Sunday, April 22, 2007

Finally . . .

Uh Oh, I really meant to add to the blog every week (at a minimum) and here it has been ten whole days, WHOOPS!

Well, all I can say is I'll try to do better.

We've been vegging quite a bit lately. Actually, we've been immersed in an Australian Science Fiction Series called Farscape. Created by the folks from the Henson Company, it's a pretty amazing piece of television. As we've told so many of you, we like to buy whole seasons of television shows on DVD and then we can watch them when we like, minus commercials and on our own schedule. While this is very convenient and entertaining for us, it does sometimes turn us into hermits.

As I've mentioned before, our very favorite television is usually produced by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly), but Farscape show comes in a close second. While not quite as tight as Buffy or Angel, the show is beautifully produced, very well acted and explores ideas usually ignored by most television.

If you get the chance, you might want to give it a look, but beware it is pretty addictive.

And now on a completely different subject . . .

Even though it's a few days late, I wanted to mention Earth Day.

Living in Cholula Red has certainly heightened our awareness of nature, the earth and conservation. After all, we have to monitor our fresh water as well as our grey and black. This has made me so aware of how little attention I ever paid to these things when I was living in a stick house (and I thought I was being careful!).

We now fill up our fresh water approximately once a week (actually we usually make eight to ten days, but for arguments sake I'm being conservative). This means the two of us use about twenty five to thirty gallons a week. To be honest, Terry will, whenever possible, shower in a campground (whereas I prefer the rig, except maybe once a week for a more thorough washing of my hair). But other than that, we use the water in the rig for washing, cooking and drinking. So while I have no idea what we used when we were in the stick house I know this is a huge improvement.

My awareness has also grown when we look at other places where water is being used. I see it in restaurants, I see it in sprinklers running down the sidewalks and I see it in peoples homes. It just seems we are none of us as careful as we could be.

And then there is bottled water. When we first got Cholula, we looked at the issue of drinking water. When at our stick house, we usually drank bottled water, as we did in our previous motor home. When we got Cholula, we made the decision to spring for an efficient water filter so we could just drink from the tanks. After much research, we purchased a Nature Pure Water Filter and we have been pleased with it completely.

I'm talking about this because I've just read several articles on the true cost of bottled water. It seems that to produce a plastic bottle that holds one litre of water can take as much as five litres of water! Then there is the cost of bringing the product to market, not to mention all those plastic bottles that don't get recycled . . .

I mention this just as a starting point to make you think just a bit. I remember when bottled water was first introduced into the market place. Everyone thought it was silly, after all, who would pay for a bottle of water? But now it's something we just take for granted.

So I'm just asking you to take a look at your own habits and do a little bit to save some water, it's one of our most precious resources.

Okay, off the soapbox now.

We were in a thrift shop this week and I found a CD by a lady named Janet Klein. The name of the CD was "Come Into My Parlor" and it featured songs from the 1910s. 1920s, and 1930s. I've always been a thrift store junkie and I really enjoy picking up music based on the cover art or something that just strikes my fancy about the packaging. This has introduced me to some wonderful music including Ukulele Dick and John Pizzarelli just to name two. So I plunked down my $2.00 and bought the Janet Klein CD and oh what a treasure it is! If you have any fondness at all for clear, old time music with just a hint of naughty, she's your girl. She has several CDs available and now I will be getting them all!

Click on her website, it's beautifully done and you might enjoy her music as much as I do.

And that's it for now. While I haven't been writing regularly, life has been good for us, and hopefully for you also.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lots of Pictures

It's been a few days since I wrote, so there's a bit of catching up to do, and LOTS of pictures to post.

Remember when we first arrived at Oliver Lee State Park? All the yuccas were blooming and it was a beautiful sight. In speaking with the Ranger, she said she had never seen so many blooming at one time, but everyone thought that it might have something to do with the flooding last fall. I didn't get a really good picture of the blooming yucca forest, but this will give you some idea. Remember that you can click on the picture for a larger image, most look much better at a higher resolution.

Here's a shot of Cholula Red in our campsite here at Oliver Lee. This is a wonderful campground, and with the great weather lately, it's been truly spectacular.

Another shot of a blooming yucca with the ocatillos just getting ready to burst forth with their orange flowers. Today we saw our first barrel cactus flowers so we'll be posting pictures of those soon. Terry also took some beautiful shots of the desert garden here at the park.

One more yucca bloom against the blue New Mexico sky.

