Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alamogordo, NM

Here for the night at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park about 12 miles outside Alamogordo.  Check out the scenery!

That is Rattlesnake Cliffs behind the GDB.  Actually, that’s not the name but, after that rattler demo in Tucson, I call all cliffs Rattlesnake Cliffs.  This is a small but comely campground – my first NM State Park stay.  $14 for a site with water and electric.  The dump station is not operable at the moment – bummer.  But the Park Ranger tells me the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce offers one. 
View from my left windows.

The cliffs seem to go on forever.

Had a nice slow morning after my Wal-Mart overnighter and a likewise leisurely drive here.  Weather sunny with a high of 51.  There was some wind all day but now it’s really kicked up.  So much so, I don’t think I’ll raise the antenna. 

Outside of town, I stopped at White Sands National Monument just to make some lunch and peak at the dunes.  I’ll return tomorrow for a full day of exploring. 
I also spent some time enroute in Las Cruces.  Parking one street over from Main, I strolled around the very walk-able and drive-able central downtown area. 

Downtown movie houses are alive and well here in Las Cruces. 

The one below had a charming window display of Agatha Christie-ana, promoting the community production of The Mousetrap.  (I saw the original stage play in London about 20 years ago, a real thrill).  Not sure if you can make out the books, typewriter, and tea set. 

Then I found this wonderful and very large independent book shop, Coas Books. 

I was amazed by the inventory of mostly used books.  Room after room filled with books of good quality and good prices.  I wonder if this was the former site of the town's library? 

I finally found a copy of Lonesome Dove I’ve been looking for.  I'm too cheap to pay for the $8 Kindle version but this paperback was a bargain at $2.50.  I’m a fan of Larry McMurtry’s writing, but have never committed to reading his beloved western saga. 

That's it for today - yet another satisfying day on the road!

My right-side windows face west looking out over the valley so I hope to see a nice sunset.  And surely tonight, waaaay out here in the Chihuanhuan Desert, I’ll hear some coyotes?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Return to Deming, NM

Greetings once again from the Deming, New Mexico’s Wal-Mart! 
There are probably 12 RVs here.  We all arrived at the same time, around sunset.  Before I knew it, I was surrounded by big rigs.  And too lazy to move.  At least I’ll be well-protected from the wind tonight!

I left Bisbee this AM for Chiricahua (pronounced Cheer-ah-cow-ah) National Monument.  Don’t miss this place if you are ever in the vicinity!  I drove about 80 miles through remote state highways to get there.  Like this.
I didn’t know at the time that the snow-capped peaks were my destination. 
Upon arrival at the Visitor's Center, the Park Ranger told me that the monument's peak received 8 inches of snow last night.  As a result, the many hiking trails were obscured by snowfall and therefore un-hike-able, at least without crampons.  The road to the summit had been plowed but there was some remaining ice so I didn’t drive to the top. 

Some of my favorite National Park sites contain geological formations.  And you can’t get more dramatic than a volcanic eruption!  Twenty-seven million years ago a volcano spewed ash over 1,200 square miles.  What remains is a landscape formed from the cooling of the rock sculpted by erosion.  It’s just stunning. The dusting of snow made it even more beautiful. 
I stopped at the formation known as The Organ Pipe.

And noticed these beautiful birds. 
Grey-Breasted Jays
Earlier in the day, enroute to the Monument, I was driving through farm/ranch land along a lonely stretch and suddenly …. there arose to my ear such a clatter, I looked overhead to see what was the matter.  Then I grabbed the binoculars and the camera. 

Sandhill Cranes! Several huge flocks.  I realized that there is a National Wildlife Refuge not far from where I spotted them.  They must have been out for the day. 
What a thrill to see them in flight!  
[Note: thanks to all of you for responding to Miller's plight in my last post.  Before I left this AM, I had a long talk with the campground owner about the situation.  As it happens, she keeps an eye on Miller and even walks him several times a day.  We went over to check on him together and she pointed out that he has a doghouse with, she says, an electric blanket inside.  That did not escape my notice last night, but neither did the fact that his lease length wouldn't allow him to actually get in the shelter.  In the scheme of things, he's probably OK.  Certainly not at all the way John & I (or you) would do things.  I hope he is OK].       

