This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Friday, August 31, 2012

I Think I Can, or, The Little RV Who Could

After cleaning and straightening up the motorhome we left the Meadowcliffs RV Park.  It was 10:30 AM, the temperature was 77 degrees, and we only had 56 miles of travel to reach Lake Tahoe.  The only obstacle in our path was the dreaded “Kingsbury Grade,” or NV 207, topped by the Daggett Pass Summit at an altitude of 7,334 ft. 

We began the ascent at a little less than 4,900 ft. and followed the serpentine highway, switchback after switchback, for an 8-mile long climb that took us 2,500 ft. higher than we were at the beginning of the climb.  Our diesel slowed down a bit but it never faltered.  The engine temperature only experienced one very brief excursion above 199 degrees.  It hit 204 degrees within a 10 or 15 second period until I downshifted and increased the RPM.

The scenery was awesome, or so Carol Ann told me.  My eyes were watching only the road, temperature gauge, and tachometer.  I pulled over once to allow a few cars to pass, however, after experiencing the difficulty of regaining forward momentum I said no more “Mr. Nice Guy.”  We managed to maintain 35 to 40 mph, most of the time in 3rd gear and covered the 8 miles in only 13 minutes for an average speed of 34.9 mph.  Not bad.

Once we reached the summit it was only a few minutes downhill until we saw the very blue Lake Tahoe laid out before us.  We drove through a very upscale North Lake Tahoe and 5 miles later reached our destination, Tahoe Valley Campground in South Lake Tahoe about 12:10 PM.  We checked in, parked the motorhome and after we had settled in, had lunch.

It is now 6:15 PM; the temperature is 75 degrees with a relative humidity of only 24%.  We have opened the windows and allowed our air conditioners to take a well deserved rest.  Bruce and Karen arrived a short while ago and are now set up next to us so we are going out with our chairs to sit under the pines and drink wine.

Well, it’s now 8:30 PM and I am just now posting this.  Carol Ann and Karen have gone to pick up a pizza.  I’ll start taking photos of Lake Tahoe and area tomorrow.

Now it’s 10:30 PM.  We’ve had our pizza and beer and enjoyed sitting and talking.  I will post this and go to bed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

US 395 and the High Sierras

We didn’t sleep well last night due to the uncomfortable warmth.  I woke up, and actually GOT up, at 6:30 AM.  In a hurry to go north (up US 395) before the temperature managed to get into the triple digits, we left the RV park at 7:45 AM where the temperature was already 82 degrees. 

For the first couple of hundred miles the geography was much like it had been the day before.  Nothing but desert, stunted scrub brush, rocks, and heat.  We crossed through a portion of the Mojave Desert and into Owens Valley.  Just north of Lone Pine, CA we passed by Manzanar National Historic Site, a concentration camp where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during WWII.  The heat must have been horrible in the wood and tarpaper barracks buildings.  Lone Pine is also noted as an access for both the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney at 14,505 ft. above sea level, and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley at 282 below sea level.

As we drove north we began a gradual climb that included 4 passes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The first was Sherwin Summit at 7,000 ft., followed by Deadman Summit at 8,036 ft., Conway Summit at 8,138 ft., and then Devil’s Gate Pass at 7,519 ft.  In other words, we drove up, over, and down a mountain 4 times.  We passed several overheated vehicles that had not been able to make the long, steep grades.  We did fine, keeping the engine temperature under control by downshifting to keep the RPMs high enough for the radiator fan to keep the engine from overheating.   As a result of driving in 3rd and 4th gears up the mountains, our speed averaged only 48 mph, but we still got a respectable 7.5 mpg.

The air was much cooler at the higher elevations but then we would descend back into the valley and its much hotter temperatures.  

We stopped at the Mount Whitney Rest Area/Visitor’s Center and snapped a few photos of the mountain.  It was quite impressive.

Mount Whitney
After 7 hours and 342 miles we decided to stop at the Meadow Cliff RV Park in Coleville, population 495.   The elevation of the RV park is 5,200 ft., yet the temperature was 107.5 degrees and the relative humidity was 17% when we arrived at 4:30 PM (Pacific Daylight Time).  Now that will dry out your mucous membranes!

We only have another 50 miles to Tahoe but our reservations don’t start until tomorrow and there is a 12-mile climb on U.S. 50 beginning near Carson City, NV at 4,600 ft., climbing over Echo Summit at 7,377 ft.  We plan to unhitch the car and drive both the motorhome and car to make sure the motorhome doesn’t overheat.  We’ll let you know how it goes.

Lake Tahoe is at an altitude of 6,225 ft.  The high temperature forecast for tomorrow is 73 degrees and a low tomorrow night of 41degrees!  I can’t wait!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cat On A Hot RV Roof

Last night I wrote that the time zone had changed to Pacific Standard Time.  Wrong!  It changed to PST today when we crossed the state line into California.  But, like I said last night – it really doesn’t make any difference.

We left Flagstaff this morning about 10:15 AM (which time zone, I’m not sure).   As we traveled west on I-40 there was desert on both sides of the highway.  The further west we traveled, the higher the temperature and the lower the relative humidity.  Before we were out of Arizona the temperature was well over 100 degrees with the RH percentage in the mid to high 20’s.  Don’t let anybody tell you that “dry” heat is not hot!  It was hotter than hades!

We were planning to stop at the California Welcome Center to pick up a California road map and make our lunch.  However about 30 miles or so from the state line there was a sudden loud banging noise on the roof, just above our heads.  I immediately thought about the awning that had recently been replaced at significant expense.  It must have been installed improperly and pulled open by the high cross-winds that we were experiencing. 

