring Canadian River and several more spans had to be added to it. Today it is a pedestrian and bike trail bridge and the Canadian has barely any water in it. By the way, Canadian apparently meant “ boxed in” in Spanish when the waterway was  named.

We continued to Shamrock which was pretty  tame today—THE DAY—but according to the Amarillo Sunday edition, it was a happening place on Saturday—parade with bands and dancers but only one piper—a young teen aged boy who has been the only piper for several years since there are no other pipers in the area. He also teaches the pipes and hopes someday he’ll have company. Sorry we missed the celebration.

Shortly after passing through Wellington we came upon a carnival ride and ticket booth being moved to someplace in Texas. The ride looked so strange from a distance as we came up behind—I thought they were balloons at first. After overtaking them we came to the Red River—remember the cowpoke who loved you so true. At this point, the soil was truly red and it was obvious where it got its name although there was little water flowing, This is at the lower end of the Texas panhandle and we soon turned eastward toward Wichita Falls, on the Oklahoma – Texas border, which is formed by the river. Since we never glimpsed it again I don’t know if it ever presented a more rigorous crossing there.

On we went under a cloudless sky on which jets painted their contrails, through Childress and into Quanah, named for Quanah Parker. He was the son of a white woman kidnapped by the Comanche at the age of 9 and one of the Comanche chiefs. He became, by US government appointment the principal chief once the tribe had settled on a reservation. His is an interesting story and life:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quanah_Parker

The mounds in the distance make up Medicine Mounds which is now a ghost town but once was a thriving community. The mounds themselves were sacred places to the Comanche,

After Chillicothe, the land didn’t change much, the sky became more cloud filled and a plane flew alongside us once more before heading down the highway, making a sweeping turn in front of us and headed north. Electra marked the beginning of an oil field with numerous wells scattered as far as the eye could see.

We stopped at a rest area to enter the motel address in the navigation system and was amused to see that you can’t just park your livestock just anywhere. And then, at last, we were in Wichita Falls and ordered pizza in before settling in for some TV.

I will continue our story tomorrow from Conroe, Texas. For now, it is time for The Blacklist and having spent about four hours in the National Museum of the Pacific War, I’m beat. Talk to you all tomorrow. Until then, take care and stay healthy—from The Two Traveling Peas

Sunday, March 15, 2015

From Santa Rosa, NM to Guymon, Ok

Sunday March 15, 2015 Comfort Inn Room 219 Guymon, Oklahoma

On the road yesterday by 930 and headed east on I 40 toward Tucumcari. There are mesas and plateaux in the Northeast corner of New Mexico so the landscape is still somewhat interesting. This is Union Pacific territory and I’m always amused by the huge American flags on their locomotives and patriotic slogans on some of their cars but the cargo boxes they transport are filled with Asian imports picked up at various ports and carried throughout the country.

At Tucumcari we had the choice of following old 66 through the town or going to the Main Street. We opted for the latter, having seen so many towns devastated by the loss of 66 and we’ve seen the empty restaurants and motels here before. The downtown is worse—it is dirty and desolate and broken down and doesn’t have the neon signs to at least provide nostalgia. It is a sad, poor town. It does have an old man of the mesa as you arrive from the West however and one huge pinwheel.

At the east end of town we turned northeast through Logan, the home of Ute Lake, it’s only claim to fame, so far as we could see. On to Nara Visa whose existence, as the historical sign indicates, is the result of a spur of the Rock Island Line coming through. But, once more, the significance of the railroad has diminished and so has the importance of the town. The high school and gym are two beautiful buildings, set outside the pretty dead town,and used now as the community center, but it seems the community must be far outside the village. The 2000 census shows a population of 112. The name comes from the family, whose name was used as the original town name—Narvarez—seems none Spanish speakers sort of mangled its pronunciation and it stuck.

Here, four miles from the Texas line the topography changes drastically to flat, flat, flat and dry. We found the paving method rather interesting—I guess it is a cost effective savings of blacktop—just put it where the tires go. The outlying high plains from Dalhart, Texas are filled with feed lots. The first one on my side did not smell too badly but as we passed another large outfit on Bill's side we discovered that we were upwind of the first and most assuredly downwind of the second. OMG, one of the worse odors in the world—thousands of head of cattle consolidated in a small space make for a mighty odiferous atmosphere. Dalhart seemed a company town—Cargill. On the other side of town we continued through the high plains of West Texas. Mirages, beautiful farms separated by miles (  one of which with a beautiful tree lined drive was for sale) and lots of flat, flat, flat grazing land. One road leaving the highway and extending for miles into the open land was named East Lonesome Lane—someone has a sense of humor or despair—not sure which. I’d go mad. And the wind blows even  on a day as lovely as ours. Some of the fields were irrigated so the yellow grass in them was a lovely shade of green.

Bill and I noticed two years ago, that as soon as the border between New Mexico into the panhandle of Oklahoma was crossed all the fields were green. Well, that is true crossing into the panhandle from Texas, too. Still the land is so flat that you can see for miles—we saw Boise City five miles before we reached it. I laughed and said if they have an old fashioned 4th of July with fireworks in Boise City they could be seen 50 miles away in any direction. Not sure though, if they’d do that—prairie fires move quickly, especially with a bit of wind.

We stopped in Boise City at No Man’s Land jerky—our primary reasons for coming this way to Guymon. They were closed but posted a sign that the jerky was available in the Love’s across the street or back west at Moore’s market. We went back to the market and bought lots of the stuff. It is some of the best we’ve ever had. Plus Bill wanted to pick the guy’s brain about making it, since he makes it using the dehydrator I bought him several years back.

Though it was tempting we didn’t break into it since our next stop was Eddie’s Steakhouse in Guymon. Three miles out of town I was watching a herd of horses coming up on my side and one really caught my eye. Its back seemed so deformed and I just kept staring at it. As we drew closer I said to Bill look at that poor—oh, my goodness, it’s a camel!  We stopped and backed up. The camel was curious and started slowly toward the fence while continuing to graze. I spoke to it and asked it to hold its head up—it did, half way. Then I said, come on, give me a nice profile and with a strange sort of moaning sound it did. LOL  Figured I’d bothered it enough so we moved slowly off, I asked the horses if they’d noticed the camel among them and the gray looked at me with a look that said, Lady, you’re an ass. As we drove back onto the road, I noticed two buffalo farther out on the prairie.

