Tucson, AZ. Feb 2017, Part 4

My sister, Judy and her husband, Bruce were in Green Valley at the same time we were in Tucson. Green Valley is about 30 miles south of where we were at Diamond J’s.  They went with us to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and a few other places as well. It was nice to see them and share these places with them.

Tumacácori National Historical Park.

Tumacácori National Historical Park is south of Green Valley. It is a small area that protects the ruins of old Spanish missions in the Santa Cruz River valley. The Jesuit mission was established in 1691, the oldest one in Arizona. The goal was to convert the indigenous O’odham people to Catholicism and to organize them into a working commune that could help support the community and the church the missionaries had them build.  It remained a Jesuit mission until the Pima Rebellion of 1751 when the Jesuits were forced out and the Franciscan monks took over.  Most of the Jesuit mission was torn down and replaced with one that was more in the Franciscan style.  Their increased demands on the O’odham people to contribute more agricultural products, money and labor led to it’s eventual abandonment.  It fell into disrepair until it was named a National Historic Monument in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt and stabilization and restoration efforts began.

Today you visit the grounds, the remains of the mission and a museum.  And of course a gift shop.

This was the funeral chapel.  The holes in the walls are where the scaffolding poles were inserted. The building was not completed. If it had been the holes would have been filled in.

The interior of the mission church was pretty substantial and much cooler inside than out.  There were drawings that showed what it might have looked like.  The roof beams and roof were part of the stabilization and preservation effort.  Without a roof the building wouldn’t have survived very long.

This is the Franciscan version of the mission. 

The grounds were interesting.  There was a large lime kiln.  They would pile chunks of limestone on a big iron grate over a fire pit and roast it for days and then crush what was left, mix it with water and sand to make white stucco which preserved the adobe bricks.  There were wells, cisterns, irrigation canals, orchards and fields to grow food.  There was a picnic area where we had a picnic lunch. A local person was baking scratch made corn tortillas over a fire and serving samples with a chili sauce.  Yum!

We also went to Tubac. It was established in 1752 as a spanish fort and was the first Arizona State Park and now hosts an artists’ colony with gift shops and restaurants.  There was a kitchen shop. We found a very nice 8″ saute pan that was just what we had been looking for.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t made by any local artist.

Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Kitt Peak National Observatory is about 50 miles west of Diamond J’s.  It is on the top 300 feet one of the most important mountains in the cultural heritage of the Tohono O’odham Nation. This area was identified as a candidate for a National Observatory in the 1950’s.  There were careful negotiations with the Tohono O’odham elders for permission to build on the top of the 6,800 foot mountain. They finally agreed and the site is respectful of the cultural heritage.

Kitt Peak is home to the largest array of optical and radio telescopes in the world.  There are more than 25 telescopes on the mountain operated by different Universities and coalitions.  There is a 4 meter telescope, the biggest one in the world when it was built in the 1960’s.  There is also a 3.5 meter telscope, several radio telescopes and one of the biggest solar telescopes in the world.  This telescope looks directly at the sun to study sun spots and solar flares.  

We went on three docent led tours to three different telescopes and had a picnic lunch high up in the sun.

This is the 4 meter Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope.

It was quite cool (temp) inside. The big blue ring holds the yellow reflector.  Both rotate to aim at the desired object in the night sky.  All of this is highly automated today.  In 1960, not so much.  This is a very busy telescope in use almost every night.  The scientists who are using the telescope stay in dormitories on the mountain sleeping during the day and working at night. Time on this telescope is scheduled out for years in the future.

This was the McMath–Pierce solar telescope.  Most of the telescope is below ground.

The radio telescope on the right is part of a string of radio telescopes several thousand miles long that are all coordinated to point at the same place in space at the same time.    Looking west, you could see a long way from up here.

Tucson Botanical Garden.

We also went to the Tucson Botanical Garden (on a different day).  This was more in the middle of Tucson.  There was a Frida Kahlo art exhibit there as well as the gardens to see.  Pretty amazing gardens. Interesting art too.

This was a family owned farm and ranch back in the 1930’s and then a garden center up until the 1950’s when it was donated to the city. Now there is a gift shop.

The Tucson Garden Railroad Club has a model railroad here. There are many outdoor garden railroads in Tucson. A sign gave a schedule of tours of these railroads.  This was pretty detailed and the trains were running.