A few days ago, we took another trip to White Sands National Monument. When we visited on our last time in Alamogordo, the drive was closed at the five mile mark. Also, since there was snow on the ground, the sand was kind of beige. It made for nice photos, but this trip proved much more impressive.

One more shot of the dunes. What's so amazing about this photo is that the plants adapt to the sand, so this yucca is actually about fifteen feet tall. When the dunes eventually move along, the plant will die as it won't be strong enough to support it's weight without the surrounding sand.

We see signs all over Alamogordo for the Hubbard Museum of the American West, located up in Ruidoso. All the billboards are advertising an exhibit called Wyatt Earp Goes to the Movies, Hollywood Myth and Reality. Movie buffs that we are, we had to take a look.

When we arrived, we were just blown away by a sculpture garden located in front of the Museum. The whole affair is known as Free Spirits at Noisy Water and consists of eight AMAZING statues of American horses. Each weighs between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds, and I can't even begin to describe these beauties. I will just show my photos and you can see for yourself.
These have all been sculpted by an Artist named Dave McGary.

Both this pinto and her baby stand on only one foot, as do many of the horses. Not only are they beautifully realistic, but the balance and detail are truly breathtaking.

I wanted to show a few of the horses faces so you could get a feel for the realism.

Another closeup. I was astounded by how each horse was so detailed and still retained a true sense of individuality.
The sense of movement Mr. McGary has captured is so impressive, they do look like they've been flash frozen while in full stride.
The way the foliage has grown, this fellow seems to be galloping down a mountainside.

And this shot is my favorite. Doesn't this look like a photo of actual live horses?

If you are ever within spitting distance of Ruidoso, do yourself a favor and come and see this monument to the American Horse. The whole display will stay with you forever.

Finally, we made it inside the Museum. What a treat this was, since the 1993 film Tombstone is a special favorite of both of ours. Starring Kurt Russel, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn and a plethora of memorable supporting actors, this film just sparkles. Well, you can imagine how excited we were to see that much of the exhibit dealt with one of our favorite films!

This is the sash and gun belt worn by Powers Boothe in the film. He played Curly Bill Brocious, one of the leaders of the Cowboys, a gang of hooligans that terrorized the old west.

The gun belt worn by Michael Biehn as Johnny Ringo.

The body holster worn by Val Kilmer, who played Doc Holliday. This portrayal almost walked away with the entire film.
And finally, the saddle and gun used by Kurt Russell in his fine performance as Wyatt Earp. This was a character he always wanted to play (he and Goldie Hawn named their son Wyatt in honor of Earp) and his performance is one of his best.
The rest of the museum was also quite impressive, containing the collection of Anne C. Stradling, a wealthy woman who had a love of horses and the old west.

This is just a small sample of her pottery and basket collection.

The lower floor of the museum is about half filled with old wagons and carriages. This is an authentic hearse from the old west.

Here's another buggy.

And I'll close this entry with this photo. It was included in the Hollywood exhibit, with no credit given, but I just loved his face, If I can find any more info, I'll post it later.

A great day, I can completely recommend any of these attractions with no reservations whatsoever. We had a wonderful time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sitting around . . .

The last couple of days have been quite social, with lovely weather to boot (not counting the afternoon and evening wind . . .)

Several days ago we answered a knock on the door to discover Dot and Don. They have placed their order for a 2008 Mid Bath Lazy Daze and are just as excited as you would expect. They are traveling with two other couples and we've had a great time visiting and making new friends.

Then we got in touch with Tina and Bill who have a new 2007 Mid Bath and are camping down in Las Cruces. They came in to visit us the other day and again, we found new friends. This is their maiden voyage in their new Lazy Daze (they picked it up a few weeks ago and are dawdling back to their home in New England ) so they had lots of questions. We had a great afternoon with them.

Then yesterday, another Lazy Daze pulled into Oliver Lee and we got to meet Shirley and Carol (I hope I get all these names right . . .) They are from Albuquerque and have a 2005 Rear Bath. It's just been like a Lazy Daze convention around here, what fun!

So with all this, I've been kind of ignoring the blog . . .

Other than socializing, we've been sticking pretty close to the rig and I've been catching up on my internet news. Ever since we went to Carlsbad Caverns, I've found myself much more interested in caves. Recently I read about a new cave discovered in Mexico back in 2000, and does this place ever sound fascinating! National Geographic tells it better than I can, so if interested, you can read about it here.