Continued into Guymon and Eddie’s. It was open at 4 but the kitchen wouldn’t be open until 5. That was fine –we had one of the most fun evenings and meals we’ve had in a long time. Only one lady was there—Kim—a grade school teacher in a nearby town. We chatted about kids and teaching and salaries—Oklahoma is 48 th in the nation and doesn’t attract many applicants for any opening.We laughed about kids we’ve had, experiences we’ve had with administrations and parents –at times we were hysterical with laughter. Soon we were joined by Shelby, who is an Osage on one side and a Seneca-Cayuga on the other. We spoke of the Iroquois Nation about which she knew little, though she did know that the Indian in the Cupboard was a Seneca. And then Julie arrived. She is a teacher as well although she is now an administrator for Federal programs, primarily for literacy, and is no longer in the classroom Needless to say the question of reading and stories about kids again had us laughing uproariously. We also chatted about Eddie, who was not there. Two years ago he had told Bill and me that he wanted to retire but that his two boys are settled in careers—an orthodontist and a real estate man in Dallas—and have no interest in taking over the restaurant. Since we saw him Eddie has become quite ill with COPD and can’t walk across the room unassisted. He went to Florida last week to try an experimental stem cell transplant procedure but the doctor is not terribly optimistic. Eddie felt it was worth the try. Kim said that the staff put an article in the local paper about the situation and the phone has been ringing off the hook and the restaurant has been swamped. It has been a landmark steakhouse for 35 years and it may be that if he doesn’t recover it may be gone. It would be so sad for us, so I imagine the community must be very sad, too. While we ate several diners came into the dining room and I heard two or three ask Kim or Julie about Eddie and his health. A gentleman came into the bar and we got talking—he thinks we’ve met there before and that may be. He has a winter home in Casa Grande,  near Phoenix and lives in Rochester , Minnesota. He is on his way home and Guymon is half way between his two homes so he stops going and coming. He was sad to hear of Eddie’s condition, too.

He didn’t come to Guymon through ShowLow this time though we chatted about the Salt River Canyon. Apparently, the River runs right through Phoenix. He offered to take me through on his motorcycle—he’s 75 for Pete’s sake—I told him he was just too kind. This whole conversation provided the three ladies, Bill and I and Mr Minnesota even some more hilarity. Soon our meals were done, we’d had our last Shiner, saw the old lockers in the backroom in which patrons stored their own bottles when this was a private club, said good night to all and headed out.

Bill and I admired our Minnesota friend who’d left Casa Grande that morning at 2 am and covered the same territory that we took three days to cover. Held the door open for two older ladies arriving for dinner and knew that things were going to get busy for Kim,Shelby and Julie, since there were already several parties there, several had called to make reservations and two more customers were on their way in. We truly hope they’ll be here next year and that Eddies will still be open and that Eddie will have been able to return to his table from which he’s always greeted his customers.

When we woke this morning we decided we liked our room and wanted to just veg for the day. So we renewed our reservation, did the laundry, read the Sunday papers, I took a long leisurely shower instead of the usual in and out and hit the road. Watched a couple of futbol games and the Wisconsin-Michigan basketball game. Now there is a special on tornadoes, just what I want to watch while in Oklahoma. But, tv is okay tonight. Tomorrow, it is back on the road to Texas and several days checking out some new places.

So, hoping all is going well with all of you—two of you are out in Palm Springs, San Diego area enjoying the sun and warmth, others are still in the deep freeze but it seems there are a few bare spots and the snow is melting a bit. Even the temps have risen above freezing at least during the day. All sounding good for our return, reluctant on my part, but Bill gets antsy around this point so there is probably just about two weeks left before we are heading due North.

Trying not to think about it . Until next time, good night from the Two Traveling Peas

Friday, March 13, 2015

Deserted Bosque, Old Towns and Clouds

Friday March 13,2015 Quality Inn Room 122 Santa Rosa, New Mexico

A little hard getting up this morning—this West and Daylight Savings Time have been playing havoc with our internal clocks. We were in NM when it jumped ahead, but then we went to Az which didn’t jump ahead but California did. So California and Arizona were both three hours different than home, but then we returned to New Mexico yesterday and lost an hour. It will be worse tomorrow when we lose yet another hour. Then we should settle down for a bit before losing the last hour that will bring us back to EST.

So, anyway, I finally rolled out of bed around 8 and managed to get to breakfast fifteen minutes before it ended. We’d decided yesterday that we would cross over to Carrizozo and head up to Vaughn and on to Santa Rosa today. Tomorrow we will continue to Tucumcari and up to Clayton before going into Oklahoma—going to Guymon to see if Eddie is still running his steakhouse and also to find our favorite jerky store on the way.

This is our first trip to Santa Rosa and Tucumcari since our third trip, although we left New Mexico through Clayton two years ago. Got there by way of Santa Fe. Since we wouldn’t be driving a long distance today we decided to make one last trip this year to the Bosque.

We came to Socorro three times this year and I’m beginning to feel like this little area with K-Bob’s and the Exxon station on the corner is almost home. As we traveled Rt 1 between San Antonio and the Refuge we came upon a group of mule deer with a male escort.

Today’s trip to the Bosque was not disappointing but it was different—the hello and good-bye herons were no where to be seen, the hawk’s population has diminished, the snow geese and sand cranes are all gone, including the straggler of a week or so ago. We didn’t see the javelina at all and the trees are beginning to leaf out. There are a few remaining Canada geese and as we drove over a newly opened road we could hear their strident discussion of whether to leave now or stay a few more days. I distinctly heard one goose exclaim that there was still snow on the ground up north and a few more days wouldn’t hurt. Another raised his voice over hers and said if they waited it would be in the low 80’s by the time they reached Nebraska and the rest of the trip would be hell. Another guy opened and flapped his wings as if to imply cooling off—the speaker, noticing, informed him that showing his pits wasn’t going to do much cooling. Don’t know how they voted but in another part of the refuge we found scattered pairs feeding and bathing and seemingly content to remain.

In the area where hello heron usually held court we came across a beautiful hawk dining on his recently captured rodent’'. Though he was aware of us, he kept a close eye as he continued to eat. It wasn’t until a Texas truck came up rapidly that he decided it was getting too crowded and off he flew with the little bit left. We came to the distant fields that once were full of snow geese, Canada geese and the original group of deer we saw on our first visit this year. None of them were there so we took another spur that has been opened to an area recently flooded—a big lake has been formed and it was filled with ducks and in the far distance the aforementioned debating geese, not visible but definitely audible.

Each time we are in the Refuge I find something else new and today the forms of the trees caught my eye. Mostly cottonwood and some quite old and twisted. I think I noticed them more this time since there wasn’t the wildlife—though today there was a snowy egret and two cormorants who were having an amorous rendez-vous. He had been displaying as we arrived but moved over to another branch and decided to preen rather than have their intimate moment observed.

Usually I am sad to leave the Refuge but today it somehow seemed right—the birds have headed north and I took it as a sign that it is time for us to think about doing the same. One of the Rangers in the Petrified Forest was from Nebraska and he told us his family had said about 75000 sand cranes had already arrived there. He said once they all migrate to the summer grounds the number will exceed 235000.( BTW, the Ranger is Organ Pipe was Jimmie Pond from Texas)

When we had lunch with Jim Rader the other day we mentioned Carrizozo to him and he asked what Carrizozo was. It is one of those crossroad places in New Mexico. When you arrive at the traffic light form Socorro you can go straight ahead over Capitan to Lincoln and on to Roswell, or turn right and go to Tularosa, Alamogordo, Las Cruces and El Paso, go back to Socorro and on to Arizona or turn left and go to Vaughn, another crossroads.

