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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, March 31, 2017

Almost Home!!!

Hi Trekkies--thought we'd be home today but Mother Nature decided to play late winter, early spring games with us. So, since I've just finished the bills for April and have gotten all the pictures thus far uploaded and sent to you, figured I'd catch you up on our final days on the road. I left you all as we checked into our motel in Boonville, Mo after several downpours and views of the most incredible cloudscapes I've ever seen. Hard to believe that was six days ago. For the most part our time was spent crossing the country on back roads, using Interstates only when there was no other choice. We left Boonville on the morning of Mar 26 with a final look at the last of the daffodils in front of our motel. We headed south to pick up Mo Rte 50 which runs pretty much East - West toward St Louis. We had debated heading farther south and crossing the Mississippi at a less crowded location and then working our way back north in Illinois. Upon further discussion we decided that since it was Sunday that the traffic would most likely be light and we'd save time, Our original aim was to get home on April 1 but now that we were getting so close we decided we could make it by today. Usually, I'm depressed these last few days and trying to do anything to delay the inevitable return to the frozen, dead looking northland of Vermont, but for some reason, this year, I'm actually looking forward to getting home and seeing Betsy and the cats. Although the day was heavily overcast, it didn't rain, though it seemed as though it should. The weather was actually unseasonably warm--high 50's. low 60's. Initially, the terrain was as flat and the roads as long as it had been for days. Soon it became rolling hills and still lots of beautiful fields waiting cultivation. Some had been tilled and the rich soil looked almost black, in other places the undisturbed fields sported the beautiful purple mats of henbit--a weed with very shallow root systems that love the richness of the unplanted fields. Although we could not see it we were travelling parallel to the Missouri River and soon reached the capital city, Jefferson City which sits majestically on its bluffs. Once through town we started to swing southeast away from the river and toward St Louis and the mighty big muddy. Once we'd passed through Linn and away from the river we entered a more forested, less farmed area of the State. Still we were in the land of alphabet soup, as I call it, with all the side roads either single or double letter designations. I've not noticed such road labels in any other State. Why there were even two that formed my monogram--KP! On we went through such nice little residential towns as Rosebud and Gerald. In time 50 ended by a " T " to I 44 which led us directly to St Louis. AND semis with some interesting loads. LOL Bill started to get a bit nervous with all the coming and going of vehicles going to Memphis or Chicago or St Louis. I urged him to imagine he was driving our Interstate near Manchester, NH and that I'd make believe the bridge, which makes me nervous, is the one in St Francisville. La. It also crosses the Mississippi but is much lower and shorter. Well, traffic turned out lighter than he expected and the bridge was much easier to cross than I'd anticipated. We were a bit south of the city center and so it isn't the major St Louis bridge. Phew--in minutes it was all behind us. And then we were in Illinois. Right on the other side of the bridge I took us on a narrow two lane--county road " J " --to connect to Illinois 64, which parallels Interstate 64. Paul and Jean had taken the interstate to get home after leaving the northeast last summer and Jean said it was a pretty ride from Louisville, Ky to St Louis. We try to avoid interstates but the State road covered the same area and though out of sight was close enough to access if we got tired of the back roads or felt we wanted to make up time. " J " ended at a t-intersection with 64 in Freeburg. Bill said which way and I said left--within seconds I saw we were headed West back toward St Louis--I'd forgotten we were headed North, not South on "J" so we had to turn right to head East. Oh, well, even the best navigators make mistakes sometimes--at least we got to see the whole of Freeburg! A few more Illinois towns, some small, others smaller, and we arrived at Mt Vernon for the night. Ate at Applebee's. Watched NCIS LA--nothing else particularly appealing. The next morning dawned overcast and threatening rain once more. Drove through Mt Vernon which has all this colorful squiggly stuff on the welcome sign and water tower and a strange sculpture at the railroad crossing but, though I google searched like crazy, could not find anything that would explain the apparently import of the logo. Once more we followed 64 eastward through more farmland,and small towns. Today's journey took us into Little Egypt and Wayne City, whose water tower declared it to be the Bean Capital of Little Egypt. It is much easier for me to give you a link for those who'd like to know the history of this geographical designation of this part of Illinois. Interesting, but easily skipped if you don't care--lol http://www.illinoishistory.com/egypt.htm Then we drove across the Wabash and into Indiana. Though we usually only eat breakfast and then supper when we stop for the evening, the breakfast at the Mt Vernon motel was inedible and the coffee was brown colored water. Worried that we were moving out of Sonic country I asked to stop at Sonic for my one Sonic fix of the trip. My eyes, as Mom used to say, were bigger than my belly!!! A SuperSonic double bacon cheeseburger, a small order of tater tots and a Sonic Blast--small thank goodness--Butterfinger, of course! Stuffed--but so good! I guess I should tell you about my gourmet requirements on our trip: One Johnny Carina's meal ( Alamogordo, this year ), one Buffalo Wild Wings ( actually twice this year--don't remember where), one Pizza Hut delivery ( went to the restaurant in Las Vegas, NM) and one Sonic Blast ( this was it ).. Other than those, I don't care where we eat. Don't want more than one of each --not a glutton--but they don't exist at home and they are yummy. Some more midAmerica towns with elegant Courthouses and pretty homes before entering a truly rural area. We descended off a plateau and the town of Bird's Eye into a narrow valley and rode along a railroad. We came to a sign that said welcome to St Anthony and St Marks but there were actually two little villages running right into each other. I thought there had to be some history to the combo welcome sign but the distinct individuality of the hamlets. Again, only St Anthony is listed on Google and no mention of St Marks. I'd love to know the story. Then we came to bluff area and noticed caves in the walls as we drove. There is a National Site Cave in Marengo, Indiana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marengo_Cave These, however, were not anything I'd want to explore. We pulled over in what looked like a quarry and the whole wall was pocked with caves. Drove back along the road to look at the ones there--dark and hard to tell how far back they go, but this is obviously pretty sinkhole country. The road is probably on a system of caves. Eerie. I could not resist the turquoise and white chevy for Glen. I think that it is rigged with electric light along its sides which must illuminate it at night. That made me sad--but love the car. Once more we came to the Interstate and took it. We decided we'd stay in Jeffersonville on the outskirts of Louisville, Ky. Used navigation system to find the motel--thank goodness I didn't call to make a reservation. Madam Sultry Voice took us across the Ohio--God, another bridge!!--into Ky. We wondered about that since Jeffersonville is in Indiana. But, in short order, Madame Sulty was directing us across the Ohio once more---no,no,no--On to Lexington. Unfortunately, she is very persistent and every chance she got, she was having us make a legal U-turn. Bill, of course, is trying to drive in Louisville traffic and I'm desperately trying to figure out how to shut her up. I suspended navigation--that stopped her--but still needed to get rid of the destination. Eventually, don't ask me how, I found a delete destination and so I did. This added another hour or so to our day and by the time we arrived at the Clarion we were pretty pooped. Thank goodness I had eaten my Sonic because I was stuffed. Bill went to the bar and had a salad. Watched Criminal Minds and Designated Survivor--I think. We decided to stay another night in Lexington and so the next day we headed over to Frankfurt and Buffalo Trace Distillery. Bill had gotten a nice fleece vest there several years ago and wanted to get a new one. Unfortunately, they didn't have them anymore. I got my Freddie hug. Freddy is a gentleman who has been at the distillery for years. We've taken tours with him several times. He is just a delight and, as you can imagine, meets thousands of people each year. I KNOW there is no way he can possibly remember me but every year that I visit I make sure to say hello to him and he always greets me like I'm a long lost friend. Hugs me tightly and asks how are you baby--it is so good to see you. I told the tour group that I didn't know how they'd feel about the bourbon or the tour but that they would love this man. I truly do--he is just a wonderful person and it makes me happy to see him. Drove over through Versailles and back to the Clarion. Went to the pub for sirloin steak dinners and laughter and talk with the guys at the bar. A travelling loading dock door installer and repairman and his crew. A young local, married for ten days--we gave him a hard time--wife was home making tacos for dinner. He kept in touch with her and she seemed okay that he was staying out. I tried the new Trace Bourbon--Eagle Rare. Excellent. Watched NCIS, Bones finale :( and The Americans. Slept like a log! The next day--It was off toward Cincinnati. We've been along this route so often--I got bored and fell asleep after we entered Ohio and fell asleep until we reached Columbus. Around Dry Ridge Ky we were rolling along at 75, went around a curve and the traffic was stopped dead in its tracks. Three lanes of cars and semis--a wonder no one came around the bend and rear ended anyone. We crept along for six to seven miles and at one point we could see the empty road before us--and then two pace cars. The traffic headed south was moving just fine but we were being held back. After about six or seven miles Bill saw the lights on the pace cars go out and the traffic was released. No evidence of any accident or of the pace cars--so a mystery as to what was going on. From then on traffic moved fine until we came to the OHIO --again and crossed into Ohio State at Covington, Ky to Cincinnati, Ohio. No welcome to Ohio though! In the middle of the bridge the Interstates divide--as you go onto the bridge you have to make sure you've picked the right lane for your destination--for us it is the two right lanes for Columbus. I navigate Bill through the mess and relax once we are out of the yellow blob on the map. I dozed off as I said and woke up in time to navigate him through Columbus toward Cleveland. Though Mansfield would be a nice distance to call it a day, we have stayed there and eaten in the Dutchman Restaurant--several times, because we forgot how awful it was. The last couple of times we've remembered and push on to Medina--pronounced Medinah--like Dinah Shore. A wonderful deli right next door so we each had a pastami on rye with mustard. Yum, yum. Unfortunately, he doesn't open until 1030 am so no getting coldcuts to bring home. Another time. Yesterday morning out we headed hoping to make Syracuse and home today. Horribly dark in the morning--felt like evening instead of 10am. Along Lake Erie in fog and rain--heavy most of the time. Couldn't see the lake at all. Into Pa for a few miles and then into New York at Ripley and around Buffalo. Kind of bored so used my camera to make Impressionistic paintings of the passing scenes. Loved the rest area where they left the weigh station sign that said " OPeN" there. So in came the trucks in single file, went around the building in a circle and then make a 180 at the end of the circle right back onto the Thruway. All nice and slow like a procession of silvery trucks with colorful cabs. Inefficiency, but guess it slowed them down and released them en masse back into traffic. Arrived at Batavia around 230 and decided to stop. Applebees had piles of snow in the parking lot--temp in low 40's--it had been 34 near Erie, Pa. Lovely!! Watched the weather report last night and this morning and decided the motel here is cheaper than around Rutland, if we made it. Or Syracuse if we had to stop. Decided to stay. Rained all day here. I paid the bills. Looks like Killington may be a problem. But,if all goes well, we will head out tomorrow and be home in late afternoon. So, there it is---back in the deep freeze and gray days and snow and wintery mix and mud. But Spring will catch up within the month, I hope and another year in Vermont begins. Will do the summary from home and will answer your questions, Jane--haven't forgotten. Also, Amy. I know I haven't talked about Miami but I will. Wish us luck on the last leg, Trekkies and good night. KandB

