Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oklahoma City Treasures


Oklahoma City is going to be the city of museums for me. They have several really interesting museums and the plan is to check them out. I am a little bummed though because one of the museums I want to see is only open Friday and Saturday and I will be gone by then. That museum is the Pigeon Museum. A whole museum devoted to pigeons, I can only imagine.

First venue is the Oklahoma City Bombing National Memorial. I sort of had to force myself to go to this one – it is hard for a sensitive soul such as myself to go to places like this. There is a museum attached to the Memorial but I chose not to go through that one and instead opted for just walking the grounds. I was already choked up before I even got to the site so I knew it would not be pretty to be walking around sniffling. I thought the Memorial itself was very moving. It was very simple – a very shallow reflecting pool with gate structures on each end of the pool, one has the time 9:01 on it and the other has 9:03 on it. From the NPS website:

The 9:01 gate is a symbolic reference to the last minute of innocence for our nation in regards to domestic terrorism. The 9:03 gate is a symbolic reference to the first moment of recovery, the moment when grieving, and healing, began. The time of 9:02 a.m. stretches between the two, presenting a tragically long minute in which citizens were killed, survived and changed forever.

There are chairs arranged on the side of the reflecting pool, one for each victim, small ones for the children that were killed.

The chairs are arranged in nine rows, which represent the nine floors of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.Each chair, representing an individual's life, is placed on the row (or the floor) they would have worked on or were visiting at the time of the bombing. Within the row, chairs are grouped by agency and then in alphabetical order progressing from east to west.

The five chairs located on the western side of the field are positioned in a column. These chairs represent the five people who did not die within the federal building.

The chairs are also arranged to abstractly reflect the outline of the blast cavity of the Murrah Building, with the densest concentration of chairs reflecting the severest damage to the building.






Very somber place except for the middle school field trip participants who, with the exuberance of youth lent an air of renewal.

Onward to the Museum of Osteology – or the Bone Museum. The founder, when he was a small boy, found a coyote skull and this started his fascination with bones and skeletons. He started a business called Skulls Unlimited where he would take bones, clean them and sell them. As his business grew, so did his collection. Zoos started giving him carcasses, he would clean them and then put the skeletons back together and pretty soon he had a great collection and decided to start a museum. This was fascinating – he had a giraffe (same number of neck bones as humans), elephant, whales, rhinos, lots of monkeys and apes, humans, birds, reptiles – just about every type of animal was represented. There were also several videos around that would tell about his bone cleaning business. This videos were actual television shows such as Ripley's Believe It Or Not and The World's Dirtiest Jobs. The whole process can take many months depending on the size of the animal.
First you strip any remaining flesh off of the bones and then you let it dry for a few days. Then you take the bone and put it in his cadaver beetle farm. He has millions of beetles – these guys will strip any remaining soft material off of bones within 48 hours. The bones then get dumped into a vat of hydrogen peroxide which bleaches the bones white. After that comes the laborious job of putting the bones all together in it's proper skeletal form.
I thought this museum would be a little quirky, but it was fascinating looking at the skeletons and thinking about form and function. It was also interesting noticing the similarities in skeletons between all the different species.
A Chihuahua and a Great Dane


Snakes and Dragons


Giraffes, Elephants, Rhinos and Whales - Oh My

Next up is the Museum of Women Pilots. This museum is dedicated to women fliers and all the trials and tribulations they had to go through to get into the air. Everything from what does the well-dressed woman wear in the cockpit to all the sabotage they had to put in from men who felt threatened. Women started flying in the early 1900's. They had a fairly large Amelia Earhart exhibit, since she is probably one of the most famous women aviators in the world. I must admit, though, my favorite of all was a woman named Ruth Elder. In 1929, there was a long distance plane race for women that went from Santa Monica to Cleveland. It lasted nine days and was unofficially called the Powder Puff Derby. On day three, Ruth's map flew out of the cockpit, she got lost and landed in a bull pasture and got directions. On Day six, her map again flew out of the cockpit and she had to stop in a cow pasture and ask directions (these bovines must give good directions). On the last day, she again got lost and while she did finish the race eventually, she was quite late. Later, Ruth Elder went on to become a movie star.
They had a flight simulator that you could play in. Here is a picture of how I did.
 

Actually, I got sort of bored and decided I would end this simulation in a blaze of glory.

On to the Museum of Art in downtown OKC. The main reason I was going was because they had a Chihuly exhibit. There was some amazing pieces of glass work that I really enjoyed looking at.