Luckily, there was very little traffic and I flipped on my emergency flashers and began slowing down and pulling over onto the shoulder.  As I came to a stop, Carol Ann looked out of the passenger side window and saw something hanging out from the edge of the roof.  I opened the door, stepped outside, and saw about half of the batwing TV antenna, a little bent, jutting out over the side of the coach.  I knew that I had lowered it before we left.  We hang a red sign on the antenna handle inside the coach to remind us that the antenna is up.  I’m not sure why it happened, but the wind had apparently forced it up from its stowed position, stripping its gears in the process.

I got a broom stick and pushed the antenna back onto the roof.  I was going to climb up and see about securing it but there was a rest area only about 5 miles ahead so we decided it would be safer to creep along to the rest area than to sit beside the highway.

As we approached the rest area at 45 mph, there was no noise from the roof, and we decided to go on to the California Welcome Center.  The state line was only 20 miles away and if we needed help, it would be easier to find at the welcome center rather than at the unmanned rest area.  When we reached the state line I began looking for the welcome center exit.  We kept watching until we realized that there was no California Welcome Center!  On I-40, a major highway, and no welcome center.  It was hard to believe.  At least the antenna seemed to be okay for the time being so we kept on for another 10 miles or so until we reached Needles, CA, which is where Snoopy’s uncle is from.  We exited the interstate and pulled into an abandoned service station.  I changed from shorts into jeans in anticipation of the roof being blisteringly hot.  I also put on gloves and a hat.  It was 114 degrees outside when I opened the storage bay to get the ladder.  I climbed onto the roof with a plastic grocery bag of bungee cords, duct tape, and zip ties.  Oh, it was hot up there!  I walked to the front of the roof where the wounded antenna lay.  I managed to get it aligned properly and to lay flat on the roof.  I used a bungee cord to secure it, climbed back down, and put the ladder away.

It was lunch time so we went ahead and had lunch before getting back on I-40.  We had the motorhome’s dash air conditioner on its highest setting and the generator running to power both roof-top air conditioners, which were running continuously in an attempt to pump the heat from the motorhome.

A moon landscape would look more hospitable than the land on either side of I-40.  It was miserable and desolate looking in every direction as far as the eye could see.  Large portions of the earth were covered with black volcanic rock, as if thousands of truckloads of coal had been scattered about.  The mountains in the distance were impressive looking, but not pretty.  There were no forests covering them.  They were dotted with rocks and scrub cacti.  We were passing along the lower end of the Mojave Desert with Death Valley just to the northwest.  Thank goodness we didn’t go that way!

We pulled into the KOA RV park in Barstow at 4:30 PM (it was Pacific Standard Time) with the temperature at 112 degrees.  Carol Ann made us each a bourbon and Coke as it was too hot to do anything else.  It is a little past 7:30 PM, the sun has finally set, and the temperature is 100 degrees outside and 92 degrees inside the motorhome.  Hopefully, it will begin cooling off now that the sun is down.

Here are a couple of photos I took as the sun was setting.

Last Minute Route Change

In the event that we get lost, I want people to know that we are NOT going through Las Vegas as I reported last night.  We are staying on I-40 to Barstow, CA and then taking US 395 North to Lake Tahoe.  There is more 4-lane this way and it is looks to be a much straighter road.  It is the way that our friends, Bruce and Karen, recommended and they are familiar with the territory.  I'm not sure where we will spend the night.  There aren't many choices in our RV park directories or that we could find on the internet for US 395.  Maybe we can find a Walmart.  If you know of any good places let us know.

Monday, August 27, 2012

To Flagstaff via Two Guns and Twin Arrows

We left Santa Fe this morning a few minutes after 10 AM en route to an RV park near Flagstaff, AZ.  We took I-25 back to Albuquerque and then I-40 to Flagstaff.  After 214 miles we stopped at the Arizona Welcome Center to make lunch and get an Arizona road map.  It was a little before 2 PM.

After lunch we noticed dark clouds building to the south.  The temperature dropped from 97 degrees to 73 degrees as the storm got closer to us.  We pulled into a rest area and I took a few photos.  I expected to run into some heavy rain before reaching Flagstaff.  As it turned out we only received a light sprinkling of rain for a couple of minutes.  Then the temperature started climbing back up.

About half an hour before reaching Flagstaff I saw a sign that I recalled from a trip we made over this same route about 6 years ago.  I had to stop and take a photo because I knew that about 10 miles further would be another sign that I wanted a picture of.  When you see the pictures you will understand why I had to stop and take these photos.

I was sure there had to be a good story that tied these two towns together!  In a western version of a "Tale of Two Cities," perhaps Two Guns was a cowboy town and Twin Arrows was an Indian village.  This would be something else to Google tonight once we were settled in at the RV park.

We arrived at the RV park just before 5 PM, or so we thought.  It turned out to be just before 4 PM because we had crossed from the Mountain to the Pacific time zone.  It doesn't really matter when you are retired.  The day's travel was 373 miles in 6 hours and 40 minutes.  A respectable average speed of 56 mph considering a fuel stop, lunch stop, rest stop, and 2 photo stops.  I-40 was smooth and straight and I had the cruise set on 65 mph.  What was really surprising was that our fuel economy was up to 7.5 mpg, even though we gained almost 1,000 feet in altitude since leaving Santa Fe.

The temperature at the RV park was 78 degrees when we pulled in.  But even when the temperature had been in the 90's earlier in the day it wasn't that uncomfortable because the humidity was only about 24% as opposed to 60% or higher back in East Texas.

After supper I began Googling Two Guns and Twin Arrows, looking for a great story tying them together.  Unfortunately, about the only thing they have in common was that both are essentially "ghost towns."  The building of I-40 caused the decline and eventual abandonment of many small towns on Route 66 and these were just 2 of the many tourist traps that failed to survive.

Historically, Two Guns was the site of a battle between the Navajos and Apaches back in the 1800's.  In more modern times it was a small privately owned town that boasted a gas station, overnight accommodations, restaurant, campground, and even a zoo for the travelers on Route 66.