And a butterfly house.  Here is an amazing one who just sat there, wings spread, waiting for me to take its picture. It was about 4″ across.

Tucson Jewish Community Center.

We also went to the Tucson Jewish Community Center to see a quilt show.  These were all done by a woman whose focus was on homeless people. Her own son was a homeless person that she could not find.  The quilts were cotton, hand painted with fiber reactive dyes and then quilted.  None of the quilts showed any facial features.  Nameless, faceless, homeless.

They were also selling a homemade twisted Jewish Challah bread.  We just happened to be there on Friday when they had it.  The lady at the counter said it sold out quickly.  So I bought one, it was sweet and very good.
Kind of a rainy day today.  Good day to try to catch up on blogs.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, AZ, Feb 2017, Part 3

One of the things we have started to see in RV parks over the past few years is the use of rope lighting on the ground around your RV. And now it extends around your car, your picnic table and around the entire site.  And it is not that pleasant mood lighting sort of thing, the game is on to find the most obnoxious, brightest, most glaring lights you can find.  And then to put up some junk art in front of your sight and decorated that as well.

Here is an example. Actually not as bad as some but the guy had three projectors shining the little light speckles on his coach.  It is like everyone is trying to decorate for Christmas.  They will all tell you that this keeps away rodents, snakes, spiders and things that crawl up into into your RV and eat wires.  I am convinced that this old wives tale was propagated by the “Ugly Rope Light Manufacturers Assoociation” as a way to sell this ugliness to the naive RV public.  There is no evidence that this works but lots of less than logical testimonials that it does.  

Awning Lights

Well, we had been thinking of a way to add a bit of evening lighting under the awning so we got some micro LED lights (they are about the size of a grain of rice) that are strung together about 5″ apart with very fine copper wire.  This was our first iteration.

This string has the right color, a lower Kelvin temperature which makes them more yellow.  I had to figure out how to shorten the string to the awning length which the directions said couldn’t be done.  This string was not dimmable. Power comes from the coach and up an awning arm.

These looked good.  The coach actually has underbody lighting as well.  Not as garish as rope lights.  We liked the way this looked so we got another string that was dimmable.  That string was too white.  So a third string finally had both the color and dimmable features we wanted.  These are about $9 each so trying a couple out to get the right one wasn’t a big deal.  The final version is actually sewn onto the inside of the awning flap along one of the stitching lines.  If it is off you can hardly see it. The power cord disconnects at the flap edge and the lights roll up inside of the awning when it is stowed. Neat!

Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum is about 8 miles from Diamond J’s in the same way you go to Saguaro National Park but not as far. It is a mix of Museum and Zoo, a bit of history and popular displays.

The Museum was started in the early 1950’s.  One of the early volunteers and stakeholders bought a fleet of these 1960ish Studebaker Lark station wagons that were used to take the museum to classrooms around the area to teach kids about the world around them.  There was a Studebaker Lark in the Deming Museum, pretty amazing to see two.

Lizards are everywhere in the desert.  They are an integral part of the environment.  They mostly eat insects and are usually very fast movers, hard to get a picture.  But here are some examples who seemed at ease and willing to pose for a snapshot.  These were all about 4-5′ long.

And flowers.  Every plant in the desert blooms when there is water and the right temperature.  It is the way they create more plants.  And there were bees all over moving from flower to flower.

I think these were called Fairy Dusters.  Bright red.

And a red poppy perhaps?

The cactus flowers are usually small but bright.

These long tube shaped flowers were favorites of hummingbirds.

Sometimes the flower is just the end of a new branch.  There were flowers everywhere.  Not just here.  The wet winter and warming temperatures had then showing up everywhere.

I have no idea what these are, just interesting seed pods.

There were lots of animals here as well. A black bear, a cougar, a bobcat, snakes of all types, prairie dogs and lots more.  There were birds as well.

These are small burrowing owls.  They are common across the SW all the way over to the Gulf Coast in Texas.

And a Harris Hawk perched on a gloved hand of a handler.  These hawks live in family groups and hunt for prey as a group. That is a very uncommon behavior for birds.

And a hummingbird on her nest just a bit bigger than a ping pong ball.

Back at the campground we got an occasional sprinkle of rain followed by sun and almost always a rainbow.  It looks so close.

