Friday, June 27, 2008

14-08 Bloomfield New Mexico, Chaco Canyon

Bloomfield New Mexico (North west corner of New Mexico)

Chaco Cultural National Historical Park

Campground: River View Rv. Right on the San Juan river. Full hookups. $125 for 7 days. No cable tv and only 2 off the air stations available. About a dozen campsites, mostly local residences living in older campers. Owner, Joyce is really helpful and friendly.

From Cochiti Reservoir campground outside of Santa Fe I backtracked a bit to get to hwy 550 on my way to Bloomfield NM. I stopped in Cuba NM to check out a couple of National Forest campgrounds sites, but the gal behind the desk at the Forest Center was so, how shall we say it, dense, that I didn’t get any information what-so-ever. So I decided to head onto Bloomfield.

My excitement in getting to Chaco Canyon has been building, but first I had to set up and check out my new surroundings. After setting up, I discovered my a/c was on the fritz. A relay switch was stuck and wouldn’t turn the compressor off. After a number of phone calls, I found a very qualified generator/a/c mechanic to work on the a/c.

I had been in the area 4 years ago and new my way around a bit. So while the camper was waiting to be fixed, I decided to head out to Farmington, a bit larger town west of Bloomfield. I drove around a bit, had lunch, went to their Mall, window shopped and bought a couple more books on sale and went to their new 10 plex with stadium seating movie theatre right there in the mall. I figured with the a/c on the fritz, there was no rush getting back to the camper. Saw the new Indiana Jones movie. Predictable fun movie.

Well today’s the day. I’m finally heading out to the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park.

Remember when it used to be called Chaco Canyon. The new title encompasses a culture that goes way beyond the canyon itself and is reflected in the new discoveries found in the past 20 years. It’s also a World Heritage site.

I had to head back down hwy 550 for about 30 miles through high desert. Where lonely weather worn homes sit on huge ranches covered in sage brush. Dotted occasionally with oil wells painted a sandy tan to match the surroundings. Reaching the top of a gradual hill, the vistas seem to roll on for hundreds of miles. The vast landscape and sky are immense.

I finally reach the turn-off to Chaco. It’s paved for a couple more miles, then a right turn at the sign and dirt road. 24 miles of dirt road. Ok, I’m prepared this time. You know, 4 years ago I was going to get to Chaco, but my back went out after going to Tent Rocks. The washboard road did me in back then. But I’ve been taking my vitamin D supplement and my back is in great shape now.

So down the dusty dirt road I go. 35 miles an hour, dust flying up behind me as I concentrate on the road and rugged scenery. Cows grazing amongst the sage brush and along the open range road. The first leg of the journey isn’t going too badly. My truck has found the right speed and the road, though bumpy doesn’t seem too bad.

After about 10 miles down the dirt road and a few good curves, the road turns to gravel, then red sand and back to dusty tan. Almost instantly the washboard becomes more pronounced. It’s going to be rough. 13 more miles to go, will it be like this the rest of the way. The truck is rattling and creaking. Things are flying up and around me and it sounds like the truck is about to fall apart. I hear groans and metal clanking all around me. I’m being bounced out of my seat. The seatbelt is the only thing holding me in place. I slow down. Doesn’t help. I speed up, worse. I swerve back and forth across the wretched road trying to find the sweet spot, where it might be smoother.

Nothing helps, mile upon mile of rough road. Finally I reach the entrance to Chaco Culture NP. A welcoming sign and paved roads! In the middle of a forbidding canyon, a paved road. I’ve made it.

I head to the welcome center, just past the campground. By the way, I would NEVER bring my camper down that washboard road. Besides, the campground has no facilities and in the hot desert, this would not be the place to camp. Though it does cool off in the evening. Later on my way out, I see a big motor home coming towards the park…. What are they thinking?

The visitors center gives me all the maps and directions to the various sites of interest. They are all along a nine mile loop through the canyon. So I start, right behind the visitors center to see the first of many Pueblo Great Houses, the Una Vida. It’s a short walk up a gradual incline to see a portion of this great house. It’s only been partially excavated, but one still is able to get a little sense of the size of this Pueblo. The first thing I’m impressed with is the stone work. It’s a fine close knit pattern of stone work, as flat and even as a modern day stone mason would create. This is one of over 150 great houses that were created over a 300 year period. It sits up close to the canyon wall, where I climb a slightly steeper hill to view some Petroglyphs. It’s either the elevation or I’m really out of shape. Whew. Ok, so here I am looking out over the canyon, I’m up against this huge sandstone wall and two distinctive sets of Petroglyphs are high above me. A duck in is one of the Petroglyphs as they were cherished for their feathers. Deer and other animals are also etched into the sandstone.

Ok, climbing down off the side of the canyon and back to the parking lot to really begin my tour. I have plenty of water and gator-aide and trail mix. My good buddy, Dave B. taught me that. Be prepared for the heat and sun. Oh and my big straw hat and a good pair of hiking boots as well.