We’d done three of the four choices already this trip so it was to the left and Vaughn. The route follows the Union Pacific north-south line. There are a couple of old mining ghost towns in the mountains along the way but we’ve learned by trying to go to several that the roads are not truly passable for the fancy cars we drive—well maybe not that fancy but lower slung and two wheel drive than is very sensible to travel unmaintained old mining roads.It seems the road we were traveling is being widened into a four lane road—I hate it—but it was still beautiful.

The clouds were incredible today—I love the sky and clouds as those of you who have traveled with us before know. One of our favorite classes was one on meteorology that Bill and I took at NH Community College. It was taught by an Army Major from CRREL—Major Quilliam, second in command. Those cute little cumulus clouds are the precursors of an impending front. I felt like we were driving under and alongside a little alien army of white puffy spacecraft. As they moved forward they began to overtake each other and a traffic jam formed. The vehicles in the back started to overtake the forward guard and meld with them. As they plowed into each other the forward motion slowed and they began to rise up higher forming the beginning of thunderheads. We could see vega streams in the distance where the excess water of the combining and rising clouds was forced out of them and the wind began to rise.

Soon we were in Vaughn, where the Union Pacific and Fred Harvey had built a beautiful railroad station and one of the biggest and fanciest of Harvey Houses. I’m not sure the depot is the original and the Harvey House is long gone. The empty old motels and restaurants speak to the time when this was a major hub of rail and truck traffic and tourist as well. The BNSF line crosses the UP here, headed from Roswell to Belen in the West. Even though the days of stopovers has passed there are still five roads radiating out from the town. Here one can choose to return to Carrizozo, go west to Belen south of Albuquerque,go southeast to Roswell, or east to Clovis or, as we did, go north to =Santa Rosa ( and connect with I 40 or old 66, which it has covered. Along the whole route from Carrizozo  to Santa Rosa we passed through four towns, three barely there and one a shell of former glory.

Santa Rosa is itself, in town center, pretty much a ghost town too, having died with the death of 66. But the eastern end of town is built up with new motels if not new restaurants and we pulled into the Quality Inn—same rating as the Comfort--$20 cheaper and right across the road! Bill walked over to the Mexican restaurant but I felt like a tuna sandwich which I mixed up and used to fill a pita bread. A glass of Cab and some pistachio cookies and I am all set.

Bill is watching the Providence/Villanova game so will read USA Today until Blue Bloods. Soon we will be in Oklahoma hopefully savoring a truly excellent steak, with compliments from Eddie—otherwise, if he retired and closed it may be Pizza Hut order in. Until tomorrow, take care –The Two Traveling Peas

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Goodbye Arizona, Goodbye Desert, Goodbye Cacti

Thursday March 12, 2015 Comfort Inn Room 320 Socorro, New Mexico ( AGAIN!)

Had trouble getting to sleep last night because I started to second guess the mountain route I’d chosen from southern Arizona to Mid New Mexico. The drive from Florence to Globe yesterday wasn’t too bad, but it was a much shorter mountainous road. This one, while looking pretty benign on the map,covered 66 miles of absolutely nothing before reaching Carrizo. But, Bill was asleep and so I couldn’t discuss backtracking and taking I 10 to Deming and up the Rio Grande Valley to Socorro. So, I went to sleep at last. When I mentioned  reversing our route, Bill said we could do that, but he was reluctant.

Oh, hell, I thought—it can’t be worse than the Gallinas and perhaps, with luck and lots of Hail Marys, it wouldn’t be as bad. So after a breakfast of coffee and grapefruit, I gathered a scarf to use as a blinder and off we went through Globe to route 60 West. It was not reassuring to see that there was an accident 35 miles up the road ( the sign was hung across the very beginning of the 66 miles ) but hoped it would be cleared up by the time we reached the site.

Those first 35 miles were easy—we went through the mountains instead of over them—so the drop offs were not any deeper than what we have at home and the scenery was beautiful. Arrived as a tow truck blocked the road before us. They were pulling up huge blue and pink pipes that looked like PVC piping—big bundles, obviously a truck’s load lost on this slight downgrade. No curve involved,no other vehicles around other than the emergency crew’s. At the pullout an empty flatbed was attached to a tow truck also. The windshield was blown out on the passenger side of the cab and the driver’s side was that awful spider web pattern that shatterproof glass makes when heavily impacted. No evidence of the driver—hope he survived and wasn’t seriously hurt. A very chilling sight.

Little did I know what awaited us just up the road—Salt River Canyon--7000+ feet at the top. We descended over 2000 feet on a twisting road—fortunately, most of the curves were not tight though there was a 35mph hairpin curve that was not a treat. Since the open side of the canyon was on Bill’s side ( the road was fairly wide, with passing lanes on upgrades and pullouts for slower cars ( us ) to let the nutsy natives get by, I was able to look at my side and a bit forward. At one point we had a tanker truck behind us and Bill crossed the road to a pullout which made me nervous but it was better to follow the truck than have him breathing down our necks.

Eventually we reached a rest area at what I thought was the end of the canyon—well, it was the end of our descent, still at least 300 feet above the river, which Bill tells me had water in it—i wouldn’t know. Once we crossed the canyon on a pretty bridge, the real nightmare began—the ascent of the opposite side with the drop-off on my side. Okay, up came the scarf over that side of my face. Just like blinders it worked—i didn’t panic, looked out Bill’s side and once in awhile peeked out the windshield until be got up to 7752 feet and the narrow end of the canyon and closer rock walls.

It took about 30-40 minutes for the whole canyon crawl but the rest of the 66 miles was uneventful and beautiful. It took us 2 hours to cover 80 miles but we arrived safely in ShowLow where we got gas and checked in with Hatch Toyota to see if we needed an oil change since we’ve put over 5000 miles on the car. Since we use synthetic oil we don’t need a change until 10000 miles.

Continued on the familiar road to Springerville and through the yellow grass prairie, watching the strange cloud formations and the veils of rain and probably snow falling all around us. We did have a bit of drizzle but nothing heavy. It seemed strange to see all the green on the Globe side of the mountains and the dormant trees and parched grass on the Springerville side The 84 degrees of Ajo is also a memory since the temperature went down to 51 in the mountains with patches of snow all about. Oh, yes, it is goodbye desert.

Soon we entered New Mexico once more, crossed the 35 mile wide Plains of San Augustin with the Very Large Array dwarfed by distance and mountains. Through Magdalena, once the railhead where cattle drives ended and where the cattle were transferred to cattle cars for delivery to market. Round a few more hills and valleys and in Socorro once more. Four hours and almost 300 miles from Globe. K-Bob for steak, sweet potato and broccoli and into our suite for the night.

Now The Blacklist is on so I’m signing off until next time. Goodnight from the Two Traveling Peas.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Leaving Ajo, Meeting Jim, Over the Mtns to Globe, Az

Wednesday March 11, 2015 Travelodge Room 117 Globe, Arizona

Got up this morning around 8 am and checked for an email from Bill’s brother-in-law, Jim. Nada, so checked the phone and there was no call either. Decided to call him around 8:30 to see if lunch was still on. Didn’t know what to plan for a reservation for tonight—would we be late enough after lunch to backtrack to Casa Grande, or, if lunch was off, would we forge ahead to Taylor, or, if lunch was done early enough, would we head to Globe?  We got packed and dressed then Bill called Jim, who had sent an email!  BUT, he got the address from Fixit Fred who said it was dot com when it is dot net. Well, we got it straightened out and it was decided that we’d meet at 1 pm in Florence, Arizona at Jalapenos. Phew—never had so much confusion trying to set up a lunch date in my life.