And a pretty nice sunset almost every night.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, AZ.  Feb 2017, Part 2

A Walk in the Desert.

Diamond J’s is an nice place and an odd place at the same time.  “Doc” Justin has lived in this area for ever as has his family going back a few generations. But no one ever sees him.  He is apparently in his 70’s.  His wife (?) Christine runs the place.  She might be 60, probably less.  She is welcoming and very enthusiastic.  We were there two years ago but she was sure we had been coming for years.  She remembers everyone’s name. She put us in a nice spot which we appreciated.  There are no computers, no cash registers, no Visa machines.  She will take reservations over the phone, no internet, no on-line reservations, no email confirmations, no deposit.  Cash or check on arrival. She writes it all down in a spiral bound notebook and some very cryptic stuff on a white board. The money just goes into a box.  We think she may have come here from Vietnam or somewhere over there.  No one is really sure, even the folks that have been coming here for years. So at times she is a bit hard to understand even though she has been here for a long time.  What an interesting place.

And being right next to the Tucson Desert Mountain Park there are plenty of trails to walk.  And plenty of Saguaro Cacti to look at.  These grow very slowly.  A six foot high Saguaro might be 80 years old.  They generally start sprouting arms at 100 years old or so.  They can live to be more than 300 years old.

The trails are pretty well marked, even with GPs coordinates if you want to know where you are.

This is an active senior Saguaro, maybe 200+ years old, 24 ft tall.  And Susan.

And us with a middle aged fellow.

And a few many armed ones as well.  Just like in the old west movies.  

The trails were easy to follow, the lizards were out which we learned later was a sign that other creepy crawly things were not far behind.  There were lots of rabbits, really big rabbits with long ears.  You would see them dart by and swear it was a good sized dog.  And coyotes too, lots of them.  About an hour before sundown they started yipping and we felt surrounded, we were surrounded!  Howling started at sundown.  

Our friend,  Bob Flagler from Duluth was visiting out in Tucson while we were there.  Normally Bob is off in some odd place like Nepal teaching during the winter.  This year was a stay-at-home winter so he came to Tucson.  And we all went off to Saguaro National Park just north of Diamond J’s for a hike.

A nice day – warm, sunny.  Lots of water, walking stick in hand and off we went.  The top of the ridge in the distance was the destination.  Maybe four miles round trip.  And a good chunk almost straight up 😜.

Bob is an active hiker 

We saw an ocotillo with blooms which preceed small leaves on this thorny shrub.

And finally the top.

There was a trail that wound along the ridge. And off in the distance the large pools collect run-off and water from a small river.  The water soaks down into the ground to recharge the aquifer that is below this area.

And the flowers were starting to bloom.  Amazing color.

We came back to Diamond J’s and had supper at the coach.  We noticed this sign on a corner near Diamond J’s.

Lots of yaking and then it was time for Bob to call it a day. I gave him a ride back to where he was staying.  We slept well that night.

The next afternoon I called SnowBirdPasties.  The lady makes them at her home and then delivers them in the local area.  She had just returned.  I wondered if we could still get some that afternoon.  She asked where we were and said we were only a couple miles from her and I could come and get them.  I followed the directions and arrived at a very rural place. She came out with the pasties, $6 each and they were big ones.  They had carrots in them but that is the Yooper way.  No carrots in a pastie from the Range in MN.  It turns out she was from MN too and had moved out to Tucson just a few years ago.  She had two pretty good sized pigs in the fenced in yard that came from MN as well.  Maybe a resource for next year’s pasties.

The pasties were good.  Ground meat not chunk like we make them but tastey.  Nice crust.  We got two traditional pasties and two  SW chicken pasties with peppers, onions cheese and more.  These were very good too.

It is fun to explore, to follow the signs and see what turns up.  We are doing our best to minimize the structure and schedule associated with being elsewhere. Each day evolves as it does.  Sometimes we have to plan ahead a day or two but most of the time without external influences, we just see how it shapes up.  Almost alway good.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, AZ.  Feb 2017. Part 1

We left Deming in a strong wind from the SW.  The road to Tucson heads west and then north and downhill towards Tucson.  The wind direction changed to more southerly direction.  That gave us downhill and a tailwind and 16 mpg for a couple of hours.  We were heading for an area SW of Tucson and an RV park we have been to before, Justin’s Diamond J.  It really is a pretty nice park. It is adjacent to the Tucson Mountain Desert Park, a huge desert park with trails all over.  It is not far from Saguaro National Park, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum (sort of an arboretum/zoo) and several other tourist attractions … none of which we went to.

