Monday, March 31, 2008

Pecos, TX

Today we drove into Pecos, Texas - a town that every kid in America knows is full of rowdy cowboys and fast-draw lawmen. I was pretty excited.

In 1883, Pecos was the scene of a cowboy contest that was the forerunner of today's rodeo.

This overpass on I20 grabs the curious traveler.

I suppose that now we're in Texas, this is just the first of all the Texas-sized items we'll see.

The name of the laundromat got my attention.

But the picture on the side of the building interested Ron.

Unfortunately, we didn't actually see any cowboys or lawmen. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

White Sands National Monument

Continuing with our site-seeing trip on Thursday, we made our way about 30 more miles west of the missile museum through some of the most desolate land I have ever seen. This is all part of the missile range and I can see why they used that area - nobody else would want it!

However, just when you've about given up hope, suddenly there is this beautiful white sand in rolling hills with a surprising amount of vegetation.

This is the front edge of the dunes which are moving steadily in a northeast direction.

Some of the plants can avoid burial by the moving sand. These soaptree yuccas look only a couple feet tall, but actually have grown tall enough for their leaves to stay above the sand which was at least 20 feet deep at this spot.

Some plants (I'm sorry I don't know what this is) anchor part of a dune with their roots. . .

And keep growing on a sand pedestal even after the dune moves on. Oh, and in case you doubt the existence of wildlife in this harsh environment, there is a bird on this bush.

Of course, a plant like that is on shaky ground.

This is one of Ron's pictures and is what I was expecting to see - lots and lots of nothing but sand. He caught some nice sand waves in the foreground with the San Andres mountains in the back.

This picture of Ron just tickled me. I feel like I should come up with a snappy title.

If you go to the White Sands NM, remember to bring your saucer for sledding. Although if you forget, never fear, the gift shop at the entrance will sell them to you. Ron caught this little guy in mid slide. Looks like fun!

White Sands Missile Museum

Today we spent the whole day being tourists. We went to White Sands National Monument, which I'll put in another post. But first, we checked out the missile museum at White Sands Missile Range which is about 20 miles west of Las Cruces, NM. To avoid some of the red tape, we parked outside the gate and walked in. Each person still needs a drivers license, but it avoids all the paperwork involved with bringing a car in. It was a short walk.

They had an impressive display of missiles of all types and age - most of which were unknown to me. This is Ron's group picture.

I thought these were cute and also liked the Organ Mountains in the background. Actually we were told all pictures had to be that direction - you are not allowed to take shots of the range. I looked that way - just looked like desert to me.

I did read the sign on the one to the left. It seems it was remote controlled and used for target practice! How mean!

I thought this one was interesting. It's called an Aeroshell "Flying Saucer", appropriately enough. The aeroshell was designed for slowing down a missile for landing on Mars. It's believed to be the only one 'in captivity.'

This is a Patriot Missile (which I actually had heard of), but I wondered if this was an 'oops'. You might have to click on it to see what I mean.

This V-2 had top billing. There was an amazing story about the V-2s and White Sands Missile Range. It seems American solders found a V-2 factory in Nordhausen, Germany with 250 V-2s in various stages of completion. The army hurriedly removed and shipped them west. (What they don't explain is how they managed that - it boggles the mind.) Anyway, in August 1945, almost 300 railroad freight cars with captured V-2 components arrived in New Mexico. Using every available flatbed truck in the area, the parts were trucked to the newly established White Sands Proving Ground. General Electric was awarded the contract to assemble, test, and fly the V-2s. What a job! Luckily, in January 1946, many German scientists and engineers arrived at White Sands to assist in the project.

What surprised me most was how big it was. I had seen the V-1 in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and it was the size I expected. The V-2 was 46 feet long, and looked even bigger in this little building.

I have to admit that this museum was much more interesting than I had expected. Ron read every sign and loved it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More Refrigerator Woes

This is just a short update on the refrigerator post where I thought Ron had fixed it by driving like a maniac (he prefers to call it erratically.) I guess shaking it up was only a temporary measure. A few days later, it stopped working altogether. It turns out that the problem was the cooling unit which costs the world to replace. So, long story short, we now have a brand new refrigerator. I meant to take some pictures of Ron stripping parts off the old fridge, but I forgot. The repair guy just stood there in amazement.