But first I get to enjoy the a/c in the truck as I drive the single lane, did I say paved road (thank God). The next stop is Hungo Pavi another of the great houses shaped like a big D, a standard design for all the Great Houses. Built between 850 and 1150.

Then it’s on down the road to the mega great house, Pueblo Bonito. It was built over a period of 300 years and unlike many pueblo’s it had been designed from the start, not just adding another room on as needed. Consisting of over 600 rooms and 40 kivas. It stood over 4 stories high and was larger than 4 football fields. Most of the great houses in Chaco are now believed to have been built as public architecture and were not lived in but utilized during special times of the year for ceremonies and events. They know this because very few rooms in the great houses had any rooms for cooking or preparing food. Nor were there any large middens or piles of garbage one would fine with extended live in an area.

I stayed in the area for a guided tour of Pueblo Bonito. Lasted a good hour and a half, but I get so much more out of a site when there’s a knowledgeable guild there. Oh and I met the crew from the Travel Channel. They’re here as well starting a new series called “Secret Places” which should air this coming fall. And this place is filled with secrets. How could we know so little about a culture that was flourishing over a thousand years ago?

Now a couple facts that I found interesting. It’s now believed that only a couple hundred people stayed in the area to maintain the buildings when everyone left the area. Thousands would come into the area from many different tribes perhaps to trade goods, share ideas, religious ceremonies, many as far away as Mexico. It’s hard to tell, as these various tribes of Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, Laguna, and Zia in the Chaco Culture did not have a written language.
Although the stone work is very impressive, it would have been covered up with a plaster and possibly white washed. This plaster covering would have also preserved the chinking or mortar between the stone work. Less and less mortar was used as the masons became more sophisticated in cutting and trimming the stone work.

Over 250,000 trees were cut down to create the floors and ceiling of the Great Houses. They were cut down many miles away, dried and carried back to Chaco Canyon.
Great roads were created between other Pueblo great houses throughout the 4 corners area stretching way beyond the boarders of Chaco Canyon. These roads were 30 feet wide and were perfectly straight, climbing up and over the canon walls. There is even evidence of grand steps up and over the mountains. Check out the pictures. What an awesome feat. This was the center of their world. The main roads were perfectly aligned with the north/south axes and east/west axes.

Oh, and the main great houses in Chaco were aligned with the sun and moon and appeared to have line of sight connections between each great house. This was a very well planned community, but yet was also designed to be used only during certain periods of time. Because of the alignment of the building and other astronomical indications, it is believed they were definitely here for the spring, summer, fall and winter equinox. Even today, many in the area converge on Chaco for the summer solstice. I missed it by a couple of days.

I’m awed by the construction and wish they were doing more excavations. But today’s culture now dictates that no more excavations be made. Personally I hope they will in the future. For now, because of the local ancestral Indians, descendants of these great builders, it is considered bad to excavate a site that may contain burial sites. Though very few burial sites have been discovered in the area. So for now, new techniques of using x-rays, inferred rays and stuff like that are used to view what is under all that dirt and sand. The guide pointed out to many hills that were in fact buried pueblos and great houses. Hidden, waiting to be discovered again. I wanted to get out there and start digging myself.

To see the overall scope of the construction that took place in one of the most inhospitable places in the world begs so many questions. Why here? Why such grand buildings that were apparently not lived in year round? Since they had contact with Indians from Mexico, why hadn’t they learned how to write? Indications are that ideas were exchanged. Including some of the building techniques. Who were they? Indications are that they were native American Indians from many different tribes. Coming together. Becoming more of a nation or unified group.

Truly a World Heritage Site that anyone living in the U.S. should visit. One wonders if the schools are teaching anything about The Chaco Culture. Especially since it was such a highly developed culture, even as Europe was coming out of the dark ages. It is after all an important chapter in America’s history. One that lasted longer than the United States has been in existence.
Their buildings are still visible 1,000 years later and so many answers are still buried beneath the shifting sands of this desert and rock canyon.
Needless to say, I was blown away. Awesome is the only word that fits. Other sites, such as Salmon Ruins in Bloomfield and the Aztec Ruins in Aztec are associated with the Chaco culture and the roads leading north to these sites is indication of that.

I’ll chill out for a couple of days before heading onto the next site, my summer location, Pagosa Springs Colorado.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

13-08 Santa Fe & Sandoval County New Mexico

Santa Fe New Mexico (30 miles outside of)

Campground: Cochiti Lake, an Army Corp. site. $12 w/electric. Open sites on loop around the top of a hill overlooking the reservoir. Views of mountains. Good Verizon reception and Verizon air-card.

I arrived at Cochiti Lake Reservoir from Albuquerque on Monday. It was only an hours drive. I’m actually surrounded by the Cochiti Indian Reservation, one of many reservations in the area. From my campsite on top of a hill, I’m able to see the modern Pueblo community across the main road from where I’m staying.

