Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #5

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.”

Aldo Leopold

Monday, January 30, 2012:  Having made our mark on White Sands National Monument we decided to head toward Silver City, New Mexico because, well…..we have never been there.  In addition our favorite bruzzin-in-law and her sister just happen to be in that town for a few days.  Bea and Jo actually went out of their way to scope out the campgrounds in the area and recommend one in particular for which we thank them.  So, following breakfast, we climbed on US-70, known as the Battan Memorial Highway, and headed northwest.

Right outside Deming, NM Kit noticed that gas was $3.09 a gallon so we pulled in to fill up.  Amazing how one gets excited about gasoline near $3.00…..a sign of reluctant acceptance that the world oil industry has indeed got us by the you know what’s.

Around 1530 we stopped in Deming, NM so Kit could once again “Occupy Wal*Mart”.  I humored myself by people watching from a safe distance.  The Wal*Mart chain of mongo-stores is a world class people watching venue.  I was able to notch a sighting on my “Weird People of the World List” when I witnessed a young white gangsta looking dork pause by the deodorant rack.  He quickly looked up and down the aisle and then proceeded to “sample” one of the products by liberally squirting each armpit.  So if you ever notice that your Wal*Mart purchased deodorant doesn’t last as long as it used to…..you now know the rest of the story.

Two hours later, we jumped onto US-180 heading north and pulled into Silver City at 1900.  The dark of evening and a dimly lit campground could have made finding our way pretty interesting.  Fortunately the owner heard us arrive and interrupted his dinner to guide us into our spot.  All is well and following a quick snack it was off to bed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012-Silver City, New Mexico:  Up early and a walk around to see what our new home looked like.  Manzano’s RV Park is a very nice campground located in a rural area approximately 6 miles south of town.

The park was developed as a retirement project by Lico and Virginia Manzano on old family land.  They hired an architect and engineer to ensure they would end up with a top rated facility.  The young architect brought his RV’ing parents in on the project to ensure his plans would be suitable for folks that actually travel in campers…..something all RV Park developers should do.

They had enough land to construct a cookie cutter mega resort but chose to feature 18 well-spaced sites while leaving much of the native vegetation intact.  The result is truly magical and one of the best commercial RV parks we have stayed in.

In addition, the rates were reasonable and the owners are very friendly and conscientious, catering to the need of every camper.

At an altitude of close to 6000 feet, the overnight temperatures can drop well below freezing…..and such was the case during our stay.  However with our 4 season capable RV we remained warm, cozy and comfortable.  The daytime temperature quickly rebounded into the mid 60’s as the desert sun warmed the countryside.

Kit and I made arrangements to meet for breakfast with Bea and Jo at Vickie’s Eatery, a popular restaurant that features homemade fare.

Two of the folks in the above photo are from Maine, one is from Montana and the other is from Tucson…..can you tell who is from where?

Following a fantastic breakfast and lively conversation, Jo invited us back to the place she is renting for a few months, a nice old home within walking distance of most everything.  Since it was Bea’s last day in town we bid her a farewell and spent the rest of the day exploring the town.

Silver City is just one of many 1860’s mining towns in New Mexico.  However, unlike other boom towns, Silver City is still thriving.  It was founded by a gentleman named John Bullard who affixed his name to the only road in town and was promptly shot with an Apache arrow.

There is an active copper (not silver) mine southwest of town that provides employment for many townsfolk.  I’m guessing old John named his town Silver City because he knew a great many pensioners would likely discover the place as a decent retirement location.

The use of “Strip Mining” technology in these parts is the preferred method to extract copper from the ground.  I believe the term strip mining comes from the fact that everyone works naked which probably prevents miners from carrying out the product in their pockets.  If you follow the news, you know that copper has become valuable to the point where crooks are cutting the stuff out of abandoned buildings and some live power stations.  I think we all can help solve the copper shortage and help ourselves in the process.  If every citizen would locate those Mason jars of pennies stashed around the house and then use the coins to pay their federal income taxes the government would be flush in copper.  They Feds could then dump all that copper on the commodities market which would drive the price down and those poor miners can once again work in the desert sun fully clothed.  And….. (Nope not done yet!)…..as a side benefit, the bazillions of pennies the Feds receive would keep the bureaucrats busy for the rest of the year and out of our hair…..I’d say a win-win!

