Sunday, April 30, 2017

WhereTo Go?

Where to Go? Where to Go? North, East, West or South?

South - I'm sort of tired of scrubby landscape and it is getting warm.
West – I'm sort of running out of time and how can you leave Utah without seeing everything?
North – Lows in the twenties and snow – no thank you

I guess that leaves East. ARKANSAS!!!! But, but.... I have to cross Texas. Texas, the land of good highways and cheap gas. Texas, the land of consistent flat and cow-filled scenery. It took me two whole days to cross Texas at my current rate of travel.

The first night, I stayed in Amarillo. Right outside of Amarillo in a nowhere type of place is Cadillac Ranch where somebody has put nine Cadillacs nose down in the dirt. People are welcome to bring their spray paint with them and let loose their inner graffiti artist. I'm thinking artist might be sort of a strong word here. Maybe I should use the word preservationist instead of artist because I'm sure that all the different layers of paint are all that are holding these cars together.

Miko admiring her handiwork

Miko looking all noble

Down the road apiece, there was the 2nd Amendment Cowboy. Not too sure what that is about, but they had three Cadillacs nose down that were in pristine shape.

As I was driving from my campsite at the local Amarillo Walmart to the Ranch, I passed through a suburban neighborhood. One house had a rather large back yard and I look over and see llamas. Llamas in suburbia. Wait – there are also zebras. Then I see......a giant live one humped camel. In their backyard!!!! Who does this in Suburbia? Oh, right – I'm in Texas. I stopped again on my way back from the Ranch to take a picture of the camel and I didn't see it. Figment of my imagination? I wonder.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Friends Become Good Friends

I have had an email correspondence with a woman named Renee who lives in Albuquerque. She has a Class C motorhome and just happens to be the sister of a dear friend of mine back up north. Since I was in the neighborhood, Renee and I decided to meet up. After a few discussions, we settled on Navajo Lake State Park way up at the top of New Mexico. Miko and I had a blast and I'm not just saying that because Renee will probably read this.

The road to Navajo Lake that I took was like a roller coaster ride. You would go up a super steep hill, so steep that the RV would start losing power and I would have to downshift. Then when you got to the top of the hill, the road just disappeared. It went straight down and not just a little down but a long, long, long ways down. My stomach dropped out several times.

I arrived first and found a perfect site who a couple of rigs camping together. The sites were very close together which is probably why nobody else had taken them. For us, it was perfect. We overlooked the Marina in one direction, we had a nature view out the other direction and we had a trail that led down the hill to the lake so the dogs could play in the water. Did I say dogs? Renee shows up with the rest of her family – Peaches, Haven and Whiskey (who I kept calling Molly for some reason). Three of nicest dogs, two of which were big big dogs.

The Marina

The Nature View

L-R: Haven, Whiskey, Renee and Peaches

Miko is used to being the center of attention when we walk around the campgrounds, but when we would walk all four dogs, it was Peaches that everybody fawned over. Peaches is part Great Dane and part Rottweiler and rather stunning.

We walked and walked and in between we talked and talked. Renee is tremendously funny and given all that she has been thru, one of the strongest women I've met. Amazing person.

Beyond walking endlessly around the campground, there was one trail that we wanted to hike that went back into the mountains. There were supposed to be ruins back there and also, supposedly some gold that some bad guys hid back in them thar hills. We loaded all four dogs into the Mini Cooper and truth be told, we probably could have fit in a few more puppies. We didn't find the gold nor the ruins, but it was fun crawling through the rocks on the top of the mountains.

They moved too quick so I couldn't get them all in the photo

After spending a few days at Navajo Lake, we were getting a little bored. Even my next door neighbor, Leroy, with his amazing biscuits and gravy could not make us stay. It was back down south to a Corp of Engineer park called Cochita Lake which was a little bit west of Santa Fe. I was only a couple of miles away from Bandelier National Monument where I spent some time earlier in the month. It was a nice park, overlooking the lake. The best part was that I finally got to do laundry. There is something so special and exciting when you get to come home with all your clothes clean.

After a couple of days, Renee decided that she probably should move on. She had a few appointments that she couldn't miss. When she left, Miko kept looking for her doggie buddies. Sad.

Cochita Lake

There was a New Mexico storm moving in - wimpy, wimpy - followed by five minutes of OMG rain.  You can barely see the mountains in the background

Friday, April 28, 2017

Aztec - What's In A Name?

I say goodbye to Abiquiu – I am totally in love with this place. I think in all of my travels so far, this is the longest I've ever stayed anyplace. I really hope to be back someday.

I am heading north, about as close to the Colorado border as you can get. I am on my way to another Junior Ranger badge at the Aztec Ruins. I stayed at the Ruins Road RV Park – the park itself is basically a big field with all the RVs lined up side by side. I lucked out and got a spot (11B) that was on the end so that I had nobody on one side of me. I also lucked out because this park had full hookups and was only $20 a night. The park was right on the Animas River and we could walk down along the river. The river was almost to the edge of the banks and running extremely fast. I watched a goose family take their little ones to the water edge and I was afraid the little ones would be swept away. Those plucky little guys jumped in and stayed right by the rest of the family. They must have been paddling like mad to stay in place.