It's nice to have a working fridge again.

Monday, March 24, 2008

La Cueva

Yesterday we took a drive up Dripping Springs Road (what a great name) to the base of the Organ Mountains just east of Las Cruces. Although it is BLM land, there is a $3 charge to go to the end of the road, but Ron's Golden Age pass worked fine.

Once there we had a choice of two short hikes - Dripping Springs and La Cueva. Since the springs were not dripping, we chose La Cueva which means 'the cave.' It seems this is a truly amazing archeological site. In the 1970's, the Centennial Museum of the University of Texas at El Paso conducted test excavations and recovered about 100,000 artifacts. Analysis indicated that the rock shelter was occupied from about 5000 B.C., through the historic period that followed the arrival of the Europeans!

Here's Ron standing at the entrance to the cave. It's incredible to imagine that people were living right here 7000 years ago!

And here I am inside. The cave was also home to 'the Hermit of La Cueva' in 1869. He was known to have miraculous healing powers, probably using herbs he found nearby. Sadly he was found with a knife in his back and his murder was never solved.

Just down from the cave were some bedrock mortars used by prehistoric people to grind seeds such as the mesquite beans. Here's Ron demonstrating their use.

This one's just for fun. It's a pretty area with many rock formations and a great variety of vegetation, although they don't get a lot of rainfall.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Historic Mesilla

Currently we are parked at the very friendly Eagles lodge in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Today Ron and I went to check out the tiny, but historic town of Mesilla. The town was incorporated in 1848 and until the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 was part of Mexico.

The town is built in the classic Spanish American style around a plaza with a gathering area, church, and government buildings. There were also two stage lines that stopped in Mesilla - the Butterfield and the Santa Fe.

The closer building is El Patio and a thriving cantina since 1934. We can attest to the thriving part today anyway. Before that, at various times, it housed the Butterfield Overland Mail, the Mesilla Times, Sam Bean's saloon, a blacksmith's forge, a mercantile, and the US Post Office. The white building in the back is La Posta - the only station still standing on the Butterfield Trail.

The building with this charming 'Billy the Kid gift shop' was once the Capitol of Arizona and New Mexico. To be fair, though, it was also the courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang.

Alright, so sue me, I did go into the Billy the Kid gift shop, who could resist? I was drawn to this hoop dancer doll.

There were also many picturesque adobe structures around town such as this lovely gate.

Although the town is now geared toward tourists with all the shops and eateries, it still retains a lot of charm and a feeling of history.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rocks, Silver, and Copper

Yesterday we finally left our wintering state of Arizona and ventured into New Mexico. We're in the little town of Deming at a park(!), but never fear, we don't have hookups. Today we took quite a trip to see some of the sites in the area.

We started with City of Rocks State Park, about 25 miles north of Deming. This collection of 'rock art' was formed by a huge volcanic eruption about 34 million years ago and the subsequent erosion.

There are some precarious balanced-rocks like this one that Ron is ready to catch.

We've all heard of woodpeckers, but here is evidence of rockpeckers.

Ron found a formation that looked like a duck!

After the state park, we made our way about another 25 miles up the road to the town of Silver City. The historic district has some beautiful old buildings, such as this one which is now the museum.

There were lots of trees in bloom and this giant agave (on the right, that's me in the middle.)

But I have to admit my favorite was this mariachi band that we found in the plaza!

On our way home, we detoured slightly to see the El Chino (or just Chino) Mine. The present day open-pit mining operation began in 1910. However Apaches, Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans have all obtained copper from this site, once known as the Santa Rita mine. I know the picture doesn't show the size of this giant pit, but if you can see the tiny truck at the bottom, that's a huge thing that was wetting down the road surface.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Willcox, etc.

Willcox, Arizona is understandably proud of two things. As you come into town they are immediately obvious. We turned off the interstate on Rex Allen Drive and followed signs for the Rex Allen museum. Rex Allen was the 'last of the silver screen cowboys' and grew up in tiny Willcox. His singing career began in 1946 and spanned 30 years. His trademark song was Streets of Laredo. He starred in 19 action-packed western movies and 39 episodes of Frontier Doctor on television. Rex also narrated over 100 nature films for Walt Disney.

