"The tragedy in life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach."
– Benjamin Mays
Hello everyone! How's it going? Today's quote was chosen because both Steve and I had a major realization since we hit Arizona. We are really achieving the goal that we set out to accomplish. We finished the first half of the country like we had planned and are well-ensconced in year 2. When we originally set out, it all sounded like a pipe dream to take this trip and to travel the country. Some people were giving us 6 months or less before we quit and came home. But here we are, 16 months later, and still going strong. Kinda nice!
So we had a nice week. It started out with a visit to Kevin and Mary Ann Bandur, the lovely parents of our son Terry's girlfriend Jill. You will recall that we spent some time with them last summer while Terry and Jill were hiking the trail. They live here in Tucson, so we paid them a visit to catch up. What a lovely home they have here. It is impeccably decorated and so warm and inviting. They live in a golf community and their home is right on the golf course with a spectacular view of the Catalina Mountains. We had an excellent time visiting with them and hope to hook up with them later in the year as they are contemplating an RV purchase for their own and traveling as well.
Next was a visit to an old Titan II Missile Museum. WOW was that cool. We have no idea who Count Ferdinand von Galen is, but they named this museum after him and we liked his name (plus I think he's one of the stars of Breaking Dawn II, isn't he?) This visit was so interesting mostly because our tour guide was a former missile launcher from the late 60's and 70's for the Air Force, so he had a lot of inside scoop to share. We began our tour by climbing down 55 feet to the second level of the complex where the launch control station was. Our tour guide explained the use of codes and multiple keys that were required in order to launch the missile and also told us that when he was on active duty in this role, there was no need for any such safety features. He could have launched his Minuteman missiles with a simple push of the button. SAY WHAT?????? The Titan II is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and is 143 feet tall with a nuclear warhead that was 10,000 times greater in power than the one that destroyed Nagasaki (Yikes). There were ton of security practices put into place to ensure that no one could launch the missile without appropriate authority. For instance, there was a two-man rule - - no one was ever alone in the silo. Secondly, there were four security doors/phones that you had to get through in order to get to the launch command center. The military personnel were given codes on little slips of paper and would have to call in the code before the door would be opened. Once opened, they were to burn their slips of code paper. The other interesting point is that the personnel assigned to launch the rocket had no idea what the target was. There were simple buttons labeled "1", "2" and "3". Their launch instructions would tell them which button to push. I thought that was pretty cool! These were not all military in nature, however, as NASA made use of the as well. The Titan rocket was used to launch Neil Armstrong into space for the first time. Thankfully the Reagan administration decommissioned all of the Titan II rockets with the exception of this one base so that it could be made into a museum. The nuclear warhead, however, was removed for safety purposes.
Our next stop was to Bisbee, Arizona and the Queen Mine. Bisbee, is a town that was founded in 1877 because of a copper mining claim that was made by the U.S. Army. It grew from mere shacks to a town of 20,000 in almost no time at all. The city is built into the mountain and the streets are striated into the side of the mountain with each successive street one level higher than the next. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to build some of the homes in the mountains, but it made for a cool looking little town. Steve and I intended to do the mine tour, but sadly, my claustrophobia kicked in big time so I had to high tail it outta there. Steve continued on without me and my favorite picture is the one at the end of him sitting on the toilet. Nice!!!! Anyway, they pulled out a lot of other minerals besides copper. Lots of turquoise, silver, malachite (not the Old Testament Malachites, however) and some other really beautiful stuff.
From there we headed to Tombstone and watched the re-enactment of the shootout at the OK Corral. The city of Tombstone was developed as a town in 1881 as a result of a huge silver mine in the area. That mine didn't last that long as it flooded due to an overrun of an aquifer that the miners broke into while drilling for another mine shaft. Sadly, the town really has no other claim to fame other than the shootout which began with a drunken cowboy named Curly Bill's shooting of the then Marshall, Fred White. Virgil Earp was the Sheriff and City Marshall of the town and he deputized his brothers (who were also U.S. Marshalls), Morgan and Wyatt. The McLeary and Clanton brothers were at odds with the Earps over control of the city and, as the story goes, they had a shoot out and the McLeary's were killed along with Billy Clanton. We visited the Boothill Graveyard where the three victims of the shootout are buried. There were also some other interesting gravemarkers there as well.