Following the path along the river I came to an old rickety bridge that I had to go under.  I was surprised to see that somebody had been painting there.

Aztec Ruins – I was thinking this would be just another ancient ruin but it turns out that there has been some restoration done on the buildings. There was a little bit of controversy about whether or not these ruins should have been restored but as a latter-day tourist, it was much easier to imagine how these Ancients lived day to day. It brought it more to life, if you will.

Fun Fact:  Although they are called Aztec Ruins, the people who lived and worked here were not Aztec. The Spaniards called all native peoples Aztec and in this case, the name stuck.

This is one of the restored areas.  It is the underground Kiva where the Ancients held their ceremonies.  I don't think they had LED lighting on the stairs back in the day.  Actually, maybe they didn't even have stairs now that I think about it.  Notice the ladders all around the room.

And now we have my attempt at being artistic.  In the ruins, one room led to another

The Ruins

For my Junior Ranger Badge I had to draw a picture of different restoration methods.  I chose to take a picture of a ranger restoring a wall.  It worked and I got my badge

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Plaza Blanca

One of the places that Georgia O'Keefe painted was a place that is a little northeast of Abiquiu. She called it 'The White Place' but it's official name is Plaza Blanca. It is actually perhaps a little more gray than white but who am I to argue.

The area is owned by Dar al Islam: ' a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating greater understanding of Islam among Americans of all faiths in order to establish our commonalities and build stronger relationships.' Even though this is private property, they allow people to come and experience this very special space. Even better, they let dogs come and experience this also.

Miko and I were the only ones out there hiking. Perhaps it was because we drove out to Plaza Blanca mid afternoon. Mid-afternoon – hottest part of the day. Add on to this, the fact that these rock formations are white which adds a lot of radiant heat. Miko and I soldiered on though and made it.

There were lots of little tiny slot canyons and we followed a few of them. There was one slot where it got quite narrow and there was a big step up – too big for Miko to get up. I wanted to see where the slot went so I lifted Miko up and had to scramble myself to get up there. Turns out this slot went nowhere, we immediately rounded a corner and it was a dead end. I, of course, had not taken into account that we had to somehow get out of this slot – we had to get down this now giant step. Miko, being the brains of the operation, knew that she couldn't make it. I tried coaxing her and then I guess I maybe accidentally pushed her a bit. She ended up sort of splayed out in mid air with her legs braced against each side of the slot, hanging in mid air. I grabbed her harness and pulled her back up. Sorry Miko. I then got myself splayed out halfway down, reached out, grabbed her harness and then lifted her down. I ended up sliding down a bit on my butt and we walked out of that slot with our head held high as though nothing happened.

Notice that there are no Red Rock pictures. It is all about White Rocks.

Miko Ears

Proceeding down this slot was way above our abilities

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ghost Ranch

Today is Ghost Ranch day. Georgia O'Keefe bought a small plot of land in the middle of a dude ranch called Ghost Ranch. I think Ghost Ranch itself is about 35 square miles and Ms. O'Keefe spent many years painting the surrounding landscape. The dude ranch was sold to the Presbyterian Church in the mid-fifties and the church currently still owns it. There are several tours offered at Ghost Ranch – I have elected to take a Landscape Tour. This is a tour where you get on a bus and they take you to various sites, show you the picture that O'Keefe painted and then show you what she was actually painting.

I get to the ranch, walk up the steps to the welcome center and tell a lady with a name tag and a big hat that I am here for the tour. She rushes up, grabs me and gives me a huge hug. “I'm so glad you are here – you are our only client for the tour today” she says. Part of me thinks “Super”, while the other part thinks “oh geez, now I will have to really pay attention to everything that gets said”. Luckily, in the next fifteen minutes, two other women spontaneously join the tour. Now this is the perfect size tour group.

After a fifteen minute movie, we get on the mini-bus with big windows and go through a gate which keeps the plain tourists out. We are getting a behind-the-scene tour. Yay!!! It really was fun – it was more of a conversational type of tour. Kate, the tour guide would tell little anecdotes about Georgia and her life on the ranch.

Such as:
Georgia bought a Model A for $650 but she didn't know how to drive. One of her friends tried to teach her but quit after Georgia ran into a barn. Another tutor was teaching her and when he was asked if she was a good driver he said – Not really, but she is fearless.

Ghost Ranch has many hiking trails that I could take Miko on. I meant to come back on a following day and spend time doing that but it was not meant to be.

And now for more Red Rocks - I'm lovin' me those red rocks

Miko finding something interesting in the lake

Miko's friend, Jemez, trying to convince Miko to come in swimming

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Long and Winding Road

Fro me, the whole reason to go to Abiquiu was because it was Georgia O'Keefe country and I am a giant fan of her work. I wanted to see where she painted, what drew her to this area of New Mexico. I'm not sure the exact reasons that she came, but I'm here to tell you that this is some of the most beautiful country in the U.S. Of A. Wow and double wow.

