Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Awesome Day

I had a really amazing day today.

We got up early and packed the rig for travel, with Las Vegas (New Mexico) as our destination. We had previously driven about twenty miles up the back road (Highway 104) and knew it would be a lovely drive. We try (not always successfully) to stay off the interstates, and the drive today was a trip that certainly reinforces that decision.

I don't even know where to start . . .

Well, let's go here.

I have always loved the writing of John Steinbeck and just a few days ago I began re-reading East of Eden. I have to tell you, the first pages of this classic just knocked me for a loop. I am a California native, born and raised in the Bay Area. I was brought up in the Santa Clara Valley and have wonderful memories of what that fertile valley was like when I was a child. I remember how eternal and endless those orchards seemed to me. One of my favorite memories is of going up on Blossom Hill Road during the spring and seeing miles and miles of pastels as the cherries and apricots and plums burst forth, creating a soft hued blanket that is beyond my power to describe. And the fruit stands, selling just picked bounty. Every spring was a veritable cornucopia of rich sweetness. It was some place to be a child.

And the beginning of East of Eden describes the Salinas Valley in such words that you can smell the earth and feel the breeze. The Salinas Valley is just a short spell from the Santa Clara Valley and their geology is similar. While reading this narrative, I was hit with a jolt of nostalgia the likes of which I haven't experienced for years. It made me happy I had been there and sad that it is all gone.

As the industrialization of Silicon Valley progressed, I found myself moving further and further towards the edges of the valley. Finally somewhere in my early twenties, I made the leap to "over the hill" into the San Lorenzo Valley, hoping to recapture some of the quiet and natural beauty that was being lost on a daily basis. And it was a wonderful place, but different. Huge trees and towering mountains, perfect in its' own way, but not what I had as a child.

It felt like home for a long while, but after thirty or so years, I could feel the same transformation beginning. That's when Terry and I decided to start looking for someplace with a few less people and a lot more room.

And we found New Mexico.

As regular readers know, we are exploring all the areas of this state, and we find ourselves in a constant state of awe.

And that brings us to today.

I wish I could just give you all a movie of the jaw dropping scenery we passed through today. I tell you, the old west of the Native Americans came alive, followed closely by the open prairies of the pioneers who came west looking for more land. I put on a collection of old cowboy songs and it all came together like magic.

Here in this part of New Mexico, the dirt is red and the grass is green, colors that can only be found in nature. These hues are enhanced by a sky colored a blue so rich, I don't even know if there is a name for it. Then there are these clouds, which are so defined, yet so ethereal, it literally takes your breath away.

And that was just the first thirty miles or so.

Then the landscape turned rocky, with giant heaps of stones that looked like the leftovers of a race of giants who had engaged in a pebble tossing contest. One moment the land is green and smooth, like a sea of grass, then suddenly these outcroppings begin and it changes completely. As you begin to climb, the really red rock takes over. Mesas loom off in the distance, it looks like every western movie you've ever seen. The striations in these plateaus are unlike anything you can imagine. Gazing across this scenery, which seems to stretch forever, you can see huge dark acres of cloud shadows which blot out the light and give the terrain a whole other dimension. Breathtaking.

After the climb, we again found ourselves in prairies that seemed to go on forever. But these high prairies are different, Instead of seeing mountains rise around you, they are suddenly below you, a small thing it would seem, but a huge difference. Keep in mind that through all of this, we are on a two lane road, only an occasional house and rarely any cars. But there are birds, which soar into forever from this immense sky. And cows, who gaze at us serenely as we slide by, generously sharing their world with us.

There is so little evidence of man and his footprints on the land, it is quite spiritual.

This was all affecting me in a way I am trying, poorly, to explain, but it was a journey I won't soon forget.

It seemed to fit in so well with the feelings that East of Eden had stirred in my soul. It made me feel young, and old, and eternal, and part of something. It made me happy and it made me cry.

Life is really good.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Want to go to France!

As regular readers know, I've been busy trying to clean up a virus/spyware mess on my website (not here) but I did run across something today that I wanted to share.

Usually, I am a pretty happy person, and while I'd love to go to Bali or Spain, I'm quite aware of what a wonderful life I have.

But today I saw something that made me want to go to France.

They are called the Machines de L’île and they are unlike anything I've ever seen.