Another fun place that we visited was the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, which highlighted the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert of Southeast Arizona. It was beautifully put together and a nice little piece of exercise too. You can see all the animals and plants that we got to see. We especially liked the Saguaro cactus which are huge. These pictures don't do them justice because you can't tell how tall they are - - but most of them are about 30 feet tall or taller. They also form some pretty weird shapes that can be amusing. Check out Steve's pictures of the hummingbirds. He caught one in action, hovering over the food bin. COOL!!!!
Our last adventure was to the Tucson Rodeo. Apparently this event is one of the largest and most important on the Pro Rodeo Competition circuit so the major rodeo talent was there. We got to see both bareback and saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel racing, individual and team roping. It was an absolute blast and I am totally hooked on this whole rodeo experience. I cannot wait to go again somewhere else while we are out here in the West. Steve shot some video of the events, including some slow motion, and will upload them to You Tube as soon as he finishes editing them.
Ok, that's it for the week. We are still in Tucson until Wednesday and then we head to Casa Grande. Take care guys! Miss you.
"If one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better."
– Jane Austen
The above quote has nothing to do with anything we did this week. I am just a HUGE Jane Austen fan and wanted to share.
Okay, Hello from Deming, New Mexico.
What a fun week we had and lots of adventures. It all started on our drive over from Lakewood, across the San Andres mountains, through Cloudcroft where we saw snow and our first long-distance view of White Sands. We both decided that we didn't miss the snow at all and how amazing it is that you can go from total dry bones desert to pine-covered mountains with snow in just a few miles (of mostly elevation, to be sure, but what a drastic change).
We made a stop at White Sands National Monument and what a beautiful place that was - - it looks like snow but it is really finely ground gypsum which was the bottom of a sea bed that was in this part of the world some 250 million years ago. The winds out in this area blow and drift this sand into huge mounds and it was a blast seeing kids sledding down the sides of them. It was like having your winter fix but the temperature was 68 degrees and sunny. We parked Big Red next to one of them so you could see how big they are. Aren't they cool?
Our next adventure was traveling down to Puerto Palomas, Mexico. We were told by some people at the Lakewood RV park we had just left that you could get optical and dental work done very cheaply here, and since Steve broke his glasses and was using a back-up scratched pair (sounds like our grandson Darius), we decided to head down and check it out. What a great time we had. First, the entire process - - eye exam to glasses - - only took 2 hours. In the meantime, we shopped at The Pink Store and had lunch at the restaurant that is part of the complex. We listened to live music and ate some absolutely fabulous Mexican food, and even met and spent time with the owners - - Sergio and Ivonne Romero. They were lovely people and tried to convince us to move to Las Cruces. If you are in the southwest New Mexico area, I highly recommend heading to Palomas for a visit to The Pink Store and our new friends Sergio and Ivonne. Check out their website: www.thepinkstoremexico.com.
Next, we headed to the Gila Cliff Dwellings which is a place that I have always wanted to see. These cliff homes were built by the Mogollon Indians around 1270 A.D. and were inhabited for only 30 years. According to the ranger, they estimated that 40 people lived within the walls of these caves. They farmed the valley below for corn, beans, and squash and supplemented their diet with the local berries as well as the deer in the area. There was a severe drought which is one of the theories as to why they only remained here 30 years - - they had used up all the natural resource and had to move on. The caves were ransacked between the early 1600's when the Spanish began to settle in the area, and the late 1800's when our government decided to make it a National Park. They were able to find some artifacts which helped explain how they lived and farmed and what each of the caves was used for. Apparently, these Mogollon Indians were expert ladder builders which they would have to be because some of the rooms in these caves did not have doors - - like the grainery. They purposely made their storehouses something that would have to be reached from the outside of the cave and accessible only by very long ladders. And, based on the pictographs present, they used them to leave additional clues near the ceilings of these very high caves. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting this site.