Twin Arrows was even smaller than Two Guns.  About the only thing at Twin Arrows was a trading post but it lasted longer than Two Guns.  There is a faded sign that claims Twin Arrows to be the "Best Little Stop on I-40."  The store/motel/cafe complex of Twin Arrows managed to hang on into the 1990's only because it had its own I-40 exit.

Tomorrow we continue west on I-40 to Kingman, AZ.  From Kingman we will take US 93 North to Las Vegas.  Hopefully, I will be able to get some photos of Hoover Dam.

Santa Fe Photography Workshop

The photography workshop ended today.  It was a lot of fun and I learned some useful techniques that I can continue to work on.  Just goes to show that old dogs can learn new tricks.  Now, whether the old dog can remember the tricks next week is yet to be seen. 

This morning at 7 AM we met at the corner of Paseo de Peralta (named after the guy that laid out the crazy Santa Fe streets) and Canyon Road.  Canyon Road is a little over a mile long and is just one art gallery after the other on both sides of the road.  At 7 AM on a Sunday morning it is very quiet on Canyon Road because artists don't tend to be early risers.  There was the occasional jogger, dog walker, or biker but almost no motorized traffic for the two and a half hours that we wandered up and down the road looking for the unusual to photograph.  It was an exercise in composition, exposure, and light. 

By 10 AM we were all back at the B&B workshop base to show and have critiqued what we considered our 5 best shots.  I had about 10 minutes to search through a couple of hundred images and select my 5 by viewing them on the camera's small LCD screen.  Talk about hard!  Although we were all on the same road it was surprising how very different our images were.  Everyone has different tastes and ideas of what makes a good subject.  Even when the subjects were the same, the images were very different.

A small prize was given for the best photo of the 2 days.  I didn't win, but I was proud to receive an "honorable mention".  Apparently Bob and Cynthia had some differences of opinion on which photo was the best.  My honorable mention was a very simple photo of a single unopened long-stem yellow flower against a clear blue sky.  Sometimes simple is best after all.  If you look at the photo pages you should see it.

Tomorrow morning we leave Santa Fe en route to South Lake Tahoe, CA.  We will be 3 days on the road, arriving at Tahoe on Thursday around lunch time.  We will be there for 2 weeks with a couple, Bruce and Karen, that we met on our Mexico caravan earlier this year.

Carol Ann and I are still not sure which route we will take to Tahoe.  One possibility is I-40 for a significant portion of the journey but the other route would take us through Las Vegas.  The I-40 route, although about 200 miles longer would be the easiest drive.  However, we have never been to Las Vegas so would like to go that way.  The problem with going through Las Vegas is the long uphill grade near Death Valley where the temperature will be 110 - 115 degrees!  We will sleep on it tonight and decide in the morning.  Wish us luck.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I'm Tired!

I am temporarily without my laptop so this will be short (on iPhone). I left the RV before dawn this morning and was first to arrive at Tent Rocks National Monument. It was about a two hour hike up a mountain. Much of the way was through a slot canyon that was very narrow in places. Some of our group did not go all the way up. I was the oldest in the group yet proud to say I was first to the top. The photos will have to wait until tomorrow.

The afternoon was spent critiquing the photos. After the session, we all went to the rooftop bar at the La Fonda Hotel for drinks and to watch the sunset.

We start again at 7AM tomorrow morning on Canyon Road, a very artsy area. Hopefully, I will get some interesting photos. I'll let you know tomorrow night. Right now I am going to crash and hope I make it through tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Santa Fe (Holy Faith)

After spending the morning trying to learn as much as I could from professional photographer Bob Pearson I returned to the RV to learn that Carol Ann wanted to try another French restaurant.  I reminded her that we just had a French lunch a couple of days ago (at a rebuilt Airstream trailer).  This one is supposed to be better, she said.  Okay, we would go to this restaurant.

When we entered the restaurant’s address in the Chevy’s navigation system it asked if the street number we entered was for 402 North Guadalupe Road or South Guadalupe Road.  South, said Carol Ann.  We drove 4 or 5 miles, found South Guadalupe Road and drove to the 400 block but didn’t see a 402.  The very nice lady in the Chevy navigation system was telling us to “make a legal U-turn” as we had obviously passed it.  We went back down the street and still could not find 402.  Carol Ann called the restaurant.  You guessed it; they were on North Guadalupe Road, not South.  At least it wasn’t very far to 402 North Guadalupe.  There was no parking allowed on the street anywhere near the restaurant.  There only 3 parking spaces in front of the restaurant, and they were taken, but a sign directed us to additional parking in the rear, where we discovered a very small parking lot that was already full with only 5 or 6 cars.   It was so tight that I had to back out from behind the restaurant.  I then spotted what looked to be a pay parking lot down the street; however, it turned out to be an “employees only” lot.  I had no choice but to drive around the block and return to the restaurant to wait for someone to leave. 

Have you ever tried driving “around the block” in Santa Fe, the old part?  It is simply not possible.  If you pass your destination you may as well go home because there is no “going around the block.”  The Santa Fe blocks aren’t block-shaped as they are in most cities.  They are weirdly shaped and no two seem to be shaped the same.  When you throw in the one-way streets and the alleys, which are called streets but are about as wide as a sidewalk, you never know what is around the next corner.  We GOT LOST trying to go around the block.  No joke.  We could not find our way back to Guadalupe Road.  I mean, not for a while.  We just kept making turns until we finally found the road again but we were back in the 100 block.  No problem, I drove back to 402, pulled into the back, and parked in front of the garbage dumpster.  Then we went inside and I asked if this was a garbage pickup day.  Good thing it wasn’t.