OK, back to reality…..among the town of Silver Cities more notorious citizens was William Bonney better known as Billy the Kid.  He was raised by his mom in a dirt floor cabin near town.  Billy’s mom was a fastidious housekeeper and spent her days sweeping the dust and dirt out of the home.  Eventually a large depression developed under the house and she is now credited with inventing the cellar.  (Disclaimer: The below photo copied from the website.)

Town legend has it that young Billy was from a deprived and improvised background and therefore was not to blame for being a crook.  The town marshal “Dangerous Dan Tucker” (yep…..look it up!) wasn’t swayed by local sympathies and threw Billy in the clinker on many occasions.  Today old Dangerous Dan would be fired for cruelty to a disadvantaged citizen.

OK…..back to reality…..honest!  Walking down Bullard Street, I spotted this contraption outside the local bike shop and went inside to meet the owner and talk about, what else…..bikes.

As Kit browsed the many antique, craft and quilt shops I spent my time visiting with the folks that chose to live, work and ride bikes in and around Silver City.  Found out there are numerous multi-use trails in the mountains north of town that cover thousands of acres.  Need to check these out!

Kit and I met for a late lunch at Jalisco’s, another great recommendation by Jo and Bea.  Over lunch we discussed staying an additional night so we could enjoy more of this area.  The decision was unanimous…..another day in Silver City it is!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012:  Woke to a cool clear morning and coyote’s howling off in the distance.  Kit wanted a down day to read, knit and enjoy some Kit time so I took the opportunity to drive up into the mountains north of town.

The road was narrow, steep and winding…..or, in my opinion, perfect!  This is the Gila National Forest and was championed by the great environmentalist Aldo Leopold.  It has the distinction of being the first national wilderness area set aside by the government to stay forever wild.  There is only one way in, and that road only penetrates a small portion of this vast area.

Gaining altitude, I began to see patches of snow and started to enjoy the cool crisp mountain air.  This seemed a fitting opportunity to pop in my Ken Burns National Park CD and enjoy the trek.

After two pleasant hours covering 42 miles, I came to the end of the road at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

As luck would have it a ranger was leading a small party up into the dwellings and I was able to tag along.  The hike to the ruins was an easy half mile jaunt over an improved footpath.

The group started getting glimpses of our destination as we proceeded up the canyon wall.

Soon, we arrived at the first of six caves that the Mogollon Indians used to build their homes and establish a community.

The ruins were remarkably intact due to the remoteness of the area and the fact that they were only occupied for about 11 years……something or someone caused the Mogollon People to leave their home rather abruptly.  I was particularly impressed by the views out the openings that allowed the low winter sun to warm the chamber and keep the higher summer sun at bay.  In addition I bet the view allowed the lookouts to detect any potential enemies long before they could reach the dwellings.  Besides…..pretty nice view out anyone’s front porch, don’t you think?

The 6 cave complex contains 40 separate rooms, and most have been identified as to use.  Notice the soot still visible on the cave ceiling in the cooking room some 800 years later.  In addition, there were a number of pictographs still visible in and near the caves.

I know it’s no longer politically correct to call an American Indian “redskin”, but look at the color they chose to depict their human form…..just saying.

After the tour I retraced my path out of the Gila National Wilderness and took a detour through the old mining ghost town of Pinos Altos.  Many of the buildings still exist and a few have even been re-purposed into taverns and shops.

As a point of irony, Pinos Altos is Spanish for tall pines which flourished in this area until 1870 when the miners and settler’s cut them all down to build their town.

Rejoining Kit back at the campground we enjoyed some wine, dinner and conversation about our individual day’s activities.  We both agreed that Silver City will be added to a continually growing list of places we want to return and explore some more.