The Gila National Forest, where the cliffs are located, are also very interesting. Geronimo was born in the 1820's at the mouth of the Gila River, not far from the cliff dwellings. There is a scenic drive called "Trail of the Mountain Spirits" that takes you from Silver City, NM passed Fort Bayard and the Santa Rita Open Pit Copper Mine (which was enormous and very interesting to see), through the Gila National Forest which boasts the most interesting rock formations, passed Lake Roberts (a high elevation lake in the mountains) and then to the Cliff Dwellings. What a lovely drive that was. We saw snow again, and thankfully just blew right passed it. There is also a hot springs and an old mining town from the 1860's called Pinos Altos that is fun to see. The drive, including the visit to the cliff dwellings, is an all-day thing, but very much worth your time.
Our next adventure was to the City of Rocks State Park which was a total surprise and one we thoroughly enjoyed. These rocks are the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that was estimated to be 1,000 times greater than Mount St. Helens. They are basically lava drippings that landed and cooled into cool shapes and Steve and I had a blast climbing all over the rocks. We also did some geocaching which was fun, but I almost died again. Of course, I am exaggerating! But in the process of looking for one cache, I walked right into a thorn bush and, because I was wearing capri pants (yes, it was that warm), my legs got all scratched up and bloody. Not a pretty sight!!!!
On the way home, we headed out Green Leaf Mine Road to do some rockhounding. This mine was built to harvest the flourite in the area, which is what we were rockhounding for, as well as carnelian. To get there we had to take this very long dirt road back behind someone's ranch. It was a very beautiful drive to be back in the open desert like that. We also stopped to see some pictographs that were left behind by the Indians in this region. Not much is known about this old mine or the pictographs, so I cannot give you more information, but it was fun to see. There is even an old gravesite right near the mine's opening. I am sure there is a good story there, but what it is, we will never know.
Lastly, we experienced something totally new and not so wonderful. Let me say that the desert is a beautiful place in its own way. The cactus are diverse and interesting. There are mountains everywhere and the wide-open spaces allow you to see 30-40 miles in the distance. With a sky that huge, the sunrises and sunsets are unmatched. But the lack of humidity has an unbelievable affect on your body - - my skin is absorbing lotion by the gallon and our sinuses just burn from the dryness. And, then there's the "mother nature" affect of sandstorms. This past Saturday, we had winds of 50 mph with gusts even larger than that which caused us to have an unbelievable dust storm. I have never seen anything like it and, quite honestly, didn't care for it. The dirt was so high in the air that the bottom of the clouds were brown. The blowing sand was so thick, you couldn't see very far in front of you. And when it all settled down, everything was covered in dirt. Not so much fun peeps! It must be a frequent happening because there were roads in the area that had signs warning of low visibility due to sandstorms. It was interesting to see, but i wouldn't want to have to deal with that very often. We tried to capture it in pictures but they really don't do it justice because you would need the "before and after" shots to be able to tell how much visibility had diminished. Needless to say, it was a dirty mess!!
Alrighty, today is moving day. We are headed to Benson, Arizona to visit some friends, to see Tombstone and visit the Sagauro National Park and its towering cacti. FUN!!! Weather is expected to be in the upper 60's. Nice!
"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."
– T.S. Eliot
Good morning from Southeast New Mexico!