Justin’s Diamond J is a popular destination for many Foretravelers.  There were six of them there while we were there. The sites are very spacious and reasonably priced.  The neighbor on one side had his Airstream Trailer there but in the two weeks we were there we never saw him.  It is a 55+ park so there really weren’t any kids except for the “big kids”.  It has a nice laundry and an active evening social life for those who want to take part in that.  Cards Tuesday and Thursday.  There was a pizza night, all you wanted for $5.  And a wiener roast in the park one night.  Lots of folks here for the winter.

There are mountains between this area and the busy southern part of Tucson.  It feels remote and it sort of is but it is only 20 minutes to the grocery stores, Walmart, Lowes and more and only 10 minutes to a first class hardware store.  Almost every morning there were low clouds in the nearby mountains.

Most parks cram as many spaces in as possible.  Here there was a garden area in the middle of the loop.

And most evening a pretty nice sunset.

Susan and I ordered electric bike wheels for our bikes.  They are easy to put on, just take off the existing front wheel and replace it with the electric wheel.  It takes about a minute. They have an electric motor, a substantial Lithium Ion battery and a throttle.  You can ride the bike with no electric assist or coast to a stop or down a hill and the battery recharges.  If you want the electic wheel to help or do all of the work you just press on the throttle.

The tire is a foam filled puncture proof tire, more like a road bike tire than our normal fatter tires. The motor is at the bottom. The battery is above and behind it.  The battery comes out and can be plugged in to recharge.  They weigh more than the original tire so with no power assist it takes a bit more effort to ride but not much.  With the motor on the bike will go almost 20 mph.  With normal use you can go about 15 – 20 miles.  I was excited to try it out.  No helmet!

The electric wheel looks smaller than the rear wheel but it is the same size rim just a smaller tire.  

These are great fun.  Our goal was to just ride more and more often.  If these help do that then great.  Our friends Kent and Peggy Speers were also at Diamond J’s.  They have electric bikes too so one day we loaded them on the bike racks and went to a bike trail head in Tucson.  Tucson has hundreds of miles of bike trails through the city.  The one we were on followed a river (dry). We rode a little over 10 miles out and back.  Susan used her battery quite a bit but it still had charge left.  I used mine less so I had more.  Kent and I had a drag race.  We hit 19.6 mph.  

Kent said we needed to try Tiny’s for lunch.   So we followed them to this dumpy looking biker bar.

And went inside, found a table in the back.

And had a spectacular patty melt for me and a double cheeseburger for Susan.  The other half of my patty melt was my dinner.  You can’t always tell what you are going to get.

Lots more from Tucson coming up, later.

Roger and Susan

Deming, NM, February, 2017

We have been to Deming before but this time it is on purpose, two nights at the Dream Catcher RV Park.   It is just over an hour from Las Cruces. It is an OK park, easy to get into and out of, an adequate laundry and good water and power.  A lot of folks here are here for a long time, maybe the winter, maybe forever.  And that leaves the whole center section for the short-term visitors.  Almost everyone that came in on the day we did were gone the next day and replaced by new folks.  

So why would anyone stop in Deming?  Rockhound State Park is a well known destination for rock heads looking for the perfect rock.  And there are lots of rocks.  Lots of rocks! What many are looking for are the hollow geodes.  They find the geodes that have filled in and discard them.  My somewhat distant relatives in Falls City, OR, think the other way.  They want the filled-in geodes so this is like easy pickings for them.  

And the Luna County History Museum.  One of the best of this kind of museum we have ever seen.

And the Spanish Stirrup Ranch, a stone’s throw from Rockhound State Park.  It was Dude Ranch from the 1940’s to the mid 70’s.  Some might call it a Guest Ranch.  Susan stayed here in the 1950’s with her family an a vacation.  Her brother insists it was a “Working Ranch” where you have to work for food. Riding, roping, branding and bronco busting.   I can just see 12 year old Frank busting a bronco.  Probably a bit of each depending on your selective recollections.  Susan remembered it as Guest Ranch.