We were seated and given menus.  The names of the menu items were in French, but included a description in English.  I decided on the “Sandwich de Dinte,” which was described as a turkey, cheese, tomato, and lettuce sandwich on homemade bread.  When the waitress came over to take our order I asked her how “Sandwich de Dinte” was pronounced in French.  Her answer was “I don’t know.  You are asking the wrong person.”  So I just ordered a turkey and cheese sandwich, which turned out to be very tasty.  After eating, we purchased some French pastries for later.

Now we had to go to Wal-Mart to buy a water filter for the RV and a new cell phone for Carol Ann.  There was a Wal-Mart on the way back to the RV park and we found it without any trouble.  The problem was that this Wal-Mart did not do AT&T, with whom we have a contract.  We were told that the “new” Wal-Mart did do AT&T.  Fine, I said, where is the “new” Wal-Mart.  About 4 miles further south near I-25, he said.  After we had passed under I-25 without seeing the “new” Wal-Mart I was tired and a bit aggravated so I turned around and told Carol Ann that we were going back to the RV and take a nap.  Then we would go find the “new” Wal-Mart.  No sooner had we turned around than I spotted a Wal-Mart-sized building back across I-25.  We could barely see the sign on the side of the building facing us but it did say Wal-Mart.  As we approached the store we did not spot any other signs.  There was no big Wal-Mart sign near the street nor was there a sign on the front of the building facing the street!  Only on that one side was there a sign.  How the hell do they expect anyone to find it?  It was purely by luck that we saw it.    After I managed to find an entrance to the unmarked parking lot and parked the car, we went inside and found the cell phones.  We wanted to add an iPhone 4 to our AT&T Family Plan contract that is in our son-in-law’s name.  Well, unless we could prove that we were authorized to do so we could not add a phone to the account.  Therefore, I will be sharing my iPhone with Carol Ann for the remainder of the trip.  We went back to the RV and pigged out on French pastry, which almost put me in a better mood.  We didn’t get an RV water filter, either.

I wanted to know who the insane drunk was that laid out the streets in Santa Fe so it was back to the Internet and another history lesson.  I’ll keep this one short.

There is some debate over who actually founded Santa Fe.  Juan Martinez de Montoya established a "plaza de Santa Fe," a private settlement, in 1608.  About that same time, Don Pedro de Peralta was appointed the new governor of New Mexico and given a set of instructions from the viceroy of New Spain. Among these instructions was an order to create the Villa de Santa Fe as the capital of the province as soon as Peralta arrived there.

When Peralta arrived in New Mexico, he ended Martinez’ entrepreneurial colony and established a royal colony instead.  He applied the order to establish a villa to Martinez’s settlement of Santa Fe, raising it from a plaza, or village, to a villa, or town. In other words, the king’s orders to Peralta did not establish the town of Santa Fe, but simply elevated the already-existing settlement to that rank.

So, who founded Santa Fe?  Martinez or Peralta?  Personally, I don’t really care.  However, it was Peralta who laid out the streets to resemble pretzels.  The way towns were build back in the 1600’s was by laying out streets in a radiating grid from a central plaza.  Many of the streets were narrow and included small alleyways that “eventually merged into the more casual byways of the agricultural perimeter areas.” 

Then, in 1912, just to add chaos to confusion, the city planners declared that historic streets and structures must be preserved.  In other words, the streets couldn’t be messed with and so to this day they remain almost the same as when laid out in 1608 – 1612.  They have a least been paved.  

Tomorrow, at 7:00 AM, I meet the other workshop attendees at Kasha-Katuwe National Monument (Tent Rocks) where I hope to survive the hike and climb that is required to reach a really great photo-op.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another History Lesson

Today we visited the Pecos National Historic Park, which is about 25 miles east of Santa Fe.   We got there about 9:45 this morning in anticipation of going on a scheduled Ranger guided tour at 10 AM.  I flashed my Golden Age Pass in the Visitors’ Center and we went into a small theater to watch a short video on the area.  Unfortunately, due to short-staffing the Ranger tour was canceled so we took the 1-¼ mile “self-guided” tour. 

The Pecos National Historical Park lies in a valley of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  The Pecos River and Glorietta Creek meander through the valley, which made it an ideal place for the Pecos Pueblans to grow their corn, beans, and squash.

It was a beautiful morning in the valley.  The temperature was pleasant and humidity low.  Fluffy white cumulus clouds were scattered across the blue sky.  The surrounding woodlands of Piñon, Juniper, and Ponderosa Pines gave the air a pleasant smell.

The ruins of the Pecos Pueblo lie on top of a hill that dominated the valley and provided a complete 360 degrees of view that allowed the ancient inhabitants to see anyone approaching.  The valley floor around the Pueblo had been cleared for planting and today is primarily grassland.

The first inhabitants of the valley were pre-Pueblo people who built pit houses (partially underground) in about 800 AD.  It was another 300 years, about 1100 AD, before the first Pecos Pueblans began constructing their wood, rock, and mud buildings.  For the next 200 years there were approximately two dozen villages (Pueblos) built in the valley.

At its zenith, the Pecos Pueblo was home to 2,000 people.  It stood 4 and 5 stories tall in a rectangular shape.  As with other Pueblos, there was a central plaza surrounded by the wood, rock, and mud buildings.

The Pecos Pueblans were natural traders.  They traded and warred, but mostly traded, with the various Plains Indian tribes, especially the Apaches.  Trading benefited both groups.  The Apaches were nomadic and would come to the Pueblo to trade buffalo hides, flint, shells, and slaves captured from other tribes) for corn, beans, squash, pottery, turquoise, and textiles.

Although they traded with the Apaches, the Pecos Pueblans did not trust them and there was always the question of whether the Apaches were coming to trade or to make war.  The Apaches were not allowed inside the Pueblo buildings.  They were admitted to the central plaza for trading but were made to leave before dark and had to sleep outside.  The Pecos Pueblans probably considered the Apache as "second-class citizens."

