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Showing posts from December, 2010

2010's In The Books

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Before I get into my last post for 2010, a few housekeeping notes:

First, Dar has been working feverishly and, as of yesterday, achieved her goal of having all the photos from our 2010 explorations uploaded to our online photo collection. Due to our pace of travel the past few weeks we were often adding more pictures to the pile than could be processed into online albums. But, for the most part, they're up there now for your viewing pleasure. We arrange our photos in albums, each one focuses on a specific subject or exploration day. The albums are arranged in reverse chronological order -- the most recent right at the top.

Second, I fell behind a little too. Yesterday, I went back to December 23rd and added a long post about our travels to Terlingua and the Road to Presidio. This post is titled "Kosmic Kafes, Ghost Towns, and Mystery Lights". I hope you'll check it out.

And third, I've gone back to a number of posts from the past month or so and added photos... …

Pooped

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Well, we did it. We turned a 6 mile hike into an 8+ mile hike, and our lazy bones (and muscles, joints, etc.) weren't as in-shape as we were hoping. As a result, we were both dragging by the time we got back to the bus-house this afternoon... but, we were in good spirits and glad we completed the Rio Grande Trail here at Seminole Canyon State Park.

After shedding some gear, popping a couple ibuprofen, and pouring a large beaker of electrolyte replacement therapy (beer), we sat outside, cool as it was, and tried to soak up some of the last heat rays from the sun. It was a great feeling.

Today's trail took us from the campground out to the point where Seminole Canyon meets the Rio Grande River... which, because of a dam, actually has real water in it at this point and is called Lake Amistad. Near that junction is the real attraction for making the hike... an open rock shelter/cave called Panther Cave, on the other side of the canyon. The Cave is only accessible by boat but is ve…

Seminole Canyon - The Sequel

Since leaving the Tucson area almost two weeks ago, we've been living around 4,000 and 5,000 feet of elevation as we moved through southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and into West Texas. Alpine, which we said "adios" to this morning, is 4,500 feet. This is "high country" and during the winter, high country is often cold -- especially at night.

But we're rolling downhill now.. toward the warmer and more humid Gulf Coast. After a pleasant 166 mile run today, we decided to use our Texas State Parks pass and a "buy one - get one at half price" camping deal at Seminole Canyon State Park, near the confluence of the Pecos and  Rio Grande Rivers, and about 40 miles northwest of Del Rio, TX. I mean, how can we go wrong?.. the average for our two nights here will be about $12 per night which includes water at the site and a little electicity to help us stay warm. The elevation here is about 1,400 feet, but during the next week we'll loose almost…

Life at Lost Alaskan

The past few nights the low temps here in Alpine Texas have been in the low 20's, which feels more Alaskan than Texan... in my humble opinion. Sure, we're in West Texas and just a few miles from where, in January of 2008, we experienced our record low temp since starting the Sabbatical. But we've been fortunate with weather so far this fall and winter... maybe a little spoiled as a result.

Our Christmas was very nice. The RV Park sponsored a Mexican-themed Christmas pot-luck luncheon where we enjoyed chatting with other RVers in travel-mode during the holidays... and sampling the wide array and quantity of food. Later in the afternoon we made calls to family, including something new-to-us -- Skype video calls with our son and daughter-in-law, and our daughter, son-in-law, and the two grandkids. The advantage of an audio and video connection is priceless when grandkids are growing so fast.

Today we're vegging a little, listening to a couple football games, and getting r…

Merry Christmas Everyone

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Kosmic Kafes, Ghost Towns, and Mystery Lights

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The last time we were in the Big Bend area we didn't visit Terlingua or take the Road to Presidio. Well, that was remedied on the Thursday before Christmas... during our stay at Lost Alaskan in Alpine Texas. Terlingua, on the west side of Big Bend National Park, is a pretty good poke -- about 80 miles -- from Alpine, so we made an effort to get an early start. The first part of the drive was more twisty and hilly than I thought it'd be, testament to the mountainous region that Alpine is in. From our 4500 foot elevation at Alpine it's a mostly downhill run to the 2700 foot elevation of Terlingua. And due to this lower elevation, it's usually considerably warmer than Alpine too.