Thursday, February 2, 2012:  Woke to a frosty morning under clear cobalt skies.  While backing the truck in position to hook up the trailer I discovered that a regional horticultural pest, “The New Mexican Wandering Pinion” had positioned itself to impact (pun intended) my day.

Ouch…..other that the cosmetic scar, and as you may know stuff like that bugs me, there is the problem of keeping dust and rain out of the truck bed where we store a bunch of stuff.  In addition the door doesn’t lock anymore.  This issue will need fixing as soon as we get to Tucson…..where, coincidentally, we are headed next!

On our way at 1040 heading west on US-90…..it is 43 degrees and the skies are clear.  Within an hour Lordsburg, New Mexico comes into view and we decided to take I-10 west into Arizona.  A few miles down the road we spotted this sign.

Turned out that the dust storm wasn’t too bad, however as the dust subsided we encountered this uncomfortable sight.

Yikes!!!  It took a second to realize that the big rig was actually being towed backwards on the hook of a huge wrecker.

Crossing into Arizona around noon we decided to take a break at the Texas Canyon Rest Area, a favorite stop of ours before rolling into Tucson.

Following lunch and a walk around the picnic area, we once again merged onto I-10 and found our way to The Doobie RV Resort and Spa…..one of our all-time favorite spots to camp!

Stay tuned for the next installment…..Fun in Tucson with Bruzzin Dew, Other Brother Dan and BFF Bea.  And, lots of time with my 87 year old mom, better known locally as Whistle-britches.

Kit’s Corner:  We loved Silver City!  Never knew a thing about it till Bea started talking about it.  We hope to return some time to explore a bit more of the area.  We’re both getting anxious to get to Tucson to see family.  I’m not sure why he makes me add something; I can’t think of a thing to say…..

Advertisements

Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #4

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Beware thoughts that come in the night!

William Least Heat-Moon

Saturday, January 28, 2012-Carlsbad, New Mexico:  Decided to stay two nights so we could visit Carlsbad Caverns and look about the town of Carlsbad……home of the caverns previously mentioned.  And for the record, Carl’s not bad…..just a touch misguided.  Overnight the temperature dipped below freezing but when the sun came up it quickly rose into the mid 60’s.

It had been 36 years since we were last at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and we were curious as how it might have changed.  Well to begin with there is a nice new visitor’s center powered by rooftop solar panels.

The facility was also designed to allow the constant 56 degree cave air to cool the visitor’s center.  However it was quickly evident that moisture was being sucked out of the cave as well and some cave formations stopped growing.

The path walking into the “natural opening” entrance to the cave was also relatively new.

Back in 1976, there was just the large hole and a very steep, very wide paved area that led into the abysses.  Notice anything else unusual about the photo above?  Yep, there are no people…..I just about had the place to myself.  It was a bit unique actually, considering that about a half million people visit this site each year.  It also allowed me to really experience the quiet and solitude that the early explorers enjoyed.  However I was able to enjoy stable footing on a paved footpath and handrails.  The early folks used carbide lanterns and wood ladders.


The handrails are new as well…..back in the day there was just a short stone wall to prevent folks from wandering off into cave.

The many formations were as spectacular as I remember and the 2 ½ mile walk through the various chambers dazzled at every turn.

 

The following photo is one of my favorite speleothems of all time.  It is, in my opinion, an excellent example of mother earth’s spectacular work and one of the most pleasing geologic formations in the caverns.  I devoted a good amount of time studying and photographing this mesmerizing form.

I like the fact that the National Park Service has a sense of humor.  Look at where they placed a sign that causes one to pause and read.  Then glancing up you noticed a huge pile of Bat Guano perched precariously over your head.

Speaking of Bat Poop……the folks around here, at one time, actually collected the stuff to use as fertilizer.  They lowered some poor schmuck down the shaft in a barrel where he toiled for hours filling the barrel so it could be lifted out.  I imagine he had to forgo lunch as his meal would ride down in that very same barrel.  At the end of his shift the poor slob would climb in the slimy barrel to be hoisted back into daylight.  And you thought your job sucked!