I'll summarize by telling you that inside of this cave are crystals, some as long as thirty six feet! These crystals have apparently been formed by a combination of being submerged in mineral rich water that was heated to an even temperature by thermal heat. The pictures are truly astounding (and if it was anyone other than National Geographic, I'd say they were faked with Photoshop), but take a look for yourself.

Tomorrow, we'll go up to the Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso. There is an exhibit dealing with Wyatt Earp and Hollywood that we think sounds kind of fun.

Hopefully soon I'll get the petroglyph pictures posted and maybe some shots of Ruidoso.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Petroglyphs, Macs and Goodbye to Kurt . . .

We are now back at Oliver Lee, one of my favorite parks in New Mexico.

The recent rain has brought the desert to life (I keep harping on this, but it's pretty impressive). Finally, all the yuccas at Oliver Lee are in bloom, what a vision! For months, we've been looking at the dead stalks of the yuccas, wondering when they would finally blossom. While we haven't seen them blooming anywhere else, when we pulled in here, it was like we came into a forest of blooms. While more pictures will follow, Terry took this shot last night before we made camp.

Before coming here, we went to Three Rivers Petroglyphs, and all I can say is WOW! We've visited lots of petroglyph sites here in the southwest, but never anything like this. Usually, you can view the glyphs from a distance or from behind a gate, but not so here.

This is a small park, about five miles off the highway, and if you're so inclined, there are two camping sites with water and electric. If you want to dry camp, that's also available. To visit the site, it's $2.00 per carload. The two RV sites are $10.00 a night or you can dry camp for $2.00 a night. These prices, plus they honor the National Park Passports (Golden Age, Golden Eagle etc.) so it's quite a bargain. We couldn't believe that we could drycamp and visit the petroglyphs for just $2.00!

Since we arrived early enough to look at the glyphs, we were undecided as to whether to camp there or not. Fortunately, while it was a warm day, there was a nice breeze to keep us cool, so we decided to just go for it and climbed the mountain. Note: we ended up not camping here but plan on returning in the future.

This is an amazing place. I remember when I read that there were over 21,000 glyphs in this one site, I was dubious, but they are everywhere, and you can you can get right up close and see them in person. We were at the site for over three hours and I took over 250 photos, so there will be pictures at a later date.

If you are ever within range of this place (Three Rivers Petroglyphs) you owe it to yourself to visit. It's kind of out of the way and seems to be pretty unknown, but it's a remarkable spot and you owe it to yourself to see this piece of our American history.

And now a note for the Mac Users who are reading this blog. Ever since I got my new MacBook Pro, I've had a problem with hitting the caps lock when I mean to hit the A key. I keep typing along and then I look up and realize that I've been typing in all caps for several lines.

While reading one of my favorite Mac sites (the DealMac Forums) someone asked about this very thing. Well, it turns out that you can turn the Caps Lock Key off, can you imagine that?

All you have to do is go into your System Prefs, then click on Modifier Keys, and under the Caps Lock Key, change the default to No Action. I LOVE this and hope it helps some other Mac users.

And finally, I have to make note of the passing of Kurt Vonnegut. He died yesterday (April 11, 2007) of complications from brain injuries suffered from a fall.

And what a loss this is.

This man's writings were influential to a whole generation and they certainly touched my life. While probably best remembered for Slaughterhouse Five, my favorite has always been the Sirens of Titan. As with most of his work, the plot is intricate, blasphemous and hilarious, not to mention thought provoking. His stories stay with you for a long time and cannot be recommended highly enough.

I have visions of Mr. Vonnegut in some alternate reality where he can continue to amuse and inspire ad infinitum.

Rest in Peace kind soul, you will be missed.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Trinity Our Visit-Part 1

Before I start relaying our day at the Trinity site, a few asides.

It was overcast all day so the pictures aren't as bright as I'd hoped. I also took pictures of many of the informational displays that were set up around the site. After a bit of Photoshop work, I was able to make most of them readable. Since I have so many pictures that I wanted to include from our visit to Trinity, I decided to put the informational displays in their own blog, which will follow this one (look at Trinity 2).

Also, I have started posting my pictures on my own web space, instead of on bloggers site. This may make them a bit slower to load, but that way I can post as many photos as I like. If this causes anyone any problems, please let me know (this is still in the experimental stages for me).

And now on to our visit to the Trinity Site.

On Friday night, it got incredibly windy, and when it's incredibly windy in New Mexico, that's saying something. We even had a bit of rain, so I didn't sleep really well. But we weren't going to let a little inclement weather stop us from visiting the Trinity Site. As it turns out, it was better that it be cold rather than hot as I prefer putting on a coat to sweating under a hot New Mexico sun.