 


Finally, it was time for the Banjo Museum. This was a quiet little museum although once you got inside, two whole floors of banjos. In talking to the admissions person, he said that many of today's current banjo players had been through here – Steve Martin, Dom Flemons, Alison Brown and spent hours. This museum was really well done – starting with early banjo playing in the early 1800s up through the jazz age when everybody played the banjo through the bluegrass era to current day when banjos have started to become popular again in contemporary music. There was only one other person going through the museum with me and he was a collector of Bacon/Day banjos. I hung out with him and it was quite an education as he explained tiny little details that I never would have noticed on my own. Who knew there was such a banjo counterculture. Some of these banjos were works of art.
Giant banjo - taller than me
Pretty Fancy Banjos


Wall to Wall Banjos

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Watching Out for Tornadoes in Oklahoma

Left Christiandom and headed into Texas. For some reason(Ok, ok, it took me a long time to get going in the morning), the drive was really long.  I had miscalculated my time – I did not take into account that I was moving from Mountain Time into Central Time which meant I lost an hour which meant things got a little rushed because I was off to see a few sights which closed at 4:00.
The drive was pretty boring – it was what you normally think of when you think of driving across Texas – flat, nothing to see. I was on a secondary road which meant that I got to go through a few small towns which broke up the monotony a little bit although it was sort of depressing – there sure were a lot of broken down old buildings and trailers along the way. I don't know what people do here to make a living.

I took a right off of Highway 152, drove a few miles and the landscape changed dramatically. There were hills, there was dark red earth and lots of oil drills. I headed into the town of Borger – to their city park which is where I was camping. There were 10 sites, each with water and electricity hookups and the cost was........FREE. Only restriction is you couldn't stay more than three days. This city park was pretty amazing – ball fields, basketball courts, walking trails, horseshoes and an aviary. This aviary had some extraordinary birds – I wish I knew the names of them.


 
 

Once we got set up, Miko and I headed to Alibates Flint Quarries. We were too late to actually see the Quarries – you could only see them if you got a ranger to give you a tour. I watched the movie and then Miko and I headed over to Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. Miko and I hiked around the hills, the lake is pretty much dried up so the marina and boat launches were all closed. It sure is getting hot here down south – time to start heading north for sure.

That whole section to the left is lakebed


On Saturday we moved to another city park – this one in Sayre Oklahoma. These people down south really do their city parks up good. This park had RV camping with water and electricity for $12. They also had a golf course, tennis courts, ball courts, swimming pool, playgrounds – everything a park should have.

The Sayre City Park is about a half hour drive from the Washita National Battleground. I left Miko at home because it was too hot for her to wait in the car for me and she wasn't allowed anyways. The visitor center had an excellent half hour movie that explained what this battleground was all about.

There is a long sordid history of white European Americans moving into First Nation land and grabbing land that they considered their god given right irregardless of any treaties in place. Some of the First Nation people submitted and moved peacefully to the reservations but others such as the Cheyenne and Arapaho decided to defend their land and their freedom.

In the winter of 1868, General Custer found Black Kettle's village camped in a valley by the Washita River for the winter. He thought he had found a village of Cheyenne warriors but it was actually a village comprised mostly of women and children. At dawn Custer attacked and within twenty minutes had control of the camp. He killed forty natives and to his credit, when he heard that his men were slaughtering the women and children, he ordered the massacre halted and the women and children rounded up as prisoners of war. Interesting fact: The Cheyenne got him back at Little Big Horn.


I walked down the trail for a little ways but it was too hot to go very far. This trail was interesting because it had a really great trail guide. You would stop at a numbered pole and then it would say – Magpie(one of the survivors) ran to those two mounds that you see ahead of you. Or the hill that you see in front of you is probably where Custer stood and watched the battle.

Sunday is move day to Oklahoma City. I have taken my lucky arrowhead out of the plastic and am wearing it around my neck to ward off any sort of bad weather. I did not see any tornadoes on my trip but the winds were horrible. They were 38 mph coming from the north which meant that they were hitting my high profile RV and it was extremely difficult to keep on the road. I got a little scared so about twenty minutes into the trip, I pulled off into a gas station and decided to wait the wind out.The wind was so strong, it ripped my vent cover off it's track. The winds died down a little bit so I took off down the freeway. I put my flashers on and drove fifty mph in the seventy mph zone. It was sort of like Gilliagan's Island where they went out for an hour long boatride and then the winds came up and they were lost forever. It took me 4 ½ hours to go 120 miles.