Rockhound State Park

Rockhound State Park is about 12 miles SE of Deming. We were going to stay there but there was no room.  A busy park and pretty much full all winter.

There was a nice Visitor’s Center with a guy who looked like he had been there for a long time.  He was nice and helpful.  There was a display about all of the plants in the area and how the native tribes used then for food, materials for building, baskets, tools and other things, medicines for all sorts of ailments and clothing.  Everything had a purpose and nothing was wasted.

The campground was up on the hillside.  Nice sites with water and electric.  Another $14/night State Park.

We went to diner one night at the Adobe Deli.  It was all talked up in the local info.  It was a long drive out into nowhere and a pretty crusty bar with food.  The service was very slow and the food not particularly good. Don’t go there.  They did have a stuffed alligator, bear and other animals. 

After visiting the Luna County History Museum we had lunch as Si Señor’s.  A much, much better meal.

Spanish Stirrup Ranch

Susan visited the Spanish Stirrup Ranch when she was youngster. It was run by the May family. The ranch is still there, not quite as it was.  All of the Mays are gone and there is no one following them.  Some years ago the ranch house was turned into a Rock Shop.  When we visited it was closed.

Clovis May was leading guests on horseback rides when he was only 8. And this is what Susan remembers the ranch looking like.

This photo shows the ranch in operation after 27 years, probably in the late 50’s based on the cars in the picture.  Looks like a helicopter right out of M*A*S*H.

Chili? Hot dogs? Burgers?  Susan though maybe beef stew with biscuits.   I’ll bet it was great!

The May boys were big into Ranch Sports – Rodeo, Bronco Riding and Bull Riding.  Harley was National College Rodeo Champ.

These photos were all at the Luna County History Museum along with much more about the Spanish Stirrup Ranch.  

Luna County History Museum

The main reason we stopped in Demming was for a return to the Luna County History Museum.  This really is one of the best of these we have seen.  Luna County has been through many changes over the years.  There were periods of logging, ranching and cattle and mining. Even a gold rush. It was an Army air base before WWII and during WWII it was a bombardier training center that trained more than 12,000 servicemen and women. Today Deming is growing slightly, lots of folks retire here and it is a popular destination for rock hounds.

Here are some things that caught my eye this time through …

From the Spanish Stirrup Ranch.

This painting is amazing.

More than 1000 dolls in this collection including the Roosevelts.

And a Governor.  Amazing.

Quilts and textiles from the 1800’s.

The dining room was set for Valentine’s Day.

And modern day computers, ready to go.

If you’re going west, be sure to go by way of Deming.  Stay a couple days, visit the downtown, try some of the local diners and visit the museum. Be prepared to immerse yourself in the history of the people who called this area home for more than 1000 years.  It is worth the time.

More later,

Roger and Susan


Leasburg Dam State Park, Las Cruces, NM. February 2017

We left Balmorhea heading west on I10 past the merge with I20 coming in from the north.  Suddenly we went from a reasonable traffic level to massive truck congestion. It is hilly heading for El Paso and none of these trucks can manage a steady speed. 70 mph down the hills, 55 mph (at best) going up.  And if one is trying for a steady speed, say 64 mph, it is like Bumper Cars.  So we just back off a bit or speed up and pass a clump of trucks.

The garbage dump that is El Paso starts about 30 miles before you get there.  Trash everywhere along the sides of the road, run down houses and ranches. Rusted out cars and trucks abandoned where they stopped running. And then El Paso itself is 30 miles of construction, lane shifts, uneven lanes, big changes in speeds and as many cars and trucks as will physically fit on the roadway most exceeding the speed limit by 10-20 mph. We just get in the lane next to the right lane to avoid all of the on and off traffic and stay there.  Keeping up (posted) speed is no problem except for the speeders.  There were a lot of 12′ wide lanes.  That gives us about 16″ on each side.  

And even more constuction is going on building the Trump Taj Mah Wall.  Miles of black rusting steel or concrete walls with every scrap of vegetation scraped off on the northern side and what looked like surveilance towers every hundred yards or so and lots of border patrol cars.  All designed to keep us in.