I pull into Riana Campground which is run by the Corp of Engineers. Because of my advanced age, I get to camp here for half price. Eight dollars a night for a scenic campsite and I get water and electricity also. I had planned to hit the ground running but I found that sitting outside in the perfect weather, staring at Georgia's pet mountain: Cerro Pedernal which means Flint Mountain was throughly engrossing. I would occasionally turn my lawn chair 180 degrees and look over Abiquiu Lake (actually a reservoir).

View out the front of the RV

View out the back - this is Cerro Pedernal - Georgia's Mountain

My Site

I probably sat there for a day and a half before I decided I should do more in the area besides walk Miko when she became insistent. I thought that since it was Easter Sunday perhaps I should go visit the local Benedictine Monastery of Christ In The Desert. The chapel was supposed to be special and every couple of hours, the monks file in and half sit on one side of the chapel, half sit on the other side of the chapel and they chant back and forth. This could be interesting, I looked at their prayer schedule and found a time when the chanting was only going to be ten minutes long. Keep in mind I am not a religious person at all.

Now the monastery is back in the mountains about thirteen miles off of the main road. I left home about a half hour early figuring that was plenty of time to go thirteen miles. Probably take me about 15 minutes? What I didn't take into account was that this thirteen mile road was a single lane, dirt washboard road that at times hung precariously to the side of mountains. Let us not even mention what happens when you meet a car. Forty five minutes later I arrive at the monastery, it is hard to see my car, it is covered with about fifty tons of red dirt. I missed None(the ten minute long prayer session) but I was going to be in time for Vespers.

The parking lot is a ways down the road from the monastery and as I'm walking up the road, I met a young woman in her twenties coming from the monastery. She stops me and says how much visiting this monastery has meant to her, how it has reaffirmed her faith. It was such a very intense spiritual experience for her. She said “I wept”. She then gave me a huge sprig of sage and hoped that my visit would move me as much as it had her. I thanked her and walked on.

The Monastery of Christ In The Desert

Mountains Behind the Monastery

I had a few minutes before Vespers so I went into the gift shop. There were monk made candles and monk made carvings. Lots of monk made goods. I wandered along until I came to a rosary display (nun made, not monk made). I was raised Catholic and I remember my Great Gram teaching me to say the rosary. I suddenly realized that I no longer remembered anything about it. I walked up to Brother John, a very young monk and asked him if he could help me remember how to say the rosary. He became very excited, in a very quiet monk-like way and said “You want me to say the rosary with you?” Not quite what I had in mind, but ok. He started to show me and I don't know what happened but all of a sudden I had tears streaming down my face. I felt very overcome with emotion. I don't know if it was remembering Gram or the spirituality of the place but I could not stop weeping.

So Brother John and I are praying together, rather Brother John is praying and I'm crying and saying words. He says "Hail Mary..............Full of Grace............" etc. Meanwhile I'm going "HailMaryFullOfGrace" etc. I think perhaps my spiritual lesson here is that I should probably slow down and reflect a bit more.

It is now time for Vespers. Brother John has to leave me quickly to get in line with the rest of the monks. I go into the chapel and it is beautifully simple. There are windows above the alter in three different directions where you can see the mountains pressed up close to the monastery. There are four rows of pews for the faithful or spectators and on each side of the aisle, there are only two or three seats. I think the audience could be about 12 people and I was one of them. I was definitely the only heathen there.

The Chapel

The monks file in down the center aisle, followed by the incense swinger and a priest (officiant) and alter boy (monk). Turns out Vespers is not any ten minute deal. Over an hour later, the service is done. It was interesting watching the monks and even more moving to sit there and look at the mountains outside the window.

I thanked Brother John for his spiritual guidance before I left with my rosary in hand. It was now 6:30 and I was a little concerned that I might have to drive down that dirt road in the dark so I hightailed it out. I need not have worried, I got home before dark. Must have been cause I had that rosary watching out for me.

Pictures on "The Long and Winding Road":

Monday, April 17, 2017

Heron Lake State Park

I actually spent three nights here at Heron Lake. There is nothing to do, nothing really to see. But it was quiet. When I got there on a Wednesday, there were only a couple of other campers there. One 80 year old guy who had a big old yellow dog named Girlfriend. Just him and his Girlfriend.   He volunteered on an antique railroad that ran during the summer months. The other was a seventy year old woman Named Cory. She lived in her small little Toyota station wagon with two rescue Jack Russell dogs that people had abandoned in campgrounds in Arkansas and Mississippi. She had been doing this for years and loved the life. She had no tent or anything, it was just the car. Lovely lady.

Miko and I just pretty much vegged out – did some baby hikes, did some chores.

Heron Lake

The lake is really low - all the brown area is lake bottom

Quarter mile Nature Trail - somebody worked very hard laying stones the whole length of the trail

For some reason, Miko refused to look at the camera - this is the best we could do

Laundry Day at the ol' homestead - did it all by hand with a bucket and my washing machine plunger

Finally got me a New Mexico sunset