Although I have no shade on top of my hill, I have fantastic views! Mountain ranges and mesas surround me. The Rio Grande river fills the reservoir but only to a shallow degree. I am mesmerized by the constant changing scenery. White clouds slowly roll across the sky creating dark shadows along the mountain ranges and mesas. A peak will be highlighted, then move into darkness. As the sun sets, deep shadows form along the ravines and wash-outs. The colors of the mountains become more pronounced. The red sandstone and other layers in various shades of chalk, browns and tans light up. Even the cedars and pinion pines look richer and greener.

It’s been hot the last couple of days and it’s expected to remain in the mid to high 90’s.

I head into Santa Fe the next day, it’s a 30 mile drive from the campsite across vast dry ranches and reservation land and mile after mile of fences, but I don’t see any live stock, except the occasional horse.

I’m here once again visiting a friend, Christine Linn. We have a great Mexican meal and sit and talk for hours. Then I head out for a tour of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. They’re currently having an exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities. They met in 1929 out west and became friends. Touring the west one summer with a couple other artists and their paintings and photographs reflect many of the same scenes. Seeing the vast landscapes through a painter and photographers eyes, helps me to appreciate the scenery that much more.

After the art museum, it being almost in the heart of downtown, I decided to walk around the main downtown plaza. I’d been here before, but hadn’t realized the scope of the place. This is definitely an art lovers and shoppers dream. Walking under the wonderful porch overhangs (providing lots of shade) around the plaza, centered by the grassy park with lots of shade trees as well, I noticed that there are many arcades and two story indoor plazas for shopping.

Because I live in my camper, I’m able to enjoy the wonderful art and objects that would tempt anyone into buying them, without actually having to own any of it. I must admit, it can be hard sometimes, looking at a beautifully hand crafted lamp or an exquisite painting, there is that urge to want to own it.

So I’m off to another outdoor adventure, where it’s impossible to “own” a sunset, or a mountain view, or a waterfall cascading down a deep ravine. I’m off to Sandoval County. It’s half way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, via hwy 550 and hwy 4. This is the type of country my buddies Scott and Tim would love to ride their Harleys on. There’s so much to see here, I’m unable to take it all in in one day.

The tour begins at the intersection of 550 and 4 in San Ysidro. The mountain ranges here are dramatic. One is chalky white and gray, the other is red rock, the Jemez mountain range. I think, how cool to be up close to these mountain ranges, the valley green with cotton wood trees all shiny and shimmery with bright green leaves.

I decide to head toward the Gilman Tunnels. A series of tunnels blasted through the mountains for a long ago rail line. It’s off of 485. Not expecting too much, I drive along this narrow spur of a road. Many small farms and older homes along the narrow valley. The road is winding and begins to climb up from the valley floor, the road getting narrower than I thought was possible. Requiring pullouts so traffic can pass each other.

Then, dramatically the mountain range isn’t off in the distance, where I can view it, I’m in it. The shear walls climbing high next to the strip of asphalt, it winds around a wall of solid granite and there’s the first of the tunnels. The mountain wall climbing high on my left and the river gorge, a shear drop down on my right. A old guard rail is there for protection, but after travel along the route, I notice it’s been dented heavily many times, not from the side like from a vehicle hitting it, but from rocks and boulders landing on top of it!

I stop along the way and am just in awe of the being so up close to the mountains, the shear mass of them. The deep gorge with the Guadalupe River running through it. This is one of those side road trips that we travelers sometimes bypass, heading instead for the main attractions. I’m so glad I took this side road. It will become the highlight of the entire day.

Back on the main scenic route 4 though Sandoval County, I head to the small town of Jemez Springs and the Jemez State monument. It’s a 17th century mission church, built over some of the remains of the Indian Pueblo. It’s always a bit sad to see native American Indians manning the desk at a state park like this, holders of the memories of their past. Their lifestyles changed forever when the missionaries and explorers came along. You can almost see it in their faces when they greet you. Asking you in silent voices to understand what has happened to them. The area still has a Monastery directly across the street from the monument and a Zen retreat in town as well.

After a short drive up the road I see the Soda Dam. It’s the only naturally formed dam in New Mexico and it’s a hot springs. I got some great pictures of the dam and tourists climbing all over it. One family was all the way from Sweden. The young man takes my picture for me.

Back in Jemez Springs, I head to one of a half dozen restaurants and have a great Greek salad on a screened in porch at the Lazy Lizard Café. Now this area is noted for the hot springs, so after lunch, I head across the street and down a steep dirt road to the Giggling Springs Hot Springs. Now I could have gone to one of the free hot springs outside of town, but after reading that the Lonely Planet had been here, I had to check it out.

The hot springs are a perfect temperature, due to the fact that the hot springs can be cooled down with an in flow of cooler water. Lots of lounges and chairs for relaxing in the shade in between dips in the mineral rich hot springs. Oh and their smoothies are what’s chillin. I think I’m now an official Lonely Planet guy.