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bisbee, AZ

Brrrrr from Bisbee!  34 degrees with 26 MPH winds, gusting something fierce when I arrived.  At least it was sunny!

This was a surprising sight this AM just south of Tucson.  Snow in southern Arizona!?!?

Supposed to dip below freezing tonight but back up in the 50s tomorrow.   Back to the 70s by Wednesday!
I’m in the funky town of Bisbee staying in the funky Queen’s Mine RV Park. 

Overlooks the old mine and the town. 
View out  my side window.  You can see where the mine was cut.

One camper here said they got several inches of snow last night. 
Hook-ups seemed in order for what I hope is the last cold night of this trip.  $30 gets you electric, water, sewer, and cable.  The good news: 85 channels.  The bad news: there is nothing I want to see.  But I took a loooong hot shower in a nice big bathroom with, for once, plenty of hooks and shelves to put your stuff on.

Spent some time in Tombstone this AM after leaving Tucson.  It was filled with not much beyond the usual tourist traps.   
The background looks like a movie backdrop.

The drive down US 80 between Tombstone and Bisbee was scenic indeed, just as the dotted route in my atlas promised.  Sorry no photos, there was no good place to pull over. 

Bisbee reminds me so much of Salida, Colorado.   Salida is located deep in the heart of the Rockies, where I spent one winter as a travel nurse.  Salida is every bit as offbeat and quirky but doesn’t make a big deal out of it. 

I gotta tell you, I got so angry a little while ago I almost skipped my post tonight.

This sweet old dog, Miller, greeted me when I arrived today. 

He is on rather a short leash, the owners are nowhere around, and the wind chill is, by now, in the 20s.  I checked on him frequently and he seemed OK.  But once the sun started to set, he began to shiver with no shelter at all from the fierce wind. 
So I knocked on a few doors and found a nice neighbor, Raul, who is camping in an Airstream.  He knows Miller’s owner, says he always leaves him out, and he offered to call the guy to find out when he expected to return.   In about an hour was the answer. 

So I asked Raul if he thought the owner would mind if I took Miller in out of the wind and cold.  He said he would be OK with that and he helped me get the poor old dog inside.  About ½ hour later the owner came driving up.  I was pretty furious but held my tongue.  He took Miller in and called out thank you over his shoulder. 

Moron.  He’s probably one of those jerks that says, “dogs have a coat, they don’t get cold outside”.  Well, I have a coat too but that doesn’t mean that I want to be outside in it. 
Some people don’t deserve to be pet owners!!!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Javalinas, Bobcats, and Ducks!

The only photo I got is of the ducks.  Full-timers and authors of the endlessly entertaining blog The Good Luck Duck. 

Kim, Roxanne, Annie

We met for coffee this morning and had a nice visit.  What a great couple of women!  I hope to meet up with them again one day.

Later, I was taking the scenic drive over Gates Pass and paused to admire the view ....

 .... and encountered this gila woodpecker.

Spent the rest of the day at The Desert Museum.  I never imagined being in the desert on a cold blustery day staring at sea horses. 
And garden eels.  I could watch these fascinating creatures all day.
Web Photo

The hummingbird house was cool.

This gentleman gave us a rattlesnake demonstration.  It was an informative talk but has dampened my enthusiasm for desert hiking.  Possibly forever. 

In a case of rotten timing, my camera battery died right before the raptor free flight demonstration.  Trainers work with the various raptors and, during the demonstration, explain the behavior you are witnessing up close.  And I mean close.  The birds fly directly over your head.  If you were so inclined, you could reach up and touch one. 
Web Photo
We observed a barred owl and a flock of Harris hawks doing their thing.  But the star of the show was the fastest animal on earth - the peregrine falcon. 