The Pecos Pueblans must have been excellent farmers because when Coronado and his Conquistadors arrived in 1541 he found storerooms containing at least a three-year supply of corn.  Coronado, being the invading Spaniard that he was, took it all to feed his army.  Once again, the Spaniards attempted to erase the Indian religion and force Catholicism upon them.  The Spanish also required a portion of the crops to be tithed to the Church, just as was done in the Frijole Valley’s Tyuani Pueblo. 

The Pecos Pueblans put up with the Spanish for about a hundred years.  In 1680 the various Pueblo groups united to conduct a well-planned and well-timed revolt throughout the Spanish colonies in New Mexico.  Churches were destroyed and many priests were killed.  The Spanish retreated to the safety of Mexico, where they stayed for about 12 years before returning.

This time they seemed to have learned their lesson for they were a kinder, gentler, invader and got along better with the Pecos Pueblans.  They even fought together against the frequent Comanche raids.  Unfortunately, by the 1780s, disease, Comanche raids, and migration had reduced the Pecos Pueblan population to around 300 people.

To add further insult to injury, the Santa Fe Trail cut through the valley in 1821, causing more of the Pecos Pueblo people to leave.  The last of the Pecos-Pueblans abandoned what was, by then, a decaying Pecos Pueblo in 1838 and moved 80 miles west to the Jemez Pueblo to live with their relatives.

We completed our tour about 11:30 AM and headed back towards Santa Fe.  We stopped at Bobcat Bites for what is advertised around here as one of the best hamburgers you can find.  The place was small and had a waiting list.  After about 15 minutes we were rewarded with 2 seats at the counter.  We each got a bacon-cheeseburger, which was just as advertised, one of the best I have ever had. 

The RV service person that I had called yesterday finally called back as we were leaving Bobcat Bites.  He came over to our coach later and checked the water pump then asked me how long it had been since I changed my water filter.  He was talking about an in-line filter cartridge that filters the city water before it enters the RV’s plumbing system.  I told him that I had changed it before we went to Mexico in January (they normally last a year or more).  He unscrewed the canister and removed the filter cartridge.  It was dark brown and very yucky looking!  I should have replaced it when we returned from Mexico but, because I had been putting chlorine bleach in the water, I didn’t think it would need to be changed.  Apparently I was wrong.  The service guy screwed the canister back on, without the filter, and bingo!  I had good water pressure inside the coach once again.  It costs me $75 for the service call, which was cheaper than a new pump.

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM is my one-on-one with the professional photographer.  Hopefully, I will learn something.  I brought my newer camera plus my older one as a backup.  I’ll hang them both around my neck so that I look like a professional photographer myself!  In the afternoon I will go to WalMart and buy two new water filter cartridges.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fine French Dining at Lunch

I spent most of the morning sorting and inventorying my photography gear.  The workshop doesn’t begin until Saturday morning however I have scheduled 4 hours on Friday morning with Bob Pearson, the workshop leader.  This will be one-on-one instruction and I want to get my money’s worth.

As lunchtime drew closer, Carol Ann said she would like to go to a French Crepes place she had read about that had a real French Chef.  It is on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo De Peralta, not far from the New Mexico State Capitol building.  We entered the address into our Chevy’s navigation system (like I said, all the gadgets available!) and headed towards town.

When we arrived at our destination, this is what we found:

 And this was their menu:

We were seated at a very nice table (picnic type) beneath a beach umbrella.  Well, actually we had to seat ourselves and order at the window.  I had the Frog Dog, or actually the German version, the Fritz Dog, and Carol Ann had the Parisienne Savory Crepes.  To drink, we had a Lemon soda imported from France (expensive lemonade) and for dessert we had sweet crepes.  Carol Ann had a Lemon Sugar and I had a Nutella Sweet Crepe.   We got out of the parking lot for about $35, including tip.  I will say that it was quite tasty, although somewhat bohemian, n’est-ce pas?

As far as the motorhome goes, the water pressure has dropped so low that it takes a couple of hours to shower, with most of that time spent rinsing the soap from your body.  It's not the water pressure in the RV park.  The water pressure in the park is great.  We were experiencing a reduction in pressure prior to this trip.  I have a new hose from the spigot to the motorhome’s water inlet, and I have cleaned the water filter.  It makes no difference whether our water pump is on or off, the trickle remains the same.  I called an RV service company that makes house calls and am still waiting on him to call back and setup an appointment.  If the water pump has to be replaced I intend to have one rated at a higher PSI with a gallons-per-minute flow rate greater than the current pump.

We are a little down this evening so not much into humor.  We brought 3 cats with us (Pumpkin, Goblin, and She Kitty) and Goblin has been missing since this morning.  We don't let them go outside and don't think there is really any possibility that she pulled a Houdini on us.  We have searched every drawer, behind every drawer, every cabinet, closet, nook, and cranny several times.  She is a very shy cat and many of our friends have never seen her as she hides when anyone comes to the house.  She has done this before without us finding her and then all of a sudden she would be standing beside us like nothing was wrong.  If any of you happen to be a cat whisperer perhaps you could contact her and let her know that this has gone far enough.  This may be a late night. 

 THIS JUST IN...........

At 9:20 PM (MST) Goblin the cat was found safe and sound behind the one drawer we did not pull out all of the way!  Goblin has always been a cat of few meows and refused to make a statement.  She completely ignored us en route to her food and water bowls.  Once satisfied, she allowed Carol Ann to pick her up and take her to bed.  She asked that she not be disturbed.  Perhaps she will tells us about her terrible ordeal in the morning.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ancient Holes in Rocks

There was little excitement today and nothing spectacular to report.  We loafed, or rested, all morning before heading out to Bandelier National Monument around 11:30 AM.  The park is actually closed to traffic and you have to park in White Rock and take a 10 minute shuttle ride into the park, probably the way it should be done in most national parks and monuments.  There is a shuttle every 20 minutes but we got lucky and one was waiting for us.   We parked, boarded the shuttle, and it pulled off as soon as we were seated.   