For those of you not familiar with the Site, this is where the United States exploded the very first Atomic Bomb on July 16, 1945. Called the Trinity Site, it was designated a National Monument in 1975. Even though it's a National Monument, it's located smack dab in the middle of an Army base, and is only open two days a year, the first Saturday in April and the first in October.

Last year we missed it by just a few days, so we made plans to make sure we could attend this year.

We started out early, since it was about a seventy mile drive to the site. Once again, we marveled at the difference in landscape as we drove along. We traveled through the lava flows where we are camping to red rock canyons and then into flat desert with dunes and mesquite. These mountains were almost at the entry to the base, at what is called Stallion Gate.

We passed through the security checkpoint, where they gave us a nice comprehensive booklet on the site. We then drove on for another seventeen miles before we reached the parking lot for Ground Zero.

The National Monument consists of two parts, the actual Ground Zero where the bomb was exploded and the Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House where the plutonium core of the bomb was actually assembled. We had read that the ranch house can get quite crowded later in the tour (the site is only open for six hours), so we decided to visit there first.

This house is a wonderful old place, built in 1913 by a German immigrant named Franz Schmidt. He married Miss Esther Holmes of Pearsall, Texas. They lived here and worked the ranch with their three children.

I was as intrigued with the family history of the house as I was the military aspect. The house is pretty much as it was when the army was using it, but also very much like it was when the Schmidt family lived there.

Here we were, literally out in the middle of nowhere, and you really got the sense that people had made their home here. In 2003 Frances, one of the last remaining Schmidt children visited the home and shared many stories of what life was like growing up out in here in the desert. I would have loved the opportunity to hear her stories.

In addition to the house, there are still the remains of the stone barn where the family lived while the house was under construction. This shot shows what remains of the original barn.

Here's one more shot taken from the back of the house. I'm including it so you can get an idea of the isolation of this place. In reading about the family there was a comment that they would get supplies twice a year. Traveling as we do, keeping up with groceries and supplies is a constant challenge, but the visit to this homestead made me realize how completely spoiled we are in these modern times.

This shot shows the entrance to the master bedroom, which was later used as the "clean room" where the Army assembled the plutonium core of the bomb. They covered the doors and windows with plastic and tape to keep it as clean as possible. Wouldn't the folks who built this bomb be amazed at our current "clean" rooms?

Here's a bit of detail I wanted to include. This is the the stenciling near the roof line of the original living room. While this has obviously been touched up, I love the warmth it brings to the living room. The original stenciling was done by a ranch hand named Mike Walsh. According to Frances, he also took care of the family car, which was the first one in the area.

This was shot in the hallway between the main house and the back ice house, which was mostly under ground. As it wasn't too crowded, I took some time and tried to imagine life out here one hundred years ago. I wonder what thoughts went through these women's minds as they looked out on this landscape from their home?

There is history that there were extensive gardens and trees, most likely planted and tended by the women of the ranch. It must have been a lovely place to live.

This photo shows the remains of what was once a wind generator which supplied power to the ranch. At the bottom of the photo is the divided water storage tank. When the military arrived, they found the water at the ranch was unsuitable for drinking, so the troops used one of these tanks as a swimming pool.

Once again, a shot of the area around the house. I love these fences, which we still see throughout New Mexico. I find them quite beautiful and organic, as opposed to modern fences.

I had to include this shot, which shows some of the spring flowers just peeking out. I know I keep talking about the flowers here in the desert, but they never fail to delight me.

Keep in mind that this house is two miles from Ground Zero and survived the blast (with the exception of blown out windows and a fallen chimney). When I see the way nature rebounds, I am constantly amazed. It kind of reminded me of our visit to Mt St Helens last year. If you're interested in reading about that area, my entry can be read here.

This is part of a monument at the Schmidt/McDonald house. I love this logo, they use it all over the place here at the Trinity Site. I was hoping to get a pin or a patch with this logo, but there were none to be had.

After this part of the tour, we got on a bus and went back to Ground Zero.

Here;s a shot of Terry and I standing in the remains of Jumbo.

Jumbo was built specifically for the Trinity Site. Originally weighing in at 214 tons, it stood 25 feet long and 12 feet in diameter. The walls were 12 inches thick.

