Friday, May 25, 2007

Back to Blogging

At this point, I'm not sure if anyone is still reading the blog, what can I say?

I am just so undisciplined. My intentions are the very best but lately I just find it hard to sit down and write. Then one day stretches into another and before I know it, it seems like a lost cause.

That said, lots has been going on, I'm involved and happy and am going to do my best to get back into the habit of writing on a regular basis.

So if anybody is still out there, stay tuned, hopefully more to come soon.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Been Busy . . .

I've gotten several emails asking what's going on, so just a quick note here.

We've been very social lately, meeting tons of wonderful people and visiting with lots of friends, old and new.

We expect to move next week and I will get busy and post piuctures and notes on what we've been doing,but know we are fine and dandy and having a great time.

More later.


Friday, May 4, 2007

Observatories, Solar and Lunar

We had a great day today.

One of the things we really enjoy about our style of camping is that we really get a feel for an area. Instead of just moving in for a few days, we usually stay three to four weeks, giving us a chance to talk with the locals and find all he hidden attractions in a particular area. Since we tow the Tracker, this gives us the best of both worlds, we get to stay in beautiful rural areas, yet we can scoot around and visit wherever we want.

Last night we decided that today, we would visit the National Solar Observatory up at Sacramento Peak.

The funny thing is that if you look at a map, the observatory looks to be about seven miles from where we're camped here at Oliver Lee; however to get there, we had to travel some forty plus miles, so off we went. It was a lovely day, blue skies, a few high puffy clouds. We drove up through Cloudcroft into the mountains, where there are numerous birch, pines and huge rolling open meadows. Quite different from the redwoods we're used to at home.

Finally, we reached the National Solar Observatory, located on Sacramento Peak in Sunspot, New Mexico. While they tell you it's located in Sunspot, there isn't actually a town there, just the observatory.

Our first introduction was this beautiful mosaic. I embarrassed to say I didn't get the information on the artist (and remember to click on the photo for an enlarged image).

We went into the visitor center and got the information for our self guided tour. It was a lovely day and the grounds are quite beautiful so we were happy to set off on foot.

Our first stop was the Evans Solar Facility. This building was completed in 1952 and is still in use.

We went inside and got to look at the telescope through a window, but no one was there, so we didn't spend a lot of time here.

This next imposing structure is the Dunn Solar Telescope. The building stands 136 feet high and situated in this serene setting, it makes quite an impression.

When you enter the lobby, there's a door that goes into the telescope room, which is quite beautiful. It's a huge domed area, lit by a series of white globes about six feet across. This design is so appropriate for an observatory, they look like planets floating in among the angles and corners. It all looks very futuristic and vintage at the same time, sort of like a combination of Metropolis and Blade Runner.

I'm including two pictures because I couldn't decide which one to post!

Off to one side is where all the work is done.

We were lucky enough to meet up with the gentleman who works the telescope and he spent a good amount of time explaining the whole layout to us. Unfortunately, the telescope had been operating up until about ten minutes before we arrived, at which time turbulence had moved into the upper atmosphere and the pictures were becoming cloudy.

This is a shot of a sun spot that we got to observe. While not sharp and clear, we still felt lucky to get such personal attention.

After the Dunn Solar Telescope, we were free to continue our walking tour, but there were no more building open to visitors.

We did get to go up on an observation lookout and get a stupendous view of the Tularosa Basin. The white line in the distance, while it looks like clouds is actually White Sands National Monument.

This is a shot of White Sands using my twelve times zoom. While not entirely clear, I just couldn't believe that this wasn't a picture of clouds.

As we continued on our tour, we saw this old Quonset hut. It looked to us like it had been here since the complex opened in 1947! We particularly liked the AstroTurf in the side yard. We could just imagine all the astronomers using this putting green!.

This last shot is of the Grain Bin Dome. It was the home of the first telescope at this facility. The building was ordered by mail from Sears Roebuck and retrofitted for a telescope. Pretty cool, huh?

At the end of the walking tour is a small museum, which we enjoyed immensely. Our favorite part was the infrared camera. We were having such a good time, I finally decided to go out to the car to get the tripod so we could take some pictures.

Here's a shot of Terry, who was wearing his glasses, which blocked the infrared rays and turned him into Joe Cool.

And here's a shot of both of us. It certainly can't be said that we aren't easily amused!

The hostess at the museum told us that we should make sure and visit the Apache Point Observatory. It's just a few miles up the road and even though it isn't officially open to the public, you can go and visit the grounds, She said we didn't want to miss the view, so off we went.