I'm in an RV park – very crowded. I have full hookups and plan to stay here for a few days. I was reading another blogger and he said once, when he was planning on settling in and getting off the road for an small extended time that he was going to stay put and allow time to catch up to him. I feel sort of that way since I've been moving every day for the last four days.

Miko's favorite spot while I get the RV all set up at a campsite

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Boy Nate


We drove up to Chatfield State Park which is in Littleton, Colorado – just a little bit southwest of Denver. Lovely day for a drive. We got to our assigned campsite – just electric and pretty good wifi, but tons of goose droppings.

Way back in the day, people decided to settle in the Denver area. The local First Nation people told them it was very bad medicine to live in this area, but of course, nobody listened. There were many floods of the South Platte River but finally in 1965 came the flood that really devastated the area. After this flood, the decision was made to build a dam and try to control the flooding. More Info on the Flood This created a reservoir and then the park was created around the reservoir. This park has boating, fishing, camping, biking, hiking, remote control airplane flying area, riding stables and the biggest dog park I've ever seen.





View out the door - See?  No Snow!!!!


We decided to stay for a few more days but asked to change sites. Got a lovely, goose dropping free site with a good view. Miko and I took off for the dog park. This place was so big that we were there for a couple of hours checking it all out. There are two ponds in the park and tons and tons of Labs and Retrievers all out there swimming. It was just last year that Miko realized that she wasn't going to die if she got her feet wet, in fact she was able to go up to her elbows in the water, but never any deeper. There was a guy throwing a tennis ball in the water for Gus, his border collie/lab mix and even though Miko really wanted to chase the ball, she would not go beyond her elbows. It finally occurred to me that Miko probably doesn't know she can swim. A new trick to work on this next summer. As it was, I would throw the ball a little bit deeper in the water each time and she would get braver and braver. Then I throw it just a few inches farther, to the point where she would have to let her feet leave the ground and actually swim and she just couldn't get that ball. She was funny, her front end sort of jumping trying to get that ball, but no dice. Good thing that Gus was such a ball fiend that he would collect all balls in the water and bring them to shore.

Wednesday was the day that I had been waiting for. I would get to see my boy Nate who lives in Breckinridge. Of course, this meant that I would have to leave the foothills where I had been staying and drive into the mountains. I had been impressed with the mountains in Arizona and New Mexico. I now realize those were just little baby mountains. These mountains in the Breck region were huge – intimidatingly huge.

When I started out the drive, it was raining and there were a few flakes of snow. As I climbed the first mountain, we got up into the clouds and visibility was really bad. You could not see beyond the side of the road. When we got through that first pass, it cleared up some. But then I started seeing signs that the freeway was closed because there had been an accident. My phone asked me if I wanted to save 45 minutes on my drive, I said of course. So we got off the freeway and for a while went along a frontage road. It was sort of fun – the freeway was at a dead stop and I was tooling along at 35 miles an hour.

Finally got past the accident site, got back on the freeway and through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Coming out of the tunnel, it was like a whole different world. Snowing, blowing, cold. Lots of different weather patterns in Colorado.

Got to Nate's house where he met me. It was so wonderful to see him and be able to touch him. He showed me his house – he has three roommates, one of whom lives in the sauna under the stairs in the house. A small dark little room. The rest of the house is a little trashy except for Nate's room and the bathroom. I was impressed with how neat and tidy everything was. It was a large room and I had to ask about the set of four tires and the car hood that he had there. He has a 1988 BMW that he is restoring and he really has no place but his room to store it. But it just added to the d├ęcor.

We went out to Fatty's Burgers for lunch where Maleena, Nate's girlfriend met us. I really like her a lot. She is inquisitive, not shy and the two of them are really good together. They both seem very happy with each other.

After lunch, we wandered around downtown Breckinridge for a little bit but it was really cold. The sun came out for a little bit and they took me on a gondola ride. Breckinridge is a very dog friendly town and so Miko got to go on the gondola also. She was not a happy camper. When we got to the top of the gondola, there is a chalet called Tbar. From here you can take chairlifts even further up the mountain. It was fun to see this because Nate seems to post a lot of pictures of this place on FB. We got back on the gondola and headed back down the mountain. Even though she had a bad case of the shakes, Miko jumped right into the gondola – she must have known we were going back home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at Nate's house, just chatting and catching up. I had such a good time – I am so happy that I detoured up to Colorado and got to see Nate.

Miko is not too happy


Nate and Maleena - Aren't they cute?
 