Well that’s just some of the activities I’ve been into this week. In between, I’ve had time to read a couple of books and thought I’d share what I’ve read with you.

Recent books read:

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. No feedback from all you armchair travelers
so I guess I was the only one who read it in our group. Not to worry, it was not
an easy book to get through.

My life with Elvis by Pricilla Presley. Also caught a PBS special on
Elvis’s early years. Pricilla’s book was an eye opener on her very controlled
life living with Elvis. He was the first real disaster due to too much publicity
and unable to go anywhere like a normal person. The dependence on sleeping pills
and uppers and downers didn’t help. Skewd his life and those around him. Had no
guidance on how to handle the lifestyle and it pretty much ruined him in the

Roses are Red by James Patterson. Thriller novel.

The Angel Experiment by James Patterson. I really liked this one. An
experiment in making kids with wings. Quite a fantasy experiment gone wrong.

Sandstorm by James Rollins. A rip roaring good adventure in the style
of Indiana Jones. Lots of fun and excitement along the way. A fun read.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

13A-08 Bonus Report, Tinker Town: Albuquerque New Mexico

This article is dedicated to my sister Ann Perrault and to Ruth Hemrick, both of whom enjoy quotes and tid-bits of wisdom.


Tinker Town, Albuquerque NM

Special Report.

Not everyone will get it, but I think most of my readers will. This is one of those road side attractions one hears about and just has to go check out for themselves.
I was in the park office of my campground and the desk clerk said you’ve got to go check this place out.
“It’s so much fun. Tiny little houses and characters and they move and dance to music”.

Now who could resist such a description. Besides, I was told it only cost $2.50, Geezer rate.
So I headed out for the Turquoise Trail, hwy 14. Now the name of the trail alone would get me heading in that direction. The Turquoise Trail refers to the original trail the Native American Indian used to mine for turquoise and goes as far as Santa Fe from Albuquerque.

The story begins with Ross Ward. An artist who began carving circus figures in Junior high school. It all led to a career as an artist painting for all the great carnivals throughout the country. But there’s something more. It’s not just an appreciation for an artist who has a quirky side and builds walls and homes out of glass bottles. That’s been done all over the country. It’s something more. It’s a spirit. You can feel it.

As I enter the museum, which looks a bit like something Rip Van Winkle did and forgot about. Covered with dust and cob webs, it’s like going back in time to something that almost got forgotten and lost and was rediscovered again.

The cashier points in the direction to start the tour and after I pay my $3.00 (not the geezer rate) hands me a quarter to put in one of the many coin operated machines to start the show. Looking through the windows at the display, miniature folk art worlds come to life. Lights, animated figures. Such detail.

Then one begins to read the descriptions. It’s hard to pass them by. It’s like reading little secrets about each setting. The gypsy card reader, the artists workshop. “It started as a hobby in 1962. This little General Store came first….. I did it all “a dollar at a time” without a grant or a bank loan! You can do the same no matter what your project!” R.J. Ward.

He’s started. Ross Ward wants you to get it. He wants to give you some clues to help you in life.

Another sign over a sail boat that circled the globe captained by Fritz Damler in 1981, he “Heard the call of universal freedom. He quit his job and traded his house for the boat….he came to know the variety of people on the earth and to truly know himself…..this display is dedicated to Mr. Damler’s quest and to “YOURS”. “Life is short follow your heart”.

I began to feel the artist who created this miniature world, walls of bottle and concrete, a sailing boat that brought adventure and discovery. Ross Ward was not just an artist, painter, sculptor living his dream but he wanted others to live theirs as well. To discover something within each of us that needs to blossom and come alive.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our
people need it sorely…. Broad, wholesome, charitable views… Can not be acquired
by vegetating in one’s little corner of earth.” --- Mark Twain 1869.

“The greatest mistake we make is to neglect what is possible while brooding over
what is difficult… Harry Meech NCM

“ If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”

I felt I’d come to know the artist, not just by looking as his miniature world and collection of folk art and circus life, but by feeling the spirit of a man who relished life fully.

What a gift, thanks Mr. Ward.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

12-08 Tucumcari to Albuquerque New Mexico

Tucumcari, NM

Albuquerque, NM

Campground: Cactus RV Park, Tucumcari. A Passport America campground, half off $12.25. Full hook-up with cable TV and wi-fi. There are 6 Rv parks in town.

Campground: Hidden Valley Resort, Albuquerque, NM. A Passport America campground, half off $12.00. Full hook-up, wi-fi available in the office area. Hot tub, nice sites on the side of a hill. Many pull-thru.

I had a stop over here in Tucumcari a couple of years ago and here I am again. Historic Route 66 Hotel signs are a must see in Tucumcari NM. These are all the original neon signs and they really look great at night. I stopped into the Blue Swallow Motel and had to buy one of their T-shirts. Talked to the owners who live here during the summer, then close up shop and travel in their RV during the winter. The Motel has garages for each motel room!