Imagined and created by two gentlemen named François Delarozière and Pierre Oreficee, these are creations that inspire in a way I can't describe. Think a combination of Jules Verne and Michelangelo with a bit of of George Lucas thrown in and you MIGHT begin to get a feel for these beauties.

While I could try to describe them, I think (since I'm a bit tired) that I'll just point you to their amazing website and you can see them for yourself.

And if you ever get to go see them in person, think of me (or take me with you).

CholulaRed.com is Safe!

Boy, what a PITA!

I have been on live chat and the telephone forever with my web server, trying to work this out.

It turned out that in fact my site had been compromised.

The good news is I had complete back ups of everything and it is now once again up and running, clean.

I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused anyone. I had no idea there was even a problem till a reader (of CholulaRed.com, not this blog) alerted me to a problem with the site. Ever since I learned of this, I've been dealing with it and now it is fixed!

Thank you all for your patience.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Please folks, DO NOT go to my website. 

 It has been the victim of a vicious attack by some kind of crappy virus.  

I will post here if I ever get this whole mess straightened out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Soap Nuts

One of my least favorite chores is laundry. Thankfully, I'm married to a true gentleman who realizes that all that "woman's' work" doesn't HAVE to be done by a woman. He's incredibly helpful in everything and I know what a lucky woman I am. He's a keeper.

But I digress . . .

It's not just doing the laundry I hate, it's also having to lug around the laundry soap, bleach, etc. Several years ago, I quit using laundry softener in the form of liquid or drier sheets when I discovered dryer balls. These are nothing more than spiky silicon balls that fluff your laundry as it dries. While I know that all these do is move the laundry around and sort of keep it aerated, in my experience they keep the laundry fluffy and I haven't experienced static cling since I've been using them

This left me with laundry soap, chlorine bleach for whites and color safe bleach for everything else. Recently, we were in a campground and another RVer had the unfortunate experience of the liquid laundry soap turning over and spilling all over the outside compartment. Not a pretty picture! I took that as a lesson learned and carry my laundry products in a plastic tub. Still, they're bulky, expensive and I just don't like em.

Recently I read about something called Soap Nuts. They come from a the Chinese Soapberry Tree which is fairly common in the far east. Woman have used these for years as a natural soap for cleaning their clothes. After reading as much as I could find all over the internet, I decided to give them a try.

And you know what? I think they work great! One of my complaints about commercial laundry soaps is that, even using only half , it feels like it rarely rinses out completely. These Soap Nuts are very low sudsing and seem to rinse completely. And our clothes were clean and sparkly. Well, maybe not exactly sparkly but you get the idea. They were definitely clean and soft and smelled nice with no harsh detergent smell, just nice and clean.

Soap Nuts are rich in saponins, a natural surfactant. A surfactant reduces the surface tension of water, making it "wetter". This makes it easier for the "soap" to get into fabrics and bond with the the dirt. The dirt is then washed away in the rinse water.

I don't know if I'm explaining this correctly, or if it's a bunch of hooey, but I can tell you that all our clothes came out clean. In reading about Soap Nuts, they are apparently good for folks with very sensitive skin since they don't contain a lot of extraneous substances. Laundry products have a ton of additives, none of which are I feel are essential.

In order to use Soap Nuts, you put them in a little muslin bag (included) and throw them in with your wash. I needed more than one muslin bag, so I just put them in a sock and tied it with a rubber band. This worked just dandy.

You can reuse Soap Nuts four or five times till they turn grey and mushy. Then you just discard them into a garden or a compost heap, they're completely biodegradable. You can also boil them up and make a cleaner from the broth, which I'll be trying soon.

I got mine from Amazon, but apparently if you aren't out in the boonies of New Mexico, you can find them at a local health food type store. I paid $19.00 for enough for fifty loads of wash, a price I'm quite pleased with.

Needless to say, I will be using Soap Nuts from now on. This will greatly reduce the laundry product load we have to carry, which pleases me immensely. I think I'll also switch to an Oxy type bleach (a combination of sodium percarbonate (a solid form of hydrogen peroxide) and baking powder). This will allow me to dump both bleaches and my liquid laundry soap.

Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ken Burns Presents The West

I am just amazed at Ken Burns.