Good thing we didn’t have to stay, just get through it.  We had to go through three Border Patrol check points so far in Texas and Arizona.  No stops in New Mexico. We might not like the current immigration policies but these folks are doing a job that someone else designed for them to do.  Just like the folks at the airports.  They were all courteous and businesslike.  Asked the questions they needed to ask and we were on our way.  Pictures taken of us and the coach at every stop.  They all had on body armor and weapons nearby. It has to be a miserable job out in the middle of the desert in the heat.  I wish their job was not mandated by politics. I wish they could all be teachers or home builders or anything else that would benefit society in a positive way.

We were headed for Leasburg Dam State Park about 20 miles north of Las Cruces.  Shortly after entering New Mexico there are cattle feed lots on the south side of the Interstate, one after another.  Some separated by irrigated fields growing cattle feed. There is little different here than there was just 50 miles to the east in Texas.  But being in New Mexico just felt better.  Every bridge is a work of art.  Everything looked cleaner.  Somehow we felt much more at ease.

This is another very nice New Mexico Stare Park.  Good water and 30 amp power. And the New Mexico Sky. The Leasburg  State Park is only $14 per night as are all of the NM State Parks. The low dam is on the Rio Grande River to create a pool for irrigation of more than 31,000 acres. There are huge pecan orchards, fields of chile peppers, alfalfa, cotton, onions and corn.  And vinyards and wine making is important as well.

The water was mostly being routed around the dam while they were rebuilding part of it.  There were lots of hiking trails and day use areas for this small park visited by more than 110,000 people each year.

It was cool at night and warm during the day.  Just across the river was the town of Radium Springs.  Very few still living in that glowing spot.

We stopped here so we could take a day trip to White Sands National Monument.  

More on that later,

Roger and Susan

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, February 2017

About an hour north east of Las Cruces in the Tularosa Basin there is an amazing 275 square mile area of giant white gypsum sand dunes. This is the largest gypsum dunefield in the world and most of it is protected within the White Sands National Monument.

The basin is surrounded by the San Andreas and Sacramento Mountains.  There is not much rain here but what rain there is dissolves the gypsum in the higher mountains and it flows down into the basin.  There is no outlet so the water pools in two lakes, Alkalai Flats and Lake Lucerno.  As the water evaporates the gypsum forms selenite crystals.  These fragile crystals can grow to three feet in length but break down in the wind into sand-like particles which make up the dunes.  Gypsum is rarely found in this form. 

The wind blows the gypsum sand into many different shaped dunes.  Since the gypsum is water soluable if it gets wet it can form a firm layer on the surface of the dunes.  And since it does not absorb the sun’s radiant energy like normal sand it remains cool enought to walk on in your bare feet even on the hottest days.

The day we were there it was cool enough for a jacket.

Unlike most sand this gypsum sand is firm.

A popular activity is hiking out in the dunes to a big hill and sliding down on plastic flying saucers, just like what we did when we were kids in Minnesota on snow.  You can buy a “dune disk” for $18.  When you are done they will buy them back for $5.  They also had “refurbished” used disks for $12.  What a racket!  No rentals.

Some “kids” go further into the dunes than others

The gypsum sand is very fine, almost like sugar but fine.  Almost a powder. And it clumps together if you pick up a handful and squeeze it.  Just under the surface it feels damp because it is.  The water table here is only 3-6 feet below the surface – more if you are standing on top of a dune.  The water is not suitable for drinking but it keeps the sand moist and provides for a wide variety of plants that grow here, most with very long roots.  Plants have adapted here to grow in the moving sand dunes.  Some make their own little island that the dunes move around. Others just get taller and taller as the dune moves over them to stay above the surface.  These do not survive when the dune moves on leaving them sticking up high and dry.

There is a loop road through part of the dunes so most visitors can get out and see them.  There are many stops, picnic areas, trail  heads and a couple of board walks out into the dunes.  All of this is just graded sand.  A road grader goes through a couple times a week to smooth it out.

Definitely white sand.

Anything goes.

White Sands is pretty neat. Like many places it could have been exploited but it was set aside as a National Monument in 1933.  The park’s Visitor’s Center was built by the CCC in 1936. As far back as the late 1800’s  it had been proposed to create Mescalero National Park after the Mescalero Apache who were here long before exploration by the US Army in 1849 and farming communities were settled in Tularosa in 1861.