It’s a dusty quiet town on the original Route 66 and a great stop over before heading to Santa Fe or Albuquerque NM.

If you travel to NM via I-40, stop into the NM Visitor Center, they have the BEST staff to help you plan your visit in the awesome state.

It’s amazing to me the change in the landscape from Texas to New Mexico. From a flat arid land, suddenly I find myself gradually climbing up hills, opening up vistas that seem to go on forever. Mesas begin to appear on the landscape. Off to the left I see one Mesa merging into another and another like long inclined steps reaching towards the sky, stretching all the way to the horizon.

Looking across the short dry rolling grass lands, I try to visualize what it must have been like to see huge herds of buffalo roaming the land. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a prong horn Antelope. Then another. They blend into the landscape so well. In all I saw a small herd of about 8-10. How exciting, my first viewing of the wild life out here.

As I get closer to Albuquerque I’m surrounded by the Sandia mountain range on one side and rounded mountains covered with cedar trees and short needled pine trees, all a part of the Cibola National Forest on the other. The highway winds it’s way through the mountain range. An awesome sight seeing the mountains rise on either side.

Today I drove to the other side of Albuquerque to see the Petroglyph National Monument. It only cost $1 for parking. I had planned on purchasing a new National Park pass, but they’ve gone up in price to $80 for the year (check or cash only).

Yikees! I was a bit disappointed by the Park office, which is in a former pueblo home. An expensive entrance and parking lot have been added. When you enter the park office, it’s the usual gift shop, but no displays or movies or interpretive center. So they hand you the brochure and tell you to go back out and drive a couple miles further up the road to the Petroglyph’s. Huge empty parking lot at the visitors center, little parking lot at the site. Our tax dollars at work.

Walking along trails through the volcanic rubble there are a couple really nice Petroglyph’s. Such a shame they haven’t spent any money restoring the weather worn signs, which gave little if any information on the Indian art. Then I read where the park became a National Monument in 1990 so I guess it takes a while to get things done.

I headed back into town and caught the historic Route 66 which goes right through Albuquerque. How cool is that. They have a number of the old historic motels and shops. I was going to explore Old Town, but the heat has gotten to me and I headed for a restaurant and some cool a/c. By the way Albuquerque is a very colorful city. Many of the buildings are painted really colorful southwest colors. Each adding a unique flair to a very energetic city. Which I might add is pretty easy to get around in. The downtown is bustling with shoppers, workers going to work or lunch, it’s the most energetic city I’ve seen in ages.

When I got back to the campground the weather felt much better, being at a higher elevation up in the mountains. As I drove back on I-40 a half moon shone down on the land against a light blue sky, not a cloud in the sky and those mountains ranges on either side of the highway. What an enchanting land.

A side note: My Tom-Tom Gps system has been a big help. Although I do get turned around occasionally and it doesn’t always get me to the exact spot, it has been a big help. Having literally thousands of points-of-interest, makes it easy to find the local Wal-Mart or the Petroglyph National Park. I find it does best with a specific address and it also has most all of the campgrounds I stay at, so that’s pretty cool in itself.

Yippee! Friends Tim and Scott have arrived in town and will be here all summer. We joined up and caught up on what’s been happening with them this past year. They were in Palm Springs, then moved to Houston for another work-camp job, but hated the area. We all agree that Albuquerque is a super place to visit and stay awhile. Lots of places to explore and the city is easy to get around in.

We visited Old Town right off of Route 66. The usual tourist shops, and yes I bought another T-shirt. Had lunch and walked around the central plaza with a small park in the center and the main church facing the plaza and park. There are a number of museums downtown in this area, most within walking distance of Old Town. There’s an awesome sculpture of the wagon trains heading west. You can see it in the sculpture gardens surrounding the art museum.

I tried to get Scott and Tim moving the next day, but it was tooo early for them. Some of us are early risers and are ready to go by 8:00. That wouldn’t be Tim and Scott So I had to head out on another adventure on my own.

I went to the Coronado State Monument, it‘s just a couple exits north of the city. It’s a pueblo consisting of over 1,200 rooms. The Coronado pueblo is one of hundreds of pueblo’s scattered throughout New Mexico. Many like this one are along the Rio Grande River. Now much of the complex has been re-buried to protect it from weather and further decay, but the big find was a series of murals found in one of the Kivas.

The murals were able to be removed and preserved by removing layer after layer of plaster. Each containing paintings. 17 of over 85 different layers were able to be recovered. After being sent away to various Universities and research centers, some of the murals are now back in Coronado and are on display. Can you imagine, each layer 1/30 of an inch thick, revealing another layer of paintings. One of them represented the “Priestess of Fecundity”.