I recently wrote about Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip, a fine documentary recounting the first transcontinental trip via a gasoline powered automobile. Of course, I had heard of Ken Burns before and knew that he was a documentarian of note, but I had never seen any of his work. (Note: documentarian, is that a real word? It sounds right to me, but the dictionary won't recognize it. Oh well, if it isn't a real word it should be!)

ANYWAY, after viewing Horatio's Drive, it led me to explore the work of Ken Burns in more depth. You can imagine how excited I was to find a series presented by Ken Burns named, what else, Ken Burns Presents the West. We were tempted to buy it, but fortunately we found it at the local college library and were able to check it out.

What an amazing find.

This series covers so many aspects of the westward expansion, I don't even know where to start, so I won't even try!

Just take my word for it. If you have any interest in the history of the western United States, Native Americans, the gold rush, cowboys, cattle drives or any events that took place during the westward journey, you should seek out this series.

Westward Ho!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Solar Ovens???

I don't get a lot of response from the blog, but PLEASE, if you have any experience with solar ovens, could you get in touch with me?

There is a lot of info on the internet, and I've been researching these for a while and am now more confused than ever.

I have joined a Solar Cooking group on Yahoo, but am looking for some real time practical knowledge.

Thank you and know that any response will be highly appreciated!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

the Tucumcari Museum

Regular readers may remember my recent post on the Dinosaur Museum here in Tucumcari.

The good news is that this small town boasts not just one, but two exceptional museums. The second is the Tucumcari Historical Museum, and it's another hidden find, nestled here in Northern New Mexico. Located in an old brick home, it has a special mystique, similar to my other favorite New Mexico Museum which is down south in Deming.

As you walk through the front yard, old artifacts are scattered around the grounds, creating an ambiance redolent of this magical state. On your way to the entrance, you pass this small shrine. We see these all over the countryside.

In another area of the yard is an horno, an outdoor oven favored by the pioneers. This one is decorated with a collection of antlers. At some time, I hope to get the chance to learn to bake in one of these outdoor beauties.

The Tucumcari Museum houses a collection of collections, covering a variety of subjects and time periods. This is just the kind of place I love. There's so much to see here, you can go over every room three or four times and still miss so much. This museum is a great place to spend an afternoon, knowing you can come back many times for a whole different experience every time.

I know there is a name for these mirrors, but I sure don't know what it is. I do know that I've always loved them. I wonder why they don't make them anymore?

I've included a couple of dual pictures of two of these mirrors, so you can see the graphics better.

Isn't this Indian Maiden a hoot?

I remember that these kind of mirrors used to be a common advertising item, but they seem to have all but disappeared.

Here's one more for the dog lovers. Remember you can always click on any picture for a larger version.

Now on to other parts of the Museum. There are a lot of household items, donated from various local families. I liked his old birdcage.

Here's a vintage Will Rogers clock, pretty cool, huh?

This is a shot taken from the second story landing looking down. It gives a good feel for the kind of eclectic collections housed in this Museum.

Here's another shot of the landing with my Hunny Bunny posing with the bear. The Museum curator said this is the most photographed area of the Museum.

While I'm not a huge fan of taxidermy, the examples in this museum were stunning.

There's a whole section dedicated to the local High School. Don't you just love these Majorette costumes? The local football team is called the Tucumcari Rattlers.

There used to be a wonderful old Drug Store here in Tucumcari called the Elk Drug. Among fans of old Route 66, it's one of the legends. Here in the Museum, there's a large collection of memorabilia and stock from the Elk Drug, including this sign which hung in the bathroom of this fabled store.

Somewhat ahead of its time.

The Museum has a lovely collection of vintage hand made lace. I was so taken with this next piece that I took two pictures, then couldn't decide which one I liked better, so I'm posting both of them.

This lace is called Nanduti, and it's handmade in Paraguay. The word Nanduti means spider web in Guarini, the language of the Paraguayans who create it. It's hand made on a frame similar to a small quilting frame.

Isn't it just amazingly beautiful? I hope you can tell from the photos how deliciously delicate it is.

Another area of the Museum houses old letters, stamps, books and assorted ephemera. I used to collect old leather work, so I was particularly taken with these hand made leather postcards.