Our first stop was the famous Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe'. This famous local eatery is really a collection of trailers sheds and other structures that house the facilities. Most of the food fixin' is done indoors... most of the eatin' is done outside, at tables under a roofed area…

Calm After the Flood

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I was startled awake this morning... oh, about 6am... by a scream.

"Whaa... what?... where am I?... what time is it?... what's wrong?"

As my head cleared I learned we were victims of a flood. Dar had gotten up to... well, to do what we "fifty-ish and older" people do at 6am... to pee. It's still plenty dark here in West Texas at 6am, so to minimize the eye-pain from bright lights she decided to get the job done by the light of the silvery moon. Same old routine, you know... lid goes up... drawers go down... and sit... but in this case, on a full and over-flowing bowl of (thank God) fresh water... well, at least as fresh as water that's made it that far can be. And it's not just in the bowl, no sir. It's down the sides, on the floor, out the... err... powder room door, into the kitchen area... and, we learned later... down into one of the storage bays below. What the heck happened? Is this what they call a sitz bath?

Truth be known... we had a sma…

The El Paso Gauntlet

Our 270 mile jaunt yesterday was a mostly pleasurable and interesting drive, except for the terror of driving through El Paso. Due to the geography of the area, it's nearly impossible to avoid driving through this miserable dusty excuse for a town. All east-west traffic, highway or railroad, must squeeze through a mile-wide slot between mountains to the north and the Rio Grande river (the US - Mexico border) to the south -- so there's a lot going on through there. At the closest point, I-10 is less than 200 yards from the border.

El Paso has a population of 750,000. It's adjoining sister-city just across the Rio Grande, Juarez, has twice that... 1.5 million. Both times we've been through here in the past few years, a dense visible layer of dust, smoke, smog, exhaust, manure methane, and bad-breath, hangs over the area like a suffocating blanket. To be fair, there are probably some nice areas around town... I just haven't seen them.

Just to the northwest of the metr…

Movin' Monday

This morning we're leaving Las Cruces and resuming our eastward drive toward the Gulf Coast. Most people, with a car, would be there by nightfall tonight... I mean, it's only about 700 miles. But these intrepid explorers still have two weeks to cover those miles. Ahh... the luxury of time!

As a result, we think we'll spend a full week at our next stop... wherever that may be. Dar thinks it might be nice if we have a few days to enjoy Christmas. Check in later to see where we've established our Christmas Camp.

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White Sands

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Sand. White sand... as far as the eye can see. Huge, moving piles of the stuff... so white one would be forgiven for thinking it was the aftermath of a blizzard in Wisconsin. They plow it, just like snow. It drifts in the wind, just like snow. Kids and adults alike sled down steep hills of the stuff... just like snow. It's cool to the touch, even on the hottest days in summer. It's the largest gypsum dune field in the world at 275 square miles... the next largest is a mere 8 square miles. It's the White Sands National Monument.

Saturday we made the 50 mile trek northeast out of Las Cruces, through a gap, the St. Augustin Pass, between the San Andreas Mountains and the Organ Mountains in south central New Mexico. On the other side of the pass and almost 2000 feet below, is a broad flat valley called the Tularosa Basin -- 150 miles long and up to 60 miles wide. A large portion of the valley is used by the White Sands Missile Range, the largest military installation in the U.S…

Favorable Winds in New Mexico

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Having thoroughly enjoyed our brief survey of Bisbee, we took advantage of the favorable weather to make our run into and across New Mexico. As most regular travelers through this area can relate, winter weather in New Mexico can be brutal at times... not so much precipitation, but high winds, and colder temps than unsuspecting travelers would anticipate. When through here in February of 2008 [link to journal entry] we had to deal with 50mph winds.

The 240 mile drive yesterday seemed easy. The miles melted away. We had a brisk tailwind for most of the journey, a luxury that doesn't happen often enough. Car drivers don't concern themselves with winds as the aerodynamic shapes of modern cars almost make winds a non-factor. But big old RV's have to punch a big 12 by 8-1/2 foot hole through the air when running down the road... that's a hundred square feet... and the laws of physics say that won't happen without horsepower and, of course, fuel. Comparing a 20 mph headw…

From Tucson to Bisbee

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Let's see... where was I? My last Journal entry was yesterday morning, Wednesday, just before we headed out to visit the Saguaro National Park. This National Park actually has two units -- one on the east side of Tucson and the other on the west side. Years ago, during a business thing, Dar and I visited the west-side unit. As a result, this time there was no choice in the matter... this time we were going to visit the east-side unit.