Manufactured in Ohio, it was brought to Pope, New Mexico by train. A specially built trailer with 64 wheels was built just to bring Jumbo out to Trinity. Originally it was planned that the Atomic Bomb would be placed in Jumbo, but plans changed and it was moved to a spot under a steel tower about 800 yards from Ground Zero. When the bomb was exploded, the tower was disintegrated, but Jumbo survived intact.

Then in 1946, in another test, the Army placed eight 500 pounds bombs inside of Jumbo. Well, the old boy couldn't survive that one and the ends blew off, leaving it as you see it today.

It was quite an attraction during our visit.

Now it was time for us to trek out to Ground Zero.

When the bomb was exploded, it was placed on top of a 100 foot tower to simulate an aerial explosion. When detonated, it vaporized the tower and left a scooped out depression full of melted sand which had turned green from the blast. The resulting "glass" is called trinitite and was found for miles around in the desert. Now it is illegal to remove any trinitite from the site, but pieces are for sale in rock shops in the area.

A display of trinitite, showing the different shapes and colors. The two tiny round pieces were formed when desert sand was scooped up by the blast. Once liquified and thrown into the air, the sand acted just like water droplets in a cloud. When they became too heavy to stay aloft, they fell to the earth as trinitite drops.

This monument stands squarely at Ground Zero. It's constructed of lava (probably from right where we are camping).
This is the plaque on the obelisk.

And I couldn't resist, Here are spring flowers, blooming within ten feet of Ground Zero.

The horror of the bomb is undeniable, but this spot does deserve a place in history and I'm glad we got the chance to visit. If you're in New Mexico at the right time of year, I think it's an important place to experience.

Also, if you are ever in Albuquerque, make sure to visit the Atomic Museum. It's another thought provoking attraction and one that shouldn't be missed.

After our drive home (we were exhausted, this was a jam packed day), we were treated to more wonderful skies. This mountain is off to the east of the Valley of Fires and often sports a halo of clouds, as shown here.
And here's our little rig, as she looked when we drove up, with the sun setting behind her.

We had a wonderful day but it sure was great to be home.

Trinity Part 2-the Displays

This is an addendum to the previous blog. Rather than adding more pictures to that blog, I've put them here, since I'm not sure everyone is interested.

These are the displays that were mounted at the site on April 7, 2007. I found them quite interesting. As always, you can click on each one to see a full sized, readable copy.

This is the board that was at the beginning of the Schmidt/McDonald House Tour. While giving some information about the inhabitants, it talks mostly about the military aspect of the house.

This was my favorite display. It talks about the history of the house from a personal rather than military perspective.

This is the display from the actual Ground Zero spot. Pretty interesting reading.

This display was at what remains of Jumbo. It's a pretty impressive piece of metal. On my blog describing our visit, there is a photo of Terry and I standing in this structure.

This board was out in the field that surrounds Ground Zero. I thought it was stunning display so I decided to include it here.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Travels Around Carrizozo

What a busy couple of days we've had, it feels like we've driven all over new Mexico!

There os a wonderful spot about 30 miles south of here called the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.

It's located on BLM land and has over 21,000 (yes thousand) glyphs. We had heard that it was possible to camp there but we wanted to go check it out before taking the rig. We were pleasantly surprised to find a hook up sites and a very friendly couple hosting the area. We spoke for a while and decided that when we leave here we will give them a call to guarantee that one of the sites is available and go there for a couple of days. Our plan is to pull in one afternoon and then get up early before the heat to go see the glyphs. It was quite warm when we were there so this seems like a much better plan. I did take this picture of some flowers at the entrance to the campground. We haven't seen these anywhere else in New Mexico.

There is another campground several miles up the road from the petroglyph site, so we decided to see if it might be another campground candidate for us. I can tell you that most of the road was pretty severe washboard, so while it was a beautiful drive, we won't be camping there any time soon. In case anyone is interested, it is called the Three River Campground, BLM and quite lovely.

That said, the road was a dealbreaker for us, still, it was quite a view.

After that we decided to go down to Tularosa for lunch and a bit of grocery shopping. On the way we spotted something high up on a telephone pole. On closer examination, it proved to be a birds nest. With the lack of high trees, telephone poles are a reasonable substitute and it makes us wonder why we don't see more of this? This bird obliged us for quite some times as we took photos.

By the time we got back to the rig, it was clouding up, perfect for some more sunset shots. I've included two here, one facing east and one west. These were taken just minutes apart! It constantly amazes me the skies we see here in New Mexico. Maybe I've just lived under those redwoods for too long to remember the glory of the open skies.

Next up will be out trip to the Trinity Site, I'm excited!