The next four pictures were taken in one of the out buildings. Whoever put this room together did such an exceptional job. Not only does it beautifully display a variety of artifacts, but the whole feeling of the room is like a painting.

This inlaid necklace adorns the turquoise dress you see in the display case.

Here's a wider shot of the table display.

And finally, here's a closeup of the table tableau. Quite beautiful, don't you think?

I've been using this shot as a desktop on my computer .

The Museum also has exhibits on teh grounds. This tee pee is life size and you can go in it if you like.

Here's a picture of the wagon barn.

And here's the Museums' air plane.

And here's their train car. They have a bit of everything!

As we were leaving, we noticed a large selection of petrified wood in the Museums' garden. This is an especially large specimen.

So this concludes my tour of the Tucumcari Museum. It was a swell afternoon, and a tremendous value for $2.50. If you're in the area, I think it's definitely worth a visit.

We are truly enjoying our time here. The weather has been quite wet, but that's been sort of special also. The rain keeps it nice and cool and makes the lovely flowers all green and bloomy.

Life is good.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How to Peel an Egg . . .

Just a quick post here, but I HAD to share.

Peeling hard boiled eggs, what a gigantic hassle. Sometimes one method works, then the next time it doesn't work at all. So you try something else, and it works one time, but then the next, well, you get the idea.

The other day, I ran across a video on one of my daily blogs. I thought, oh another inefficient egg peeling technique. Well, what the hey, I've tried at least a hundred other losing techniques, so why not this one?

I watched the video and thought "Boy, this is a pile of hoohoo, this will NEVER work."

But you know what? It works like a charm! I am amazed.

The technique is this. When you boil your eggs, add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Apparently this raises the PH of the water and somehow affects the egg shell. After boiling, then cooling your eggs in cold water, you crack open both ends of the egg, making small holes, about the size of a nickel to a quarter, in both ends.

I think that the addition of the baking soda affects the shell, making it easier to peel any way, but on with this method.

After making the two holes, you pick up the egg and hold it tightly but loosely in your hand. Then bring it up to your mouth and blow it out the bottom hole.

And Voila!! The egg slips right out. This is way cool, I love it!

If you want to see the video, click here.

I am so easily amused . . .

Life is Good.

Monday, July 7, 2008


As most of you probably already know, I love to cook.

That said, there's the issue of recipes . . .

Since we've been in Cholula, I've pretty much gone paperless recipe wise except for my one old standby, the 1963 Good Housekeeping Cookbook.

For all my online recipes, I just email them to myself, which means I have a huge bunch of emails in one file called simply "Recipes". Unfortunately that file also includes a ton of other foodie type info, but still, it's searchable and it has worked for me so far.

But I'm always on the lookout for a good computerized recipe organizer. Unfortunately, most of the ones I've found only work on Windows and I'm on a Mac. Now my Mac, which I LOVE, will run Windows, but the truth of the matter is that I've just been too cheap to buy a copy of Windows XP, so there!

Back to the recipes.

Today, on one of the many blogs I read, someone was touting the newest recipe organizer and sure enough, it was for Windows. Then, as I read the comments section, someone mentioned a little Under-Ware ap called YUM!

Under-Ware applications allow the user to decide payment, similar to the old shareware applications, but they let you, the end user, decide the payment. A nice arrangement, and one I respect greatly.

Back to YUM! This is a swell program, with a very light learning curve. You can easily post your recipes, then the entire file is searchable, you can create categories, import photos and even scale recipes for different numbers of servings. Everything is printable, viewable in various formats and, well, gosh, it's just the cats meow!

I like it!

So, if, like me, you're on a Mac, I can highly recommend this program. And if you want, I can send you a file with eighty or so of my favorite recipes, easily imported into your copy of YUM! Just post a comment or send me an email and I'll send it right to you.

Life is good!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Folk Art!

I love Folk Art, I always have. While traveling, one of the special treats is finding the the obscure pieces that seem to be tucked away in almost every corner of these United States.

Today, we found pieces that, I swear, if I had room, I would buy in a second. Not only do I love folk art, but sculpture is a particular favorite of mine. So imagine my surprise when we walked into a small indoor flea market here in Tucumcari and saw this . . .

Not only is this charming couple a beautiful example of folk art and metal sculpture at its' best, but these are fully functional as well. Can you tell their purpose, beyond looking so swell?