Only a short 15 minute drive from "the resort", we found the Park's visitor center and went inside to get the overview. Visitor centers at National Parks are usually well done, with plenty of opportunities to increase your knowledge, which means you'll increase your chances for a fulfilling and educational visit. The eastern unit, also known as the Rincon Mountain Unit, offers a lot of hiking and biking trails and an 8 mile long driving tour called the Cactus Forest Drive.


Of course, the focus of the park is the stately and grand Sag…

A Fancy-Schmancy Place

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"So, you'd like to stay in our RV resort for a couple nights... What kind of RV do you have and how old is it?" The question was asked nicely enough but with an undertone of condescension. I thought I could sense that she wasn't sure we'd pass muster... half-ready to call security and have us escorted off the property.

But here we were... two people fresh off the desert floor with a little dust on our shoes, behind the ears, and an even dustier camper... standing at the registration desk of the Voyager RV Resort on the edge of Tucson. It felt like we were in one of those fancy-schmancy hotels where I used to stay in my business travel days... quiet, warm, lots of wood, no dust or dirt or mouse traps in the corners, there might have been Christmasy background music in the air... it was very nice.

I'd chosen this place for our short stay in Tucson because of the location... close to everything we're trying to pack into a day and a half. When we stay in bigg…

Picking Up the Pace

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We're moving again tomorrow... Tuesday, and heading for the Tucson area where we're planning to have dinner one night with some members of our Tucson family. We'll only be in the area two days, so it'll be a quick visit to say the least.

We've decided to spend three months in Rockport Texas starting in early January. Dar is going to work at a local hospital during that time... both to keep her nursing skills current and to make a few bucks to offset the ever increasing price of her health insurance (up 25% for next year). And yes, it's the same hospital she worked at for a few weeks last winter. It'll be tough for intrepid explorers to plant themselves in one place for that long... but compromise is a big part of this lifestyle. We'll do fine.

For the next couple weeks we'll be moving every other day or so. We've been lingering in the desert a little longer than planned... not only due to a growing love for this part of the country, but also the…

Why Camping

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"So, where are you camping tonight?"
"Why."
"No... not why... where?"
"Why."
"Well, I just want to know because I'm interested in following your explorations... seeing where you go and what adventures you run into... you know?"
"Oh, Ok. That's nice."
"Now that we've got that straightened out... where did you decide to stop for the night?
"Why."
"Didn't we just go over that? You're a hard guy to communicate with and you're getting on my nerves!"
"Why?"
"Well, every time I asked a simple question, you respond with another question."
"No I don't."
"Yes you do... allow me to demonstrate. Where did you decide to park the bus-house tonight?"
"Why"
"There you go... you answered a simple question with another question... you said why."
"Well, that's where we're camped."
"Where?"
"Why!"

... and the Earth Moved

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This morning, at 5:52am MST, the earth moved here in Yuma. 
Dar and I were both awake (don't ask why... OK?) and we felt the bus-house shake and shudder... as if it we were experiencing gusty winds... or a friendly neighbor was trying to get our attention by pushing and shoving on the side of the camper causing it to sway. But there was no wind and, while we like our neighbors a lot, we're not quite to that point where Fred and Lynne would be playing games with us before 6am. No, there was something else going on.
Later in the day we learned that we did, indeed, experience an earthquake. Here's the complete info on the temblor we felt (you may have to click on it to make it readable).

The quake was centered about 35 miles away... down in Mexico near a small town named Guadalupe Victoria. It was a 4.9 on the Richter Scale... certainly not a major shaker... but one of the largest ones in the region today. 
The earth continues to change -- right under our feet. I think that's…

Prison, a River, and Sand

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When we last left our intrepid explorers they had just returned from a day of international mystery and intrigue in Mexico. Taking a day to recuperate with afternoon siestas in the warm sun, long soaks in the park's hot-tub, and a regimen of adult beverages (necessary electrolyte replacement therapy), they were again ready to go on Friday... to survey the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.