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Traversin Missouri to See Friends

Ah, Two nights in Joplin and we feel quiet rested. Yesterday was a total rest day. I never got into street clothes--just reveled in the relaxation of sleeping in, taking a LONG shower, setting my hair, doing my nails and lazing around all day. Bill brought in Chili's chicken wings for dinner and I read almost a whole book. We had planned on going up to Carthage to roam the shops around the square and up to Lamar, the birthplace of Harry Truman but it rained all day--so it was perfect to stay in. This morning it was still raining but we went 200 miles north to Corder, Mo to visit with our friends, Paul and Jean. Paul and Bill were in Peace Corps together and their lives have many similarities--both married around the same time and had one daughter. Paul has been hands on in agriculture--growing thousands of acres of corn and soybeans and raising pigs. Their home is a lovely house in which Paul was raised set into the hills surrounded by their planted fields. No matter in which direction you look, the scene is just beautiful. As a matter of fact today's pictures focus primarily on the rolling hills, small towns, expansive cultivated fields and incredible storm clouds of Missouri. Our visit was so much fun--lots of laughter and catching up with fun ribbing about our political views and political situation we find ourselves in after an unreal election year. Travel and work and kids and a delicious lunch of a plethora of cold cuts and wonderful rolls from a deli near to us in Boonville but I bet they are closed tomorrow ( Sunday!). When we left Pioneer Road, we were almost immediately in the midst of a deluge preventing all visibility. After several miles of white knuckled driving the skies cleared and the roads were dry--but soon we found that we were to spend the next 50 miles going in and out of heavy down pours followed by almost no rain. I've never seen such banks of clouds or blackness of sky. Everywhere I looked was an even more jaw-dropping scenes. Got into Boonville and right next to our motel is a Russell Stover store. More jaw-dropping scenes of aisle upon aisle of candy. I hesitate to admit how much we spent on chocolate. Actually, I'm not telling. But, I really must close since an Easter egg is calling my name. Also we have to figure which way we are headed tomorrow. Sort of want to avoid St Louis but just don't know. All in all, a good day and now time to call it a day. So, to all a goodnight, until ...... KandB

Friday, March 24, 2017

Catching Up--NM to Ok to Tx to OK to Mo--in One Week!!