Went down to Marcella’s for breakfast once more. Today there was freshly made strawberry jam for our sourdough. Oh, it is really Spring here. Took one last spin around Ajo to see the school and the Cordelia Hotel, which is NOT open but does appear to be undergoing renovation. Amazing to realize what a booming community this was—two huge beautiful churches, a gigantic school and hospital, a fancy hotel and even fancier plaza—all built by the mining money garnered from the huge mine from which incredible amounts of copper were withdrawn. And then, in about 1920, it all went bust and in 2008, almost all these beautiful places sat empty and sad. Now, that beautiful school is the site of reasonably priced artists’ studios and apartments. Life of a different sort but at least life once more. I hope I see it again but if not, I have wonderful pix from both visits.

Then we headed down to Why and drove past the new, huge Border Patrol station. Followed a couple of officers and their mounts for awhile—they continued toward Lukeville and we turned away toward the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation and Indian Rte 15 at Quijotoa, which would carry us northward toward Casa Grande. The flowers are so plentiful they cover the ground like a carpet. Since yesterday another new pink flower has come into bloom. Some kind of raptor soared above us, wings spread wide and gliding. Passed a strange looking mining operation before coming to our first Border Patrol check point. These three officers were Anglo and much more talkative. I spoke to one young man and the female dog handler about the makeshift pergola they’d created with chicken wire and an ivy like plant. I asked if it kept them cool and they laughed and said no, but it did keep out the sun a bit. The German Shepard was lying quietly and seemingly uninterested at his lady’s feet. From my experience at the Vt Border I know one word from her and he would be instantly alert.  It was nice to talk with them—reminded me of my old Customs’ days.

Soon we passed through Casa Grande, Coolidge and as we turned onto the Main Street of Florence the restaurant loomed on our right. As we walked in there was Jim talking with someone by the door. He’d arrived a bit before us—but we were there between 1230 and 1 as planned. He’d taken a table in the back for us. Got ourselves settled and the waiter from New Jersey!!! ( it began with the Internet and a woman, said he, but we’ve been together for 14 years—his response to my “ How did you wind up here?” )  I had a Taco salad which was quite good, though not really seasoned at all. Bill and Jim had a chicken enchilada plates with beans and rice. I had a delicious raspberry tea and Bill had a diet coke. Had a good catch-up rambling conversation—travel plans and family and where we’ve been and where we’re going.  Good to see Jim, who looks quite well.

Once we finished lunch we checked the map and decided to go to Globe. There was once a Quality Inn here but no more. There are several nice places here according to our navigation system and when we arrived we found it to be accurate in that regard. For the second time, however, it has told us there is a Choice motel where there is not—will have to find out from our manual whether, like our Garmin, this system can be updated.

Although the road runs between the Pinal Mountains and the Superstition Mountains and is quite snaky, there are few deep drop offs and they were on Bill’s side. For the most part we traveled through Devil’s Canyon and along Oak Flats. Oak Flats is at 4000 ft and we dropped down about 1000 feet and then rose once more to 4000 feet before coming down to rest in Globe at 3509ft.

Both Miami and Globe were mining towns—silver but then much more, copper. Though the mining is pretty much over the scars of the huge, huge pits remain. No reclamation like you find in West Virginia. Mountains have been reduced to terraced walls of a large pit. It is ugly. But the cows graze on the terraces in some places. The mines out here can be seen from miles away—it is obscene.

This is a new area of Arizona for us and tomorrow we will travel 66 more mountain miles in unfamiliar territory. There are two small dots and a ghost town shown on the map before we reach Carrizo which we’ve visited before out of ShowLow. That 25 miles is a gorgeous crossing of a high mountain valley on the Apache Reservation. Bill wants to push as far as Socorro, New Mexico. We’ll see how bad the road is—whether it will be easy to continue on the old familiar easy route through Pie Town and Magdalena.

For that story, you, like me and Bill will have to wait until tomorrow night. For now, I’m off to do the nails I didn’t get to last night. Too full after our Mexican lunch to eat anything but some fruit and maybe a piece of cheese. Until next time, good night from The Two Traveling Peas

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Valleys,Desert, Dunes and Irrigated Imperial Valley

Tuesday March 10.2015 La Siesta Motel Cabin 17 Ajo, Arizona

To continue—on Sunday the 8th, when we emerged from our motel in Kingman we found that the Coors Pole Car had been joined by Cheese-It 16!  ( Found in Monday’s paper that this car was raced in Las Vegas with Greg Biffle driving. It was the Kobalt 400, part of the Nascar Sprint Cup and he came in 14th)

Headed west out of town and down the grade into the long Golden Valley that extends about five miles across to the mountains. We’ve traveled this road before so I didn’t take any pictures til we came to the 12 mile 6% grade descent into Bullhead City. We’ve come from the West along this road but never down the steep side before.

At Bullhead we crossed the Colorado to Laughlin which is right at that pointy southern end of Nevada. Continued along the main drag past all the beautiful casinos and then into the desert along the Colorado. Somewhere along the line we crossed into California though there never was any indication of it until we noticed the cars were mostly California plates. When we reached Needles, another Rt 66 remnant. Interestingly enough the roads on both sides of the river are route 95. We stayed on the California side since it is not built up—no Lake Haversu City,etc. But it is miles and miles of dusty, barren desert. Once in awhile a beautiful flower or interestingly shaped mountain breaks the monotony. Once in Blythe, irrigation is evident and a man-made oasis of cultivated fields and palm trees of all sorts appear. Imagine crossing this area before these watered places existed!!!

From Blythe we continued southwest through more desert and expensive gas. California never gives anyone a break—even in its most desolate places they still make you pay. I’ve come to the conclusion that the three most precious, self-absorbed States are California, Texas and Vermont. And each of them at one time or another was an independent Republic—they’ve never lost that sense of independence even after joining the rest of the lesser parts of this nation.

Soon we came to an area that was fenced with a barrier topped with barbed wire. Hard to say what it was. The map showed an extensive Air Force firing range but there were no signs indicating that—the no trespassing signs were not the usual Government or military signs. The area looked like the walls of a huge open pit mine, but nothing labeled it as such and there was no indication on the map. One thing for sure, it isn’t a preserve for the desert tortoise so don’t toss any over the fence!

In Glamis we came to the largest area of sand dunes in California—The Aldogones Dunes that run for 40 miles along the base of the mountains and are at least 5 miles wide. One side of the road in the Imperial Recreation area is preserved and off limits to any hiking or mechanized travel. The other side, however, is open to dune buggies and there were several having a great time, doing wheelies ect. I recognize them from some Steve McQueen movie but I guess they were also in Star Trek VI, Return of the Jedi.