I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which way I'm going back to Minnesota. I finally decided that I was going to head back south, back into New Mexico, through Texas and Oklahoma. It is a good thing that I went to Colorado first though since there was that tragic tornado that ripped through Oklahoma yesterday. Even though I have my tornado proof arrowhead for Oklahoma, I probably would have been in the area of that tornado if I hadn't gone to Colorado.

Snow on my view - time to bug out
 

Tonight I am spending another night at Capulin RV Park – the hard core Christian place in New Mexico. Tomorrow I hope to be in Texas.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fort Union, Capulin, Lathrop State Park


Got a knock on the door and there were a couple of people standing there. They had just gotten into the park, were walking around and saw my Jayco Precept. Turns out they have the same model and year as me. Also turns out that they bought it from the same place I did – Hilltop Trailers. They were from Rochester though. Bob wanted to talk about all the issues that he was having with his unit and I was more than happy to chitchat about that and my problems also. Turns out that my problems are no where near as bad as his. He has problems with slides and jacks plus a few other things. Mostly totally different problems though. He did give me a few hints and reminded me of a few things that I need to put on my list when I get back to Minnesota and take the rig into Hilltop for service. It was fun talking to them. They were only on the road for three weeks or so and then heading back.

Got up early, big day today – I am actually going to start traveling again. I'm heading north to Denver, but it will take me a few days to get there because there are a few stops along the way that I want to make.

Drove about an hour and a half and stopped at Fort Union National Monument. This was rather an interesting fort in that it was actually a small city back in it's heyday. Fort Union had the good fortune to be right on the Santa Fe Trail. So, it became a city of 5 – 7,000 people because of all of the traffic coming through as people were moving west. It was also a military fort, it was responsible for supplying supplies to all the other forts within a 500 mile radius. It had a world renown hospital that not only treated the military forces but also civilians. If you were a civilian and required a hospital stay, it would cost you fifty cents a day. My, how times have changed.

Of course after 150 years, there is nothing but ruins, but you can see the outlines of the various buildings. Miko and I wandered around, reading all the info boards, making sure we watched out for rattlesnakes. The rangers made a big deal about warning us about the snakes – it is getting warm and they are starting to come out. We did not see any snakes, just lots of grasshoppers. My dog is a premier grasshopper hound and loves to catch them.


Officer's Quarters

 

Back in the RV, heading north. Next stop is Capulin Volcano. We are spending the night at Capulin RV Park in Capulin New Mexico before I go see the volcano. The people that run this place are hard core Christians. We are the only people in the park. It is a little disconcerting – bible verses everyplace. There are also signs that on almost every wall that say that we are under Video Surveillance and Keep Out. Not a real comfortable place. But out my front window I see the volcano which is three miles away. So that is a positive.


The volcano is only three miles away but they don't allow dogs. I go watch the movie at the ranger station (cause I love watching the movies). I asked the ranger why Capulin was a National Monument because New Mexico is full of volcanoes. In fact, New Mexico has the most volcanoes of any state in the lower 48. She said it was because this particular volcano is almost perfectly preserved. It hasn't eroded and is still in it's original cone shape. Capulin rises 1300 feet above the floor of the valley and is at 8,182 feet above sea level. The road up to the top of the volcano is very narrow and hugs the side of the volcano. One side of the road (coming down) is up against the rock wall and the other side (going up) is right next to nothing. I was glad I did not meet anybody coming down because I was pretty much going up on the wrong side of the road.

Once you get to the top of the volcano, there is a parking lot and you have a decision to make. You can walk 250 feet down into the center of the volcano or you can walk 350 feet up and walk around the rim of the volcano. I decided to go up because I had heard the views were really wonderful. When they said 350 feet up, they meant it was a straight 350 up. No switchbacks or anything to ease the pain. But I did it and I even passed some young whippersnappers who were struggling. There was nothing to stop the wind up there, at times you really had to plant yourself otherwise it would blow you off the path. The scenery of the valley was very other-worldly – it sort of looked like a moonscape.


The Road Up


Moonscape
 

After my little volcano adventure, we packed up and headed out of the Christian RV Park. We drove north and crossed the border into Colorado. I specifically took the freeway because I was worried about mountain driving and Colorado did not disappoint. Well, at least in the very beginning when I crossed the border. Up, up, up – the RV got down to about 45 miles an hour so I put on my flashers like all the big time truckers do to warn others that I was a hazard. Then it was a long 6% grade down into a valley. After that, there were really no more mountains, just mostly smaller hills.