In the Big Room, a vast cave over 8 acres which is 750 feet below the surface, there used to be a fully functioning cafeteria.  However it was closed some years ago due to a concern that cooking fumes were altering the cave formations.  However the area still exists and houses a small gift shop and snack bar where you can purchase packaged food.

There is a one mile self-guided tour around the perimeter of the Big Room where some of the most famous and spectacular cave features reside.

To enhance the experience, the National Park Service provides, for a nominal charge, a digital playback device that is keyed to various sites along the tour route.  All you have to do is punch in the number of the station and the device explains what you are viewing.  A very helpful and enjoyable way to learn about this remarkable cave system and its history.

There are hundreds of miles of caves that have been identified but not fully explored, some over 1000 feet deep.  These contain even more spectacular formations but will likely never be opened to the public in order to preserve the fragile cave ecosystem that make these national treasures so special.

As a side note, there are ranger guided tours of areas in the main cave system that are not altered for easy public access…..these are by reservation only and fill up quickly.  One tour of interest to me, the Slaughter Canyon Cave, requires caving gear which is provided by the park service and lots of crawling through narrow muddy passages.  The next time in this area I’m going to plan ahead and get on this tour.

The park rangers I encountered were very knowledgeable and informative.  I even met a few that had pulled a tour of duty upta Acadia National Park in Maine.  However, I did run into one dufuss ranger that had me talking to myself.

I’ve been in numerous caves over the years, and even though Kartchner Caverns in Arizona is my favorite, no other cave can compare to the overall diversity and magnitude of Carlsbad Caverns…..no wonder it’s a National Park!

After leaving the cavern we drove the Reef Top Loop, a 9 mile dirt road through the back country.

At nearly every turn we noticed the effects from last summer’s wildfires that nearly wiped out the National Park’s visitor center.

Sunday, January 29, 2012:  Today is a milestone of sorts.  We were just informed that our travel Journal Website has accumulated 20,000 hits!  A bit overwhelming and kinda humbling.  Either there are lots of folks following these postings or just one guy with a strange hobby…..anyway, thanks for taking the time to find and follow our adventures on the web!

Carlsbad, New Mexico is a nice little town of 26,000 folks located in the Pecos River Valley of the Chihuahuan Desert.  Its main industries are mining, tourism and breeding those tiny little Mexican dogs.  At over 3000 feet in elevation the nighttime winter temperatures can drop well below freezing.  This morning we woke to a temperature of 24 degrees and a frozen water hose.  However by 0730 the bright desert sun had warmed the hose and all was well again.

We broke camp and by 0930 we were heading north on US-285 toward Artesia, New Mexico.  As we left Carlsbad city limits we noticed a sign for “The Pecos Flume” and pulled off onto a side road to investigate.

Turns out that this engineering marvel, built in 1902, was used to divert water from the Pecos River by way of a cement culvert.  It would then loop back and cross over the main natural part of the river to irrigate what otherwise would be a very dry town of Carlsbad.  When it was constructed it was the world’s largest concrete structure and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not honored the Pecos as “The World’s Only River That Crosses Itself” due to the Pecos Flume.

Another Carlsbad attraction that we skipped was The Living Desert Museum as we have enjoyed these attractions in the past.  I was initially interested, however when the RV Park owner told of a female painting bare at the museum……however I soon discovered that she meant a female painting bear, a highlight of the attached zoo, and a locally renowned modern art painter.  This would have been almost as enjoyable but the old girl was on sabbatical.

We rolled through the nice little town of Artesia and then proceeded on US-82 West toward the Lincoln National Forest and Cloudcroft, New Mexico.  The road soon became steep and winding and our speed was reduced to 35 miles per hour…..as a result, we eked out an average fuel economy of 6.7 MPG.  As we climbed into the Sacramento Mountains we started to see snow alongside the road.