OMG, Trekkies! What a week this has been! Last I spoke to you, we were still in New Mexico on our way to Las Vegas, NM, I believe. As you can see we've covered a bit of ground since--mostly on the road but with a few interesting stops along the way. We did indeed head out on St Patrick's Day--in full green regalia--well, I was wearing my shamrock scarf, green fingernails ( which badly need redoing tonight ) and new shamrock earrings bought by my darling non-Irishman back in Louisiana at the Dirt Cheap store ( really its name!) I also wore my jade ring that I bought at Perry's last year. We headed East to Bloomfield for the umpteenth time and I took my final pix of the oddities along the road--pick-up trucks way up high, toting and electrified cross etc--as well as the beauties of fruit trees in bloom and the lovely San Juan River. We turned southward and drove down Cuba way past the entrance to Chaco and onward toward Albuquerque. As we headed out of Bloomfield we passed a pick-up filled with bales of hay, towing a trailer, also jammed with hay. There is a drought south of here and, as we found out many miles later, these guys travel a very long way to obtain hay. Is it only my family who makes a wish when passing a vehicle loaded with hay? I told Bill to make a wish and he said "why?" . Told him we were passing a truck of hay and he said he had only two wishes--one, that he did not have to unload the rig and two, that he didn't have to throw the bales into the loft! Oh, well, I made a wish ( and it pretty much came true.) Once more, I found the geological formations and the colors just so wonderful. I've decided, other than Louisiana, New Mexico and Arizona are my favorite places. They were my Mother's, too! As we moved southward we began,once more to enter and leave reservations of various Indian tribes. I must say, we certainly left them the worst of the land--thank goodness for casinos. I still don't know how any of them make a living--they must, like the residents of Canyon de Chelly only live here on week-ends and work somewhere else. There isn't enough food for any large ranching operation and the soil sure doesn't work for planting. It is beautiful but beauty doesn't fill stomachs. Still little towns cling to the foot of the mountains, protected from wind and weather and as close to the snow melt as can be. Water is the whole deal--if there is water, there is greenery and variety in the plants. No water, the landscape is dull and stunted. You can always tell, in many places, where the water flows--there will be a double line of trees or shrubs--one on either side of the stream or creek, which is sometimes only flowing underground there is so little water. While in Cuba buying gas, I got myself a small McDonald's Shamrock Shake--tasted like mint chocolate chip ice cream--yummy and GREEN! Lo and Behold, who should we come upon once we went back on the road? Hay, Man!! Left him in our dust so don't know how far south he carried his load. Soon, in the distance we could see the Sandia Mountains at the foot of which is found Albuquerque. Sandia in Spanish means watermelon and it is posited that the early Spanish named the mountains at sunset when they take on the hue of ripe watermelon. Works for me. As is the case of all major cities there are the 'burbs and here they consist of house upon house in gated communities--little enclaves separate from the native denizens. Without having to go into the city itself and entering at the northern edge we merged into the northbound I 25 and headed toward Santa Fe and Las Vegas. We could have cut straight across to Santa Fe from Cuba but it would have meant crossing those snow-clad mountains. We opted to take the long way round. I love that little church --it is a big fast surprise when going south since it is tucked against the hill just around a curve--you get a fleeting glance before you've gone down the road. Going north it peeks over the interlane barrier. In time, we arrived in Las Vegas ( fertile grassy plains or valleys ) and drove the lovely residential neighborhood off the main highway. The Spanish influence on the architecture is very strong as it is on the restaurants in town. Not wanting Mexican and there being little else we decided to have our one time Pizza Hut of the trip. After a very long day we retired to our room and enjoyed a beautiful sunset before watching TV and bed. The next day we took I 25 once more, going past Wagon Mound, which is one of the landmarks used by travelers along the Santa Fe Trail. There are two hill, opposite each other and for years I could not decide which was Wagon Mound but decided after looking at them from distance and all angles that the one on the East is it. It looks like a long covered wagon, even dipping a bit in the middle. But before reaching them this time, we got off at Waltrous and headed to Fort Union. Bill insisted we'd been there before but we had not. It was a supply fort for many of the forts of New Mexico and Arizona. Being on the Santa Fe Trail, it also served as a stop along the way. There isn't much left, since after it was abandoned they began to raze the buildings. Locals and former residents were able to stop the destruction, but since most of the buildings were adobe it became necessary to coat them with a brown material that resists the erosion of weathering. As a result there are scattered partial structures coated with brown goo. If nothing else the size of the installation has been preserved and some things, such as the stone walkway, are still intact as is the cell block from the otherwise missing jailhouse. The narrative here speaks of a vibrant, bustling community of many men and few women--wives of officers and an occasional wife of an enlisted man who worked for the fort as a laundress or cook. It so happens that for the past month or so I've been reading a book called Wicked Women of New Mexico. Imagine my surprise to find last night as I read the last chapter that Fort Union had a number of " launderesses" who actually were soiled doves who plied their more lucrative trade in the caves of the bluffs surrounding the Fort. Also that it was quite fortuitous that the hospital here was the best for miles around since there were so many cases of venereal disease--60 cases in 6 months. Also the soldiers were constantly AWOL and stealing food from the warehouses to trade for sex. None of this aspect of the installation was shared in the family friendly National Park story. I purchased the book by the Russell lady--she grew up in NM and married a soldier stationed at Fort Union. She returned in 1934 when she was 92--so saddened by the desolate ruin it had become. She died two months later. I've only scanned the book so far but it looks like an enjoyable well written memoir. While leaving we met a woman from Virginia who was stamping her large National Parks Passport book. I never got the big one and have pretty well finished my second small book. She said that she belongs to a stamp club and gave me the website link, which I've filed someplace. She travels all over the country with her two cats and her parrot. The big white rig next to our car is rigged like a living/bedroom with a small kitchen. The cats run loose in there and the parrot is in a huge cage. She sleeps and eats in it. Must have cost a pretty penny--she showed us pix--pretty impressive. Leaving the fort we saw ruts that remain from the wagons that passed over the SFTrail--though the Oregon Trail ruts in Nebraska are more impressive. We also came upon a herd of antelope leisurely grazing alongside the road. As content as the Angus steer across the road. Back to I 25 and up to Springer where we turned Eastward through Clayton and on into Oklahoma. Sadly, we bid good bye to New Mexico for another year. But, the Kiowa grasslands are beautiful and usually we see antelope here, too, but other than one in the middle of the road, there were no more for this year. Now we are in that part of Oklahoma known as NO Man's Land. For some reason when the borders of Ok, Ka, Tx and NM were laid out this strip of land did not fall within any of them. It is now made up of three counties of Ok and Beaver is the one that has been in the news this winter since there were and still are incredibly strong grass fires that have gobbled up much of the land and many of the homes of people there. Our two day trip over No Man's Land was quite odiferous. Our first stop was in Boise City at No Man's Land Jerky Co. Being a Saturday afternoon it was closed but we know Moore's grocery carries the stuff so we backtracked down the street after first greeting the local kitty who hangs out on the bench. Leaving Boise we continued East to Guymon. Now, those who have traveled with us before know about Eddie's Steakhouse. Eddie was a widower who ran the best steakhouse we've ever patronized and we have often planned on hitting Guymon on the way home for one of his prime ribs. Unforunately, two years ago Eddie became very ill and last year when we came to town the restaurant was closed and Eddie had died. He has two children--one of whom is a dentist around Dallas and the other equally well employed someplace else--California, maybe. At any rate, neither had an interest in returning to Guymon or running a restaurant so things were in limbo. We decided to check it out again and lo and behold, the kids decided to lease it to another restaurant owner in town. It has opened once more and the same chef and wait staff are there. We were delighted to renew our friendship with the two teachers who also work there. The salary situation is so sad--no raise in base pay for 8 years and one of the ladies has twenty years plus and has topped out at 43K! I retired almost 20 years ago at 46K. So sad. We visited for over an hour as well as eating dinner so by the time we returned to the room it was an hour of TV and sleep! After another stellar sunset that one only gets over the ocean or in the last of big skies. On Sunday we laid out a day of travel---heading to the end of No Man's Land and then crossing Oklahoma in a southeasterly direction. As we left Guymon we noticed the ranks of low metal buildings in a distance that we'd been told of the night before. Apparently, pigs are the big product here and they are raised indoors in these series of sextets or quintets of the metal buildings with grain feeders at both ends. When the wind is just right, there is no problem in identifying the use of these very uniformly situated groups. Worse than any cow manure ever. Right up there with chicken poop--gagging and throat burning, eye watering stench. Yet, along with them there are large fields of beautiful patterns of soil being prepared for sowing and cattle grazing. Not long after leaving the Strip, we were in the scorched earth area and a new odor assailed us--the smell of burnt grass. We were not even in the area of the worst fires and yet the damage was extensive. Here hay is being brought in because what animals have survived have nothing to eat. A whole new problem, inspecting for the introduction of invasive insects in the hay. So many ramifications to something reported simply as huge grass fires. Once out of the grasslands we entered the oil fields and wind farms and larger towns. The area was now water rich. Having just left two areas that were so arid, the profusion of plants and the number of ponds and rivers was incredibly noticeable. How difficult it must have been for the westward moving pioneers to leave this lushness behind for the dryness of the west and southwest. The number and size of herds of cattle also increased. When we came to Thomas--the home of the First Gentleman, Wade Christensen, I asked Bill who he was. Well, the other day, I picked up a new Oklahoma map and lo and behold he is the husband of the governor--who, as a true modern woman, does not use his name. Remember when Hilary demanded to be called Hilary RODHAM Clinton??? LOL On we continued, through one reservation after another of the many tribes found in Oklahoma. Finally we reached Chickasha and a small diner with a filthy bar but nice people. The barman was a young former marine, Mark, who asked where we were from. When we said Vermont--he said "where's that?"