Somewhere in this area I missed the country road we were going to take due south to I 8 back to Yuma. Think we would have missed the dunes if I’d noticed it so was glad for the error. Was even happier when I realized that I would see part of the Imperial Valley that my Dad spoke of often. He talked of the damage done to the Colorado when the American Canal was built to bring its waters into this desert valley to create huge truck farms by the Imperial Land Company. By this diversion of the river’s water the Colorado does not flow above ground in Mexico any longer.

It is a beautiful valley though and supplies so many fruit and vegetable products to the rest of the country. We saw new corn seedlings, other corn plants at least mid leg high, sugar beets, cabbage, onions, red lettuce, grasses and a few orange trees as well as date palms. The cole crops are so dense you can’t walk between the rows!!


We soon reached Holtville and I 8, which runs right on the Mexican border—those white fences with chains that you see mark the border. We turned southeast and followed it back across the Colorado and into Yuma, Arizona where we spent the night.

Yesterday we weren’t sure how we wanted to proceed East—go to Tucson and through the mountains?  Hang up toward Phoenix and call our brother in law? Start back up toward Kingman and maybe go up to Page from Flagstaff and see Antelope Canyon?  I decided that I wanted to return to Ajo and go back to Organ Pipe National Monument. We’ve avoided it because it is only 9 miles from Lukeville and the border but I’ve heard that the sleepy almost deserted town that had been a vital mining town has been turned into an artist colony—sort of like Bisbee ect. The large school which sat empty seven years ago has been turned into artist studios and apartments. So off we went on I 8 to Gila Bend and then down toward the border once more.

There are alcoves in between the small barren mountains. Each alcove contains a natural desert cactus garden with scattered wildflowers providing splashes of color. Being this close to Mexico there are many Border Patrol Stations and these days there are young German Shepard officers working along with their handlers. We’ve only had to stop when returning north from the border and never detained once we proclaimed our citizenship.

First thing we did was to check into La Siesta Motel—this time we have a cabin but had a front room seven years ago. The cabin is tiny—smaller than our bedroom at home but really cute and cozy, though the TV reception stinks!!LOL Notice the age of the TV—lol

After getting our food into the fridge we tooled around a bit—town is certainly more crowded. The plaza is filled with cafe and gift shops etc. Lots of Mexican insurance sellers—they were only at the border in the past. An IGA, two gas stations, several new RV parks and a car repair shop—all new. But the liquor/tobacco store( Indulgence ) sits empty and forlorn—for sale. The restaurant where we used to eat dinner is out of business, too. It is so crowded that you can’t get a nice shot of the historical churches that are so beautiful—nor the school, nor the old Cornelia Hotel which is open again. We found a new place—though I think its been here awhile and the sign is not taken care of—and had a burger and a Panini. Another couple asked for desert and the waitress said that the restaurants in town all agreed to go healthy so the only place for pizza is the Pizza Hut ( that was here 7 years ago—so some residents must still go for unhealthy) and that ice cream is only available at the IGA. The bakery does, apparently, have some sticky stuff.  Oh, poor old Ajo—the nuevo hippies have arrived—the soup nazi had nothing on the artists of Ajo.

Returned to the motel  and vegged and enjoyed the patterns the palms made on the blinds on windows and doors.Lots of phone calls—trying to reach Betsy for her birthday but only succeeding in playing phone tag. Chatted with my nephew and his wife for awhile. Then Bill’s brother Fred called so we spoke with him a bit. He gave us Jim the brother in law’s phone number. But before we had a chance to call Jim, he called us!!!!! Fred the Fixer emailed him our phone number and address—wish he’d butt out. Kind of left in the air whether we will be able to hook up with Jim before we leave Arizona.

Today, we started our day at Marcela’s—saw no baked goods nor did I smell anything baking—for breakfast. This is the only place I can get chorizo served on shredded lettuce for breakfast and wonderful sourdough toast. The orange juice and coffee are awful but this is the only game in town for breakfast—just as it was 7 years ago. Passed the Ranchouse Restaurant where we used to eat dinner—so sad to see it closed.

Spent most of the day in Organ Pipe National Monument—the best park for a huge variety of different types of cactus. So glad we returned—I’d forgotten just how beautiful it is. Stopped at Olsen’s IGA on the way back to the room and picked up some frozen fruit bars, more cheese and two beautiful peppers. The red one was 59 cents and the yellow 49 cents—sold by the piece not the pound—incredible prices.

Jim had texted us –how do you text??? Took me forever to get a message typed and couldn’t figure out how to make a space. Have to hit a button several times to get the right letter—just a pain. Anyway we called him back. He’s checking out restaurants in Casa Grande and will email us an address of one where we’ll meet him tomorrow. Guess we’ll stay in Casa Grande tomorrow night. Too confusing for me. Oh, well.

Finished my sandwich and V-8 so think I’ll close—get settled in and do my nails while watching NCIS on the snowy TV. Still have my Mardi Gras nails—they are finally chipping—plus my nails have grown a quarter inch so have a bare nail at the base. Not a good look.

Will let you know how the meeting works out—for now—good night, sweet dreams. The Two Traveling Peas, Kathy and Bill

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lots of Traveling in The Past Week

Monday March 9, 2015 La Siesta Motel Cabin 17 Ajo,Arizona

While in Gallup made my annual visit to Perry Null Trading.  I had made a list of items in which I had some interest before going over there. The items were listed on their website and when I asked to see them, Angel and Mel told me that they were in a special mail order room and not in the display cases in the store. Well, who knew how easy that would make my shopping. Angel took me there and the young lady in charge just pulled the item up on the computer, went to a drawer and pulled it out. Eureka. I got Bets a birthday gift, a Christmas gift, got lapis earrings for me and a beautiful turquoise earring and necklace set. Then, returning to the showroom, I found a lovely lapis necklace, which completes my lapis set. Had Betsy’s birthday gift sent home and it arrived at our PO this morning, right on time. Of course, with the new reduced hours at the PO she probably won’t be able to get it until Saturday.

Needed something for Betsy’s gift so went to Thunderbird Supply on West Rte 66 but they didn’t have it. Found some copper beads that were so reasonable, I picked up a few for her to use when she makes earrings. Wish I could take her there, she’d find so many things she’d like. They have tubes of seed beads for $1 in just about any color you can imagine. If I did beading I’d get one of every color.

Continued out to Window Rock and the Navajo Nation Museum. I’ve wanted to go for years. It is laid out so beautifully. An art gallery , followed by a gallery devoted to the Long March of over 400 miles from Canyon de Chelly, where the Navajo tried to avoid the soldiers led by Kit Carson and sent by Andrew Jackson to round the up and move them to an area less desirable to the whites. Bosque Redondo at Fort Sumner in New Mexico is as different as desert and forest. There was no way for the Navajo to farm and when the soldiers provided them with bacon and flour they had no idea how to cook them so they mixed the flour with water and ate it that way and ate the bacon raw. As a result many got very sick and many died of starvation. That was of those that made it to Redondo, since many died making the trek,especially since Kit was brutal and vicious in the drive. In time, after many treaties the tribe, severely depleted, were allowed to return to the Canyon. The Navajo Nation is as large as Ct but still, much smaller than the original homeland. Kit Carson died one month before the signing of the treaty, which was administered by General Sherman.