At 8,650 feet we topped out at the summit where we decided to pull over for a break, eat some lunch and a take advantage of an unusual photo opportunity.

Hard to believe that there is so much snow in New Mexico, until we realize that this location is higher in altitude than any mountain in New England…..only then did the existence of snow make sense.

As we descended down the backside of the Sacramento Mountain Range we could see, in the far off distance, a thin white line.  This was White Sands National Monument just outside the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico.  Downshifting to control our speed we coasted most of the way and enjoyed an average fuel economy of 99 MPG.  This part of the trip is going downhill fast…..which is a good thing!

Back at 4000 feet elevation the terrain leveled out and we continued along US-82 toward Alamogordo.

Right outside town we encountered our first Border Patrol Station of this year’s trip.

Now we are used to seeing these checkpoints further south but figured they finally made a smart move by erecting a station here, closer to Roswell, New Mexico where aliens are far more likely to gather.

Just north of Alamogordo we jumped onto US-70 and headed south until we came to Holloman Air Force Base where we decided to stop for the night.  The campground was full of folks going to technical schools on base but they had plenty of overflow capacity, and at $3.00 a night it was a bargain.  So we set up, pulled out the generator and enjoyed the stay.

 

Monday, January 30, 2012:  Up early so we would have time to make a few stops on our way to Silver City, New Mexico.  It was a cool 44 degrees under sunny skies as we hit the road.  The first stop was White Sands National Monument.

We visited this park two years ago found it very interesting and one of the few places in this area of the country where I could get some use out of the yellow banana I’ve been toting around on the roof.

The dunes are in a constant state of flux, shifting about with the wind and occasionally covering the roads.  Whole dunes can migrate up to 30 feet in a single year and snow plows are routinely used to keep the road, parking areas and picnic sites clear of the encroaching sand.

The brilliant white sand that make up this park is made of gypsum crystals and perfect for sledding.  Depending on the moisture content of the material the ride down the slipface can be rather fast.  After locating a suitable dune I used the rope haul method to access the summit.

As Kit handled the camera, I made a few valiant attempts to get into the running for this year’s Darwin Awards.

The ride wasn’t as fast as I remember.  The sand seemed moister and was actually pretty cold to the touch.  By the second run, my bare feet were freezing!

Since we have learned how to make videos, Kit our capable cinematographer filmed one of the events for possible inclusion in the lawsuit: Bill vs. The National Park Service.  Check it out at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGRX0M1sqFM

After dumping sand out of every possible location and loading the kayak on the truck we enjoyed a dune side lunch and a walking around the park.  I happened to notice that the truck’s tires had deposited a layer of gypsum on the trailer which had dried and now resembled a piece of wallboard.

Yea, I pick up some pretty weird souvenirs…..now to keep it dry.

Leaving White Sands National Park we headed for our next stop…..The White Sands Missile Range and toured their museum.

Nearly every gun and missile system in the US arsenal has been tested here.  There were even some naval weapon systems that I was familiar with.

 The 5” 54 caliber gun (left) and the Tartar (middle) and Terrier (right) surface-to-air missiles.

The museum even offered a trip out to the Trinity test site where the world’s first nuclear detonation occurred in 1945.  The ground zero site, even after 67 years, is still a taint bit radioactive and since one had to sign a waiver of liability I thought I would pass.  Besides, to me, a little bit radioactive sounds the same as a little bit pregnant.  The first nuclear device, or “gadget” as it was euphemistically called, resembled the below mock-up.

The museum also contained a large variety of drones and drone control systems as well as various telemetry and high speed photographic equipment.  There was also a portion of the museum devoted to Civil Defense where the following important items were stacked.

Believe it or not, we have one of these barrels in our cellar…..not sure where we picked it up but the thing makes an excellent trash can.  If you read the label carefully you will notice that the thing was shipped as a drinking water container and, when empty, would be used to deposit the spent H2O.