Web Photo

These raptors travel at speeds up to 240 MPH.  It was astonishing to watch her fly and swoop.  I’ve never seen a bird move that fast! 

Sadly, I have no photos of the fox, the bobcats, or the herd of napping javelinas. 
Thanks to everyone who advised me not to miss this place!!! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Had a marvelous time today just taking it easy and visiting the western unit of Saguaro NP.  (See the film at the Visitor Center if you go – I won’t reveal the ending, but it is spectacular).  Hiked a bit on the Hugh Norris Trail.   This is strenuous uphill 5 mile hike via switchbacks, so I just followed it till I’d had enough. 
It was one of those heady nature experiences being nestled inside a dense growth of Saguaro and other desert flora.  What a magnificent landscape! 
The Good Deal Bus traveled several miles down the dirt road to the trailhead with no problem; I was so proud! 

 Sun hitting Tucson Mountain's Peak

Arrived back at my parking spot around sunset.  Here’s a glimpse of the inside of the Casino Del Sol.  I assume photography is prohibited, so here is a web shot. 

You can see the interior is modeled on an Italian palazzo.  The various parts of the casino are located behind those exterior facades.  All of it is capped by a massive dome that is painted to look like perpetual sunset.  It’s a very pleasing design and, except for the cigarette smoke, makes one want to linger. 
In an interesting twist, last night’s Late Late Show was 3:10 To Yuma.  Because it was filmed at Old Tucson Studios and set in Bisbee, AZ (where I will be in a few days), I just had to watch. 

I’m not sure if Van Heflin ever got Glenn Ford on that train.  I fell asleep long before the 3:10 departure.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

A (Kitt) Peak Experience

My day started out as planned.

Got my money’s worth.  It’s 7 PM as I post .... and I’m still not hungry!
It was a less-than-optimal day to make the trip to Kitt Peak Observatory.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience so very much.  I waited until the rain cleared out last this morning before making the 32-mile drive. 

My destination - waaaay up there.

See the road in the middle distance?  That was just the beginning.

The last 12 miles is straight up the mountain and I was quite suddenly surrounded by dense fog accompanied by high winds and rain.  One of the observatory employees clocked a wind gust at 71 MPH.  However fog, as it turns out, has its advantages.  I’ve had a fear of heights since my mid-20s and the pea soup that enveloped everything prevented me from seeing the 5000 ft. climb up the side of this massive mountain.  And the 5000 ft. drop.
But it was worth the trip, even factoring in the crappy weather.  I was able to tour the 2.1 meter telescope with about a dozen others.  Our most excellent docent, Jerry, is a retired electrical engineer and an impressive and compelling source of cosmic information.  At one point I realized, quite literally, my mouth was hanging open!

The winds were howling and the rain pounding down as our group hurriedly made our way to one of the 26 telescopes.  Pity the poor scientists who have this night scheduled for their long-planned observations!

Much knowledge about the universe has been gathered in this place.  Shortly after the facility opened in 1964, Vera Rubin, one of the few female astronomers at that time, began her research career measuring how quickly spiral galaxies (like our own and, in this particular case, Andromeda) were spiraling. 

It was thought at the time that the motion was much like a shower drain, with the stars closest to the center moving the quickest.  Dr. Rubin determined that, in fact, the speed of the stars' movement is uniform Over time, her findings led to the discovery of dark matter. 
Jerry says Dr. Rubin is retired now but still returns to this observatory where she did her most important work.  She will often join the tours and answer questions. 
Halfway through the descent down the mountain, the weather cleared and this rainbow appeared. 

 The valley in which Tucson sits was looking all partly-sunny and dry.  The extremes made for an interesting meteorological experience. 


At the end of another wonderful day, goodnight from the Casino Del Sol.