His ashes are scattered in the park behind this statue and his famous horse Koko is buried there.

Their other claim to fame is the annual Wings over Willcox festival celebrating the thousands of sandhill cranes who winter in the area. I loved the cranes on the overpass at that same exit off the interstate.

Not only will you have to click on this picture and view it larger, but you will also have to trust me that these are sandhill cranes. Although we didn't get the best view of them, their calls are unmistakable.

Oh, I forgot to mention one more thing that we certainly noticed about the town - the number of trains that pass through, also with unmistakable calls. When I was stopped by one, I barely had time to whip out the camera and set it on 'action shot.' These guys really zoom.

Although I'm not really a fan of hot springs and hot tubs (they're just too hot), we decided to make a trip to Safford which is known for them. Following my sister Diana's directions, we found a place with the charming name of Essence of Tranquility. From the outside, I had my misgivings.

However even I was charmed by the individual rooms, each with their own tub and decoration theme.

Since we were the only ones there, we checked out each one. Although the waterfall tub (left) and the heart tub (right) were both cute,

The buddha tub was just right and also seemed to fit the Essence of Tranquility name. (Note the buddha on the table and bamboo walls.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Madera Canyon

For the last few days, we've been at the Escapees park in Benson, Arizona. Although the name Escapees brings to mind several different possible meanings, it is the name of an RV club started by Joe and Kay Peterson. The park in Benson was developed by the Escapees club, but is actually a co-op owned by the residents. We were only going to stay one night, but ran into some people we know and stayed for three. This is why we move so slowly.

On Saturday, we joined the park hiking club for a hike up Madera Canyon south of Tucson. The Mt. Baldy Trail we took was only 2.2 miles but rose 2000 feet in elevation. This was quite a climb. I have no pictures of this because we were too busy trying to breathe.

Here we are posing at our turn-around point which is called Josephine Saddle. (photo provided by Stan - standing, second from left - and taken by some passer-by)

We look pretty good, huh? But. . . .

Here's what the group looked like right after reaching the top.

There is a sad memorial at Josephine Saddle. It seems that when a troop of boy scouts were there in 1958, three of the boys got separated from the rest in a freak snowstorm. Their bodies were not found for two weeks.

Coming down, our group split up. (I know, you'd think we would have learned something from the memorial.) Three of us went back down the way we came up and three took the Super Trail which is longer but not as steep. This is Ron's picture of the valley as he started down the Super Trail. As you can see, it was not a good day for pictures.

It seems the Super Trail was more scenic. Here Ron and Mary are hiking down along the stream and one of those beautiful Arizona sycamores. (another of Stan's pictures since I was one of the wimps who took the shorter route)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Refrigerator Woes

Every RVer knows how temperamental the RV refrigerators are. While Ron was gone for a few days, ours stopped cooling. Actually, it didn't stop cooling altogether, but consistently stayed at 52 degrees even during a really hot day. So I, being female, looked for a workaround and bought two ten-pound bags of ice. This actually did help and brought the fridge down to 42 and the freezer to 32. (Of course the ice took up half the shelf space, but by that time I had eaten all I could.)

When Ron returned, I broke the bad news. (Incidentally, when he went hunting in October and I waited in Grand Junction, the car ignition went out and I had to have it towed!) Anyway, he tried all the RV tricks - turn it off overnight and back on, sniff for ammonia, check for any obstructions around the coils, take the guard off from around the burner and blow off the dust, rap the flue to see if rust falls out, etc.

Nothing seemed to help. It just kept running continuously and only cooling to 42. Finally he remembered a process he had heard about called 'burping'. It seems that, when desperate, people have taken the fridge out completely, turned it upside down and, when righted and reinstalled, it worked. Well he didn't really want to take the whole thing out so what did he do? He drove around the parking lot like a maniac! He made quick starts, fast sharp turns, and slammed on the brakes. Well, amazingly enough, that seems to have done the trick. The fridge is now happily puttering along at a perfect 39 and all is well. Crazy, huh?