!!!!!!!!! I said Vermont, USA. He had not a clue and even after we told him, I know he really didn't get it. He said when he was a kid he used to think Washington DC and Washington State were the same place. OMG--no wonder there is no unity in this country--kids don't even know what makes up this country. Anyway, he was stationed in Korea and traveled to Hawaii. Says he isn't a native American but rather a Pacific Islander,yet later he claimed to be an Arbuckle/Turner of the Arbuckle Mountains/Turner Falls area of Oklahoma, which he assured us was a beautiful part of the State. As did the two women down the bar from us. We added it to our inventory of possible explorations. Having driven 300 miles I uploaded the pictures and decided I was too tired to do any blogging. Basically, the goal was to get closer to Texas and our visit to Bill's frat brother, Jimmy, who kept calling us to find out when we were going to be there. Ugh! Determined to slow down a bit and take in some of the sites of this area, where we had not traveled before, I said that I wanted to go to the Chisholm Trail Museum in Duncan. With an almost cloudless, clear blue sky for about the fourth day in a row we headed out south once more. The jets stand out for miles in these wide skies and where there are no clouds there are often contrails criss-crossing the sky as their planes criss-cross the country. We entered Outlaw Country which is also watermelon country though we are much too early. In one of the towns, all the trees along the residential section are painted with some sort of white substance--makes them look like they are wearing knee socks. Bill figures it is some kind of insect repellant. Arriving in Duncan we found all types of reminders, including a large mural, that informs the traveler that he has arrived in the Crape myrtle capital of Oklahoma! Even the street signs have a blossom on them. Apparently, this is also the home of Haliburton and there is a statue of the man himself sitting in an easy chair on the plaza of a riverside park. We made our way to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center. One starts the visit with a 25 minute film which is a reenactment of a drive to Abilene, Ks complete with a crossing of a swollen river. Those of us sitting in the front were treated to the splash of water created by the maddened steer coming onto the bank on which we sat. That was a little surprising, though I didn't jump at all. But the best part was the wind and rain and lightening and thunder of a nighttime storm--we were blown and rained upon along with the characters in the film. A really neat approach. I even closed my eyes after awhile because the lightning and thunder seemed so real. Next there was a campfire chat with Chisholm and a first time wrangler on the drive. Animatronic characters-and Cookie behind the chuckwagon, out of sight but not sound, as he pulled the tooth of an ailing cowboy and added to the conversation. After that there were all kinds of hands on exhibits--Bill drove his herd so successfully through Indian encounters and weather events and swollen rivers that he sold them in Abilene for enough money that he would not have to work again and could buy a house in New Orleans. He lost few steer and no men. I lost a man in a river and several head though I bartered better with the Kiowa than he did. Nevertheless, my men and herd were tired enough that I went to a different railhead than Abilene. I managed okay and became a veteran trail boss but looks like I'm going to have to make a few more runs and make better choices if I ever expect to retire. There was a nice exhibit of the four groups of men involved in the workings of the Trail--the mayor of Abilene who has the quandary of trying to attract a high class of people to the town while managing to rein in the wild trail cowboys who have lots of money to spend, which the town really wants, but who have a tendency to go wild in their pursuit of booze and women. Then there is the cowboy who wants to strike it rich and stop having to spend so much of his year driving a bunch of nasty, unpredictable creatures over long miles of Indian infested, open country with wild weather patterns and rivers to cross. The Kiowa has had to learn that the land that was once his is now being trampled by more and more cattle drives. He either can raid them and then have to reassemble and corral these mad steer or he can charge a fee for the passage over the land. Better to get along and make some food out of it--barter for the best deal. And then there is the Buffalo soldier, trying to defend the settlers against the Indians and protect outliers etc. The second half of the building is a gallery that houses the collection of a prominent family in town. The collection is huge and it is beautiful. Of particular interest to me was the first painting--Maria Tallchief--a prima ballerina in the NYC ballet. I saw her dance on Ed Sullivan when I was a little girl and thought she was so elegant and regal. Her sister also danced in the corps. I laugh when I see the big fuss made over the black girl who is now a prima with them and is praised as the first minority star--guess Indians don't count as a minority at times. After getting our cultural fix we continued on down the road toward the Arbuckle Hills and Turner Falls. We now had truly entered catfish country--people down here love it--not me. The Arbuckle Hills are one of several clusters of pimples that erupt on the flat surface of Oklahoma. After 8000+ feet it felt like a kiddie roller coaster to go over them--but they are quite pretty. However, the Baptist Church has much of the area fenced off and the Creek that feeds Turner Falls is dry as a bone. Only the " blue hole" has water. Don't know why. Continued into Ardmore where Bill did the laundry--his turn--and I read. Too tired to blog on internet that really didn't work very well,. He went out to Applebees and brought me back a chicken oriental salad. The next day I had plotted out to get to see his Frat brother in Lavon, Texas without getting snarled up in Dallas traffic. On Tuesday we tooled through Ardmore and on into the cute town of Madill with a lovely fountain of little kids playing in a creek. The road markings were pretty poor here and we had a bit of a time finding our way out of Madill on the right route. Nice tour of the square all the way around to the sign that finally gave us the right direction. Soon we came to old Wallis Bridge across the Red River and into Texas. I always love the exhortation on their welcome signs " Drive Friendly-The Texas Way." They are the worst drivers--they tail gate, pass, sometimes three vehicles certainly two, over double solid lines with no oncoming vehicle visibility. What they don't do is honk horns at you. The speed limit in most places is 75, Bill is doing it, and they leave us in their dust. They are maniacs and the only drivers worse are the Massholes back home. They are all over NM, Co and Ok and as soon as we see a guy passing we KNOW it is a Texan and might even be a little old lady driving! Arrived in Lavon about 12:30 and sat around talking with Jimmy. The conversation ran the gamut of politics, religion, politics, Texas history and college exploits of the Brothers. Then there was the rehash of what everyone has done since college--LOTS of talk about guys I've never met and never will. Unfortunately, there wasn't a place I could excuse myself to go to read. Periodically, they'd go outside for a cigarette and I'd sit staring at the walls til they came back in. Boring. But since Jimmy doesn't cook and didn't want Bill to cook we went out to Chili's for dinner which broke the monotony. Jimmy said to be careful, it would be a redneck crowd--?? Well, they seemed totally normal to us. When Bill mentioned on the way home that the crowd seemed fine, Jimmy said it was a different crowd than usual. He also wanted to take us down to Fort Worth to go to a real honky-tonk. We demurred--60 miles of traffic one way--not fun for us. Got back to the house and Bill went to bed at 8:30. Much too early for me and no lamp other than the ceiling light in the room so I couldn't read. The best night of the week for TV and Jimmy didn't have one. I sat up and did the puzzle, while Jimmy went to his office and the computer surfing he does most of the time. He also stays in touch with Frat guys past and present--hence knows where everyone is and what they are up to. I retired at 930--still too early--and tossed and turned until 11 or so when I finally fell asleep. Bill was up at 6 the next morning, I got up at 9--Jimmy had been up but gone back to bed with a panic attack. He joined us around 10 and Bill made breakfast --he was the only one who ate. Jimmy and I had coffee. At 11:30 we were finally on our way back to Oklahoma. It is nice to see him, though stressful. Bill promised we'd stay only one night, thank goodness. He finds Jimmy stressful, too. Passed through the cute town of Bonham, Texas which is the home of Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House for as long as I can remember in my youth. We've passed his house going east -west through town on a past trip. Would have liked to have visited the site but it doesn't open until Memorial Day. Took a different route back to Oklahoma, passing over an even older bridge across the Red. This one had far more character. Interestingly, though there was a nice old cement welcome sign in the shape of Texas on the Texas side, there was absolutely no welcome sign in Oklahoma. The fields on the Oklahoma side have been planted and the young corn plants have started to sprout making nice young green stripes to alternate with the rich brown stripes of the soil. Spring is all around down here. The temperature had reached 92 a couple of days earlier--20 degrees warmer than usual--but in subsequent days the it has dropped to a more normal 70's. Came into Durant, the City of Magnolias and checked into the motel. Bill went out to Main Street Barbeque to eat and pick something up for me. I remained behind planning on catching up with pictures and the blog. He wasn't gone five minutes when I found that the TV didn't work and after a half hour of trying I gave up on the Internet. Called the main desk and Lisa came down to check things out. Someone had stolen the cable to the TV!!!! She had to call maintenance man to come back into work and replace it. While he was there he told me that they had reset the Internet--now it showed no available networks. He said that an Ethernet cable would probably work though the hotel didn't have any ( their little info book said they did! ) I carry an Ethernet cable with me but was too tired to try it. Bill came back with ribs, cole slaw and potato salad for me. I was sad I hadn't gone with him, since I wasn't going to get the blog done. The final aggravation came when the toilet stopped flushing!!! Also, tried the Ethernet connection the next morning and that didn't work either. Up at 730--dressed in the same clothes--packed everything up and went down to breakfast. Poor Lisa asked how everything was. I assured her that she and the maintenance man were in no way at fault for the situation and that when I wrote my review of the place they would both be praised for their attempts to help us--including Lisa offering to find us another room. If I'd known the plumbing was going to go, I'd have moved. Anyway, we were on the road by 830 and I set a course directly northeast to Joplin. The ONLY zig we took in the path was into Caddo, Ok which the manager at the Trail Center had said was an adorable town with an old Victorian Main St. The only unique aspect to the town was the arched welcome sign over the road in and the buffalo on the tops of the signs marking Buffalo Ave. LOL But, it was a fun little diversion from the night before. I took few pictures since we were on a four lane that passed lots of truck stops, gas stations and shopping malls. I even slept for about an hour. My only goal was to get the hell out of Oklahoma!! At the intersection with I 45 there is a huge Indian to greet those entering Oklahoma from Missouri. There are many tribes in Oklahoma, mostly in the Eastern side. They have their own nations and license plates. We spent a great deal of time several years ago exploring Choctaw and Cherokee sites. We had planned on going to another after visiting Jimmy but decided to save it for a future trip. Once in Joplin, I again attempted to get caught up on my blog. Bill went to Longhorn and brought me back some French onion soup and a half steak sandwich. Very good. I blogged for several hours and when I was ready to send the email, discovered that I'd been dumped off the Internet an hour earlier so no draft was kept. Although I highlighted and copied the blog, when I went to paste it, I found that it had not copied. I lost over an hours worth of typing that I've now recomposed at 830 am on Friday the 24th. It appears to have been saved as a draft so I will be able to send it on this morning. We had planned on going up to Lavar, the birthplace of Harry S Truman and on to Carthage to visit the square and have lunch at the café. Last night's weather report said high winds, and heavy rain today. It is already windy and the day is heavily overcast. There may be tornados. So, I think I'll go out to the bank with Bill, since he doesn't know how to us and ATM--really!--can't use a credit card at the gas station either. Amazing. Other than that I think I'll stay in and read my new book and otherwise just veg. Tomorrow we will go to Corder to visit with Paul and Jean Gross. Paul and Bill were in Peace Corps in Nepal together. We've visited them before and they came to see us over the summer. Looking forward to seeing them and maybe the pigs. After that, it is headed home for sure. We have to be there by April 1--so not too much time to linger. Always makes me sad but it ain't over yet!! LOL Amy, I know I have your emails--will reply later today. Gloria, glad Bud is feeling better. Sorry you had to delay Branson-had hoped maybe we would link up for lunch or something, but we will be close to home by the time you get here. Have fun. So, until I find a good Internet connection once more--we are here hoping not to come face to face with any tornadoes and looking forward to visiting with old friends. Take care, all KandB