What a disappointing week we had. I haven't said that too often, so that's a good thing, but yeah, it wasn't our best week. This area of New Mexico is experiencing its ninth year of a severe drought. The desert scene we experienced in Texas at Big Bend was lush and green compared to this part of the country. Even the Brantley Lake State Park, which is based around a huge lake, is almost completely dried up. All along the main highway between Artesia and Carlsbad are signs for the sale of fresh water. There are trucks going up and down the highway all day with huge tanks of water. So, needless to say, we did not get to experience the beauty of a healthy desert. It was as brown and dry as could be. Sad!!! And when I say dry, I am talking a kind of dry that I cannot explain. My skin soaks up lotion like a sponge, my hair stands on end from the static, and our nasal passages are so dried out that it burns to breathe. Have you ever experienced that? The only thing that offsets that bit of discomfort is that we are staying in the absolute friendliest campground that we have ever visited. This is a campground that is part of the Escapees RV Club that we belong to and is a winter home for a good number of full-time travelers. Steve and I learned how to play Pokeno, we went to a Super Bowl party, and these people even helped me with the ethnographic research project that I am working on for school. Nice!
So let's get to our adventures and the other things that disappointed us this week. First, we visited the Carlsbad Caverns and had a great time. Being the adventurous sorts that we are, we began our visit by taking the natural entrance trail instead of the elevator. This trail is 1.25 miles long and goes down a 20% grade (good for the quads) into a huge hole in the ground. While we were walking the trail, however, it started to snow - - yes, snow - - and man were we not happy about that. Nonetheless, we were not going to let this dampen our enthusiasm.
The cavern itself is not the largest - - Mammoth Cave holds that distinction. It is, however, the most decorated cavern of all in the world. It has the largest number of "decorations" and the greatest variety. There are, of course, the requisite stalactites and stalagmites, but this cavern also boasts a ton of soda straws, draperies, flowstones, full-blown columns (when stalactites and stalagmites meet), cave pearls, popcorn, argonite crystals, and lily pads (which are not plants but rock formations that look like lily pads). Totally cool. There were so many of them that your eye couldn't behold it all. The trails within the cavern descend to 1,037 feet but the rooms are never so small that my claustrophobia kicked in (which is nice, because that was not the case when we visited Mammoth Cave). There are three major trails, two of which require a ranger to lead. Steve and I took the blue trail, which heads into the Big Room where the bottomless pit, the chandelier, and the really cool other decorations are located. I highly recommend this as a place to visit more than once since it took us more than 4 hours to do just the two trails that we did, and we were exhausted!
Near the Caverns is a state park called Living Desert State Park. This was a surprise and an absolute delight. The park has a greenhouse where all the varieties of cactus are housed and a good number of them were blooming. So beautiful. The remainder of the park is a zoo which houses the animals that can be found in the desert, except the elk. I am not sure elk live in the desert, but hey, who am I? Anyway, we had a nice visit there and recommend that as well.
Now on to our disappointments. First, we attempted to go see Sitting Bull Falls which is located in the Lincoln National Forest. I was excited on two accounts - - a National Forest implies trees and wildlife, right? Well, not so much here. It was barren desert just like the surrounding area. Again, the water deprivation that this region is experiencing is literally killing the desert life. Secondly, the park is only open Friday to Monday. We went there on a Thursday afternoon. So, we drove more than an hour to get someplace that we couldn't even see. UGH!!!! I hate that. It's my fault though. I checked the website and it said Friday to Monday but my brain saw that and said Monday to Friday to me. Has that ever happened to you?
Next disappointment - Roswell. Steve and I were so excited about visiting the aliens. We were expecting a town that was themed on aliens and spaceships and all things space related, but NOOOOOOOOO! There was the UFO Museum which was nothing more than laminated newspaper articles and some alien dummies. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't that. There were a couple of "Area 51" stores where you could buy t-shirts and other worthless junk, and a McDonald's that had a playground shaped like a spaceship, but that was it. Yes, the street lights have alien faces on them, but come on people, you could have done so much more here. How about a alien-themed restaurant? What about having some aliens just walking around the streets? Man were we disappointed. It is a complete waste of time. Too bad.
Okay, that's really it for this week. We are headed to the Southwestern side of New Mexico and have to cross some mountains to get there so the drive will be a challenge for Steve. We will be seeing White Sands National Monument, Las Cruses, Gila cliff dwellings and heading to Mexico so Steve can get new glasses. Hopefully I will have a better report for you next week.
Take care guys! We really do miss all of you.