Yuma is where it is because of the natural lay of the land and the natural river crossing created by a granite ridge that constricts the Colorado River... the only easy crossing point for a thousand miles. The crossing made the area popular with Native Americans for many years and early Spanish explorers were exploring through here in the 1500's -- long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. As the U.S. grew and settlers moved west, the river crossing was a focus of interest for California-bound prospectors and immigrants, the Army, and those developing coast-to-coast railroads and …

Los Algodones Mexico

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With one last check for the reassuring feel of my passport in my pocket, we stepped through the iron gate that guards the border and into the town of Los Algodones Mexico. Our early morning arrival meant the town was still  stretching and yawning... getting ready for another busy day of mining cash from the stream of visitors from the north.

About a 15 minute drive from downtown Yuma, Algodones is located in the corner formed by the States of California, Arizona, and Baja, Mexico. The Colorado River runs through town, but I'll bet there are more annual shoppers than acre-feet of water flowing into Mexico via this meager stream. We left our car on the U.S. side, in a huge asphalt parking lot owned by the Quechan Indians... which, especially after having experienced Algodones, is the right thing to do. Algodones is small and anything a visitor is looking for can be found within an easy stroll from the border.

The town itself claims a population of about 4,000 people and, on a map, a…

Down Yonder in Yuma

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With both our time and propane in short supply, we abandoned Tranquility Base on BLM land outside Quartzsite on Sunday. We'd been there for 5 great days and nights. So much of the experience of boondocking at Q depends on the weather... mostly the wind... and the string of light wind days we were lucky enough to hit upon made our stay one of the most agreeable camps in recent memory.

I mentioned in a previous post, and will do so again here, that we've found periods of solitude to be so important to our psychic balance. We've discussed this at length and found, happily, we both feel the same way. It's easy to get wrapped up in busy-ness, socializing, and doing things. But having a few days to do nothing... to ponder... to think on your own (instead of being told what to think by the talking heads on TV)... is a very good exercise for the mind and for your well-being.

We pointed the bus-house nose south for one last time this year... can't go much further south witho…

Desert Decor

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After my last Journal update, on Saturday, Dar and I did drive over to the town of  Bouse (rhymes with "house"). Located about 15 miles from our Q desert camp, this town of about 600 people has been around for about a hundred years. It originally supported a railroad, was the center of mining activity in the nearby hills, and, during WWII, there was an army base a few miles down the road. But over the years poor old Bouse never found a sustained purpose to support it's existence. Thus, it looks and feels like a candidate for yet another future Arizona ghost town.

The targets of our quest were a museum that Dar heard was in town, and secondarily, some early Indian art carved into the desert floor somewhere in the area. We found the museum, in the old "asay office", and had an enjoyable conversation with a gent that was manning the place. The artifacts and old photos in the collection centered around the the town's mining and military connections, and we had …

Desert Days

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We're still here at Tranquility Base... in the desert outside Quartzsite. And the attached photo pretty much sums up what we've been doing the past few days. It even seems we've taken a break from exploring (gasp!), although we may try to jump-start that aspect of our life this afternoon when we're planning to head toward the town of Bouse, about 20 miles to the northeast... to see what's up that'a way.

Clouds of stars fill the night sky out here. And what's that large glowing ball of light on the horizon to the east? Could it be the lights of the Phoenix metroplex... a full 100 miles away? Studying my Arizona map, I think it almost has to be.

I never grow tired of watching the night sky-show or campfires... and we're getting a good dose of both almost every night lately. We found a good source for firewood in Q to feed our need for evening atmosphere and warmth. The BLM says NO cutting, collecting, or burning ANY wood on public lands, including dead an…

Tranquility Base

Today, Wednesday, there was no need to run into town for anything so we never moved from our desert campsite all day. This boondocking experience has been very agreeable for both of us, so far. Dar even commented that one of these years we should spend Christmas out here. Hmmm.

The portable propane catalytic heater is doing it's job very well. We left it on until sack-time last night and it kept us very warm while outside temps were dropping into the 30's. After that, the noisy, inefficient motorhome furnace took over for the rest of the night.

This morning I popped out of bed about 7am, checked the batteries (still had some poop left), fired up the generator, put the coffee on, and ran back to the warm bed before you could say "what's for breakfast".

Once the sun warmed things up to a tolerable level, we spent much of the day outside soaking up the sun and the solitude. I scouted our camp perimeter again, circling at about 500 yards this time... checking for wi…