The last area dealt with the Navajo who signed the treaty but by then, having read all of the displays, including those dealing with the effort to destroy the culture of the Navajo by sending their young men to boarding school in Carlisle Pa and forcing them to cut their hair and wear white men’s type clothing. The girls were kept in Arizona but they too went to the  BIA schools and learned how to be “ white young ladies” in dress and deportment. When Barb and I were at the Canyon last fall, Mr Henry said he went to the reservation school until high school and had never gone to school with white students nor had he ever seen a black person.

We headed back to Gallup from Window Rock and dinner at Applebee’s where we met Travis and Vera, descendants of the Chief. As Travis said, from one of his 13 wives!  We talked about many things including the name of sports teams that are reflective of Native Americans, such as the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, The Florida Seminoles, The Washington Redskins.Both of them said it is ridiculous to force the teams to change their names, since, in their opinion, the names were chosen to honor the Indian. Travis pointed out that the Redskins originated in Boston and chose the name to honor their coach, who was Native American. I, of course, have always objected to Notre Dame being called the Fighting Irish and told Travis that.

There was some discussion of the people who have a drop of Native blood being called Native. When a team of obviously primarily black heritage were to play in a Native tournament, he almost wanted to ask to see their CIP cards. The brother and sister spoke of their family and how close they are. We met two of their nieces and a new baby boy, a great nephew. All in all, we had a wonderful evening. When we were leaving, Vera asked where we were headed and we said back to our room. I think they were surprised but when I told them that we are old birds, they were even more amazed. LOL

On Friday there was a photo of Hilary taken before she retired from the office of Secretary of State—I’ll hand it to her—she used the past two years well in getting back into shape. Lost weight, redyed and restyled her hair, obviously had a face lift if not more work, bought new clothes and jewelry. She’s probably going to get after Billy Boy this year, too, or she’ll be sending him out of country on a charity tour for awhile. Now, if she can come up with explanations and revelations of secret emails and money from countries she won’t give special favors to as president, maybe she’ll run. Hopefully, she’ll have something more substantial to say than “ Isn’t it time we had a woman president?” It may be but I think her time is past, She’s too old and has too much baggage—unless she has convinced women in this country that the only important thing is to have a woman in the White House—stranger things have happened.

After getting past the thought of her as President we moved westward toward Arizona. Took the road to Holbrook through the beautiful Painted Desert. When the rest of the country was getting beaten with snow storm after snow storm the  West and Southwest received heavy rains. It certainly made a difference here, since things had greened up and flowers were scattered on the desert floor. Around Whipple Point, which I photographed from every angle for my friend Joyce, who is a Whipple, as opposed to a Whipple-Twing  ( do you remember that conversation when Bill and I were getting married, Joyce?), the first Petrified Tree logs begin to pepper the landscape.

The old Route 66 crosses the park and the indentation is still visible. That area is marked by an old car skeleton—took that shot for my friend, Glen, who loves old cars. Took a few pictures back in Alamogordo for him, too. The train tracks from Holbrook to Gallup also cross the park and I took that photo for my sister in law. Meg, who had taken the LA to Chicago train just a few days earlier.

In the front of the museum at the exit from the park there is a collection of petrified wood and so I took some shots of all the beautifully colorful minerals that replaced the cellulose of the wood over millennia while under mud and water. I have never seen any item made from the wood that has the colors found in these specimens.

As we pulled out of the lot we noticed Doug’s identical twin from California. Those people had taken their Corolla through some heavy duty mud. As we continued through Holbrook, hanging on desperately since 66 was bypassed by I 40 we broke open the Prickly Pear licorice I picked up in the gift shop.

Continued on to Winslow and Bank of the West where we got some more cash. Checked out the Winslow school built like a hogan and the Bulldog that is placed in the middle of a four way intersection like a war monument.  Then on to the motel and the restaurant there called DJ’s. Don’t know if that is where Bud and Gloria had the big hamburgers they told us of, but I’ll tell you—my hamburger was so big, I couldn’t finish my glass of beer I was so full. It was every much as large as the ones at The Owl, in San Antonio, NM.

Met yet another Navajo who chatted with us about his grandfather’s service as a Code Talker, his father’s service in Nam and his brother’s service in Iraq. He had a tattoo on his arm that had a feather for each of his family members who served. He did not mention his own service though he had been a city cop with rank of sergeant in Winslow. He also spoke of his two sons, one of whom is just finishing his degree in law enforcement, the other who is a freshman in high school and made varsity football team and his little girl who will dance in an event in Mesa. There is a great deal of family and closeness among these people. I finished the day by photographing my lapis jewelry—i think it is my favorite.

As we left Winslow The Sacramento Peaks which are the Western sacred mountains to the Dine looked so close. We’d seen them the day before 68 miles away from Flagstaff and they  seemed much closer than that. Now they were closer but still 47  miles away. The spaces here are so large it is difficult to just distance easily. Once we got to Flagstaff and went around he peaks, the bare desert area changed into a National Forest of large pines and ground covered with deep snow.

We descended partway into Williams but were still on the Coconino Plateau until we reached the sweeping descending curves to Ashfork. We followed an antique Ford Falcon for awhile but he kept it at about 50 so we blew by him. Looked at the driver, an old hippie, with white pony tail, probably the same vintage as his vehicle. Shortly after we departed the interstate for old Rte66 through Seligman etc  and on into Kingman.

Headed to the Dam Bar, had Ranchhand sirloins with Dam Red draft, jalapeño biscuits, rice and salad with bleu cheese dressing. Chatted with Mindy, the barmaid for a bit but talked mostly with Ken, who moved here in the 70’s. Told us about the old town before all the Californians, Chicagoites and New Yorkers, ( mostly jerks, says he) moved in. Told some fun stories about the Dam Bar, including the fact that he suggested the name to the owner who has since died. We gave him a Vt license plate and donated one for the bar’s wall—had to—there was already one from NH—couldn’t let that outdo Vermont!

Got back to the motel and there was a Coors Pole Car in a beautiful glass enclosed trailer but it was too dark to get a really good picture. Did photograph the turquoise set though and then to bed.

Speaking of which, I’m getting tired and haven’t eaten since lunch so think I’ll close and tell you about our California roaming tomorrow and about our return to Ajo then, also. So for tonight—goodnight, take care and talk with you tomorrow. The Two Traveling Peas, Kathy and Bill

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Journada del Meurto

Wednesday March 4, 2015 Comfort Inn Room 210 Gallup, New Mexico

It seems forever since I’ve written to describe our adventures. Last Saturday morning we rose, had breakfast and started our day by taking a short tour of the oldest part of Alamogordo. We had picked up a brochure at the museum the day before and decided to take the time to twist and turn through three blocks north south and four blocks east west to observe  the oldest houses left in town. All of them were built between 1904 and 1920. The brochure includes twelve dwellings but two of them are gone, one has been turned into a restaurant, another sits empty and forlorn and a third is for sale. The house with the long addition on one side was actually a hospital. All of them seem well preserved, though the one for sale has removed the lovely arched alcoves to the porch and squared them all off—it has lost a bit of character as a result.