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Very Busy Few Days--Mesa Verde,Chaco , etc

Good Morning, Trekkies! Here we are back in Farmington--returned two nights ago from Durango, Co and staying until tomorrow morning-St Patrick's Day! Once more I'll try to make my narrative follow the pictures as closely as possible so you can " see " as you read. The pictures start with the magnificent sunset seen from our room in Farmington on Sunday the 12th. Then as we headed toward Shiprock on 64 West I took a couple of pictures of downtown Farmington--they are big on colorful fiberglass animals around here. They probably handle the weather better than most materials--kind of fun to look at. As we progressed westward what I think is Shiprock rose on the plains before us. This is a volcanic core that rises between 1400 and1800 feet from the plain bed. Here is an interesting Wikipedia page about its religious significance to the Navajo, upon whose reservation it sits. It is very difficult to get a good picture of it, since it is off limits to anyone who is not Native. The legends and myths surrounding it are very interesting, particularly the one about women and children stranded atop it. There is a very similar legend about the Devil's Tower in Wyoming--another volcanic core--a bit less eroded. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiprock As we got closer to Shiprock we saw before us a formation --a line of hills that appeared to be made of waves of alternating yellow and blackish brown sand--the waves moving from left to right in a vertical as well as horizontal plane. Fascinating optical effect. As we moved behind the hills the land was made up of scattered uplifted earth forming " fins ", the result of groundwater dissolving salts and the overlying ground tilting rather than uplifting actually. The landforms here just continue to fascinate me. At the town of Shiprock we turned north toward Colorado on 491 and soon saw a Navajo dog--like all dogs--lol--scrounging on the roadside. Here, once more, is the land of buttes and pinnacles --dry and bland in color. Before us loomed the mountains of Colorado and soon we crossed into that State. The land is desolate yet there is fencing so somewhere are animals grazing--cattle or horses or both. When we came to Towaoc, we found the town tucked tightly against the mountains. This is Ute land--another of the many tribes out here. This little community has a very large Casino. Unfortunately, I did not see a sign for a Ute museum that is apparently here. There is an exhibit about mountain lions going until Sept and another dedicated to Ute veterans. It would have been interesting since this is one of the tribes of which I know very little, other than they, like the Zuni are Pueblo Indians, which the Navajo are not. Eventually we descended into the town of Cortez, which still isn't exactly at sea level! We stayed here three years ago on our first foray to Mesa Verde. The motel was not particularly appealing so we decided to stay in Durango this time. On our way out of town we stopped at the bank which had given Bill nickels on that trip--not all banks will let you buy nickels, many require that you have an account with them. The Bank of Dolores ( a town in Co ) was, at the time, the Bank of Mancos ( another town) but as happens so frequently these days there was some kind of consolidation or other. Still, the teller asked Bill if he was looking for a particular year--one of very few tellers who know why he buys nickels--even after he explains to those who ask, most don't get it. He liked the fact that she was knowledgeable--also that they still give out neat calendars--although we were amused to have it be a Rockwell instead of local sites and wildlife, as it was in the past. We continued right by Cortez and up to Mesa Verde. Oh, my God, I did it---well, sort of. The ruins are 21 miles up and over mesas. That means 21 miles of heart stopping drop-offs and dips and curves before you even get to the whole reason for visiting the park and then there are about another 20+ miles roaming around more overlooks, dips and curves to look at them. The ranger lady who told me three years ago that the climb visible from the visitors' center was the worst part of the road--LIED! It is probably the easiest part of the road. I think if you study the pix you can see the switchbacks and where the road ascends before us and clings to the side of the mesa as it curves around blind corners or a horizon that drops away as though going off into the wild blue yonder. Going up. I sort of kept my eye on the mesa wall with occasional peeks over the edge. Then we came to two idiots on bicycles whom we had to pass on a curve--groan! We climbed to the high point, 8572 ft. We got almost to the Far Point Overlook when Bill asked if I'd had enough. I'm sorry to say that I really was pretty tense. If truth be known I think Bill also had enough--he isn't fond of height either, though he handles it better than I do. I'd NEVER be able to drive this road--he can and not super tense either. At any rate, we decided we'd seen ruins like these at Canyon de Chelley, though maybe not as high or large so we were happy with the views and drive we'd experienced and turned around to head back down. I put on my straw hat, turned toward the middle of the car and avoided the views. Still, I could not resist a peek through the holes of the hat and a few times even looked straight out over the open space and a couple of times looked slightly downward. I guess you do kind of acclimate to the height--but NOT totally. I really am proud of the picture of the Mancos River Valley and the road that cuts through it between Cortez and Durango. How beautiful the fields and HOW FLAT!!!! As we headed toward Durango I took one last shot of the opening butte and the elongated mesas up which we had climbed. Mancos is kind of interesting--an old mining town in which Louis L'Amour, one of Bill's favorite authors had a ranch. Some beautiful old buildings but don't think those miners and cowboys ended their days in art galleries and expresso bars. Drove by one of Durango's ski slopes and then continued down into town. Having had a long and tiring day we bypassed historic Durango and maneuvered through afternoon traffic to our motel. There on the reception desk, my name, not exactly in lights, but still rather flattering. Finished out the day demonstrating my" look --don't look " technique for heights. As I still had my five Asian Zing wings left I decided to eat in --Bill went down the street to the local brewery for a hamburger and some brews. Tuesday the 14th meant returning to Farmington. I made a reservation for two nights, bid good-bye to Jared, our very attentive and courteous desk clerk and headed to historic Durango for a look see. Betsy says that all of Colorado is Hanover. I think of it as Woodstock. It is like Sedona--all the old buildings are there--filled with boutiques, jewelry stores, bakeries, art galleries. These places ooze money--yours actually or what, maybe you wish you had. I just don't enjoy that kind of thing, but I suppose it is what keeps these towns going. It just creates a cookie cutter aura that takes away from the historic atmosphere I'd rather enjoy. The buildings are beautiful and well-kept--their architecture if not their contents invoke an image of how things may have been when the streets were crawling with the miners that the silver in the hills of Durango, Silverton and other towns brought here in the late 1800's. The Strater Hotel is certainly a jewel. We decided to return to Farmington by a different route that entailed climbing yet another mesa.The Animas River flows through Durango and down to Farmington along the valley floor. Jane, here is one of the differences in terrain between this part of Colorado/New Mexico and home. Where there is no water the land is dry, drab, lifeless but where there is water it is green and cultivated. In this section of pictures we are running almost parallel to the road we took from Shiprock to Cortez. That road had buttes and pinnacles--this one has cultivated fields all because the Animas runs through it. Trees and grazing land all the way. At Aztec there are also ruins of the Anastazi--the puebloans that populated the area. Bill and I went there several years ago and it is fantastically accessible. One of my favorite sites of these types of ruins though we have been to so many. We continued through Aztec to Bloomfield which is a hope, skip and jump down the road. Never having been here before we stopped at Salmon Ruins--named not after the fish but rather after the family who owned the land and spent at least 3 generations protecting the ruins and preventing, to the best of their ability , the collecting of sherds and other artifacts. There is a lovely small museum containing many artifacts but the exhibit I really enjoyed was of the pottery created by these ancient peoples commemorating the appearance of Halley's and other comets in their wide open skies. What views they must have been--another difference, Jane, the vastness of the sky and distances over which things can be viewed unobscured. It is breath-taking--it is impossible to determine distance in these places! The museum itself is made in the image of a kiva--the underground room of worship and ceremony--so important to all the tribes of the region. They instill in me the same feelings of walking into a cathedral in Europe or even the newer ones here, or the old Spanish mission churches--just a true feeling of spirituality and serenity. Here Bill is working out the complicated dual slide rule apparatus used to determine the age of wood used in the construction of these ruins. Reading various books and brochures at various ruins there is a bit of confusion about where these people were living at the same time as other sites or from which site they moved and to which site they did move. It appears as though a drought descended upon the Mesa Verde site and the people sought a better place in which to dwell--one in which water was present. Bloomfield and Aztec certainly have water--the Animas serves them both and in addition the San Juan River passes through Bloomfield, too. So, it would seem these areas were populated by the culture moving off that high mesa to these river valley locations. The first picture shows Chacoan wall construction--veneer and core. Tabular rocks are carefully cut and fit together to produce a wall that is smooth on both sides. Then mud and unshaped stones are poured down to fill in the spaces between the cut rocks. Bill is standing at the far end of the exterior eastern wall of the ruins--it extended 164 feet. The exterior western wall extended about 183 feet. Though I didn't photograph it, the back wall is 394 feet and stood, in places, three stories high. Walking along the front wall, and at the first level there are many individual rooms--the first, long and narrow, is a common feature of the ruins of the period, though its use is a mystery. The next few rooms were probably originally living space, eventually used for storage. The last room in the corner was a square room that was converted to a round kiva at some point. This is the case with the next room as well. At the top of the hill, there is a rather large room which was on the first level,below a room used to mill grain and cook. There were holes in the floor of the second story room through which trash was thrown into this room. It was so full of trash mounds that it was almost to the ceiling and the wood extending from the walls are remnants of this room's ceiling and prep-room's flooring. The large holes are where large logs called vigas were inserted as beams. At this point, I opted to take a picture of the remaining rooms looking toward the plaza and a large kiva. I am at second story level and the rooms are stepped--it is believed that way the roofs of the rooms could be used for outdoor activities. On the left there are several rooms that were open air rooms facing the plaza. There is a rounded air shaft protruding into one of the rooms--believed to have provided air to the kiva on the other side of the wall. Room 13, was for a long time a real mystery but one of the most important in the ruins. There had been a wall of juniper posts and mud that divided the eastern most third of the room from the rest but wall did not restrict access to other parts of the room. In the west portion were several milling bins and two hearths. On the far west wall was a long, low pedestal with tools laid out in an obvious intentional way. All of this was excavated in 1978 and remained a mystery until 2008 when experimental archeological techniques and time lapse photography was used. The pedestal was placed again in the original location and a reproduction wall was built. It was found that a hole in the first level roof was actually an aperture through which a beam of light entered the room and was restricted by the wall. As the sun rose in the sky the beam of light traveled down the west wall to the pedestal and illuminates a particular tool until too high in the sky. This happens around the 21st of June. It has also been found that light from different phases of the moon also illuminate the pedestal and its tools in various ways. How these phenomena were interpreted and used remains a mystery. Interesting, huh? AS Bill was moving along the upper reaches of the ruins, I was moving across the field to a huge kiva, reading as I went. The three rooms at number 12 were used as living space but were also built in such a way as to support a tower kiva above it. The room at number 11 is more important from early pictures taken during excavation because there were remnants of walls extending another story. They have since collapsed but without those old pix, there would be no knowledge of the third story since all remnants are gone. The room at number 15 is really interesting because the wall is bending inward and it shows reinforcement throughout time. It could not support the weight of the tower kiva behind it. It was a much larger room on this side, rather than smaller rooms that supported the weight better. As a result, eventually the room was abandoned for living and became a depository for garbage--and as a result of its positioning the materials were very well preserved--fabrics, string, rope, matting of Jupiter bark weave, cotton clothing remnants, pot rests, coiled baskets, wooden tool handles, dyed or painted textiles, braided hair and fur and feather remnants. Later it became a latrine and those deposits were helpful, too, in trying to analyze the diet and health of the people. A small room has been covered to protect unexcavated deposits. 17 is the tower kiva. An off center hearth which allowed a ladder to be placed in the smoke hole for entering and exiting. Behind it a board to prevent the fire's getting extinguished, and then a ventilator shaft connected to the plaza outside. A small hole in the ground symbolically represented the hole that the ancestors climbed out of to be " born " into this world. The boxes in the floor are mysteries since there have never been any artifacts found in any of them. Could they have had stretched skins over them to serve as drums?? A major fire destroyed the kiva and much of the pueblo--evidence found here shows that it occurred after a major and good harvest, that a ceremonial cremation was held here for some of the victims, others were buried among the rooms of the pueblo and the survivors abandoned the site. 20. is another square room converted to a kiva and mirrors the square rooms so converted across the plaza where we entered the ruins. 21. is the Great Kiva--it has been back-filled to protect the features of the floor found in #17--the Tower Kiva. This one has a small anteroom with stairs entering the kiva. There were three hearths in the anteroom--perhaps to prepare food used in the ceremonies. The anteroom was used by whomever was officiating the particular ceremony. Many pieces of turquoise and other precious stones, a mountain goat horn and burned corn husks were found in the floor of this kiva--perhaps offerings. This Kiva is used to compare these ruins, which are considered outlier to main communities, to other outlier communities and main communities such as Chaco. So as we walked back to the entrance I took pictures of the ruins and the trees etc that are growing from them. Soon we came back to the bench on the eastern wall where we sat beneath a tree of some sort and spoke of our own visits to various other ruins and how they compare. Then, I took a picture of an apricot tree, one of the trees of the orchard that the Salmon's grew while living here. Took a few pix of the Salmon homestead and the reproductions of various dwellings of modern tribes in the area. Soon we were back in Farmington and the huge room that was reserved for us this time. Tired I decided once more to remain in--Bill went to the Chinese buffet nearby and brought us each back a huge to-go box of a great variety of oriental goodies. AND, how clever is he, he brought me a Jimmy Buffet coconut-pineapple tea to wash it all down----delicious! While he was out I called Chaco to ask about the condition of the roads to that very large and elaborate set of ruins of the same age as Salmon. Tuesday night--good TV night--NCIS,Bones and The Americans! Read USA Today and did my puzzles. Then bed after another full day. Wednesday, on the road by 10 and down the road to Bloomfield once more. Then south on Rt 550 past oil fields and under a cloudless bright blue sky streaked with the contrails of shiny silver jets. Just gorgeous day--so hard to imagine snow to Betsy's knees and temps in the 30's and 40's in Vermont. Just saw a video on The Five showing Amtrak pulling into the Rhinebeck New York depot pushing an avalanche on the commuters waiting for it. AMAZING!!! At any rate, about 40 miles down the road we came to the turn off for Chaco. The first six or seven miles is paved but then the road turns to dirt. All along the road but spaced far apart are the trailers or small cottages of the local ranchers. Again not much water here so there are fields and fields as far as the eye can see of sage. At one point the air was redolent with its scent. I told Bill I wanted to get some of the aromatic herb to put in Douglas Bristlecone under his visors as a gift for the heights we made him climb and the shake, rattle and roll he had to endue getting to Chaco. We crossed over several huge washes that must be scary as hell when filled with racing water after torrential rains or major snow melt. I love the areas of the country where horses and cattle are free range. Sometimes, cars must stop because these animals know to whom the road belongs. The horses we came upon initially, however, had no interest in us and one dark brown horse lifted his tail to make clear in just how much distain he held us. Eventually, we came upon an equally disinterested partial herd of cattle. After crossing an even wider dry wash we came to that part of the journey ( 21 miles) the ranger had told me was very rutted and wash-board like. SHE, unlike that witch in Mesa Verde, did NOT lie. This last 4 1/2 miles is on private land and as the sign said we had come to the end of county maintenance. We had come to the end of ANY maintenance!! Bill had to move back and forth across the road to find the best way and for at least a mile he had to carefully straddle a high point in the road to avoid getting bogged down into deep ruts. We bottomed out, very lightly, just once. He's good. We watched the movie on Chaco which ran for 25 minutes and was extremely interesting. Hopi, Navajo, Ute and Zuni tribal members spoke of Chaco's importance both as an ancestral place of history and a sacred place. Though the Navajo are not puebloan, they too, hold Chaco in high regard. I think of this place as Mecca or Rome. Even in ancient times it is believed that, though it is huge,( look at the group of people on the outcropping overlooking the Great House, Pueblo Bonito to get an idea), that the permanent population was not huge. It is thought that Chaco was a gathering place for various ceremonies and celebrations, that it was a stopping off place for those travelling or moving to another place, that it was a trading place. Today, it is a place of pilgrimage and every native we have spoken to about it has spoken of it with reverence and awe. If you look at photo 8501, you will see what we saw--I said to Bill --is that a rabbit in that window? Pulled it in and there he was, staying cool, out of the sun. He heard the folks coming around the bend, jumped down and then back up into the corner window that was sealed on the other side--more like a niche than a window--they walked by and never noticed. LOL Safe jack rabbit! I can't remember any Western movie showing stairs on the cliff face like these--they must have crawled, they could not have stood upright getting up them. It was one of the engineering feats these folks used to keep their trails and roads going in as straight a line as possible--don't go around an obstacle, go over it, one way or another. As we departed the park we saw that another part of the herd had moved on the plateau above the camping ground and the ruins within it. If you look at shot 8542 you can see to the middle the ruts to avoid and straight ahead the straddling Bill had to do in this area. Once on the maintained dirt road we gathered some of that sage--heavenly! I would love to be able to grow it at home. If ever I moved out here, I'd plant aromatic sage as my lawn. Returning we saw the herd of horses had gotten larger and in numbers they stopped both us and oncoming car--they seemed really curious--especially the two white ones. A couple crossed in front of us, while another was on my side of the car and moving behind it to cross. Still, yet another dark horse lifted the tail to give us an odiferous farewell. And so, we reached the paved road that took us out to the highway. Followed 550 back to Bloomfield and on into Farmington where we were greeted by the Sinclair dino. Hungry we headed to Texas Roadhouse but they were closed until 4 so we went to Applebee's. Cute bartender, Mario, a little down. His parents were to leave tomorrow but left yesterday to move to Deming. He helped them pack up the last of his things before coming to work. Met another young man who lives right outside town--I couldn't hear him very well as he chatted with Bill. Then just before we left, probably the most interesting man came in. He was in his 40's--maybe early 50's. All these folks, Native. He had gone to a sort of private gr 4-8 school. In order to raise funds to keep going, they took kids for two months to travel the country and visit organizations likely to contribute to their cause. He was so excited because he got to travel all over--Maine, Fl, Ga , La , Cal all over. I asked if his mother missed him and he said that both of his parents encouraged their children to get educated and while she did miss him, she was pleased he was getting to see these places and learn. His sister lives in Japan and is a scientist, another lives in California. He has lived in many places and worked in Yellowstone for several years. All of them have educations and his mother, who has since died--just a year ago--was thrilled. Came back to the motel and another perfect night of TV. Lethal Weapon finale, Major Crimes and Designated Survivor. Read USA Today and did the puzzles. Of course, I'd watched The Five,Jeopardy, and Family Feud both nights, too. Decided we'd stay one more day in Farmington so I could catch up on many things besides my blog, which I've been writing forever--it now being 5 PM !!!! But, also did some filing, checking the bank accounts, etc, etc. Now, I'll do my nails while Bill watches basketball and then I'll read. Tomorrow we'll head for Las Vegas, NM--we are on our way home. Always makes me sad, but there are still exploits ahead. So, now you know what we've been up to these past few days. Hope you enjoyed the info. Until next time.....KandB