I reached Lathrop State Park. After weeks and weeks of being cooped up in claustrophobic RV parks, I was finally back in a state park. Joy. Granted I did not have any of the perks of RV parks such as WIFI and water hookups but I had scenery. And trails. I pull into a perfect site with a beautiful view out my front window.



Hiking up Hogback ridge behind the campground


Did you know it is spring break in Colorado. Five different pop up campers each complete with four or five kids show up and surround my site – they are all spending spring break in “my” campground. My,my, children are loud, bless their hearts.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Different Types of Art


Had a blast today. I drove about a half hour southwest of Santa Fe to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. No dogs allowed but I could see why once I got there. The tent rocks look like Xmas trees, narrow at the top, cylinder in shape and wider at the bottom. There are two trails, one easy 1.2 mile one that goes around the base of Tent Rocks and one that is three miles, with a steep 630 foot climb to the top of the mesa. I planned to take the easy hike because I certainly don't need to be climbing any tall structures.

As I'm walking along the easy trail, the trail breaks off to the climbing trail. There is a sign there that says Slot Canyon 300 feet. I have always wanted to see a slot canyon so I figured 300 feet – no big deal. I started walking down this Slot Canyon Trail and it was so very very cool. The rocks close in around you and there are so many different shapes – it was fascinating. So I kept walking. The walls were so tall that there was still snow on part of the trail because the sun doesn't shine all the way down to the canyon floor. There were short little climbs but nothing that was bothersome. Sort of a gradual incline. In parts of the canyon, it was so narrow that you had to turn sideways to get through. At the very end of the slot canyon the actual climb begins. I really debated going up any higher and decided that I would climb and see how it goes. I started climbing. As I've said before, heights and me don't get along. I got pretty high when I decided enough was enough because being plastered against the cliff wall with your stomach doing cartwheels is not enjoyable and as we all know I'm all about Joy. This is the part of the trail that dogs would have had a lot of difficulty in because the climb was rather arduous and there were some big steps that had to be made.

I thought going back down was a little scarier than going up. When you are climbing up, the rock face is right in front of you. You are not as aware of how far up you are. Going down, it was slipperier and you could see what would happen if you did slip. Although going down goes a lot faster than going up.

I am so glad I went on the longer, harder trail. The views were stupendous. I did finish off the easy trail when I got back out of the slot and it was no where as scenic as the slot trail.
The Slot Canyon Trail

 

 
 

Look how high up I climbed - Yay Me!!!

Thursday

I've been taking Nyquil at night because of the allergy thing and it has been knocking me out, meaning I got a very late start to the day.

Today was ART day. Santa Fe has a street called Canyon Road which is ¾ of a mile long. It is a very old neighborhood, filled with all of these old adobe homes. These homes have been converted to art galleries and studios. Very high end art for sale. Five figure art.

It is a cloudy day in Santa Fe and Canyon Road is pretty much deserted which means I pretty much have the galleries and their staff all to myself. Very bored staff, dare I say. So when I walk in, they are very chatty. In one Native American pottery shop (nothing below $3000), I learned all about the different pueblos and the different type of pottery they make. We also agreed that we would call all Native Americans First Nation people as the Canadians do. Another shop I learned all about Africa art, what areas of Africa art are now collectible. In another gallery, we discussed the spiritual nature of Santa Fe and how life changing it could be. I discussed allergies with one gallery keeper and learned about flushing my sinuses. I even learned all about Irish Terriers because Julie the resident Irish Terrier in one shop sniffed out the dog treats in my pocket and wanted to become a very close friend. The owner of the shop tells me that there are only three Irish Terriers in all of New Mexico. It took me about an hour to go through three galleries. All together I was there on Canyon Street for about four hours and only got about half through all of the galleries. I guess I will put Canyon Street on my list of places to come back to.

I noticed today that at my RV Park, they have designated Solar Dryers. It says that on the map of the park. When I look at the area in person, I see clotheslines. Nice.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Allergies, Pueblos and Folk Art


Another long day in the driver's seat. We left our lovely site at Enchanted Trails and drove a whole hour up to Santa Fe. We are staying at the Trailer Ranch RV Park. Sites are fairly close together but they are level. I also have full hookups, cable TV, sometimes WIFI and an incredible dog park. The dog park has a lot of trees planted in it and is big enough that you can make believe that you are walking a trail. The trail only takes about three minutes to walk, but it still feels big. And Miko gets to run. There is a big enough space in the center of it that I can throw a ball and Miko can tear after it.

