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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

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

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