Well, after viewing art from the 1,500’s I was getting hungry for lunch and wouldn’t you know it, right next door was the Santa Ana Star Casino. I picked up one of their rewards cards, put a couple dollars in the slot machine, had some fun, then headed over to the buffet ($7.25). Had an awesome lunch. Hit the slots one more time. They had a ton of new slot machines I’d never seen and spent a total of $3.00 playing them. Lots of fun for a really cheap price.

On Thursday I started our enjoying my mountain view retreat by taking a walk around (actually up and down, we’re on the side of the mountain you know) the park and up to the office for a cup of coffee. Seems everyone was in the mood to talk this morning. Lots of full-timers sharing how they got to that point in life and their secrets for having made it to this point. I got a few tips as to places to visit. My next door neighbors are from Ocala Fla. They literally sold the farm after a neighbor had just sold his place and made a fortune. They almost fell over when they realized how much their land was worth. They sold just before the bubble burst. Travel in a motor home and actually don’t like to travel that much. They find a place and stay for 3-4 months. Eventually they plan on getting two trailers, one up north and one in the south and just drive between the two.

So I finally got out of the park and headed into town to see the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Now I’ve got to tell you, this is one of the best museums I’ve seen in quiet a while. They have a new exhibit on the “Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Triassic New Mexico” which is awesome. The displays are top notch and the descriptions really help a person understand the immense changes our planet have taken over millions of years. This global warming is barely a drop in the bucket of climate change when compared to what our planet has gone through over the years.

Now the exhibit I went to see specifically was the one called “Startup, Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution“.

It all started with the first personal computer, the ALTAIR here in Albuquerque. Click on the room maps on the web page to see each exhibit room and more information on the dawning of the computer age. I literally spent hours there. The exhibit had the original roll of computer tape that Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the first Basic program to run on the Altair. Bill Gates was a true business man and insisted that he and his partners own the rights to the software. He refused to sell the software to MITS the company that built the first personal computer, Altair. That started the computer software revolution, oh and making him a multi-billionaire along the way. That was back in 1975. Can you believe it’s been 30 years!

A final evenings adventure brought us to the top of the Sandia Peak via the Longest Tramway in the world. Wow, what a ride, Scott, Tim and I rode up with about 50 others crammed in like sardines for the ride, but what a view! We went up at sunset and had dinner at the High Finance Restaurant. The food was not all that great, but the wine, good conversation and the views of the sunset and the cities night lights were spectacular. At 10,378 and 360 degree views, cooler air, one had to feel refreshed and alive.

My next stop I’ll be heading on up to an Army Corp site half way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Have a great adventure, till next time.

Friday, June 6, 2008

11-08 Lubbock to Amarillo Texas

Lubbock Tx.

Amarillo Tx (The Panhandle of Texas)

Campground: Buffalo Springs Lake. $24 elect 30 amp/water. 7 days, $126, 30 days $420. Caution, they advertise $18 elect sites, but they are 110 not 30 or 50 amp.

Campground: West Rim RV Park. $10, full hookup. A Recreation USA park. At the entrance to Palo Duro Canyon, on the rim of the canyon. You’ll feel like your in an abandoned campground. It’s old and run down, but the sites are all pull-thru’s and the full-hooks all work, so enjoy a rustic setting overlooking the canyon.

BLOG NOTE: I recently added a list of all the camping resource books I use along the way and hope it may help all you campers or future campers. I also moved My favorite camping things from the bottom of the Blog to the right hand column and added the list of Camping Club info there as well. Check them out.

I decided to leave Ballinger Tx, mainly because the only wi-fi site in town at a small Bakery coffee shop was closed temporarily due to family emergency. The town really had nothing to offer, except for a really cheap city park campsite.

Driving along hwy 84 Abilene Tx to Lubbock Tx. The scenery continued to change as I left the Hill country and entered a vast area of farm country. Signs appeared warning of heavy winds. And they arrived. Gusts easily in the 25-35 mph range. A constant wind, with power behind it. Just as I noticed the winds, a slew of wind turbines appeared on the horizon. You may remember I was thrilled to see some of them in the past year, in of all places Minnesota. Well I think I found the mother load of wind farms. As I drove along hwy 84 from Snyder heading NW on, the hugest wind turbines I’d ever seen appeared in the fields and on top of mesa’s. Thousands of them, from one horizon to the next. Mile after mile all I saw were those huge three bladed windmills. Many on desolate land, useless for anything else, but others, planted in the middle of rich farm land and ranches. Dotted among all this were the oil wells, bobbing up and down. Riches underground, in the land itself and in the constant winds that blow through here.

I had found Buffalo Springs listed in one of my camping books and decided to check it out. Coming off of hwy 84, down a farm road FM 835, past fields recently planted with crops, I arrived at Buffalo Springs. A large gated entry clued me into the size of the place. After registering at the gate, I was directed to go towards the church at the edge of a cliff, then turn right, down to the lake. A sign at the turn off pointed to the Fire hall and City hall as well.
After taking the turn, I headed toward the rim of a canyon, descending down a steep road leading into the canyon, I could see lush trees, the spring fed lake with 7 miles of shoreline. Houses dotting the cliffs and shoreline. From up above, the flat terrain and fields gave no clew that this canyon was here.