Monday

Heading into the city. Right across the six lane street is the bus stop. Being a senior, I can ride all day for a dollar. The bus takes me directly downtown to the plaza area which is today's destination. I get on the bus, it is one of those smaller commuter buses. There is a mixed bunch of people on the bus, all different types. There is a guy(in his forties) on the bus who is asking everybody who gets on if they know how to tie a tie. Evidently his mother just gave him a tie and he doesn't know how to tie it. Somebody chimes in and tells him to watch YouTube – you can figure out how to do everything on YouTube. Pretty soon, the whole bus is trying to figure out how to get this guy's tie tied. Finally, this young guy, about 18 says he will give it a shot. He works on it for most of the trip, gets it tied and hands it back to the owner to great fanfare from all the bus riders. It is a good start to Santa Fe – everybody coming together like that.

First up is the Georgia O'Keefe museum. I am a huge fan of O'Keefe and this was so exciting to be able to see her paintings live. I rented the audio machine that tells about the individual paintings and also watched the 15 minute movie because I didn't want to miss anything. These paintings were more focused on her southwestern themed paintings – there were a lot that I hadn't seen before.

After the museum, I wandered around the plaza area. There was a lot of activity in the plaza – buskers, people playing on the lawn. Most of the shops I went into were sort of touristy – t shirts and little knickknacks.

I went into the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis and sat for a while. The altar area was a little more simple than most churches and the stations of the cross were very much folk art style.



I found a creperie and decided to have some lunch. I so seldom eat out when I'm on the road – I have a kitchen in the RV and a dog at home – I sort of hate to spend the time. I had a chicken and mushroom crepe with b├ęchamel sauce. Hearty, but with the crepe wrap it had the added sweet taste to it.

I went to the Loretto Chapel to see this miracle staircase that was there. Supposedly some nuns had prayed and prayed for somebody to build them a staircase to the choir loft (there was no way to get up there) and a stranger showed up, built a circular staircase and when the nuns went to pay him, he disappeared. (Who was that masked man?) It cost three bucks to get in – I wasn't that interested plus....

All of a sudden my nose started running big time. Major allergy attack. Did I have Kleenex with me? Of course not – what to do? I got a paper napkin from the creperie. I wandered into a shop and the shopkeeper had a roll of toilet paper behind the counter so she spared me a few sheets there. Then I found a shop that gave me a whole two pieces of tissue. I really wanted to spend more time downtown but I was really suffering. So back on the bus with my tissues, toilet paper and napkin. Barely made it home without embarrassing myself big time. They say that the allergens are huge right now, especially juniper and cedar. Maybe that is what I'm reacting to. I know that later that day when I took Miko to the dog park, she jumped on a juniper and a huge cloud of pollen went into the air.
On the way back to the RV, I see this guy sawing a huge log in the back of his truck.  Being the inquisitive sort that I am, I asked him why.  This guy was from Montana and he comes down and walks the desert looking for interesting wood.  He then sands it down - he said the sandpaper goes from 500 to 1500 grit.  He then puts different pieces together to form a sculpture.  He never knows what is going to happen, what shape the sculpture will take.  He showed me a finished piece where he had combines three different types of wood, sanded it and put a finish on it.  This was a museum quality piece.  He does this mostly for his own pleasure and back home in Montana, he has three acres filled with these pieces and people come from all over to see them.  He showed me a picture of one that was ten feet tall. 

Tuesday

Now that I'm heavily medicated, I can function in the outside world. Miko and I headed over to the Pecos National Historical Park, about a half hour drive. Another day, another pueblo. This one was a little different though. It was still just ruins, both of the pueblo and the attached church. What was interesting about this was its size. At the height of it's glory, it housed 2000 people, had over 600 rooms and was a five story tall structure. It is situated on top of a ridge so the views were really nice. It was a pleasant mile and a half walk through the ruins even though it was a rather blustery day.
 


After bringing Miko back to the RV I went to the International Museum of Folk Art. I was really looking forward to this particular museum – I find Folk Art to be very entertaining. It is so simple, yet can be very meaningful. There were only two galleries open - the first gallery had hundreds of dioramas. They were all donations of Alexander Girard who donated 106,000 pieces of folk art from all over the world to the museum. I don't know if they were all on display, but there sure were a lot.