OK…..this next item is pretty wild and may explain all the hysteria around Roswell, New Mexico which is a mere 120 miles to the northwest.

Here is the placard in front of the thing.

Nothing more need be said……well, except by Kit.

Kit’s Corner:  All I can say is; I’m glad Bill got to use his kayak at least once on this trip!  It is probably the most well-travelled kayak in the world.  I have suggested he get an inflatable kayak for the few times he needs it, then, I realized I would never be able to find the truck when I come out of Wal*Mart.  So now, I’m OK with this monster thing that accompanies us around the US.

Bill and Kit’s 2012 Excellent Adventure-Journal #3

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

 

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.

Jack Kerouac

Monday, January 23, 2012:  Shortly before noon, we piled into the Family Truckster, bid adieu to our gracious host and once again hit the road.  Fortunately, there was no damage.  Duh…..I didn’t notice that road was there yesterday.

Decided to take a more northerly route across Texas this year.  In trips past we have driven US-90 through many small towns or headed further south to the gulf coast and followed the border route through Del Rio and Big Bend National Park.

Not finding a suitable back road we reluctantly jumped on I-35 heading north.  Once past Austin we moved over to US-195 and made our way to Killeen, Texas the home of Fort Hood Army Base.

We decided to stay a night or two at the military campground on Fort Hood in order to dump tanks, take care of laundry, replenish at the commissary and tour one of the largest military installations in the world.  There was plenty of room at the park so we choose a nice site off by ourselves.

Getting on the base is a challenge, especially pulling an RV.  First there is an intensive screening process and inspection of the trailer, and then virtually everywhere you go you’re asked to show your military ID card.  This heightened security starts to make sense when you learn that Fort Hood is a prime target to those who want to strike out at the US Military.  In addition, two years ago, on this very post, a US Army Major turned radical Islamic Terrorist gunned down 43 individuals, killing 13 of them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012-Fort Hood, Texas:  This place is huge!  At 250,000 acres and 33,700 personnel, Fort Hood is the largest military installation in the United States.  In driving around the post, you have a feeling you’re in any small town, USA.   However with so many of the residents wearing military camouflage the place looks deserted.

We took care of some chores, stocked up and stayed in for the afternoon.  There was a big storm brewing and we needed to take care of some correspondence and internet banking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012:  Woke early after a night of heavy rain and wind.  When we turned on the computer we noticed the following banner headline on weather.com:

Water Rescues, Flash Floods Hit Texas:  Inches of rain have fallen overnight, creating a dangerous situation. Stay off the roads until water recedes and be alert for flash flooding.

So we debated whether to stay another night or wait until midmorning to see if the flooding had lessened.  By 1000 we determined it was safe to travel so we broke camp and got on the road by 1050.

The sky was overcast and the temperatures were in the mid 50’s.  As we left the base we noticed an interesting sign that said:  “You survived the war, you can survive the highway…..drive safe!”

Choosing to take US-190 heading west toward Rochelle, Texas we soon witnessed this rather ominous sight out the windshield.

However the only weather we encountered was some light drizzle as the storm passed to the north of our track.

In a few hours we moved over to US-1121 and continued west.  Traffic was light on this two lane country road and the driving was easy.  Avoiding the Interstates causes us, at times, to stitch together a number of local roads to head in our intended direction.  Such was the case today as we pinballed about central Texas until eventually riding US-87N into San Angelo.  Since it was approaching 1600, we decided to stay for the night at San Angelo State Park where we chose a nice secluded camp site.

Thursday, January 26, 2012-San Angelo State Park, Texas:  Since we had electric and water hookups we decided to stay a second night so we could look around the park a bit.  Around 0900 we took off in the truck to explore this 7500 acre facility.

San Angelo State Park normally sits on the shore of OC Fisher Lake, however due to the severe drought it is has been reduced to a large pond.  The boat launch ramp is high and dry and hundreds of yards from the water.

And swimming could be a bit thorny (pun intended).