White Sands National Monument lies entirely within the White Sands Missle Test Range.  The Monument is closed about twice a week for a couple hours because of missle tests.  The Trinity Site, a National Historic Landmark, where the first nuclear bomb was detonated lies on the northern most boundary of the White Sands Missle Test Range.  This is a place I would like to visit.  It is open to visitors one day in April and one day in October each year.  After more than 70 years the area is at least 10 times more radioactive than normal area so visits are short.

Back to Leasburg Dam State Park.  There are private RV parks in Las Cruces but they are mostly full of snowbirds and one-nighters for close to $40 per night.  The state park is 1/3 of that and much nicer. 

More later.  We’re off to see a Dude Ranch near Demming, NM.

Roger and Susan

Balmorhea State Park,  Balmorhea TX  February 13, 2017

West Texas is pretty bleak. From Kerrville we headed west on I10.  Our route planning was for about six hours of driving plus a couple stops for lunch and driver changes. We have stopped at Fort Stockton before but heard about Balmorhea State Park from a couple folks. It is maybe an hour past Fort Stockton.  I20 merges with I10 at Van Horn another hour past Balmorhea. Van Horn has a nasty reputation for being very unfriendly towards RVers.  There are a couple of RV parks there and if that is where you are OK, but not in town.  So we stopped at Balmorhea.  And what is here?  Water.  It is the site of an enormous artesian well, San Solomon Springs, that has issued 15 million gallons of 72° water a day as far back as anyone remembers. That is right, 15 million gallons!

Before anyone did anything with the water it flooded a natural desert wetland called a cienega. Today the water flows through two smaller cienegas to Balmorhea Lake where it is stored and used for irrigation.  

In 1934 the CCC was here building canals.  They also built an enormous swimming pool.

The water was warm but it was in the 40s. No swimming for me.

They also built the park, a park manager’s house and a hotel.  All are still in use today.

The motel reminded us of the Rustic Western Cabins on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Pretty basic but there for the visitors who come.  The park person in the office said that it was quite busy in the summer.  It was a nice place to stop and the campground was pretty much full.

This is an odd place out in the middle of West Texas where there isn’t much else.  But water is what makes things happen.

Heading west again in the morning.  El Paso is a challenging place to get through and on into New Mexico.

More later,

Susan and Roger

Kerrville TX February 2017

Off we go towards Tucson, not in a very straight line or in any hurry. We could have driven from Mustang Island to Tucson in two days but we will take a week.

We headed north from Corpus Christi towards San Antonio and then west to Kerrville. We had thought about stopping in Fredericksburg where a friend has been recovering from a surgery but he was back home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We also heard that Fredericksburg was a nice place to see spring flowers but we were early for that. Our friends Douglas and Amanda home base north of Austin and suggested we meet for dinner in Kerrville. It was only a 2-1/2 hr drive one way for them, not much by TX standards.

We stayed overnight in the Kerrville-Schreiner county campground on the Guadalupe river. It was pretty nice.

There was a 1978 Vouge motorhome next to us. A classic in many ways. It has a big Detroit Diesel 2 stroke engine.  Popular back then but hard to fine parts and people to service them now.

I though the round port hole windows were pretty neat.  
Douglas and Amanda arrived and we went to a place on the river for supper. Good food.

Douglas wore his Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum T-shirt from last summer. In just six weeks this was the third time we crossed paths with Amanda and Douglas, mostly on purpose. After supper we went back and played Quidler. They had a long drive home and we were headed further west the next day so the part broke up early. The next time we see them may be this summer.
I was checking on the internet at the Foretravel Forum before heading to bed and someone posted about railroad cars in Wyoming getting blown over in high winds. I looked at the web site and they were containers stacked two high on a container train that had blown over. In the 1980’s I was doing some consulting with the Association of American Rail Roads on aerodynamics of freight trains and this was one of the issues we looked at. So I googled something like container trains blowing over in the wind and one of the first things that came up was an article about wind tunnel testing of freight trains.

And there I was, third from the right in 1985. This was up in Ottowa, CA at the National Research Council of Canada’s 9M wind tunnel. We were all standing in the 30′ x 30′ cross section wind tunnel with a 1/6 scale model of a locomotive. We had several different locomotive types and many different rail cars as well. Another odd bit of history.

I am way behind again on blogs. I am trying to get caught up.

More later,

Roger and Susan