These are Dance Capes that men dancers in Peru would wear


The second gallery was an exhibition of Southern pottery from the Georgia, Carolinas area. I usually don't find pottery all that interesting. It is sometimes pretty to look at but most the time it seems very repetitive and common. Maybe that is the result of all those art fairs I've gone to over the years where you have the same type of teapots and coffee mugs displayed with the same boring glazes. At this exhibit, I watched a half hour Smithsonian movie that was made in 1967 which showed a potter from Georgia creating pots from beginning to end. He went out and dug clay, ground the clay using millstones and followed him through the whole process from a foot operated wheel to making glaze out of ashes and dirt to firing the pieces in a home made kiln. There was no modern day automation at all. The styles of the pots in the exhibit were all of the same style as in the movie – very simple but the glazes were beautiful. I would love to have some of these in my house. I am putting this pot making area of the United States on my RV travel list.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Ranger Made Me Cry



Thursday March 12
When I talked to the owner of Enchanted Trails RV Park, she told me that I could take Miko out behind the park where she could run off leash. I just had to be careful to make sure that I closed all gates because New Mexico is an open range state and if any of the cows got out through and open gate, Enchanted Trails would be liable. I've always been a little nervous about letting Miko off leash – I would be devastated if she took off after a rabbit or deer and disappeared. I checked out the “range” - there were no cows to be seen. It sort of looked like eastern Montana – nothing as far as the eye could see except flat, flat, flat land. I let Miko off leash and started walking out to the back forty. She stuck pretty close to me until she smelled something interesting. I kept walking and got quite a bit of distance away from her. I called her and she came tearing toward me and then it was like she realized she was free. She zoomed and she zagged all around me. It was fun to watch her. When she got worn out, we walked back to the RV, closing all gates again. I don't think I will do this very often, it still makes me nervous, but there were no rabbits or deer this time so I lucked out.
In the afternoon, I went down to see Old Town Albuquerque. I spent several hours just walking around the shops and the old mission church.
San Felipe de Neri

I didn't have time to get to any of the museums, I will either have to go back or catch them next time. I found some really nice local artist co-ops and an awful lot of mass produced Taiwan southeastern “art” also. I got a hankering for some fish tacos and started asking around. One shopkeeper said that I was in Albuquerque, we don't have fish here. Finally somebody else sent me to the Quesidilla Grill. Told me to tell them “Connie” sent me. They did not have fish tacos but they did have shrimp tacos. The shrimp were the tiny little ones, about the size of fingernail clippings and they put them in a red chili sauce which really overpowered the shrimp so much so that you couldn't taste the shrimp. The chili sauce was really good though. I sat outside and ate and people watched which was fun.
Shrimp Tacos
Friday
Another National Monument Day. This time it is the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Salinas is actually three different missions, all in different states of disrepair. It is going to be a long driving day – just to get to the first mission is an hour and a half drive.
First up is Abo which was a thriving pueblo when the first Franciscan showed up to begin converting the heathens into the Christian way of life in 1622 and in the process enslaving the people to send back trading goods back to Europe. In 1853, the place was in ruins and Maj. Carleton, on an expedition to investigate the Salinas district, came upon Abo at dusk. He wrote “The tall ruins, standing there in solitude, had an aspect of sadness and gloom....the cold wind...appeared to roar and howl through the roofless pile like an angry demon.”
Miko and I took the half mile loop around the place and read the signs. One interesting thing was that right in the center of the whole structure was a kiva, which was used by the natives as an underground place to do rituals. Speculation is that the Franciscans, in the early days, allowed the natives to worship in the old ways as they transitioned into the Christian way. 
Abo - doesn't look like much, does it?

Kiva - used to have a roof and a ladder to climb down into it
 
We then drove into Mountainaire, NM where the main visitor center for the monument was. I did not have time to watch the thirty minute movie which really hurt, cause I love all those visitor center movies. They are all so earnest and heartfelt and also can give you a feel for what you are about to see. Miko was waiting in the car and I didn't want to keep her waiting.
Ranger Dixie was in charge and we talked about the lifestyle of the Pueblo people. I asked why they allowed themselves to be enslaved when most of the time it was only one or two Franciscans who showed up. These were cities, how did this happen. Ranger Dixie said that in the early days, the conquistadors came and massacred many of these farmer Pueblo people. After that, the people were a little hesitant to resist in any fashion.
Then Ranger Dixie told me about the Apache. The Apache were a warlike tribe down in southwest New Mexico and south east Arizona. When they were finally conquered, they were sent to Florida where half of them died because they were unused to the heat and the humidity and the lifestyle. They begged and begged to be able to come back to their native land and finally they were allowed to come as far as Oklahoma. The story is that as these Apaches are being transported in wagons to Oklahoma, they finally were able to hear the coyotes howling. The Apache women all cried at the sound of their homeland. Ranger Dixie started crying which set me off so we cried together. Very sad story.
She also told me the story about Molly Goodnight
From Wikipedia:

The last of the remaining "southern herd" in Texas were saved before extinction in 1876. Charles Goodnight's wife Molly encouraged him to save some of the last relict bison that had taken refuge in the Texas Panhandle. Extremely committed to save this herd, she went as far as to rescue some young orphaned buffaloes and even bottle fed and cared for them until adulthood. By saving these few plains bison, she was able to establish an impressive buffalo herd near the Palo Duro Canyon. Peaking at 250 in 1933, the last of the southern buffalo would become known as the Goodnight herd.[15] The descendants of this southern herd were moved to Caprock Canyons State Park near Quitaque, Texas, in 1998.[16]


I decided not to drive down to the second of the three missions – Gran Quivira. It was a twenty five mile drive one way and Miko is not the best car traveler. So we moved nine miles north to Quarai Mission, the biggest and most complete mission of the three. I walked into the information center and found the ranger sound asleep, kicked back in his chair, mouth wide open. Of course, he woke up and denied he was sleeping when I asked him if he had a good nap. These missions are way out in the middle of nowhere, so I suppose he doesn't get all that many visitors.
Quarai was founded a few years before Abo. It is large but it's distinction is that it was the New Mexico center for the Inquisition, that terrible period in time where it was pretty much a witch hunt in all Spanish areas of influence. I thought the Inquisition was much earlier, more in the 1200s but I guess there was a revival Inquisition in the 1600s. After we wandered around the ruins, Miko and I took a one mile hike around the area.
Oh, Ranger Leroy, when he was telling me about the hiking trails told me that I needed a heavier coat and gloves. He was inside the information center as he is telling me this, wearing a coat and gloves. I told him I was from Minnesota and this weather was wonderful and balmy. 
On the Trail
Quarai

Quarai from the Trail
 
We drove back to Enchanted Trails and came into Albuquerque on the east side through the Sandia mountains. Beautiful, big round hills. There are supposed to be a lot of trails on this side of town. I will have to check them out.
Saturday
First off I want to mention that today is my mother's 90th birthday party.  Happy Birthday Mom!!!
I have four things on my list of things to do
Albuquerque Alpacas – what is not to love about an alpaca. This farm gives tours and you get to get up close and personal with the alpacas. Alas – you have to call ahead for an appointment. My lack of planning does not allow me to visit the alpacas this trip.
Tinkertown – this schizophrenic guy dealt with his schizophrenia by creating this dioramas where you put a quarter or a nickel in and everything starts moving. It is supposed to be quite amazing but alas – it is only open April – November.
The Balloon Museum – Albuquerque is known for it's balloon festival in October. Balloons are huge. This museum is supposed to tell you the history and all the news that is the news about balloons. Alas, today is their St. Patrick Day Festival – 10 bands, multiple vendors, crowded museum – I guess I'm becoming more and more of a curmudgeon than I thought. Doesn't sound appealing to me
The last trail of the Petroglyph National Monument is the Volcano Trail. Ok, I will do that. It is about four miles away, dogs are allowed. So, after putzing around all morning (cleaned my black tank – it had better be sparkly and shiny in there now), Miko and I went over to the Volcano Trail. There are three collapsed volcanoes that you can hike around. You should not go to the top because the local natives believe the top of volcanoes are sacred. It was sort of a boring hike – not to interesting and you had to watch your step because of all the little pieces of lava rock on the trail.
The collapsing volcano I am going to climb
The mountains east of Albuquerque that I am NOT going to climb
I was thinking to myself, with all this “alone” time, I have time to solve all the cosmic problems in the universe. I can ponder in great depth all sort of “big” questions. What do I find myself thinking on – “gee, I wonder what I should have for dinner” or “I wonder what kind of tennis shoes made those tracks” Ok, maybe this is a self discovery thing – maybe I'm not a very deep person. That's ok, we need shallow people in the world too. I'm glad I'm finding my place.
I headed for the grocery store. Stopped at Albertson's which is your regular grocery story and then I stopped at El Mesquite. El Mesquite is like Trader Joe's of the Hispanic world. Most all of the products were in Spanish (Lays potato chips – flavors you never see up north), there was a deli, a food court and hispanic music blaring. English was not heard anyplace except when somebody wanted to talk to me. I wonder what half of those foods were. All I bought were some avocados – I'll have to branch out more food exploration wise.