There were some very nice hiking and biking trails that crisscross the park.  Kit went for a walk and had an enjoyable time…..however she did have a rather close encounter with a skunk that left her a bit rattled.  I took off on my bike to explore some of the backcountry trails.

Most of the bike trails were flat single-track with the usual desert obstacles about.

While out riding, I decided to see if my cameras timer would work in the movie mode.  I was able to capture a short video which I posted on You Tube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WgUxzhPjkw&feature=g-upl&context=G249af68AUAAAAAAAAAA

While riding past a damp portion of the trail I noticed the below paw prints.

Actually, I guess they could have been maw prints, not knowing the gender of the animal.  Don’t even know what kind of animal it might have been.  Any of you wildlife experts care to identify what made these impressions?  Not being sure exactly where on the food chain I might be, I picked up the pace a bit.

Back at camp, and with me still out, Kit was able to enjoy some quite reading time and work on a knitting project.  I think she scored a nap as well.

Later in the afternoon, due to a nice steady breeze, I was able to do some more kite flying.  If only the lake was a bit more accessible I could have enjoyed the illusive “Triple Crown”, biking, flying and kayaking in the same day…..oh well maybe next time.

After a very enjoyable and relaxing day we sat out, enjoyed cocktails and watched the sun set in the western sky.

Friday, January 27, 2012:  A beautiful, clear cool morning dawned as we made preparations to leave San Angelo State Park.

At a little before 1000, following a stop at the dump station, we were back on US-87N and setting a course toward Midland, Texas.  As the terrain changed from rolling hills to the plains of west Texas we started seeing more and more oil wells.  Nothing unusual about this, except most of them were actively pumping and there was even evidence of new drilling.

We also started noticing the distinct aroma of raw crude oil emanating from the many new tank farms along the highway.  In addition over 50 percent of the traffic on this highway was tanker trucks or oil field service trucks.  Now, this part of US-87 has a posted speed limit of 75 MPH. That’s a closing speed of 150 MPH, folks…..on a narrow two lane road…..Yikes!  We, of course, were trundling along at our customary 55 to 60 MPH so we generally were leading a parade of anxious truck drivers until it was safe to pull over and let them by.  Most of those professional truckers were appreciative and either honked, waved or flashed their lights in thanks.  One or two even indicated I was number one by use of hand gestures.

Stopped midday at a roadside picnic area that contained what we have been calling Texas Targets.  Those are any signs, most containing historical or other information that stand there just waiting to be shot at.

Big bullet hole…..perhaps my hunter friends can decipher the caliber of the round that made that ¾ inch hole.  Occasionally, a true marksman will group a few rounds close enough to serve as a frame of sorts for our sitting rig.

Shortly after noon we punched out the backside of the drizzly weather and pulled into Midland, Texas where we noticed this sign.

I think the motto; “Where The Sky’s The Limit” refers to the Federal Budget.

Feeling a patriotic duty to see the abode that shaped young Georges formative years we hunted around for the old homestead.  Soon, on a quiet street, a few blocks from downtown, we found it!

A rather unimposing home that at one time, housed two future presidents, two future governors and a future first lady.  In later years it housed common folk that actually worked for a living.  If you look closely at the top of the chimney, you should notice an inverted cross…..I’m thinking that’s a satanic symbol, every bit as insidious as the Subaru logo.

Also you will notice something unusual about the landscaping…..the yard is full of perennials known as “Dubya Bush’s”.  Notice how all their limbs and branches emanate from the right side of the stem.

We also learned that Midland is home to the Commemorative (formerly Confederate) Air Force.  This collection of WWII military war-birds was started by some friends acquiring a surplus P-51 Mustang back in 1957.  Soon they attracted partners and acquired more vintage planes so that today there are 9,000 members and a collection of 160 aircraft.  We seriously considered a RON (military jargon that means-Remain Over Night), but the docent at Bush’s place said that all area campgrounds were chock full due to the new Texas oil boom……so visiting The Commemorative Air Force will go on the Bucket List for another time.