The land the houses are on is leased land. Along with the gulf course which wraps around one end of the lake, campground, ATV trails, swimming and boating and even an amphitheater are all owned by the Buffalo Springs Lake District. It’s like entering a sunken oasis. I’ll only be here this time for one night. I had to pay the $24 nightly fee, which is at the top end of my budget. Ok it’s reasonable, but when you have to pay close to $100 a day to fill up the truck with diesel you try to get a bargain wherever you can. Next time, I would stay for a full week or longer to get the discount that would be well within my budget range.

Heading out the next day along hwy 27, I’m only traveling about 100 miles. I’ve now hit the flat arid panhandle of Texas. Miles and miles of flat farm land, much if it just being planted, due to the lack of rain.
Heavy winds have begun and will continue for days. This is a regular occurrence in this area. The camp owners warned me not to open my awnings or put up our antenna, as the winds would rip them off.
Note: At times I even closed the big slide because of the high winds.

Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the US, after the Grand Canyon of course and is almost 1,000 feet deep. There are a number of activities around here and things to see and do, so I’ll stay for 4 days. I couldn’t help but think about my good friends Walt and Ben who are into horses. Just a short distance from my campsite is a horse ranch with lots of horses for riding into the canyon. I’m not much of a rider, but would love to have Walt along to encourage me to get up on one and go for a ride into the canyon.

Unlike the Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon lets you drive right down into the canyon for sightseeing and hiking. Can’t do that at the Grand Canyon. There are a number of great campsites right in the state park for $22 a night, not bad, of course you would also have to pay the $4 entry fee each day if your camping in Palo Duro.

Wed. I went back down into Palo Duro canyon in the evening for a Steak dinner and show. What a deal, for $35 you get a full steak dinner with all the trimmings, eating outdoors with the winds howling around us. Covered areas for all the picnic tables, with mist being sprayed too keep us cool.
And for the $35 they put on a huge show called “Texas” about life in the Panhandle of Texas. The amphitheatre, a huge stage and sets are dramatically back dropped by the canyon walls as the sun sets over them. The show, a full production of 85 actors and singers portrays the exciting times during the settling of this prairie Texas Panhandle area.
It’s a good way to experience the history of Texas told through song and a compelling story. It lasted about two and a half hours. As we all left the canyon, you could see the red tail lights of each vehicle as they climbed the switchback road up to the top of the canyon. A dramatic ending to a great evening.

Now that’s a great way to enjoy history without going to some stuffy museum. Which I did do one day back in the town of Canyon on the outskirts of Amarillo. There I found the Pan Handle Plain Historical Museum, touted the largest history museum in Texas. The displays were huge.
Particularly the oil well rigs which took up an entire two story room and windmill displays, both being a major part of the development of the area. They had a couple great antique cars on display with the history of the local owners along with pictures of them with the cars when the owners first bought them. Really added to the display.

Side Note: I thought Fla TV stations had lots of weather warnings, but here in the Panhandle of Texas as an example, I am currently watching Tv with the following warnings: High Wind Warning, Wildfire Danger, Wind Advisory, Tornado Watch and T-Storm Watch. Yikkees! PS, they’re all color coded on a map stamped in the lower corner of the screen and the text in the upper right hand.

My last day here in the Panhandle of Texas I spent over at the Elkins Ranch for a Cowboy Morning Breakfast. Kind of a neat thing. It’s right across the street from where I’m staying and is the remains of the million acre ranch that once encompassed all of Palo Duro Canyon. They continue to raise cattle down in the canyon today. The group was driven to the bottom of the canyon in open-air jeeps where they had a cowboy breakfast waiting for us. After the breakfast, we were entertained by Ed Montana and Hody “Long Bow” Porterfield. A bit of comedy and music. A fun way to end my stay in the Panhandle of Texas. Oh, they also give jeep tours in the canyon.

So, till we meet again…. (here the music) Happy days to you, till we meet again….
Opps, almost forgot to mention this last picture. I went into Amarillo and saw the Cadillac Ranch. That's where the rancher decided to line up some old Cadillac's and bury them on his ranch. Really cool. They get painted with graffiti all the time so each time you visit they look differant. I met a mother/daughter team who have seen it a half dozen times and each time it looks differant to them. The tires were whole when they first started visiting the site.

Monday, June 2, 2008

10-08 San Antonio to Kerrville Texas and...

San Antonio

Kerrville Tx. (Hill Country)

Ballinger Tx.

Campground: Ballinger City Park. $9.00 Elect & Water. Nice city park, site are along a river/dam. City park has lots of shade trees and a community swimming pool. Pool is not open on Sundays.

Campground: Kerrville-Schreiner Park. Formerly a State Park, it is now owned by the city of Kerrville. $18 Elect and Water. Full hookups are available. Most sites are pull thru. Premium sties are on the Guadalupe River.