On the short drive to Bandelier we passed the employee entrance to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the atomic bomb was developed in WWII.  The second day in a row now in which we have encountered something to do with nuclear energy!  Coincidence?  Let's not go down that road today.

The shuttle let us out in front of the Visitors' Center where we were met by a volunteer who told us a little about the place, where things were (particularly the bath rooms), and what we would see.   She told us that last year a wild fire in the Frijole Valley of Bandelier National Monument burned most of the vegetation away from the banks of Frijole Creek and this year a tremendous rain storm caused a severe flash flood which took out some bridges in the park, hence the shuttle.  We were cautioned that if it looked like rain and we heard a loud rumbling noise we should move away from the creek!  No such excitement for us.  It was sunny all day long.

I showed my “Golden Age Passport” (lifetime admission permit to national parks and monuments) and we entered the visitors’ center and had a seat in a small theater where we watched a short video presentation about Bandelier.  Ranger Mark took a group of us on a very informative guided tour after the video.

People have lived in this valley off and on for the past 10,000 years.  The early people were nomadic hunter/gatherers, following the game and erecting no permanent shelters.  Eventually people began to grow crops and had to stay in one place.   They erected shelters of wood and mud and hung up their "Home, Sweet Home" signs.  The earliest dwellings were called “Pit Houses” because they were largely underground (or perhaps because they were the pits). 

About 600 years ago the first of several pueblos was constructed.  These were one and two story circular structures containing hundreds of small rooms, maybe 50 square feet each.  They were used for sleeping and storing food.  On the inside of the circle was an open plaza were the people worked and socialized.  The circular building had no outside windows and only one way in or out, which afforded protection from intruders, man or animal.

We saw the remains of the largest pueblo in the valley, the Tyuani Pueblo, which contained approximately 400 rooms for around 100 inhabitants.  It is unknown whether the inhabitants of a pueblo were all of the same family or not.  There were many such pueblos throughout the area and several languages were represented.  There are also cliff dwellings and caves that were inhabited at the time that the pueblos were booming in the valley.  This is more evidence of a diverse group of people.  However, everyone seems to have gotten along together as there is no evidence of violence or wars.  

We elected to forgo the portion of the tour that required climbing 150 feet on 3 different wooden ladders (made from the local juniper trees) for a closer look at some of the cliff dwellings.  We've been to Mesa Verde so it was no big deal.

For some unknown reason the valley was abandoned about 600 years ago after about 150 years of continuous habitation.  It could have been abandoned because of depleted resources, less game as more land was cleared for crops, or a multi-year drought resulting in repetitive crop failures.  It is known that most of the people who left went south and many of their descendants live around El Paso, TX.  This was approximately 100 years before the Spanish “discovered” the valley in 1545. 

The ancient people who once inhabited the valley are called the Ancestral Pueblo People.  They were once called Anasazi, a word from the Navaho language that translates roughly into “ancient enemies”.  This term is no longer used as it is considered politically incorrect by their descendants who still live in the area.

We left Bandelier a little after 3 PM, hot and tired.  When we got back to the car we cranked the A/C down as cold as it would go and headed back to Santa Fe.  The car seat was hot and my backside became sticky with sweat.  That’s when I remembered one of the greatest options ever to be offered in a new automobile!  The front seats are AIR CONDITIONED!  We turned them on and were immediately rewarded with cold air seeping through the small pinholes in the seats.  It felt so good. 

Now, you might consider such an option to be somewhat extravagant, or perhaps of little use.  That is not true.  We special ordered our Chevy Traverse LTZ with every option available (paid $400 over dealer invoice, which I think was a very good deal) and are glad that we did.   So, don’t buy a Lincoln or Cadillac.  Go buy yourself a Ford or Chevy with every option available for less money and enjoy your air-conditioned seats when you are driving in the American Southwest.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Coincidences? I Don't Think So!

We left the Oasis RV Resort at 9:55 AM and filled up with diesel prior to heading west on I-40.  Once we had settled in for the day’s drive a revelation hit me.  If I couldn’t get air into the tire, then air shouldn’t be able to escape from it either.  In other words, the inner dual tire had never been low on air.  The pressure gauge had not read the pressure in the tire because of the bad valve extension!

It wasn’t long before we entered the last Texas county, Deaf Smith County, before crossing into New Mexico.  Yes, the county’s name is really “Deaf Smith.“   I’ll have to Google this tonight!

We stopped for lunch in Santa Rosa, NM and Carol Ann made ham and cheese sandwiches.  I bit down on the sandwich and had to pull hard to bite off a piece.  Before I took another bite and opened the sandwich and discovered that Carol Ann had not removed the paper used to divide the cheese slices!  Her only comment was that it was good fiber.

It was an uphill drive all the way from Amarillo (3,684 feet ASL) to Santa Fe (6,340 feet ASL), resulting in a depressing 6.3 mpg over the 274 miles.  We arrived at Trailer Ranch RV Park in Santa Fe at 2 PM (3 PM “Texas time”), beating the rush hour.

I Googled Deaf Smith and found out that the county was named after Erastus Smith.  Now you must pay close attention to what I am going to tell you.  The reason why should become evident by the end of this posting.  Pay attention!

Deaf Smith was born in New York on April 19, 1787.  When he was 11years old, he moved with his family to Mississippi.  They settled near Natchez, where a nuclear generating station would come to be located. 