Texas oil boom?????  Yep…..West Texas is once again rolling in oil money due to modern technology being used to extract additional oil from what was once thought to be depleted fields.  The use of Hydraulic Fracturing (also called Fracking) to open up solid rock allows wells to access these vast oil resources.  In addition it has opened a huge environmental controversy.  But not in Midland…..they love it!

Leaving the town of Midland we traveled west on TX-257 then moved over to TX-302 continuing west.  Soon we were passing the small town of Notrees, Texas (yep, true to its handle…..there were no trees) and Kermit, Texas.  The later advertised as the home of Jim Sharp…..nothing particularly important about that except old Jim was the only resident.

This part of Texas is miles and miles of miles and miles.

We started noticing facilities that were built for the purpose of turning brine into fresh water.  We have seen these desalination plants before, but usually near the seacoast.  In this case these salt to fresh water plants take the waste byproduct from Hydraulic Fracturing, which is estimated to be 170 million gallons a month and turn it into fresh water by a process called reverse osmosis.  The US Navy uses a similar method to turn seawater into potable water for shipboard use.  Texas A&M is leading the research in this effort.  Regardless of one’s political opinion of the Fracturing process, turning a pollutant into a resource makes sense…..especially in drought stricken Texas.

Soon we moved over to US-285N and at 1645 we crossed into New Mexico and the Mountain Time Zone.  Almost instantly the terrain changed…..what had been flat barren plains turned into rolling hills with more green vegetation.

At 1627 we pulled into Carlsbad, NM and the Pecos River RV Park (Yep, 1627…..we gained an hour back at time 1645).  The RV Park was in town and not the type of place we like to camp, especially when a big bully pulls in right beside us…..but it was cheap and convenient.

Those large trees you see in the photo above are Pecan Trees and their nuts!  Dropping golf ball sized Pecan pods all over the place.  While out taking photo’s the RV Park owner came over and explained that the pecan is actually a fruit and grows inside its shell which is encased in a husk.  When the fruit ripens the husk splits into four segments and releases the shell.  Below is a photo of the husk on the right and the pecan in its shell on the left.

Commercial Pecan growers use devices called Shakers that grab the trunk and, well shake the beejeses out of it.  The Pecan shells then fall out of their husk landing on the ground where they are collected.  In the case of these trees, they just let the Pecan’s fall naturally or leave them for the squirrels and birds.  She invited me to pick up as many Pecans as I wanted.  I then spent a bit of time trying to get at the fruit inside…..a task well worth the effort.  Oh, she also said Pecan is an Indian word meaning “a nut requiring a stone to crack”……Google it!

True to its name, this RV Park backs up onto the Pecos River which runs right through the town of Carlsbad.

It features a very nice river walk and lots of local water fowl.

I think these are geese, but they don’t look like any goose I’ve seen back home.  Not that I notice a goose, at least at first…..it kinda comes as unexpected surprise……like an Atomic Wedgie…..um, or so I’ve been told.

Back at the trailer we booted up the computer and learned that today is the 125th anniversary of the discovery of the world’s largest snowflake.  I guess the 15 inch specimen was shipped to England where the folks at the Guinness tasting room studied the spot of water and certified the claim.

That evening, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner as we listened to country music from a station in Roswell.  Not sure what country but it was pretty good.  Speaking of C&W there is a song by Toby Keith that, if you haven’t heard it, you might want to.  Click here for a real treat.  http://www.cmt.com/videos/toby-keith/699783/red-solo-cup.jhtml

Reminds you of every party you have ever been to, doesn’t it?

Kit’s Corner:  Texas is so big; I doubt we will run out of roads to take to get through it.  Years ago, we drove faster and mostly at night to get through it but, of course, we always had time constraints.  Now, taking our time, we can finally explore and enjoy the many nice places in the state, especially their beautiful State Parks.  We try to stay in a couple of new ones each time we pass through.  We are looking forward to a bit more time in New Mexico.  We usually just cut across the southwest corner on our way to AZ.