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wolves and Surprising Terrain from Thoreau to Farmington, --two more days in New Mexico

Hello Trekkies, There really isn't very much to say about the pictures from yesterday and today but I'll give just a bit of commentary. Before I do, though, I'd like to say it was nice to see that my little intro of personae was enjoyed by you. It was fun to write it because it brought back many happy memories and reminded me about how we met and what we did together when we lived and worked within meeting distance. The feline that began yesterday's pictures was one of two cats that were hanging out outside our window in Gallup. There must have been a glare on the window because he stretched his head far forward to see me better and then scrammed out of there! LOL Our day began but heading south of Gallup to the Zuni Pueblo and then east to Ramah. The Wolf Sanctuary brochure says it is in Ramah; however, it is actually ten miles east of town and then another four miles south. A young teenage girl assured me there would be signs--right down the road ( 10 miles ) and then right there when you made your right onto the road ( about another 5 miles, another sign, another turn and 4 more miles!!!) I guess when you live out here where things are miles and miles apart, right there has a whole different meaning! Along the way we went through a Navajo community--each one has a council house for government, a police headquarters, usually a church, sometimes, depending how isolated, a school and often a medical clinic as well as an office of family services. The council members are the reps who attend government meetings/conferences at the Nation capital, Window Rock, Az. It is impolite to take pictures as you pass through the community. The speed limit was 35 as the road snaked among the homes and offices. The guy in front of us strictly adhered to the limit and Bill figured him for a local. Soon we came to the next turn-off for the Sanctuary and a dirt road--as we progressed down the last four miles the dust flew so heavily visibility was totally erased! But as the dust cleared we were there--you know, right there! The first tour was to start at 11 and by now it was about 1130. The next tour is at 1230, but happily, this tour started late--a small group of boy scouts and a few others--so we could catch up with it. We had to sign in, the couple, who were NOT locals BTW, but transplants from Bristol, Vt ( really think it was Bristol, Ct but wasn't going to argue with Bill) also wanted to join them and then another younger couple arrived. By the time we were all signed in and our escort arrived to lead us to the tour, it was a bit of a hike. She sort of rushed us over the rough and rutted trail, but I had not acclimated to the altitude yet, so I needed to stop several times, gasping for breath. Chelsea, Vt if I remember my classes there correctly is somewhere around 800 ft above sea level--Post Mills is a bit lower. Various places where we've spent time is about 4000 ft -5000 ft. The Sanctuary is at 7000 ft. Makes a big difference until the body adjusts to it. The Green Mtns are pimples compared to the heights out here. When I get home, I hoof it up my driveway as though it is perfectly flat. Doesn't last long but nice at first. Anyway, once we caught up, it was slower and not too hilly. Still I lagged and so missed a lot of the talk about each of the animals. I do know that most are wolf-dogs with a varying amount of wolf, although a couple are pure wolf. At the end of the tour are two enclosures of coyotes and one, the pack of brownish red animals--dingoes. A couple, like the first black dog is not wolf at all but was misidentified as a wolf dog--she is all dog. The beauty lying down with the black nose and brows is 14 yr old Nicky,he's also the next shot in profile. He is alone in his enclosure, since his partner died over the winter. He is very " possessive " and makes it hard for the keepers to even change his tub of water--doesn't like new things-it is an all day procedure. The character in the do not touch fence enclosure is a coyote running madly in circles--they apparently get quite stressed with the human pack that periodically comes roaming through. We were told to speed by to reduce the length of stress---sooooo, in view of the ONLY bench in the park, right outside their enclosure--I huffed myself to death to jprotect them. LOL Thence to the dingo enclosure and tour over. Just beautiful and interesting. The animals are so curious--I'm sure there are treats involved sometimes in these tours. On several occasions as I was focusing the camera, the animal had nose elevated and twitching to identify me--stranger? what pack is she from? any food? Opposite the dingoes is an enclosure of animals that are just dogs--feral if that term is used here. They are dogs that went wild, roamed in packs and were simply dangerous or destructive to wildlife and human habitat. It was thought when they were brought in that they were wolf dogs but they have no wolf in them. So, what is in this Sanctuary and why are they here--some were wild wolves who were taken young by humans and then became too big, too wild and dangerous or ferocious and could not be kept. Rather than destroy them, they come here, but being acclimated to humans they cannot return to the wild. Others are wolf-dogs--some more dog than wolf--others more wolf than dog. In some cases the cross occurred in the wild, in others they were deliberately cross-bred by humans. For whatever reason they are no longer wanted or they have been neglected or abused. Many are so badly mistreated that again they cannot return to the wild. Since they are pack dogs, the Sanctuary tries to at least have two animals per enclosure. They try to make them male-female pairs. Sometimes the pairing works, sometimes it does not. They had an alpha female that developed cancer, the pack recognized it and several females started to compete for leadership--the sick wolf was killed and the others had to be separated. The whole operation is incredible. Wolves do not mate for life though it is said they do--usually a pair will stay together but sometimes there is a struggle for dominance within the pack and the couple may have moved on to other partners. One of the females that was moved in the power struggle grieved so long for her pack that she wouldn't pay any attention for the longest time to any of the males they tried to pair with her. She ignored them and paced along the enclosure wall that was shared with her pack. Eventually, she did find a male she liked and she settled into the beginning of a new pack. We returned to the main road and continued on to El Morro--a monument we've visited many times before. Bill walked down to inscription rock and I found a bench in the sun and just sun-bathed--burned one arm a bit--and chatted with some of the other tourists. As we were leaving the boy scout troup arrived--they had stayed and eaten their picnic lunches at the Wolf place. The transplants, who now live in Los Lunas, had continued on to Grants to eat. As we drove farther along we came to Malpais and drove into the Caldera area and took pictures of the beautiful trees and the snow. Notice we crossed the Continental Divide at over 7000 ft. I like it here better than up in the Rockies which are more like 10000-11000 ft. Came down into Taylor Valley and Grants at the foot of Mt. Taylor. We went to our favorite Steakhouse on Geis St. They've added banquettes since we've been there. I noticed that all the other couples were sitting next to each other, while we sat across from each other--Bill said they were younger--the man at the next table told me, nope--not it--they want to face the TVs on the wall behind me. LOL Nice steak dinners--I had prime rib and Bill had the dinner steak. Then we sat and drank some fancy beer for Bill and two different Cabs for me--paid more for a glass than I usually pay for a bottle--but it was delicious and absolutely no effects in the morning. But I did go to sleep at 830 last night. Last picture of the day, arriving at the Quality Inn. Chatted with our waiter about the possibility of getting into Chaco with our car. He seems to think that the road from Durango to Cuba has a turnoff to Chaco that is paved all the way to the visitors' center. Everything I've read, heard or on the website says the road in is dirt and quite rough. We may venture there when we come back from Mesa Verde. Today, we left Grants and headed once more toward Gallup on the Interstate getting off at Thoreau. Then we ran back along the Interstate until there was a gap in the redstone mesas, where 371 took a sharp left and headed north to Farmington. As soon as we reached height, the redstone was gone as we descended on the other side. For the full 109 miles from Thoreau to Farmington there was no large town, no gas station, no store, nothing. Just never changing topography--just magical and unbelieveable. From red mesas we arrived on the top of a wide mesa whose large fields were being irrigated and obviously are farmed. THEN, the capstone of the day, the descent from the top of that mesa---poking out into space like its fellows to either side--reaching into the San Juan River Valley--9% grade with tight curves and beautiful views. Tooled around town a bit and found that the Aransas River joins the San Juan here. Checked in and while I did my computer thing Bill went out to Buffalo Wild Wings. Brought me back my favs--Asian Zing and Honey Mustard. Have eaten the former but will eat the latter, later. We have been eating very early 3 or so and I get hungry around 7--tonight I have something good to munch on. So another day comes to a close. Tomorrow Mesa Verde--I'm going to go up this time. A couple of years ago I took one look at the access road and said "no way'. Bill, then, decided not to go, even though I told him I'm perfectly fine just sitting below. I'm wondering if there is snow up there--those mountains we saw as we came toward and then into Farmington are in Colorado. We will probably stay in Durango tomorrow night and then head toward Chaco. Spoke to Betsy --supposed to get a big snowstorm again in the next couple of days. Then she asked when we were coming home--well, by April 1st for sure--that's all we know. It looks like PBS is between spectaculars so guess NCIS-LA gets me back for a week. Other than that--day is done and so am I. Will be in touch again in awhile. Til then, catch up on your sleep before tomorrow. Good night from New Mexico. KandB