This is a barbecue grill and accompanying table! Aren't these just the coolest things you've ever seen?

The first picture is how they look when not in use, but the second picture shows just how incredibly clever this artist was in fashioning this handsome duo. If you look closely (click for larger images), in the first picture, the grill is covered by a Chinese hat, and the body of the standing figure is closed. In the second picture, you can see that when using the grill, the extra hat fits right on top of the other hat, and the body of the standing figure opens up for storage.

While you can't see it in the picture, your propane bottle fits right into the back of the kneeling figure, making this a completely functional piece of art. I love it!

So you can fully appreciate these guys, here's close ups of the faces.

And here's the fellow that's holding up the table.

Like I say, if I had the room . . .

In talking with the gentleman who runs the flea market, I learned that these are done by an artist named Frank Bell, who lives nearby in Nara Visa, New Mexico. Then he pointed out some other pieces that were also created by Mr. Bell.

This clever fellow is carved out of wood and has just returned from a trip to Roswell, where he served as an attraction for folks to pose with for photographs.

And finally, here's a table made from hand tools, mostly wrenches. So very clever.

One more thing. In working on these pictures (and those I posted last night) I was wondering why I couldn't get my focus sharp. Today, after taking these photos, I looked down and realized that the auto focus on my camera had been shifted into macro focus! I'm such a doofus sometime, you'd think if I wasn't getting good focus, I'd know enough to check that out! I guess I just haven't been taking as many pictures as I should . . .

Oh well, if that's the worst thing in my life, think how lucky I am.

Life is good.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Those Skies . . .

Every where we travel in New Mexico, the skies amaze me. No matter where we go, the sky, while always stupendous, is also always different.

And Tucumcari is no exception to that rule.

For some reason, since we've been here, the sunset has been the most intense shade of lavender (see the previous post for pictures). It actually looks like something you'd see in a movie. I look forward to it every day.

Today was a lovely day. For the 4th of July, we decided to stay close to the rig. We're not drinkers and find we generally prefer to stay out of the holiday rush. We did laundry, I baked a banana chocolate chip cake and as is our personal tradition, we watched 1776 and Yankee Doodle Dandy. I've already covered both of these classic films in a previous blog, but suffice it to say, if you haven't seen them, don't wait for next year. Watch them as soon as possible.

This evening, as the sun began to set, a large storm moved in from the west. Since we've been traveling, I've discovered a weather phenomenon called virga. It's when the rain evaporates before it reaches the ground, which sounds kind of boring, but visually it's a sight to behold.

So as I was watching the sun begin to set, I noticed a huge wall of virga hanging from the clouds. Then all of a sudden, lightning began to brighten the sky, which was still bathed in all its dusky glory. Quite a vision, I have to say.

Then I noticed that off in the distance, fireworks were exploding! Wow, a dramatic sunset, lightning AND fireworks. Could it be any better?

I really did try to get pictures, but the lighting was just too tricky and all I could get was some rather noisy, mediocre shots. I'm including them here as memories for me, but you'll have to take my word for it, the sky this evening was a light show of epic proportions.

Life is good!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Some Pics

I've been playing with Photoshop lately, so I thought I'd post some of the pictures I've been manipulating, hopefully to better results.

So, in no particular order, here they are!

Remember you can always click on any photo for a larger version, most of these look better when viewed a bit larger.

Here's a couple of the birds that were constant visitors at Santa Rosa.

Another shot taken at Santa Rosa. This one was down by the dam.

When we were at Rockhound this spring, this little fellow flew into our reflective windows and knocked himself right out. Terry held him for a while and he came to. I managed a few shots before he recovered and flew away.

A couple of cows hanging out by the side of the road. I think we interrupted their lunch.

A shot of the rock formations at Santa Rosa.

Another Santa Rosa bird.

I try not to post too many pictures of the motorhome (after all, it doesn't change much), but I really liked this shot. This was our campsite at Santa Rosa.

I'm not sure why I like this photo so much, but I kept coming back to it, so I'm including it here. Again, this was taken at Santa Rosa.

This shot was taken just this evening. I shot it from inside the rig, the sky was the most amazing color. I just wish it was a bit sharper!

That's it!