I’ve had a few more days in San Antonio, waiting for the truck to get a bit more service work done. All courtesy of General Motors. Not having any transportation, gives me a chance to review my upcoming route I’ll be taking and checking out campgrounds along the way that I may be staying at. Having the Verizon air-card is a real treat, even though the campground I’m in does have wi-fi as well. Just being able to get online at anytime is a real convenience.
The courtesy driver, Juan, from the Chevy place, obviously Mexican, told me a bit about his life as he drove me back and forth from the Chevy dealer to my campsite. His parents were migrant workers and he along with the family traveled the mid-west, starting in Michigan picking fruit, apples, cherries, you name it. Following the season as things ripened. He was born in the U.S., so automatically became a U.S. citizen. He described how it was hard to get an education. He worked the fields and orchards along with his parents. Back then, you did what you were told and respected your elders. He eventually married and started a small landscaping business. Hard work. Eventually ending up doing the run around chores at Vara Chevy… sweeping floors, driving customers to their destinations, getting ice. We talked about life and my travels of course. He loves life and as long as your in good health and can appreciate the beauty in this country, what more do you really need. I met his boss the owner, Mr. Vara and John Rodriguez (son-in-law to the owner) the service manager. All Mexican. One making it to the top, one made it due to family ties, and the driver, just making a living. Each one a good person.

I don’t think I would like living in this part of Texas during the summer, as it’s been in the high 90’s every day along with humidity being pulled in from the Gulf. Without any transportation, I’ve been pretty much stuck here at the campground. I only go out for a walk early in the morning or after sundown. Everyone waits to go to the pool around sundown as well. Way too hot to be outdoors.

Sitting in the camper, it almost sounds like a creaky old house. The winds have been pretty steady most days, and with the awning out over the large side windows, the wind catches it and tugs at the slide-out creating a moaning and creaking sound throughout the day. It’s a good time to relax, read a book and as I mentioned, check on my upcoming route.

On Thursday I finally headed out of San Antonio for the Texas Hill Country. The Texas Hill country is west, north west of San Antonio and is only about a 70 mile drive. I’m staying at a city park on the edge of town. So I get to enjoy a country setting, yet I’m close to everything. Fredericksburg is the big tourist town with about 140 shops.

The drive up here, via I-10 was pleasant. Gradually going uphill and seeing the craggily hills covered in cedar trees. Occasional pastures dotting the landscape. The temperature from the city (98-99 degrees) has dropped to a pleasant (85-89 degrees) and a high humidity in San Antonio to almost none up here in the hill country. Along with having a campsite with trees really helps.

I’m only staying for a couple of days. Today I drove to west along the curvy Guadalupe River, the road curving as well, required a slower speed and enabled me to enjoy the river scenery. There are lots of Lodges, guest ranches and summer camps along the river. I gather that many Texans come up here to get away from the summer heat and enjoy the country life.
I noticed Kerrville had a couple large Rv parks right on the outskirts of town and I imagine this is a good place to Winter as well.

About a 10 mile drive out along the Guadalupe River I drove to the small hamlet of Hunt to see Stonehenge II. It’s a neat scaled down “interpretation” of the original in England. I didn’t get the feeling of being at the real place, but it is fun to think that someone went to all the effort to create it. All from standing a piece of granite upright in a field, to deciding it reminded the owner of Stonehenge. After a few laughs and discussions, he decided to build his version of it. Along with two copies of the Easter Island Statues too boot.

On the way back to the campground, I stopped into the Museum of Western Art. A nice museum with some of the best current western art I’ve seen. They had an entire gallery of paintings and sculptures by high school students. The sculptures in particular were 1st rate. I would have sworn they had been done by established artists. What talent! I wish I could show you some of their work, but the museum had a no picture taking policy. I would recommend looking up the artwork of Frank McCarthy if you like western art. One site to see some of his works is:

On Sunday, I drove west on I-10 to Junction then headed north on county road 83. At a wayside stop, a sign designated this road which travels the full length of Texas from North to South as the Vietnam Memorial Highway, remembering “the men and women who gave their lives, their youth or their dreams to a war that …the country…” Wish I would have written it all down…

A quiet undulating road, the asphalt as smooth as glass most of the way. Baked in the summer heat, the black tar worn and smoothed away, revealing the white stones beneath. Hill country with it’s cedar trees suddenly vanishing into open fields, dotted with scrub, fenced in to hold the sheep, cattle and antelope ranches. Small creeks crossing along the way. Passing small towns like Eden, Menard, and Paint being the one that stood out, looking like a ghost town. Pop. 320.

No cell phone signal for miles and miles.
Ballinger Tx. A crossroads to anywhere else. I’ll stay here at the Ballinger City park for a couple days.
On the road. Yes, it’s good to be on the road, even with the outrageous fuel prices. Why not, while I still can.