In his early 30’s he moved to Texas “for his health”, which apparently improved except for a partial hearing loss.  As a result he became known as “Deaf” (pronounced “Deef”) Smith.  He settled near San Antonio and in 1822 married a Mexican widow with whom he had 4 children, all daughters.  But why name a county after him?  Well, he imported a fine stock of Muley cattle from Louisiana to the San Antonio area, but that isn’t why a county was named after him.  Keep going.

Being married to a Mexican, Deaf Smith learned Mexican customs and culture and easily made friends with both Americans and Mexicans.  When the Texas Revolution began he attempted to remain neutral, but was soon persuaded to be among the first to join the Texas Republican Army in Gonzalez.  His knowledge of the Mexicans and of the territory led to his being one of Sam Houston’s most reliable and trusted scouts.  He was also said to be the best spy in the army and has been called the “eyes and ears” of the Texas Army, even though he was going blind and deaf.

These disabilities sometimes hampered his reports.  Once Deaf Smith was sent by Sam Houston to try and find the Mexican Army.  When Smith returned he reported a large number of Mexicans marching in their direction.  When the “Mexican Army” finally got close to the Texan’s position the large army turned out to be a large herd of Santa Anna’s cattle.

On December 8, 1835, Deaf Smith, acting as scout, led the Texas Army to San Antonio.  He was severely wounded in a skirmish with the Mexicans but remained with the army.  History tells us that Deaf Smith had a coolness in the presence of danger and was “well known to the army for his vigilance and meritorious acts.” 

Once Deaf Smith recovered from his wounds he became a messenger for William B. Travis at the Alamo (doesn’t sound real good for Erastus now, does it?).  Travis said that Smith was “the bravest of the brave in the cause of Texas.”  Luckily for Smith, he was delivering a letter from Travis to Sam Houston and missed the Mexican Army’s final assault on the Alamo.

He did return to the Alamo under orders from Houston to learn the status of the Alamo’s garrison.  While Smith was gone, Houston wrote to Thomas Jefferson Rusk and said “if living, [Smith] will return with the truth and all important news.”  Smith did indeed return to tell Houston the tragic news and he brought with him a few of the Alamo survivors, namely Susanna Dickinson and her baby daughter, Angelina.

It is said that Deaf Smith was a man of few words and rarely complained.  However, after one of his missions he came to Houston greatly fatigued and asked to have a word with him. Deaf Smith stated "General, you are very kind to these Mexicans; I like kindness, but you are too kind—you won't allow me to kill any of them. If a man meets two of the enemy, and is not allowed to kill either, by the time he takes one and ties him, the other gets off so far, that it is very fatiguing on a horse to catch him; and I wish you would let me manage things in my own way."  Houston politely told him to avoid cruelness, but in the future, to do what he believed necessary.

The next I read of Deaf Smith was when he was at the battle of San Jacinto and captured a Mexican courier who was carrying orders for Gen. Santa Anna.  This gave Houston the strength of the Mexican Army and details on when Santa Anna was to be reinforced.  Houston ordered Smith to gather some men together and go quickly and destroy Vince’s Bridge to prevent the reinforcements from reaching Santa Anna but also to block any attempted retreat by Santa Anna.  Deaf Smith accomplished his mission and cut off the Mexican Army, a significant contribution to Texas winning their revolution with Mexico.  Deaf Smith was a true Hero of the Texas Revolution.  That is why a county was named after him!

For a short time after the revolution, Smith commanded a company of rangers to protect Texas' frontier settlements from Mexican and Indian raids.   Deaf Smith retired briefly with his family to Richmond, Texas, before he died on November 30, 1837.  Deaf Smith was buried in the Episcopal Churchyard were a grave marker reads “Deaf Smith, the Texas Spy.”

Deaf Smith County was named by the Texas legislature in 1876.  However, it was not established until 1890 when the town of LaPlata became its first county seat.  The current county seat is Hereford.  At first I thought that Hereford must be where the Hereford breed of cow originated.  But, no, the breed was developed in Herefordshire, England over 300 years ago and the breed was not established in the states until William H. Sotham and Erastus Corning of Albany, NY began the first Hereford breeding herd in 1840. 

Now, let’s get back to Deaf Smith County.  The Deaf Smith County website was last updated in December of 2005 so I was forced to find other sources of information.  The county population is 18,561 and all but about 3,000 live in the county seat of Hereford.  The county’s population density averages only 12 people per square mile. I didn’t see a single one of them while we were driving through the county.  I-40 does not go through Hereford so all I saw was open range.  At one time the county was selected as an alternate site for a possible nuclear waste disposal repository but was later dropped from consideration. 

Let’s review.  Deaf Smith County was named after
Erastus Smith who was from
New York and
imported cattle into Texas from Louisiana.  The county seat is named after the
Hereford breed of cow.  Deaf Smith once lived on a future
nuclear power generating site.

Erastus Corning from
New York once
imported cattle from England and established the
Hereford breed of cow.   Deaf Smith County was once considered as a
nuclear waste dump!

Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  It’s just too weird and bizarre!

Ah, The Sound of Air in The Morning!

"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."  Well, I don't know about the first two, but I did wake up a little smarter this morning.    As soon as I gained consciousness and opened my eyes it immediately occurred to me that yesterday I had tested the air compressor and pressure gauge and tried adjusting the dill valve in the valve extension and then just assumed the problem had to be the dill valve in the tire stem.  I should have remembered to NEVER assume.  You know what it does.  It makes an ASS out of U and ME!  Perhaps only me in this case.