The tour began and ended at a large market, on the brochure map listed as Van Winkles IGA but it is now a Lowes. Bill thought it was the building supply company but I’d seen the bakery listed on its fascia. I wanted to check to see if I could find the Mexican peanut candy I love—de la Rosa—and I did find two boxes. We also checked out the Spanish food aisle—we love to cook different types of food and this was so extensive it was hard to choose items. Bill picked up some garlic cubes, much like bouillon, I picked up a brown sugar pyramid. We also got a couple of boxes of gumbo mix—they were a dollar a box so said, what the heck. Got a couple of Zatarain mixes we don’t have at home. Not Spanish but Creole-Cajun, which we also love.  Unfortunately, we'd already gassed up near the motel,since the gas here was $1.98 a gallon. Oh, well, it would have been a savings of about 8 cents! Gas has never been a major expense on our trips, since our cars have always been very efficient and Douglas has not failed us in that regard. He gives us 37 miles to the gallon. We are happy.

And so we headed out of Alamogordo and headed 65 miles south toward Las Cruces—not for any special reason but that we haven’t been down that way in awhile and we like the area. As we passed Holloman we talked about the reduction of forces that has happened—about 800 families according to our cook at the motel, She said the operations have been consolidated and moved to Florida. Many empty houses in town. The German air force trains there , however, and their presence has increased. Barb and I just missed the Oktoberfest they put on each year at the end of September.

Then it was passed the water tank and three mounds that the White Sands brochure list as landmarks, which always makes me chuckle. Notice how the sands are overtaking the fence along the highway. They are moving toward Alamogordo about two inches a year. A dry lake that we’d explored more closely last year sparkled in the welcome sunshine.

We watched the San Andres’ sharp peaks moving ever closer to us as we drove South. Soon we were at the long sweeping approach to the San Augustine Pass, which is filled with communication towers now but fifteen years ago bristled with white windmills at every level.  Up and over and the Mesilla Valley and Las Cruces spread widely at our feet. Made a sweeping U-turn onto I 25 and headed north toward Albuquerque. Within a few miles, however, we left the highway in favor of the local roads going through the ancient pueblos along the lower Rio Grande.

We soon came to Fort Selden, the name of which sounded vaguely familiar to me. When I started to read the historical panels in the museum I realized that I’d heard of it while reading the biography of Gen. MacArthur—American Caesar. Obviously, he predated Obama! We watched a short video presentation in which we were informed that there were two contingents of soldiers assigned here—a Buffalo soldier infantry and a Calvary regiment, which I suppose was white. Interestingly but not surprisingly, there were maybe two pictures of Buffalo soldiers and they were taken in Montana. Actually most of the pictures were from other forts. We’ve been to Craig and Sumner before and they are in the same condition as this one—severely deteriorated. Apparently, once abandoned by the Army the doors, windows and roof materials were carried off by the local residents, leaving the soft adobe exposed to the weather and wind and it has rapidly returned to rubble. Still, it is interesting to imagine the company carrying out their duties in this dusty, remote outpost surrounded by the beautiful mountains.

A small village grew up outside the post offering all the entertainment a bunch of single young men might desire—not very different from some of the bases Barb and I passed in Nevada. Some things never change. Las Cruces lay 20 miles away but at times the guys spent time there. In each place gun fights and stabbings were not unusual and though the fort lay in Apache territory, it was noted that more deaths were the result of drunken brawls than Indian attack. In reading about the Post Surgeon I was struck by the description of bed bug and lice infestations, cholera, etc and the fact that these situations were the result of poor sanitation, diet . Could not help but think of the resurgence of these problems in our country and the fact that indifferent sanitation on the part of some people has reintroduced them. Loved a couple of the recipes but think I’ll forgo trying them. The poem One Room and a Kitchen made me think of my sister-in-law and whether this still holds true?  And how about those helmets and hats so reminiscent of German military gear right into the first World War—don’t usually associate them with our military. Maybe that’s why they’ve been changed?

Once we left this depot we were well on truly on that portion of the Camino Real—or Royal Road—that was designated the Journado del Meurtas—the journey of the dead. I’ve not seen anything this arid anywhere in our travels. Even the deserts of California and Nevada have some moisture in places. Here the Rio Grande is totally dry, the irrigation canals are as well. We know that water is regulated here and that the river goes below ground in many places but how the water becomes available for the fields and nut trees is a mystery to us. We passed only one fenced area with cows and they were truly emaciated. It is impossible to imagine the people travelling this road on foot or wagon—going from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Many must have died without water. No wonder they were so grateful to reach El Moro near Grants.

We  passed through Hatch again. Years ago we arrived and everything but a MacDonald's was closed but all the roadside markets had long bunches of red and green chilies hanging from the porch rafters almost to the ground. The air was so redolent with the smell of hot peppers, our noses ran and our eyes burned a bit. Soon we reached one of the dams on the Rio Grande and the Caballo Reservoir with Caballo Mountains on the opposite shore. On we went through the sand hills into Truth or Consequences named after a TV show!!!

Tired we once more got onto I 25 which was never far away from us. Bill and I had miscommunicated in the morning. I’d told him there was a Comfort Inn in TorC but when he didn’t tell me to make a reservation I assumed he wanted to push on to Socorro. When we stopped at the traffic light in front of the motel, I didn’t say anything, nor did he. As a result we were quite tired by the time we reached Socorro. He then said that when I hadn’t commented on the motel, he assumed I wanted to push on to Socorro. God, after almost 30 years you’d think we’d do a better job of knowing what the other one wanted. Oh, well, he went out to K-Bob’s for dinner and I happily ate my Wedge Salad I’d been carrying around for days and which was now frozen. Finished up the pate and some crackers with it and retired to bed to read. Since there really was nothing on TV, we both went to sleep by 9. Not very usual for me but I went out like a light.

Being in Socorro we could not depart without a trip to the Bosque. Once more up in the dark, breakfast and down to the Refuge. As we were approaching the railroad crossing I saw a freight train headed our way. I hoped we’d get to the crossing before the red lights started flashing for it was one of those that go on forever and we’d be later than I wanted to be to view the wildlife. Fortunately, he was far enough off that we made it across in plenty of time.

We usually head to the south loop first and come around the long way to the exit but since the fellow had seen the cats on the north loop earlier last week we headed out the north loop—where we came upon a huge group of javelina—boars, sows and young. They run away and are really funny to watch, their legs are so short in comparison to the body. Although they supposedly have a vile odor due to scent glands, we’ve not been able to detect it from the car. We watched them awhile and continued on down the road, once they’d all vanished into the brush or at a distance down the path. When we turned back along the same road, they had regathered in the road and along its edge. One little family of three ran right along in front of us before finally getting brave enough to cross over and join the others. Despite their number the only sounds we heard were the singing voices of the redwing blackbirds.