This is one more shot of the Tularosa Basin, taken from a height of 9,200 feet.

After taking in the sights, we saw this strange building. Upon further exploration, we realized that while the building hangs over the mountain, the building itself is on rollers and seems to move away from the edge of the mountain.

As we were looking, we heard a loud noise and were afraid that we were somewhere we shouldn't be, but it turned out to be a gentleman who works on the telescope was just leaving the building. This large moving building is actually the housing for the large telescope here at Apache Peak. The telescope itself was built on a huge concrete and steel column that was sunk into the mountain, then the building was built around it. The building never actually touches the telescope as the vibration would interfere with the use of the telescope. When they want to use the telescope, they push a button and the building slides back to reveal the telescope.

This gent was such a delight. He obviously loved his work and took a lot of time explaining everything to us.

We are so lucky, it seems that everywhere we go, we find people who are open and willing to share their stories and experiences with us. This is absolutely the most wonderful part of traveling as we do, the people are just the best.

Our life is good.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

May Day and Before

What an amazing day we've had.

This morning was just beautiful and we went out for a walk. All the cactus are blooming, it's a pretty impressive sight. Terry took this picture of one of the blooms out behind the rig. Remember that you can always click on any photo for a full sized version.

We continued our walk up into Dog Canyon, which runs into the mountains behind Oliver lee Campground. It's a lovely riparian zone running along a creek right here out in the middle of the desert. It's surprising to find lush green ferns, columbines and soft springy moss in an area so well known for heat and sand and cactus. The columbines are among my favorites.

These beauties are named Apache Plume and they are all over the desert. They're so delicate, it's hard to believe that they can thrive in this harsh environment, but thrive they do. There are areas where the whole desert takes on a soft pinkish hue due to these flowers.

Earlier this week, we took a trip out to the White Sands Missile Range Museum. Ever since we visited the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, our interest has been piqued by the whole White Sands area. To reach the museum, you travel out in the desert and take a road for about six miles, at which time you reach the guard gate to the base. After checking in (bring your ID, car registration and proof of insurance or they won't let you on the base) we proceeded to the museum.

Outside the museum is a missile garden. It's hard to reconcile the beauty of the surrounding area with these missiles of destruction, but we've decided this is an important part of this countries history, so we are trying to take in as much as possible.

I liked this shot which shows small red planes and missiles, against these beautiful mountains.

Here's a close up of these tiny planes.

And here's a photo of Terry standing beside a real "flying saucer". The plaque for this one reads "Aeroshell Flying Saucer - This spacecraft was a section of the Voyager Balloon System which was launched near Roswell, New Mexico and landed on White Sands Missile Range. These bright shiny Areoshells projected an illusion of flying saucers. Aeroshell was designed for slowing down a missile for a landing on Mars. This display is believed to be the only one "in captivity."

So what do you think? Are these what started the whole Roswell Incident?

This morning, we got the chance to meet our new neighbors, two ladies named Kae and Cokie and their dog Bo. They are full timing in a 23 foot Pleasure Way and we've had a grand time comparing rigs and getting to know each other.

This afternoon, it got really warm (92 or thereabouts) so we all retreated inside with our air conditioners going full blast. All of a sudden we noticed that a hellacious wind had come up, a real rig rocker. It was pretty unusual since it was still about 90 degrees outside. Then all of a sudden, it started to rain, REALLY hard. It was so strange, the light was an unreal kind of yellow gray, the wind was blowing, the rain was pounding and it was still really hot.

Then, just as quickly as it started, it stopped . . .

We've gotten used to changeable weather here in Alamogordo. Off in the distance we can see White Sands. In the morning, it is almost always a serene sight, with the sands lying at the base of the mountains. Then in the afternoon, the winds start up and we lose the horizon, with a kind of fog obscuring the mountains. But instead of a fog, it's the White Sands, once again being kicked up by the winds. This is how the dunes advance blowing around a bit at a time. It's a pretty intense phenomenon, and one we enjoy observing.

With the drifting sands providing a daily show, we were surprised at the totally different weather show we got this afternoon, but that's not to say it wasn't enjoyable.

Finally, here's a shot that Terry took this evening. It's taken in the direction of White Sands. You can see the clouds that will undoubtedly bring a bit more rain, and also see the sands blowing. A wonderful sight, No?

We feel do much closer to the elements out here, it's like a never ending classroom, and we are eager students.

Our lives are indeed very good.