Friday, March 10, 2017

Belen to Gallup New Mexico

Well, hello again Trekkies! It has been a few days since I've been able to catch you up on our activities. They have actually been very laid back. Other than the Getting to Know You missive this morning I don't think I've been in touch since the Bosque in San Antonio New Mexico. I know that I told you of the getting up, heading out and prep to move on to Belen to visit Bud and Gloria. I think the pix of the Bosque are pretty self explanatory. Lots of ducks, quite a few Canadian geese, a big herd of javelinas, a number of hawks, a red-winged black bird, singing his heart out for us, and my favorite, the great blue heron who always lurks in the vicinity of the fast moving waters passing through a connecting culvert. As I'm sure you can see besides the wildlife, the serenity of the place and the changing light from 630 to around 8 in the morning is, of itself, soothing and beautiful. Once we checked out of the hotel we started up the Interstate to Belen. I had told Gloria I'd call her when we left Socorro, but, of course, I forgot. Remembered about 15 miles from her house and didn't get an answer--told Bill we might have to wait for their return but they knew we were coming in the early afternoon so wasn't too concerned. As it turned out, Gloria was home and Bud was out on errands. Visited for about a half hour and the doorbell rang--an old neighbor of theirs was visiting his son in Albuquerque. and decided to drop by for a visit. I cannot remember if Gloria and Bud knew him back in NH-Vt but Jim Harlow had a home on the mesa above the community in which they live now in Belen. Bill and I know Jim from Thetford Academy where he substitute taught. He is retired military and after being at TA he came to NM to work in Los Alamos. They never sold their home in Vermont and have returned there but we haven't seen him in years. His son, Matt and daughter, Melinda were both students at TA and I taught them both. Actually, I do know that Gloria and Bud knew them back home, because Jim's wife worked at Dartmouth with Gloria. When we were first visiting them Matt and his wife lived in the house on the mesa. They have since sold it and live in Albuquerque. Jim was on his way, after visiting Matt, to Arizona to meet up with his nephew who is moving with his family to Wasilla, Alaska. They are all driving up the Alaskan Highway. I asked if he were going to visit Sarah Palin--he said if she's still wearing her bikini, definitely! As our conversation went on, we discovered that both Bill and I taught his nephew, Steve White. Never knew they were related. By the time Jim was ready to leave Bud arrived home. and got to visit, too. Now that it was only the four of us, it was catch up time and the delivery of Eastern things they can't get in NM==Bell's poultry seasoning, Fluff, Maine potatoes, Stewart's shell beans and, of course, maple syrup. I always ask what she'd like--the one thing we haven't been able to take her is the hot dog buns she likes. I told her to write and ask for their recipe and explain how much she misses them. I'll bet they'd send her a bunch and she could freeze them.During the course of the afternoon we enjoyed the rabbits which they feed on the deck. They have seen as many as five at a time. I think we saw five altogether but only four at a time. They are adorable. Gloria says it is the best of both worlds. They have wild animals as pets but no vet bills, no mess and if one dies they all look so much alike they probably wouldn't notice so they don't have pet loss grief. They do ask neighbors to come over and feed them though when they go away so that they will continue to come. Who knows where the time went but soon it was time for dinner. Gloria had been preparing it as we visited--home made meatballs and sauce, spaghetti and chicken cutlets, seasoned and fried. AND our favorite of all she makes--we have to have it at least once while there--her tossed salad. I make mine just like it--she taught me --but there is something about the Gloria touch--it just tastes different and BETTER--the BEST. I think I could live on it. Crazy, huh? Moving away the table, almost unable to move we adjoined to the living room for a bit of TV and more visiting and then it was time for the three of them to retire. I'm bit more of a night hawk so I stayed up to watch the NCIS episode Gloria had recorded for me. I dozed off during the commercials at one point--laughed and said to myself--guess you aren't so much a night hawk after all. Finished the show, put out the lights--after about five minutes trying to find the right switch for the kitchen lights--lol Glad no one came out and saw me playing on and off with the switches! The next morning I slept in a bit later than the rest--which embarrasses me but it was around 8ish I think that I arose. Delicious pancakes, oj, bacon, and coffee for breakfast. We had planned on going up to Old Town but Gloria asked if we minded not going. She'd started a headache the day before and it was just untouchable this morning and she needed to call the chiropractor--which she did as we ate. They told her to come down, they'd fit her in. We assured her that there was not a problem with it--visiting with them is the focus of our stopping and it wasn't necessary to do something " fun" unless we all were into it. Last year, I was sick and they went out without me. This year we could fend for ourselves and she should get better. So, Bud went off to one of his hobbies, Bill took the opportunity to get the gasket on the sun roof fixed and the oil changed and the tires rotated on the car, Gloria napped and I watched last week's Big Bang which she also recorded for me as well as The Americans from the night before. The men showed up together having met in the driveway. I did some pix uploading etc and then Gloria got up. The guys did whatever and we went into the craft room where she taught me how to do a pinwheel card and we looked at some of her new projects and just talked girl talk. When the guys got back Bud and Gloria pulled dinner together--they won't let anyone help--but if you could see them move around the kitchen and each other you'd know why--it is like a well choreographed dance and if anyone else tried to join there would be lots of shuffling, jostling and irritation--best to stand back and marvel. We had a really good summer night's meal--grilled hot dogs and rolls, macaroni and tuna salad, fresh veggie sticks and dip. Bill isn't crazy about mac-tuna salad though he doesn't hate it and can eat it without a problem --it just isn't a favorite of his. I , on the other hand, LOVE it. I make it periodically and Bill eats it--I just don't make it as often as I'd like since he is humoring me--BUT-- you got it--he LOVED Gloria's and actually ate about three servings. I know I did and really couldn't move. Bud loves it, too! During our meal we lost Gloria for awhile to a business phone call but still, we had a wonderful time. Next morning I was up by 8. This time I had to be on the phone because I forgot to ask for senior rate when I reserved our room here in Gallup. A bit of a run-around but finally managed to get the rate changed and all was well. Got ourselves packed up after breakfast but lingered a bit over coffee to make up for our alone time yesterday. Gloria felt badly that she wasn't feeling herself and therefor was not the hostess she likes to be. I'm not sure how to convince her that visiting them is like visiting family--we feel totally relaxed and at home and that like any family we adapt to whatever is happening. Every visit we've ever had with them has been the best. Bill took camera in hand and photographed me and Gloria--a tradition on our last morning. But in all the good-bying I forgot one of the wonderful oranges they had--was taking one for the road. But we did get sent off with Gloria's super chocolate brownies--another Bud favorite ( mine, too!) so I demurred not wanting to take them from him but she said she makes more all the time. She also gave us another of her delicious banana breads. Boy, you can tell this lady is Italian--she feeds you coming and going and who can say no??? We left around noon time and traveled 40 West to Gallup. How many pictures have I taken through the years of these red formations and more Malpais lava beds. At one point, if you look closely, you can just see the top of the train traveling along with us as we both cut through the beds. Went right to Applebee's to eat and then checked into the motel. We talked about our plans and decided we wanted another night here. Well, our room was not available because several tour buses had already reserved most of the rooms. Lady told us to check back later to see if there had been a cancellation. I explored the possibility of going to Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley again. Also looked at Chaco Canyon and Taos Pueblo. Antelope Canyon is something I want to wait on--there are two canyons--upper and lower,. It appears the lower requires climbing ladders etc while the upper sounds equally beautiful and an easy flat walk. The reason I want to wait is that it is way up there and it makes sense to do both AC and Monument Valley in the same trip. The motel I want to stay at in MV is booked until late next week and we don't want to hang around until then. So, I think I'll arrange that trip from home for next year. Chaco has a paved loop road, however the access road is on the reservation, is unpaved and very, very rough--Douglas is not the vehicle for that road. We will try to rent a jeep or something another time and do that park out of Gallup or Farmington. In the meantime, the Taos Pueblo is closed in early spring for their religious observations --so unless we change our travel plans I'll never get to visit there. Feeling kind of at loose ends for next step we decided to sleep on it. Meantime, Bill went down to the desk and the young man who now was working decided to give us a ground floor--we were in a ground floor king, all taken tonight-- two queens. He wrote that I couldn't use stairs or elevator--lol so one of the bus party people we going to be moved! Today we had to cool our heels--check out is noon. The couple in our new room hadn't moved out and we couldn't do anything until the room was emptied and cleaned. Thomas, the fellow the night before, had also asked that the room be cleaned immediately upon departure since we were elites already in residence and needed to move asap. So, I took the time to write you the Getting to Know You post and once we were ensconced in our new abode, we took off for Perry Null. Imagine my pleasure and surprise to find Karen there. Karen is the first lady we ever dealt with at Perry Null. She is from New Iberia, La and is married to the editor of the Gallup newspaper. I haven't seen her in years because she and her husband are world travelers and are usually gone when we are here. One year it was South Africa and a Safari, another year Iceland, yet another it was Russia, they also went to China and last year it was Cambodia, VietNam and Laos. I was amazed to find her home this time. In addition to us having a ball picking out stuff for me to buy--though I came with a list, too--we were having a great time catching up on Louisiana, her travels. our travels and a concert going to happen tomorrow night--which sounds so wonderful but --nope. Oh, well. We have very similar tastes and so it is especially fun for us because we like the same things so it is more like shopping with a girlfriend than the salesgirl. When we were finally getting ready to add everything up, a young Navajo man--handsome, handsome--came in and she said, Katherine turn around and meet this gentleman--Melvin Francis--and to him she said, she's just purchased one of your pieces. I had it in my hand showing the salesman what I wanted on a ring I was ordering made for me. To say I was star-stuck is putting it mildly He works with Eugene Chee and I have several of his pieces already and not only was buying the Wild Horse bracelet but also a pair of his earrings. He was so delightful-friendly and humorous and humble as I praised his talent and the beauty of his work. He even said with a straight face that the fellow on the cash register gives him all his ideas for jewelry and Melvin just makes it. Golly-- it was the highlight of my day to meet him--I wanted to go home with him and watch him create these pieces of art. While all this was going on, Bill and Randy, and another of the salesmen got going on the computer. Randy looked up where we live and pulled our house and property up to see it--then they got talking about the trees and about Maine and the fact we are in the middle of nowhere--they found Burlington funny as our largest city--but were impressed that we were so close to Montreal and Boston. Wanted to know about Montreal. Karen took me into the saddle room. Locals bring their saddles in and get money for them but they are in pawn. They do it primarily to have a safe and environmentally controlled space in which to store them. When they need them for celebrations or ceremonies or rodeo they come in and buy them back then when they are done they pawn them once more. If they decide they are giving the saddle up for good, Perry buys it but he keeps it for a year, just in case conditions change or the guy or gal changes his/her mind. After a year, if not reclaimed, he puts it out for sale. Soon, at least two hours later, I gathered my loot, arranged for them to contact me when the ring is ready for my approval and bid good-bye to all, including Perry who was taking care of a couple of artisans. What a fabulous day. Took some pix for you, Joyce, in the store. Also of the jewels I've added to my collection although at least four boxes are not revealed, being Christmas presents. Came back to our room. Bill went to Applebee's, I watched The Five and played with my new stuff. Heard the distinctive sound of cat out the window so communed with the two strays in the courtyard beneath it. We have decided to go to Ramah tomorrow to see the Wolves, then down to either El Morro or MalPais or the Polar caves and stay in Grants tomorrow night. Sunday we will head up to Farmington and on Monday I'm going to go into Mesa Verde this time. From there we will start heading East--through Colorado? Back into New Mexico? From there, who knows? Got to look at the map. But for now, I'm going to sign off and make our reservation in Grants and check out Enterprise outlets in Gallup and Farmington for that future trip to Chaco. Good night, all KandB