We then continued along our regular path and were greeted by what I’ve come to call our “ hello heron”. It is always along this stretch of road at the canal—I look for it every visit and it is never far from one spot on the canal. As we turned at the far south we came upon one lone javelina boar at the area where we’d first seen them several years ago. In the far fields there were still some snow geese and Canada geese but their numbers were fewer than a week ago—so the northern migration has begun in earnest. Lying in the grass we spotted four or five of the does we’d seen before but their buck was not visible. They did seen to be looking into the brush that was too thick for us to see though well, so perhaps he was near at hand.

As we continued along the Eastern side as usual we played our game of who can spot the hawk first—almost every tree along this path seems to have a hawk surveying the fields. As a matter of fact, we disturbed a rather large one alongside the road who’d had a successful hunt. In great irritation he picked up his prey, flew across the canal and settled in with his back to us to continue dining. When we stopped to watch, he picked it up once more and flew far in the distance where we pesky humans wouldn’t stare at him as he ate.

At the eastern end of the northern loop are the farm fields which had been filled with geese and cranes only a few days ago—maybe a week—today there were a few of both geese and only one crane. Will it try going it alone to the north, will it find some of the cranes that are farther up along the River toward Albuquerque or will he hang out until next Fall’s fly-in? I don’t want to think that he might be a mountain lion’s breakfast or dinner. Then we came to the “ good-bye heron” another who is always at this same area. Today, however, we had a special treat. As we started toward the exit, the most adorable small hawk flew up from the roadside. About the size of a robin, it kept flying up and down from the ground to the post holding the stop sign. He was much more fidgety than the big hawks so we kept our distance and I tried to get a decent shot of him—through the windshield, turning the car and through my window and then through Bill’s—both of them open. The last shot was the best I could get.

Then it was back to the motel to pack and head up to Belen to visit Bud and Gloria, our friends who moved here from New Hampshire. We once more took the roads along the river and through the little farm communities with their little churches in each one. Arrived around 12:30 and immediately went into catch up mode. A friend of Gloria’s from Indianapolis is house-sitting next door so she dropped some cheese and crackers off for us to nibble on around 2, but since I’d eaten a fair share of ginger snaps and coffee and Bill had a few beers and Bud and Gloria some soda, we decided to forgo them—after all, Gloria, as usual had prepared a feast which would be ready at 4.

And let me tell you, the girl did not stint—she NEVER does. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, steamed carrots, cranberry chutney, green bean casserole ( brought by Jane, she of the cheese and crackers), gravy and home-made rolls. When we finished eating, it was not only the turkey that had been stuffed. Bill did the carving, much to Bud’s joy and the two of them did the cleaning up while we ladies sat in the living room chatting and relaxing. Jane left when Downton Abbey was coming on, since she doesn’t follow it, Bill went in to read, since he doesn’t either and Bud, Gloria and I enjoyed the two hour finale and chatted about it throughout and when it was over. We are so devastated that we have to wait til  January 2016 for the next season!!!! i suggested that we rent our houses and go over to England to see it, since they screen the seasons earlier than we do.

By the time it was over we all had room for dessert, which Jane missed out on. Chocolate cream pie with whipped cream. Somewhere along the line, I also got the recipe for that delicious chutney and promised to send Gloria the recipe I have for the cranberry-pear pie I have.

Monday started out with pancakes and ham for breakfast. Juice and coffee to wash it all down. Then we got ready and headed up to Albuquerque to see Unbroken. It was senior day at the movies so we only paid $1.00 each. They charged us $2.30 per couple much to Bud and Gloria’s dismay—have they raised the price or have they started charging tax/  LOL But, despite being perplexed we all agreed even $1.15 is quite a bargain for a first run movie. Afterwards, we went out for Chinese food. The Egg flower or egg drop soup is filled with egg white and is quite pretty but since I don’t like eggs, I ordered Won Ton as did Bill. He had Moo Goo Gai Pan (the Gai is chicken—private joke) and I had beef with vegetables. Big portions of excellent food. Bud and Gloria each had a spicy shrimp dish if I recall correctly. All in all a delightful day, especially since Bill and I haven’t had Chinese in a long while. The movie was good, though there really wasn’t much of a plot, but the tribulations this fellow suffered, first lost at sea and in a raft for over 40 days with two of his buddies and then the brutality of the Japanese when they were ‘ rescued” by them were excruciating. The fact that he didn’t go mad is amazing. Bill and I did find the neat haircuts and grooming of the prisoners amusing and I was particularly impressed by the quality of the American uniforms that only faded but did not shred nor tatter through the years of confinement and abuse. The only time the prisoners were ever even dirty was when they worked to coal mine. And even having become emaciated, the uniforms still fit the guys perfectly. In fairness though, these distracting thoughts came while driving to Gallup today, the situations while watching the movie were so riveting. Finished the day with some TV and new Fox program I haven’t seen before, a cop show, that at first I didn’t care for, but the second episode was much better. Now, I have to add it to my favorite shows!

Yesterday morning we lingered over coffee,juice and Gloria’s fabulous cinnamon buns—my God this girl can cook. I don’t know why the two of them aren’t 700 pounds apiece!  I know I must gain 25 pounds every time I visit them. Even if you restrain yourself from seconds, a near impossibility, it is important to resign yourself to discomfit in your pants for at least a week. I AM NOT complaining, mind you.As if eating while there is not bad enough, you always leave with leftovers. When Barb and I came in the Fall, we had homemade rolls and brownies for almost a week to munch on—and they would have been gone sooner but we tried to make them last. Neither Gloria nor I can remember what dinner was on that visit but I remember the rolls and brownies. This time we took cinnamon rolls and I took a turkey wing and neck which I ate for dinner last night.

Anyway, having refused rolls and turkey, since we had no room in the cooler for the latter and were worried the former would spoil since we have other bread with us , we headed out around 10:30 for Gallup. Out through Las Lunas over Route 6 with the train running alongside in the opposite direction and Mt Taylor snow covered in the distance. Onto I 40 with stop at the rest area at Acoma. How I hate the THREE roundabouts that got placed on a road area less than a mile long. Must have employed lots of Acoma at a good salary from the State. Confusing and irritating. The Rest area must also have cost a pretty penny and provided some jobs. I’ve never seen anyone picnicking there but the tables and grills are very nicely set up. Back onto 40 through the beautiful red mesas into Gallup by 1o’clock so went to Applebees for lunch.

Decided to stay in for dinner and early to bed—but I actually stayed up to watch TV till 10. Woke up really tired this morning so we decided to stay another night. Going to Perry Null’s tomorrow and then over to Window Rock. Today just a lazy read and TV day and readjustment to smaller meals and the road. Probably sounds crazy but it is nice to just take a break from everything before getting back into the routine.

There you have it—all caught up once more. Bill went out to get nickels and explore the grocery store while I blogged. Came back with several cans of Mexican fruit juice, a couple of grapefruits and descriptions of some chorizo that is available. Will have to check that out tomorrow before we leave town. No freezer in this refrigerator so have to hope the freezer packs stay at least slushy.

Looking forward to my Perry fix tomorrow and moving farther West into Arizona. Will be in touch again soon. Hope all is well with you all. A very happy birthday to Sally, whose birthday was yesterday. Did you do something fun?  Sure hope so! Until next time, so long from the Traveling Two Peas