As Bobby Darin sang in the oldie "Tossing and Turning," I jumped out of bed but instead of jumping in the bath, I grabbed my jeans, T-shirt, and a fleece (only 60 degrees out), went outside, removed the valve stem extension from the problem tire and compared its "male" end with the "male" end of an identical valve stem extension from the the passenger-side rear inside dual.  It was truly a "Eureka!" moment.  The "male" end of the valve extension from the problem tire was lacking the little dill pin whose job it was to depress the dill valve in the tire's valve stem so that air could pass in or out.  With the valve stem extension removed, I laid on my back with the top half of my body beneath the coach so that I could get the air hose up between the two tires and access the valve stem of the inner dual.  The hiss of air flowing into the tire sounded great.  I would have patted myself on the back if I could have reached it.  I will stop at a truck stop today and buy new valve extensions.  I guess the act of "sleeping on it" helped.

On to Santa Fe!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tires, Puha, and Crosses

This morning, before we left Wichita Falls, I managed to remove the Crossfire pressure equalization device from my driver-side rear duals.  The outside dual was in good shape, no loss of air pressure.  However, the inside dual was down to 45 PSI (less than half what it should be) so I got out my compressor and after adding a valve extension onto the stem so that the air nozzle could reach it, began adding air to the tire.  I kept checking the pressure at frequent intervals, but the pressure was not increasing in the tire, which is BAD news.  The compressor and the pressure gauge were both working properly (I tested them on another tire).  I thought the trouble might be with the Dill valve in the tire stem.  I have a tool for adjusting Dill valves and I adjusted it from all the way in to almost all the way out, but still no joy.  Sunday morning in a small Texas town is not a good time to need tire service.  I decided to add extra air to the outside dual and proceed to Amarillo instead of Tucumcari, NM.

We left the Wichita Falls RV park at 10 AM with the temperature a very pleasant 70°.  As we drove through Quanah, one of the many small towns along the route, I noticed a sign that read “Quanah, Home of Puha.”  Puha?  I had no idea what it could be so I asked Carol Ann to write it down so I could Google it later.

Closer to Amarillo we drove through another small town.  This one was Clarendon and I saw a sign as we entered the town that read something to the effect "Welcome to Quanah.  The town that believes in the Cross and the Crucifixion of Jesus.”  Okay.  This was another town I would need to Google!  As we drove through the small town I noticed many of the local businesses sporting signs praising Jesus and quoting scripture.  Some of the signs said that the end was coming and if I didn’t repent I would spend eternity in hellfire and damnation.  Then I noticed a cross on almost every street corner that we drove past.  These crosses were all made of white PVC pipe and stood about 6 or 8 feet tall.  I also noticed what seemed to be an awful (no pun intended) lot of churches for such a small town.

We continued on, eventually reaching Amarillo and I-40.  We drove through Amarillo and at the westernmost edge of town we drove past Cadillac Ranch.  This is a public art installation (is it really art?) that was created for a local Amarillo billionaire, Stanley Marsh III, in 1974 by a group of California (that may explain it) artists who called themselves The Ant Farm.   It seems that Stanley wanted something that would puzzle the locals so the hippies came up with the idea of creating a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin (why not?).   They drove 10 old Cadillacs, from a 1949 Club Sedan to a 1963 Sedan de Ville, out into one of Stanley’s fields and buried them about half way, standing on their grills with their tail fins in the air, and in a line facing west at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.  Go figure.  I’m sure than Stanley was pleased with himself.

Just beyond Cadillac Ranch we reached Oasis RV Park, a very nice park in which we have stayed in the past.  We pulled in at 3:30 PM with the temperature at 79°.  We had added another 238 miles and 4 hours and 45 minutes to the trip.  We slowed down today (average speed 50 mph) but gained only 0.1 mpg (from 6.9 mpg yesterday to 7 mpg today).  It’s almost not worth slowing down.

After a nap and supper I got out my laptop and began to Google.  First I searched for “Puha”.  I discovered that the Texas Panhandle was once part of Comanche Indian territory, which they called Comancheria.  “Puha”, as it turns out, is a word from the Comanche language and has several different meanings.  It does not mean “Pick Up and Haul Ass”, a translation attributed to a group of EMTs.  Instead, it means something like personal or medicine power or war honors, which I believe may be similar to the Jewish "Chutzpah."  “Puha” was acquired through a vision quest (this probably had something to do with Peyote).  If you had a lot of “Puha” you could be chief, or “parabio” as the Comanche called it.

The Quanah High School football team’s name is the Fighting Indians and they like to yell “PUHA” at their football games.  I’m sure it must send quite a scare through the opposing team.

Next to be Googled was Clarendon, TX and its fascination with crosses and the end of time.  The town has a population of just a little more than 1,900 people yet has 13 churches.  According to the internet's there are 5 Baptist Churches in Clarendon, 4 of them have the word "Calvary" in their name.  Other denominations represented in Clarendon include Methodist, Jehovah's Witnesses, Assembly of God, and a few of whose denomination is unknown to me.  That's an average of less than 150 people per church.  How do they support all of those churches?  I saw no signs of great wealth in Clarendon.  So here is what I learned about Clarendon.  It was established in 1878 by a Methodist preacher, L.H. Carhart, as a “sobriety settlement” in contrast to the wild boom towns of the time.  It soon became know as “Saints Roost” by local cowboys. 

There is a Centennial Marker in Clarendon showing the four elements upon which the county (Donley) was founded – Ranching, Farming, Education, and Churches.

Mr. Jim Griffin, a local resident, has taken it upon himself to convince people to repent their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.  In this effort he has erected over 40 PVC crosses in and around Clarendon.

Next week, the Donley County Commissioners will consider a request from a group calling themselves the “Citizens of Donley County”.  In a letter to the County Commission, the group says “our history is being lost to the younger generations” and ask that a marker commemorating the Ten Commandments be placed on the lawn of the 1890 courthouse, to “honor the influence that the Bible and the Christian faith has had on our nation and our county.”

As my wife, Carol Ann, said as we drove through Clarendon, “I’ll bet there isn’t one Democrat in this whole town!”