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Bosque

Tuesday Mar 7, 2017 Comfort Inn Socorro, NM 848 am MST Oh, what a glorious morning at the Bosque--up at 530 breakfast at 6 and off to San Antonio. The color was beautiful, the wildlife fairly plentiful, the air a crisp 33 warming to 41--lol Back to room now to shower, dress and head up to Belen. Hopefully, I'll be able to upload pix--they are so gorgeous. Later, Trekkies. KandB PS Bill showered at 515 so he is going to have to cool his heels whilst I get human and awake again,

Monday, March 6, 2017

On The Way to Socorro,NM

Well, hello Trekkies! To start tonight, I think my friend Jane sent an email a bit ago with some really interesting questions about how Vermont is different and/or special in comparison to where we have traveled. She send the email to the group and I think that is really good, since several of you live/ or have lived in places other than Vermont or the Northeast or have traveled a bit throughout the country. I've responded to Jane that I want to think about her questions and organize my thoughts before answering her, but I think it might be interesting to see comments from you as well. I'd ask that you not send them, until I write to her, since I don't want to be influenced by your take before I think out mine. We could share all the emails on the topic with the group--it would be really fun, I think. As for today, we only traveled for about 2 1/2 hours today, primarily stopping here because we so enjoy going to the Bosque del Apache at sunrise each year and driving for over an hour just relaxing in the loveliness of it. For those who have had any interest in the map I included last night, we basically drove north out of Alamogordo to Carrizozo, took a left hand turn to San Antonio on the Rio Grande and a right for 10 miles into Socorro with the "M" mountain. Taking a tangent here, watching the news--Amazon is going to charge NM sales tax--oh, well, they are charging Vt now,too! More upsetting --big fire up near Rio Rancho, not far from the area we are going to tomorrow! High wind gusts and warnings in the area. Going into the 20's tonight. But, a warming trend coming --Wed 68 --a 15 degree above normal temp for the day. We'll take it. Anyway, the first shot of the day is of our own Matterhorn across from the motel in Alamogordo--in the Sacramentos. As we travel north the Sacramentos are on our right all the way. When we reached Tularosa I saw a vintage shop and since my POD prompt for today was " Vintage" I did make Bill turn around so I could photograph it. When we did I caught a glimpse of a side street that looked as though it may once have been a main street. That is the problem with traveling when there isn't finite time to explore; you pass through a town on the highway, year after year, and never take a look at the whole town. Since we had plenty of time today we drove along a few of the streets and was really touched by the unusual buildings with a definite Spanish touch. I like Tularosa better now than ever. Have always enjoyed the Vaya con Dios on the back of the welcome sign when you leave. Not far out of Tularosa on the left side in the plains a very distinct wide black strip shows up. It is the beginning of a 40 mile long lava flow. This area of the country in both New Mexico all the way west into Arizona was extremely volcanic. There are wide stretches of land called Malpais--literally " bad land" which is black lava. Louis L'Amour wrote of this area and spoke of the fact that the ankles of the riders horses were cut badly by the sharp lava rock. Bill said walking on it is almost impossible, it is so rocky. Just outside Carrizozo is the Sands Motel--I always get such a kick out of the sign since it is exactly like the one in Santa Rosa but, even more funny, like the old sign in Las Vegas, Nevada--the place where the Rat Pack used to perform. Turning another curve there was some more vintage--old trucks behind and to the side of the tiny Bike Shop. We stopped for gas and decided we had to try some of the Carrizozo cider we'd been seeing advertised since Artesia. Well, it isn't being made right now--seasonally wrong--but there was a cherry drink and a red raspberry drink by the same orchard so Bill picked up a bottle of each. At this corner--which is where the Capitan road joins the road we were on and actually becomes the route on which we made our left turn to head Westward once more toward San Antonio. The wind was blowing like mad at this crossroads where two roads converge after descending from mountains into this flat plain. Even though it is a plain, we ascended 1000 ft from the White Sands. Within minutes we were driving through a lava flow--about three miles wide along this road. It is interesting to see the variety of flora growing on it although it is taking a long time to totally cover this thousands of years old rock. Then we passed through more sand hills though lower than those west of Artesia. Far in the distance we could see the next chain of mountains that border this Tularosa Basin, the Oscuro Mtns. In time from about 25 miles or so away we saw the famous "M" on Socorro Peak. The history of the landmark is quite interesting and if you care about that sort of history here is a link that will tell you all you'd like to know and maybe more! http://www.nmt.edu/m-mountain-a-history-of-a-socorro-landmark Within ten miles we crossed the Rio Grande River--yes, that Rio Grande--into San Antonio--no, not that San Antonio. But this San Antonio is the birthplace of Conrad Hilton who founded the big hotel chain, a farmer's son who used to rent out rooms in his parents' farmhouse to soldiers and hunters and others who passed this way. Can't find any info about the house so suspect it is gone. Doubt that his grand-daughter Paris ever saw the old homeplace. It was at this point in our travels that Betsy called so my picture taking ceased for a bit. Although I did get a shot of The Owl which has a delicious big hamburger that we try to eat at least once while in the neighborhood. Maybe breakfast tomorrow. And then, ta da, we were in our motel. Bill went out to have chili--made with pinto beans and having a salad on top--that's what he said. I've stayed in as planned and not that it is 6 pm, I'm going to make my tuna and pile it high into my Italian bread and pig out. Tomorrow we will go to the Bosque and then head up to Belen to visit with our friends Gloria and Bud. This is a favorite stop each year and other than a couple of pictures, all electronics are put away. Soooo, we'll get back together when we are on the road again. In the meantime, take care. KandB

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Day in Alamogordo, New Mexico

Hi Trekkies, A nice relaxing day around town. Took our time getting out and about but first stop Heart of the Desert Pistachio Ranch. Bought several large bags of garlic and green chili nuts and a small one of my favorite Red Chile and Lime. Picked up a bag of pistachio cookies and a couple of misc. things as gifts. Spent $89.41. Then drove back into town and went to Lowe's Market where I found an interesting book about The Wicked Women of New Mexico. In her acknowledgements the author, Donna Blake Birchell says " thank you for navigating Highway 152 between Hillsboro and Silver City which proved to be an extremely gut- wrenching ride!" Well, we went from Silver City to TOC on that road in 2007, our first trip. I don't remember Hillsboro at all and it is the road that taught me to be leery of the roads on the New Mexico map. When we got to the end of it, Bill pulled over and just sat smoking a cigarette and stretching his fingers. Gut-wrenching, indeed! We also replenished some juices and picked up some items we can't get back home but that we've have found to be great in cooking or snacking. Also picked up some greeting cards for various past and upcoming events. We spent $89.35 there. I told Bill I planned it that way. Returned to the motel room to put perishables away, pack up Bill's b-day gift for Betsy and write the cards. Then Bill watched some old TV Westerns, Palladin, The Rebel with Nick Adams, while I started my book on those infamous ladies. It was around 1 and I wanted to go to the Sands when there would be some interesting shadows. Looked at the map to decide if we wanted to wait until early morning instead and then head to Las Cruces and take the long way to Socorro tomorrow. Decided I'd been there most of the time around 7ish am and would rather go for afternoon shadows this time. While looking at the map I saw the lovely nexus of roads leading from Roswell to Alamogordo. For years, after my Silver City experience I would only allow Bill to go over Ruidoso to Tularosa by Rte 70. Even the year we went up to Lincoln I made him go back to 70 rather than go over Capitan. Then two years ago, while traveling with Barb we went to Lincoln and I said let's go over Capitan to Carrizozo. It was a piece of cake. So last year, I took Bill that way. Having found those two routes pretty innocuous and beautiful, I got brave enough to do Cloudcroft this year. When we got back to the motel, the chambermaid said I know you from somewhere--we laughed and said, yes and we know you, too. We come almost every year. She said it was good to go to the Sands later, since the wind would settle down a bit--it was blowing quite well then. She also said they are predicting very strong winds tomorrow. Have to watch the weather tonight--we may not go over to Socorro if it is blowing too hard. May wait another day. We'll see. Headed to the Sands--I never realized it was Sunday til we got there--the place was crawling with people--lots from Texas! I'm terrible--I like the place to myself. It is such a peaceful and beautiful place. I don't think Bill cares about it--he drives through within a half hour but I do get him to stop for me to get a picture once in awhile. I wouldn't even ask him to stop and just sit and watch the light and clouds change--but at least he doesn't object to going back each year. I asked him to take a picture of me because the prompt for today on my POD was" a picture of me". God, don't give that man a camera! lol After another blue and white and yucca filled visit we headed back into town and Johnny Carinos for dinner. I wish we had that chain back home. I usually get the sausage Spagettini with a glass of red wine but they have a new dish--Vodka Tortellini Arrabbiata with sausage. Arrabbiata sauce, or sugo all'arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. The tortellini were stuffed with cheese and were served in a vodka cream sauce with arrabbiata sauce mixed in. Fresh tomatoes, green peppers and mushrooms and hot Italian sausage swam with the pasta. This followed a delicious Caesar salad and Italian bread served with garlic olive oil dipping. I had a glass of Santa Fe Brewery IPA. My mouth was on fire, I was stuffed and in heaven. Bill had a garden salad and the Spagettini with sausage and Bud Light. The young couple behind the bar were wonderful. When he ( Tori ) asked if we needed anything else as we were eating I said I was going to buy a loaf of bread to go--he said, I'll give you a loaf. Later when she ( Mari ) was ringing us up I told her the nice young gentleman said he'd give me a loaf. She said, sure. He brought it in a nice little bag and asked if I wanted garlic oil, too. I said nope. Then he left, since his shift was ending. All of a sudden she started to laugh--I said what's wrong--and she showed me her register card on which Tori had written Mari sucks in red marker. I said well, I guess he pulled the wool over my eyes and she should tell him. We were all laughing when he came back and I grabbed my bag of bread and said, well, I guess I figured you all wrong--laughing--he said why? I told him about the card and he whipped out his and said she started it--Tori sucks in red marker. By now we were laughing hysterically--I said oh, no, just like school, now which one has to sit in the corner. Mari laughed and said we have the same last name now--I told them I was going to tell you all I met this really cute married couple the Sucks at Johnny Carino's. Such fun and what nice kids. With that it was back to the motel. Now, I'm about to get comfy to watch Mercy Street, followed by the season finale of Victoria. Last night's Graham Norton was hilarious, by the way. So, after a really fun day, it is time to let this big meal settle in. For the last four days we've been eating really big, filling meals. Time for a break. Tomorrow I think I'm staying in and having tuna on fresh Italian bread. Sigh! Talk to you tomorrow night from Socorro, hoping their internet has improved as much as it has here. Until then, nightie night all. KandB